Corruption: Stop it now!

Al Miller

Sunday, February 17, 2019

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My heart finally said enough is enough. — Anonymous

Corruption is so systemic and institutionalised within the political culture and across the social landscape that it is difficult to unseat. Its tentacles spread from top to bottom and are so ingrained that most citizens have accepted it as normal to the degree that they cannot even recognise it. In addition, the blame game that our leaders on both sides of the political divide continue to play cannot solve it.

Our political culture has become terribly corrupt. The business culture says embracing it is the only way to succeed. Hence, the popular statement, packed with much truth, was declared from the seat of power and knowledge: “He who plays by the rules gets shafted.”

The public service was co-opted into it; this includes some good public servants, Christians even. Yet, they had little ability to resist it, as the political system is its governors and compliance is required or suffer the consequences.

Stop that flow; let good flow

My personal experiences with some leaders and what I have suffered at the hands of some within our system, and my knowledge gleaned from my counselling role with people from all walks of life qualifies me to say, “A mi fi tell yuh!”: Corruption runs like a raging river across the various sectors of society.

Be careful that you do not agree with me that it runs like a raging river, because, if you do, you have to accept the truth that rivers flow from top downstream. Therefore, it bubbled up from the political system at the top, flowing down to public service, cascading across to police, gushing over to the professional business class, crashing down to the public at large, and 'wetting up all di parson dem'.

Notice it affects all the “Ps” in our country. No wonder the country a 'pee pee' green and orange. When one's urine is deep orange or green it is a sign that something is very wrong and cleansing is needed. Doctors will tell you: Drink plenty water to cleanse and flush the system. Experience shows that with much intake of water over time, urine gets clearer and clearer.

Like the river, you take in the water from the top to flow down. In tackling corruption, , if we are to begin to see change, clean water has to begin to flow from the top down through the same channels already mentioned.

Some indicators are telling us that some cleansing is happening as the urine in a couple of the Ps is getting clearer. It appears to me that some clean water is influencing the public service, as corruption seems to be lessening there. Some clearer water seems to be flowing from the police force. Because the river flows down, it suggests the new leadership is releasing some clear water. Let's keep it flowing.

By the same principle that river flows downstream, then credit must be given to the fact that some clear-water thinking has to be at the very top. The evidence of it is not as easily seen because of the deeply ingrained nature of the corruption; it takes time to go through the system.

Here is the challenge our new-era prime minister, Andrew Holness, faces. It is not easy to flush out the corruption in and around his own party and Government. Not everyone around him necessarily shares his views or objectives. He has to be given time and he needs to add more new-era thinking people around him, if he is to release enough consistent flow of clear water to eventually produce change.

Petrojam and the PM

I have to conclude that the prime minister has started a process that must begin in his own party. It will take time for enough clear water to flow down to see change in the colouration of the pee pee of the Ps.

His slim majority in Parliament has hampered his pace. He did not run away from the Petrojam issue; he may have moved slower than preferred, but he owned it and took the portfolio under his wings to try and pour clear water into a deep orange and green cesspool.

He clearly has many internal challenges. Still, I would like to be absolutely sure that he is truly committed to cleaning the corruption river.

Petrojam has been a cesspool of corruption for decades, so let us not act surprised at recent happenings and revelations, neither must we expect a clear water stream outside of due time and process. This has been a major gravy train for the parties. The politicians on both sides must stop the nonsensical pretence. The Opposition can't throw stones or criticise any of the mess at Petrojam or anywhere else. The incumbent has only increased the mess.

Church's prayer: Expose!

Thank God the known and accepted historical cesspool is now coming to light because of the prayers of the Church for exposure of the national mess. Let me remind you that we as the Church in Jamaica made a commitment prayer for the cleaning up of the country to pave the way for a new Jamaica. We, a few months ago, declared that we would enhance prayer to expose the things that need to be exposed so that we can make a fresh start toward a new Jamaica.

This is, for us, answers to prayers. So for those who believe prayer does not work, here is the evidence. Don't overlook it!

The Church has prayed only for exposure of corruption so that we may together act for it to stop. But if denials and blame game continue, rather than humbly acknowledging the historical facts and all commit to change, then we can easily change the prayer to expose the primary corrupt players of the last 25 years. My God can do that in a flash as He is doing now for the recent prayers. Do we want to test it?

Do bear with me. I think it is time for some straight talk that I hope will move us to honesty and responsible action to go forward. My spirit is angry at the ongoing hypocrisy. If we continue like this we cannot deal with the problems of the nation and build the new Jamaica, which must happen now or devastating results are inevitable.

Stop arguing, do supmn!

Our politicians and their parties seem to be content to play silly games with the national destiny of a people. I want to tell them that if they are not serious about the transformation of the nation, then get out of the way and allow fresh blood. We need individuals who seriously have something to offer to step in and serve for best national interest and development.

My spirit is angry at the ongoing politicking. We have a nation in crisis that needs a united approach to pull us out before we explode or implode.

An article in the Jamaica Observer of February 11, 2019 blared, 'Phillips increases attack on Government'. I have no issue with the Opposition challenging Government to keep them honest. So they should. However, I would like to dissect the article for good value.

My issue targets the comments on corruption, our national plague. Firstly, he contends that mismanagement and corruption have penetrated every area of Government's operations. He is perhaps correct, which is sad if it is true. By his statement he has played right into my hand and my anger of spirit, not only with corruption itself, but with the hypocrisy of our politicians on the issue.

Corruption in Jamaica is a People's National Party (PNP)- and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP)-orchestrated gushing river released on the nation since the mid-to-late 1970s.

Phillips further stated: “This pattern of corruption in the Andrew Holness-led Administration was carried to new levels with revelations at Petrojam.” It is interesting that he said “carried to new levels”, as this serves as acknowledging, then, that corruption was there before. This is exactly my point. Corruption has been systemic. All politicians know it; most do it but only recognise it as wrong when in Opposition. Thank God for Opposition benches; they are great for opening blinded eyes.

Secondly, there are no new levels of corruption. What we have is a new level of answer to prayer in the exposure of the corruption in many areas. Besides, the current exposure of corruption pales in significance to past corruption of the political system. I will refrain from naming a few of the known instances over the years. The two parties know them and have hurled them at each other and to the public when it suits them often enough.

Dr Phillips also mentioned “the waste of taxpayers' money and the millions of dollars that have been corruptly diverted that could have provided beds in hospital…vehicles for police…and better facilities for ours schools”. He is perfectly right.

The problem is this: Why has not this recognition been driving political action all along?

Which Government for decades has not been known for major mismanagement and corruption? Remember the many resignations and cover-ups that have become normal. Yet they were only the tip of the iceberg. That is why our people are crying for a new Jamaica.

I repeat what I have said before; owing to the work of certain organisations such as Jamaicans for Justice, the National Integrity Commission, Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), among others, corruption has dropped significantly. Awareness and consciousness levels have greatly increased.

Politicians, the police and others are now much more cautious and careful than before to engage in corruption. Compared to our past the present Petrojam issue would not even come up on the radar of corruption against normal practices of a few years ago.

It is not without notice that nobody in Parliament is calling anymore for a forensic audit, especially if it were to go back for the last 20 years. Suppose we were to go through a similar time period audit in the telecommunications sector, housing sector, construction sector, as well as the roads and works sectors. Who would be left standing?

So let us stop the hypocrisy and the blame game and accept the fact that all are sinners and need to turn to a new way. Any politician, of whatever stripe, daring to speak about corruption should first acknowledge culpability, repent and commit to a new path, a fresh start. Only then would he/she be able to address the matter seriously.

All that is happening now is 'kettle a call pot black'. Humorously, now a two brown kettle head up the crew dem wey a cuss. Laugh nuh!

The focus and dialogue must now shift from trying to prove corruption to accepting the fact of corruption and then moving to unseat the roots of corruption in the culpable Ps of national corruption.

A symbol of hope?

Petrojam is a symbol that represents a culture of corrupt practices that has dogged our Jamaican landscape. A look at Petrojam is a study in the profile of corruption; what it looks like and how it operates.

I believe it will go down in history as a symbol of the turning point to a new day in Jamaica. Maybe this could be the best thing that could have happened to our new-era prime minister. Perhaps it will serve as his wake-up call to the difficulties, the gravity and the urgency of the need for change.

He, no doubt, would have known it — after all he has been a part of the system that has helped it to flourish. He by his rhetoric in his swearing-in statements and on other occasions have indicated a desire to tackle corruption and make his ministers accountable for their performance. Clearly this is out of his recognition of its crippling effects upon national development.

The events of Petrojam would have stretched him and tested him on many fronts, with the effects of either weakening his commitment in the eyes of his peers or strengthening his resolve to create real change for true transformation. This should make him both a better person and a better leader. I would like to believe that it has worked in favour of the latter.

It could appear to some that it will erode his credibility, yet if it deepens his resolve the nation will be the beneficiary and the fallout only temporary. There will always be a price to pay in the service for others. It is never going to be easy and without severe trials to bring about culture change. One must embrace a four-step principle:

1) Accept that it is what it is.

2) Don't deny it or fear to own it as yours.

3) Take responsibility for it.

4) Work and change it.

We must face the reality of where we are with a willingness to do what is necessary to get to where we desire to be: Jamaica, the place to live, work, raise families, and do business.

Rev Al Miller is pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle. Send comments to the Observer or

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