Editorial: Reining in the gangs - Fit and proper test for candidates
We want to believe that the Gangs of Gordon House really want to transform themselves from closed syndicates programmed to corral spoils to the benefit of confederates into genuinely transparent institutions pursuing the public interest. We, however, appreciate that after nearly 80 years of such connivance, change is not easy. It requires deep commitment and hard work.
In this regard, the gangs have an opportunity to demonstrate that they should be taken seriously about extricating themselves from their sordid past. Currently, the governing People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (PNP) are selecting candidates for a general election to determine which of the crews have the majority in the Parliament, forms the government, has control of national resources, and exercises the right to determine how these are allocated.
Each of the two big gangs will nominate 63 candidates for the poll, a handful of whom will be influenced by the outcomes of internal contests, with virtually all having already taken place. In the end, though, based on their constitutions, it will be the party leaders and their executives who will have the final choice of candidates.
One thing is already clear from these internal elections: In most cases, not even the confederates trust each other to be honest and fair with each other. Further - just as we fear is possible and likely at the national level - the confederates complain that the internal process is corrupt and on the block to the highest bidder.
Take the case of Lloyd B. Smith, the PNP parliamentarian in St James Central, who was last month de-selected by the constituency delegates in an indicative vote. Smith claimed not only that the management of the process was flawed, but that tainted money influenced the outcome. He promised "earth-shattering" revelations, but subsequently decided, or was prevailed upon, to keep his mouth shut. And there was the JLP's contest in St Catherine West Central, in which Christopher Tufton lost to Devon Wint. Dr Tufton says that he actually won, although claiming that the process was rigged in favour of Wint, on whose behalf votes were bought.
In other cases, well-thinking people remain uneasy with the some of the potential standard-bearers of the parties. It is felt that in some instances, if the candidates were nominees to the board of a financial institution or were seeking employment in one, they wouldn't pass the required fit-and-proper test of the regulator, the Bank of Jamaica. Yet, by being ushered into Parliament, they will be in a position to create the laws that govern the BOJ.
In the lead-up to the last election, one of the gangs named an integrity commission to determine whether its nominees met its standards for selection. It should be reprised. The other gang should follow suit.
For although we do not believe that the PNP's process was rigorous enough, it was a start. The process should be exactingly implemented. Persons deemed ineligible and tainted at the last go ought not, this time round, be allowed to pass through the sieve.
All candidates should be required to register assets and liability statements with their parties, including their sources of income and how, and by whom, their campaigns have been financed. If selected to contest the election, this information should voluntarily be lodged with the Electoral Commission of Jamaica.