Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Editorial | Doing what is right for Jamaica

Published:Friday | February 23, 2018 | 12:00 AM

 

This newspaper welcomes, as it does anything that enhances Jamaica's image globally, the country's 15-place jump on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index (CPI) to 68 among 180 countries.

Importantly, Jamaica's standing did not move up only because other countries slipped, although that may have contributed to our ranking. We also improved our score. On the range of zero to 100, where zero suggests that the country is absolutely corrupt, we scored 44, which is five points, or 13 per cent, better than its score than in the previous report, for 2016.

Further, Jamaica's score was one point better than the global average in a situation where two-thirds of the countries scored below 50. Further, while it is seventh - behind Barbados, The Bahamas, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, St Lucia and Grenada - as the least corrupt of the Caribbean countries in these rankings, it was one of only three that improved their scores. The others were Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.

No doubt, as Professor Trevor Munroe, the executive director of National Integrity Action (NIA), Transparency International's Jamaica affiliate, argued, the recent passage of laws such as those for political party registration and campaign finance reporting and for the creation of an overarching anti-corruption agency helped to improve this country's status on the CPI.

Indeed, Professor Munroe has warned that a prolonged failure by the Government to resolve the conundrum over Prime Minister Andrew Holness' appointment of an acting chief justice, rather than name Bryan Sykes to a position of permanence, could "seriously erode Jamaica's gain" on the index.

That, of course, is not an unimportant consideration. For indices, such as Transparency International's and those produced by other agencies help to signal to potential investors the state of countries in which they may wish to do business and what risks they face with their capital.

However, it is this newspaper's view - and we do not believe that Professor Munroe intended to imply otherwise - that doing these things should not be targeted primarily at improving Jamaica's standing on foreign compiled indices. Rather, our improvement on the CPI should merely be collateral to, or a consequence of, doing the right things.

In other words, improvement in the workings of government and the enhancement of governance should, first and foremost, be to the benefit of Jamaicans living here, to whom those in leadership have an obligation of accountability, transparency, trust, and adherence to the rule of law.

 

Formalise appointment

 

And it is upon this premise that this newspaper insists that Prime Minister Andrew Holness has an obligation to urgently formally appoint Justice Sykes to the post of chief justice and abhor Justice Minister Delroy Chuck's recent puerile explanation for the prime minister's delay.

First, we are not convinced that Mr Holness is on good constitutional grounds, in the circumstance in which it was done, to have appointed the esteemed jurist acting chief justice. But the prime minister exacerbated his treading on what is potentially constitutional quicksand with his declaration that Justice Sykes' appointment of permanence would depend on his performance in the acting role. It is like the proverbial sword of Damocles over the judge's head and sullying the concept of the separation of powers between the legislative or executive and judicial arms of government.

Mr Chuck, who previously made the stupid claim that Justice Sykes was not named to a permanent position because of administrative hitches, has added insult to this perjury of logic with the intellectually facile claim that Mr Holness is waiting for the controversy over clear faltering to abate before doing the right thing. We cling to the hope that this is neither Mr Holness' belief nor strategy.

As P.J. Patterson, the former head of government, reminded Mr Holness, prime ministers make mistakes, too. The best thing after that is to correct them. Quickly!