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George Davis | Will the rest follow Holness?

Published:Wednesday | June 22, 2016 | 6:00 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness displays his statutory declarations to journalists at Jamaica House last Friday.

When people dislike you, no matter what good deed you do, they will still find an angle to criticise, demonise and denigrate your character. Even when they set you a task to accomplish to prove your integrity, they will find a way to discredit your actions if, indeed, you successfully meet the standard.

On December 6, last year, Andrew Holness declared that he would publish his financial and health records. As an active journalist, who has devoted at least 13 hours per day for the last three years to the vocation, I am struggling to recall any media house asking him to so declare. What the media did do in the wake of that declaration, was ask Mr Holness, and his handlers, repeatedly, to indicate precisely when he would declare and in what form the declaration would be made.

Given the chutzpah that accompanied the declaration, many were disappointed when the prime minister declared neither health nor financial standing, two full months after being sworn into office. But last Friday, when nobody expected it, Holness shared with the media details of his assets and liabilities and a sense of his annual net worth since 2007.

Before the prime minister made his move, the affable Julian Robinson, MP for South East St Andrew, shared details of his financial standing in the wake of puerile attempts to create a scandal around his purchase of a multimillion-dollar home. Robinson was, correctly, praised for taking the unusual step of publishing details of the reports he filed with Parliament's Integrity Commission, affirming his ability to spend more than $70 million on the purchase.

 

DIFFERENT REACTION

 

But some of those who praised Robinson for raising the bar, and advancing the narrative where integrity in politics is concerned, can barely be heard speaking through their gritted dental implants, giving Holness the same kind of acknowledgement for a similar move.

It has not escaped me that while Robinson was congratulated for his honesty in publishing those details, Andrew Holness' move has been seen as a direct result of the pressure that has been heaped on him by the media.

I sigh and draw breath at this line of reasoning, and ask those who seem determined to prove that Jamaica House is inhabited by a reprobate, which media?

Is the need to diabolise the prime minister so strong that we can't even applaud him for publicly sharing details that only two other politicians since Jamaica gained Independence have done? Do we not know that over the course of a term in office, there will be numerous opportunities to sink our teeth into the prime minister's failings? So why do we so crassly attach a double standard to an honest move intended to prove that we are indeed being served by persons of integrity in the political directorate? Is it loathing? Or 'bad-mind'?

When former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson declared himself to have a net worth of just under $30 million in 2002, there were some who didn't believe him. Mr Patterson declared that he had assets of approximately $35 million, including an upper St Andrew home, 10 bank accounts, $10,000 in stocks and shares, and held $100,000 worth of share capital in the law firm Rattray Patterson Rattray.

In 2002, Patterson's annual salary as prime minister was $2.3 million, and he had a $5-million debt with the law firm. Patterson denied that he owned property overseas. According to his 2002 declaration, his assets 10 years prior, in 1992, amounted to just over $3 million.

Perhaps the doubt and cynicism that greeted the declaration was powerful enough to prevent any politician before Julian Robinson, and then Andrew Holness, 14 years after Patterson, from seeking to share this level of information with the public. Now that Robinson and Holness are standing together on the rug of integrity, united in openness, despite the political lines that divide, the country may just see a new normal being instituted where elected public officials are concerned.

None of the other 61 MPs should wait on any law to follow the lead of their two colleagues.

Some men and women love to chat and beat breast and chest talking about integrity. Let us look them in the eye and ask that they put up or shut up.

Selah.

- George Davis is a broadcast executive producer and talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and george.s.davis@hotmail.com.