Tue | Sep 17, 2019

Patria-Kaye Aarons | Corruption should spell crime

Published:Tuesday | May 21, 2019 | 12:14 AM

Surely, if last week taught us ­anything, it’s that not every ­circumstance that seems criminal really is. Especially when viewed with the trained, legal eye. Where laymen see what appears to them as nepotism, corruption and certain jail time, lawyers and policymakers see just another ­loophole to wiggle through.

The case of former Lucea Mayor Shernet Haughton was open and shut in the court of public opinion. After the Office of the Contractor General’s report on the matter unearthed 22 contracts awarded to persons either related to or closely connected to the former mayor, many were throwing around the big ‘C’ word. Corruption.

Well the bigger ‘C’, the court, instructed that everyone put away their torches and pitchforks because no crime had been committed by Miss Haughton. She was well within her rights to issue contracts to her kin as mayor. Under the law, that’s A-OK.

Then there was this other matter. Both the timing and procedure of hiring Othneil Lawrence to the Caribbean Maritime University caused reasonable questions to be raised, in and out of political circles. Especially because of the connectedness of the parties involved.

Five years ago, Lawrence was suing Andrew Holness and Horace Chang in order to hold on to his precious North West St Ann seat. And then all of a sudden, he peacefully steps aside to take up a job he never specifically applied for in his replacement’s education ministry. Just suh. People will fairly ask obvious ­questions and make inferences after that chain of events. What a coincidence! And it is glibly explained away in Parliament, and we all move on, satisfied that the end justified the means. Chapter closed.

PEOPLE LOSING FAITH

It’s these kinds of technical ambiguities that cause people to lose faith in the law and lawmakers. It’s the acrobatic gymnastics that attorneys can employ to cleverly twist both the rules of the land and the English language that call into question whether Jamaican justice is an ironic misnomer.

The courts and Parliament have spoken, and I don’t want to further malign anyone’s name … but if on the face of things there is gross misalignment between conscience and constitution, something is wrong.

Blatant nepotism, at the expense of Jamaica, ought to be a criminal offence. It isn’t even an administrative offence in many cases. Few get caught, fewer get fired, and nobody is made to pay the money back. It isn’t fair. If the law can’t protect Jamaica from advantageous opportunistic Jamaicans, what’s the sense in having it?

This is a space where reformation is necessary. Our laws need to be looked at again to ensure that petty criminals can’t hide under them covering their behinds. I keep coming back to this notion that justice must appear to be done, or the people lose faith. Let’s fix it.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a confectioner and broadcaster. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@gmail.com.