Mark Wignall | Wheatley should have stepped weeks ago
It has become the mantra in workable parliamentary democracies that the buck, wherever it may gain its first start, can stop at only one place. Here.
Dr Andrew Wheatley, a man with a doctorate in basic medicine and most recently only two-thirds of a minister, has now fully recognised that ultimate responsibility for any real flaws, yet-to-be-identified wrongs, or even the perception of corruption in an entity under his ministry, would have required him to remove himself.
Had he walked away once accusations at Petrojam began to bear some fruit, he would have ensured that he had a ministerial life after an initial backing away. It is quite likely that as he belatedly steps down, he may find himself not only in the dispatch suite, but as far as ministerial potential is concerned, he may be 'untouchable', for the near future.
There is always, of course, redemption, but a major part of that hinges on the results of a multi-agency probe being carried out at this moment. The least corrosive for him would be a major failure on his part to maintain scrutiny of key departments and develop effective lines of responsibility right up to just outside his door.
At worst would be his involvement in directing activities which could be considered corrupt. We do not know what side the needle will point to, so the nation has to wait.
It is never an easy matter to glean details of the interaction between a prime minister and an embattled minister of government. A minister in hot water and on the verge of being separated from his ministry rarely scripts a letter of resignation and immediately steps down.
The political implications are firstly weighed, and the final picture painted to the public is usually stage-managed to ensure the prime minister's political viability and the least hurt to the outgoing minister.
PNP - BIG CALLING CARD
In the evolutionary stages of our local politics, it has become the precedent for ministers to step away while suspicion of corrupt acts swirl ever since Dr Karl Blythe became separated from the housing ministry in 2002.
The People's National Party (PNP), in its many electoral triumphs, has always enjoyed significant parliamentary majorities. That automatically provides it with a bigger pool of individuals and skills to form a cabinet. The JLP (Jamaica Labour party), apart from that one-shot, steam-rolling demolition of the PNP in 1980, has only barely scraped by in its meagre wins.
Unfortunately for the PNP, the quality of its actual governance has never been as big a calling card as its ability to win elections. On the other hand, the JLP is always saddled with the reality of disgruntled MPs left out of the cabinet and holding political leverage over the prime minister in times of governance crises.
It ought not to fill us with joy to witness the spectacle of a young man like Wheatley allowing his own ministerial management failures to whittle away at what we should be seeing him as a young, bright Jamaican representative of our political future.
It is quite obvious that the prime minister is politically conflicted with, and responding poorly to, the relentless pressure of matters brewing at Petrojam. In 2006, when opposition Leader Bruce Golding made the bombshell Trafigura accusations against the PNP administration, PM Portia Simpson Miller remained silent for 10 days until the PNP could coordinate or concoct a politically palatable response.
Now, as the pressure gets to Prime Minister Holness, we are sensing that he is yielding to the temptation to withdraw into silence. Maybe he needs to seek out Portia for some free therapy.