Colin Campbell | Beyond the Carolyn Warren spin
Jamaicans do not like injustice, in any form. For most of the rebellions and uprisings in Jamaica, injustice has been a signal causal factor.
Jamaicans also like to kill the messenger and those who bear bad news, generally at their peril.
The Carolyn Warren story puts Phillip Paulwell squarely in the middle of those two Jamaicas. Mrs Warren told a teary-eyed story of having committed "a mistake" at age 34 years, paid her price and has been working on rehabilitation and in her church ever since. The one error, said she, "I did not disclose my conviction. They did not ask and I did not tell."
But was that just an error of judgement, or was it an indictable failure? Or worse, was it part of a culture that would facilitate Andrew Wheatley's accountability failures in the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology (MSET).
So the question arises, is the Carolyn Warren story about our collective ability to forgive and support her rehabilitation or is it about cronyism and lack of accountability and systems in MSET; and its agencies such as Petrojam, the UAF and NESOL.
Ms Warren arrived at NESOL in August 2016 as the new HR manager, after having worked at Nationwide News Network for 14 years. She never responded to an advertisement, was never interviewed; she just showed up dressed for work. Perhaps, she is a beneficiary of nepotism, as she is reported to being the first cousin of Robert Montague, now the minister of transport.
This is, therefore, not a story about a woman achieving CEO status 21 years (not 25 years) after being convicted for cocaine trafficking pulling herself up by her own bootstraps through discipline and commitment to Christian values.
When I served at the JUTC, even the casual workers who washed buses had to present a clean police record. A chef at Jamaica House who prepared meals for a prime minister was fired by the permanent secretary for failing to disclose he was an immigration deportee. No amount of pleading by the then PM could save him.
A SECOND CHANCE
So, if Mrs Warren deserves her second chance, so do hundreds of Jamaican youth convicted for a spliff and now sitting idly on street corners in urban Kingston and St Andrew and under trees in rural Jamaica. So does the ex-Jamaica House chef.
Mrs Warren, perhaps purely for her political pedigree, has been given this second chance and by this act has distorted the entire vetting system in the public sector. If she survives, this distortion will be forever. It will not only affect NESOL, it could also be the Bank of Jamaica, the foreign service, Jamaica House and King's House, as well as the JDF and the JCF.
Ridiculous? Really! Tell me, if Mrs Warren can be given a trusted position to manage billions of dollars of public funds after a drug-trafficking conviction, which cannot be expunged, why cannot a poor 18-year-old boy convicted for a spliff or wounding during a foolish fight be rehabilitated to join the JCF after five years of excellent behaviour?
We have to make up our minds, because what is good for the goose must be good for the gander.
I am sure that many of those attacking Phillip Paulwell would not leave their businesses in the hands of Carolyn Warren. Her failure to disclose is fatal. It is apparent that cronyism trumped genuine reform and permanent rehabilitation.
- Colin Campbell is a former minister of information. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.