When the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party narrowly won the general election in 2016, the young Prime Minister promised to eradicate corruption and questionable practices by his officials and state bodies.
The country at large welcomed this. For too long Jamaica’s Government apparatus functioned like a banana republic. Here was a bright young man, born after Independence who would shine a light on miscreants and ensure his administration would not partake in shadiness.
Back in 2016, Holness said: “I should not have the need to remind ministers that they must at all times conduct the affairs of the country with the highest level of integrity.
“But it is important that I repeat it. Corruption will not be tolerated in this Government.”
Having been strident on this it doesn’t appear that actions have matched these words.
These are unprecedented times marked by the combination of a health crisis, an economic crisis and a social crisis. More than ever, the very fabric of governance must be trusted by the populace to lead the way.
If Government itself is seen as the embodiment of corruption then it in turn cannot persuade or mandate citizens to follow protocols.
It may be the case that many of those who are a part of this administration feel, a year after a resounding victory at the polls, ‘to the victor, the spoils’ and so have carte blanche to do as they like anticipating the prime minister’s approbation.
It does not feel like those who form his Government have trepidation in invoking his ire.
Now why is that?
Holness himself is principled and has clearly considered what a Government-led by himself is out to achieve but many of his subordinates do not follow his lead, choosing to go their own way and embarrass their prime minister with their misdeeds.
Holness has to be careful here because he runs the risk of being defined as ‘corruptor-in-chief’ – a litany of infamous violations and misconducts laid at his feet. This cannot be his legacy. He will have to get a grip and firmly let both his party members and the people of Jamaica know there are consequences for aberrant and abhorrent behaviour.
Already he has had to move around five ministers in just three years due to questionable practices in their respective portfolios.
The list of controversies continue to grow including: The Ministry of Education/Caribbean Maritime University scandal involving Ruel Reid and Fritz Pinnock. What took place at Petrojam under Dr Andrew Wheatley’s watch was an abomination. Grave concerns over the Airports Authority of Jamaica and Fay Hutchinson surrounding governance and transparency issues. The ‘No Movement Day’ debacle video with then Minister of Agriculture Floyd Green and JLP factotum Andrew Bellamy. The egregious and contemptible arrangement involving the Ministry of Education and Nutrition Products Limited.
All speak to failure in oversight, corruption, cronyism, nepotism, avarice and government gone amok. Who is in charge and where does the buck stop?
Andrew Holness is now beleaguered with scandals seemly popping up every week – like the kid putting its fingers in holes in a dyke.
He needs to stamp his authority and do so quickly. Already his popularity is slipping but that may be mainly due to the government having to implement some unpopular measures. But let’s be clear here, the scandals are damaging and are being noted by all.
As the famous America World War II general George S. Patton said: “Follow the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Good Knights were an example to all time. So, it is with a good officer. You have no idea how men watch you. If you stand up so will they. If you curse, so will they. If you are habitually late how can you in honor, try men for following your example? You are a model, whether you like it or not. Be a good model.”
The predicament Andrew Holness is in, is apparent as it pertains to his wife. There are calls for the prime minister to replace Floyd Green with a new dedicated minister of agriculture. Juliet Holness has been mooted as that replacement. Having done a good job with her constituency and acquitted herself well in parliament, she could be the answer, elevating her to a notable Cabinet position which would be well deserved.
However, with escalating government improprieties, the prime minister will have to think long and hard now about making such a move for fear that he be tainted with the brush of nepotism and cronyism; never mind that Juliet could do a creditable job with this ministry.
“All these recent scandals are disturbing and serve to undermine both Andrew Holness and his government’s credibility. Luckily, they are only one year into the new term up against a somnambulant opposition whose favourability rating is plummeting by the minute. Holness can turn it around but he must do so now. It will be injurious to him if these controversies keep coming.
“The problem is the calibre of the people he has assembled as his working government. I’ve told you before, background is everything. You will not see Kamina Johnson or Nigel Clarke embroiled in these dastardly deeds. When you have a certain kind of character now exposed to money, the ability to grant favours, unenlightened, it doesn’t take too long before you see their grubby fingers and course character in action. Character is destiny. You are a journalist, remember what Ann Landers had to say? ‘Class is an aura of confidence that is being sure without being cocky. Class has nothing to do with money. Class never runs scared. It is self-discipline and self-knowledge. It’s the sure-footedness that comes with having proved you can meet life’.”
The ‘Cat in the Peaky Hat’ again provides something to think about.