As the elder statesman of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Mr Bruce Golding has given solid advice to the current party leader and Prime Minister Mr Andrew Holness not to be afraid to use up some of his substantial political capital.
That advice came from the right man, for Mr Golding is a former party leader and prime minister who knows the runnings first-hand. Moreover, it was Mr Golding who parachuted Mr Holness into the prime ministerial seat in 2011 after he resigned the post.
“When we mess up, he [Mr Holness] is the one that gets the blame. He gets fried in our fat. We need to do our jobs well, with integrity, and in the best interest, not of ourselves, but of the country... If we believe that we are put there to pursue our own interests, or feather our own nest, then we are letting down Andrew Holness…” Mr Golding told the JLP's 78th annual conference at the National Indoor Sports Centre in St Andrew.
Besides hinting at corruption in general, and on State boards, Mr Golding did not spell out on what issues Mr Holness should spend some of his political capital, but on which he has been slow to act, presumably because he fears the potential fallout.
The rampant corruption, or the appearance of corruption, is clearly at the top of the list. In some cases, corruption has not yet been proven, but the widespread perception — and the street wisdom that “if it not go so, it nearly go so” — is hurting the image of the Government and the JLP.
The governing party has been taking a beating on such controversial issues as:
• the Ruel Reid Education Ministry/Caribbean Maritime University scandal (matter still in court)
• Floyd Green partying on a no-movement day (minister lost his job)
• Lingering questions about Petrojam expenditure (minister lost his job)
• Westmoreland Central Member of Parliament George Wright believed to be the man caught on video beating a woman (MP resigned but still batting for the JLP).
• the police used-car fiasco (money still not fully paid back to Government)
• suspicions of corruption at the Firearm Licensing Authority (all board members asked to resign)
• the claims of unauthorised investment in First Rock at the Airports Authority of Jamaica (all board members resigned)
• the current situation unfolding at Clarendon Alumina Production (entire board of directors resigned)
• Integrity Commission investigating conflict of interest claims at the National Water Commission regarding a Hope Pastures development.
As Mr Golding hinted, board members appointed by the Government are putting their hands in the kitty at the expense of the party and the prime minister's image. Mr Holness will have to man up and get rid of them. Surely, there are honest and capable party supporters who can replace them.
“Running the Government is not something that can be done by Andrew Holness alone. Hundreds of us are asked to take on responsibility for the effective and efficient management and administration of those entities... What you do directly impacts and reflects on how he is viewed by the public and the level of trust and confidence,” Mr Golding pleaded.
That's why Finance and the Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke tried, unsuccessfully we must add, to reform the constitution of State boards. There are powerful party members who block any decision they believe not to be in their own pork-barrel interest.
And, yes, we share the view that Mr Holness has political capital he can afford to burn in the interest of the country.