Thu | Nov 26, 2020

Jaevion Nelson | Corruption tit-for-tat – when will we grow up?

Published:Saturday | July 13, 2019 | 12:00 AM
PNP Vice-President Damion Crawford greets a motorist with the party’s symbolic fist during an anti-corruption vigil in Half-Way Tree on Thursday, July 11.
A protester holds up a placard bearing a Las May cartoon in Half-Way Tree on Thursday.
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It’s such a bloody shame that many issues relating to corruption in government that come to the public are usually laden with politicking.

I know there is no Utopia, but I can’t help but wish that things were a little different, that our political leaders would treat with these issues with more sobriety, that they’d at least try to be more genuinely interested in dealing with corruption rather than simply scoring political points with the hope of ousting their opponents.

Quite frankly, it doesn’t seem to matter much who is in power. It’s the seeming convention centred around exposing those allegedly embroiled in a scandal with nary a concern for how we, as a nation, deal with such issues effectively and mitigate against their reoccurrence.

Over the last couple of months, there has been quite a bit of discussion about use of public funds given the allegations with respect to Caribbean Maritime University (CMU). Senator Ruel Reid, who was the minister of education, resigned from the onset. President of CMU, Professor Fritz Pinnock, recently took a voluntary leave of absence, for six weeks. But these actions have done very little to allay our lack of confidence in our political leaders’ will to address issues of good governance, transparency, and accountability.

The People’s National Party (PNP) has done a fairly commendable job in bringing to the fore these allegations of corruption. Through the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament, they have used their agency to ask relevant and timely questions so the nation can be better apprised of what has happened.

PNP’S VIGIL

On Thursday, the PNP staged an anti-corruption vigil in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, to mobilise the public to take a stand against corruption. A protest of this nature has much utility, but I wanted it to be little less conventional. I desperately wanted it to be radical and transformative.

I was waiting with bated breath for them to speak about even one of the allegations they’re accused of. They could have used the opportunity to tell us what they had learnt from these experiences as they castigated the Government. I suppose this was politically inexpedient given how we practise politics in this country, but it perhaps is the only way to quiet the quipping of people, including surrogates of the JLP.

Failure to do so, I believe, reduces the currency of anti-corruption efforts. It causes their efforts to be seen simply as another performance to score political points which, at the end of the day, is an opportunity squandered. Consequently, the people remain convinced that nutten nah change.

Worryingly, there is a whole lot of finger-pointing and banter about who is more corrupt. It would appear that regardless of who is in power, there will always be a tit-for-tat when it come to these issues.

When the PNP announced its intention to have the vigil, individuals connected to the JLP chastised them for being hypocritical and lacking the moral authority to protest about these scandals. Subsequently, there were pictures and videos about ‘PNP scandals’, and the vigil in Half-Way Tree was seemingly ambushed with targeted messages on the big screen.

Self-righteous

Clearly, the PNP cannot afford to skirt around the scandals involving them, no matter how old they may be. They always resurface conveniently. They cannot at this particular time afford to be self-righteous on this particular issue. It affects how the majority of Jamaicans engage them on these matters.

The childish crosstalk with which successive Oppositions, PNP and JLP alike, speak about the country’s affairs helps to turn people off from politics, erasing public confidence in politicians and the system, and convinces us that better is not in the foreseeable future.

As Stephen McCubbin said, we’re tired of the fingerp-ointing because “it’s not just money that governments steal, it’s education and opportunity. They steal access and livelihoods. They steal futures! They steal hope!”

It’s time our politicians do better. It’s time they restore our hope and confidence in them.

 

Jaevion Nelson is a human rights, social and economic justice advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com or tweet @jaevionn.