Thu | Feb 20, 2020

JaRistotle’s Jottings | One for me, all for me

Published:Thursday | February 21, 2019 | 12:17 AM

Back in the days of old, one of my favourite television series was the Four Musketeers, what with its countless fanciful sword fights and intriguing plots. But what stuck with me more than anything was the concept of ‘brother’s keeper’ as epitomized in the rallying call of the musketeers “One for All, All for One”. Now, if that concept were to have been embraced by our politicos, oh what a wonderful place Jamaica would be. Alas, the concept is alien to them, having created their own variant as in ‘One for Me, All for Me. Oh, let the power fall on I’.

In the Throne Speech delivered by the Governor-General just last week, he spoke to, amongst other things, “a new Jamaica built on a foundation of social peace….where the Government will continue increasing the safety and security of Jamaicans … where we respect each other; are peaceful and safe; have a society characterized by equity and justice; … where in furtherance of Plan Secure Jamaica, the Government has allocated significant capital expenditure for national security and defence”.

That’s an impressive mouthful to swallow, and yes, significant allocations have been made for national security and defence. There will also be focus on revising a number of legislative instruments to make them more relevant and effective, given our national security issues. However, in large part, the raft of activities to be undertaken appear to be bottom and middle up in approach, not top down.

I was expecting to hear of plans for strengthening our anti-corruption legislation, for giving teeth to a number of the state agencies that are privy to the corrupt activities of many of our politicos and civil servants. But no, once again the coming year’s governmental activities have failed to tackle the ‘One for Me, All for Me’ syndrome. Mediocrity masking self-serving ends, perhaps?

Corruption – a top-tier problem

It is useful to remember that whilst corruption is usually about what is done for [illicit] personal or collective gain, the issue also embraces what is not done so as to stymy efforts to curtail corruption and identify perpetrators. Regardless of how well-oiled our security apparatus is, curtailing serious and organized crime will remain a fleeting illusion because upper-end corruption will continue to derail the efforts of the police and the military.

Take, for instance the suggestion put forward by Professor Trevor Munroe, executive director of National Integrity Action, for the Auditor General to be empowered, in the wake of official audits, to refer individuals who are found to be in breach of government policies and procedures for prosecution. Justice delayed is justice denied, as delays augur well for cover-ups, duppy explanations and nepotistic exonerations.

The point is that once individuals are more likely to be held to account within reasonable time of their shenanigans being unearthed; once there is greater surety that they will be brought to book, they will be less inclined to engage in nefarious activities. In the same breath, people in the know will be more inclined to become whistleblowers.

Some even argue that withholding information related to corrupt activities should become a prosecutable offence. Not a bad idea if we wish to make a serious reversal of the widespread anti-informer culture. However, fundamental changes in laws, processes and practices would be necessary, chief among them being, as Professor Munroe has rightly posited, improved protections under the Protected Disclosures Act and greater accountability exacted from individuals appointed to boards of state entities.

Unless we effect a paradigm shift and stop wallowing among the minnows, the sharks of corruption will remain in the shadows dancing to the tune of ‘One for Me, All for Me’.