The Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) has noted the recommendation by the Integrity Commission that the Parliament of Jamaica repeal Section 53(3) of the lntegrity Act, and so reserve to the Integrity Commission the use of its discretionary authority to make statements about its investigations, as it sees fit. This, the Integrity Commission contends, will fulfil the intention of the lntegrity Act.
Regarding matters of principle and practice, the JCC is committed to equity, fairness, and transparency in governance. lndeed, scripture teaches us that in the dispensing of justice there should be equity: "You shall not show partiality." (Deuteronomy. 16:19)
We are very aware that the level of distrust in Jamaica is at crisis proportions, which makes our country increasingly difficult to govern. The low esteem in which many Jamaicans hold our political leaders is particularly frightening and it is imperative and urgent that action be taken to reduce, if not eliminate, the trust deficit which presently exists. The Integrity Act is one of the tools that many Jamaicans agree will greatly assist in doing so.
We call on our Parliament to favourably consider the recommendation of the Integrity Commission and repose trust in the wisdom of its eminently qualified members to fulfil the intention of the Integrity Act. It is our view that this action will help to sustain the Government's commitment to remove the corruption that plagues public operations and validate the sincerity of statements it has made, such as, "zero tolerance on corruption" and "corruption is a dangerous virus".
Further to this, it will address the longing for transparency of the law-abiding members of the Jamaican public who await the day when the rhetoric about ending corruption finally translates into intentional action.
Finally, it will go a far way towards eradicating the aforementioned trust deficit that exists among our Jamaican populace towards our parliamentarians.
The JCC has confidence in the assurance given by the Integrity Commission, that: "Surely, public confidence can be reposed in the Integrity Commission to exercise the discretionary authority to comment on the lntegrity Commission's investigations in a responsible and judicious manner, and in a way that best serves the interest of the Jamaican State, the Jamaican public and the Jamaican taxpayer."
We fear that without the repeal of the "gag" implied by Section 53(3) of the Integrity Act, the Act will be seen as mere tokenism, that will allow the status quo to remain, betraying the hope that Jamaicans may have had, that change was at hand to limit perceived and actual corruption. Indeed, scrutiny that ensures accountability and transparency of one's management of business on behalf of the Jamaican people should be encouraged as a routine feature of responsible governance.
May our Parliament do what is necessary to improve trust between the Jamaican people and their Government during Jamaica 60.
Kenneth D Richards is president of the Jamaica Council of Churches and Roman Catholic archbishop of Kingston.