Council of Churches adds voice to organisations calling for repeal of 'gag' clause in ICA
Archbishop of Kingston, Most Reverend Kenneth Richards leads theCeremony of Incensation.

KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) has added its voice to the growing list of organisations calling for the Parliament to remove the so-called gag clause from the Integrity Commission Act (ICA).

According to Section 53(3) of the ICA, “Until the tabling in Parliament of a report under Section 36, all matters under investigation by the Director of Investigation or any other person involved in such investigation shall be kept confidential, and no report or public statement shall be made by the Commission or any other person in relation to the initiation or conduct of an investigation under this Act”.

The JCC, in a statement on Thursday, above the signature of its President, the Archbishop of Kingston, Most Reverend Kenneth Richards, said it has noted the recommendation by the Commission that the Parliament repeal the section of the Act and instead allow it to use its discretionary authority to make statements about its investigations, as it sees fit.

“Regarding matters of principle and practice, the JCC is committed to equity, fairness, and transparency in governance. Indeed, scripture teaches us that in the dispensing of justice there should be equity: "You shall not show partiality (Deut. 16:19),” the statement said.

In making the case for the muzzle clause to be removed, the JCC said it was very aware that the level of distrust in Jamaica is at crisis proportions, which makes the 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 Commission Act is one of the tools that many Jamaicans agree will greatly assist in doing so,” it argued.

Continuing, the JCC said: “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".

The church umbrella group said it is of the 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,” the JCC added.

It also expressed confidence in the assurance given by the Integrity Commission that: "Surely, public confidence can be reposed in the lC to exercise the discretionary authority to comment on the lC'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."

The JCC expressed fear that without the repeal of the gag clause, “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”.

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