Regardless of who or where, thieves should be appropriately punished

It's early days yet, but with every passing day it becomes harder and harder not to suspect that weak leadership at the regulatory level contributed significantly to the recent disastrous developments in Jamaica's financial sector.

Of course, all happenings should be viewed contextually. Indeed, apparent reluctance by the Financial Services Commission (FSC) to move decisively against investment brokers, Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL), when so-called red flags arose years ago was very possibly firmly rooted in the financial trauma down the years.

Those who lived through the financial meltdown of the 1990s recall with dread the public panic and fright as banks, near-banks, and other financial houses collapsed. The grievous knock-on effects are being felt to this day.

Hence, the refrain, that embrace of the public's right to know is constrained by fear of irreparable damage to the financial sector.

And at an individual, very human level, there is always the burden for those in authority that actions, no matter how justifiable, can sometimes lead to the loss of friends and the making of enemies. In other words, fear of losing one's comfort zone can lead to a crippling of resolve.

We know from history that indecisiveness by those tasked with protecting the public/national interest can lead to catastrophe.

Obviously, then, good leaders are a special breed — able to act at all times with the courage of their convictions to do what they believe to be the right thing, regardless...

As Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Ms Paula Llewellyn has said: "[T]he public interest obliges that the persons who are gifted with supervision, and laws that assist them with supervision, to not only do their job on paper, but to be prepared to have the cojones, the balls, the testicular fortitude to rock the boat in the public's interest. That is it. And you tend to find in our culture that sometimes it is not in the nature of some people to rock the boat — but if you don't, things like this [financial sector fallout] will tend to happen."

Clearly, those "gifted with supervision" must be carefully, meticulously chosen.

To quote the DPP once more: "[I]t is one thing to have on paper all of the possible structures in an organisation [but] it is another thing to put the wrong people in the particular space."

There is another aspect Jamaicans should seriously contemplate. We refer to the long-standing perception that laws do not apply equally to all, especially since so-called white-collar crime is often only lightly punished or not at all.

There is a popular view that corruption is widespread and endemic in the public sector, with highly placed knaves and 'ginnals' escaping with no more than a slap on the wrist, if even that, for stealing taxpayers' money.

And that in the private sector, not least in banks and other financial houses, the desire to retain public confidence often results in mere dismissal for thieves; no criminal charges.

In such circumstances, it seems to us, the growth and maturing of a culture of skulduggery is virtually inescapable.

Disasters invariably offer lessons and alternative pathways. The need for a change of tack is something all concerned should take from recent events.

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