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Fighting monsters: Incorrigible corruption?

Ashley-Ann Foster

Monday, January 08, 2018

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Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you. — Friedrick Neitzsche

Jamaica's vintage politicians, although seemingly expedient philosophers themselves, could benefit greatly from a little moral philosophy, especially when purporting to wrangle the beast of corruption.

The year 2017 was not without scandal and it would be pleasantly surprising if 2018 departed from the entrenched precedent of a lack of accountability, integrity and transparency with regard to matters of governance.

The presence or thought of corruption prompts the public to query whether they deserve better from both the Government and the Opposition. John Public has said and seems to think that corruption is incorrigible, a part of our culture, unstoppable due to a lack of political will, and subject to political hypocrisy depending on which party is in Government as both have failed to invoke change. However, in true political form, against their own deeds, the political leadership remains strident in their anti-corruption battle cries, with both parties espousing politically correct gems and hurling accusations of blatant misconduct at each other to no end or avail.

Though falling on the Corruption Perception Index, the year 2017 recorded positive legislative anti-corruption activity. Commendation is due to the members of both Houses of Parliament for the passing of the Integrity Commission Act 2017. However, experience dictates that in order to believe, one must first see. This is especially so within the context of the Leader of the Opposition's 2017 admission that “there are persons in breach of the Parliamentary Integrity Members Act, but no prosecutions ensue”.

This begets the question: Will the Integrity Commission Act 2017 be applied differently from the Parliamentary Integrity Members Act? Will its Integrity Commission “reduce or eliminate existing inefficiencies and safeguard against the abuse of power and authority” as Prime Minister Andrew Holness intends?

Still a sceptic, or in fool's paradise, our politicians' actions continue to speak louder than words as the 2017 Government shouldered mass criticism for Finance Minister Audley Shaw's $8-million phone bill, the Minister of Agriculture Karl Samuda's Mombasa Grass (now paid for) issue, the procurement issues surrounding the $600-million de-bushing programme, the controversial police car import contract, and the bipartisan Firearm Licensing Authority scandal. Not to be left out, the Opposition, still haunted by the ghost of Trafigura, spooked John Public when the Appeal Court decided that members of top-tier leadership, including the Peter Phillips 2018 appointed communications director, must testify in open court with regard to the $31-million donation received by the party from Dutch oil firm Trafigura Beheer. The groovy beat of corruption seems to go on.

In 2018, don't watch what they say. Watch what they do.

Ashley-Ann Foster is attorney-at-law. Send comments to the Observer or ashfoslaw@gmail.com.

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