Wed | Nov 20, 2019

Mark Wignall | Who wins in the corruption game?

Published:Sunday | October 13, 2019 | 5:30 AM
Dr Fritz Pinnock prepares to be whisked away from the Half-Way Tree courthouse where he appeared for a hearing on Thursday, October 10.Pinnock is embroiled in a multiimillion-dollar corruption scandal with Ruel Reid.

The People's National Party (PNP) and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) are in a war that doesn't involve guns, ammunition and borders drawn. That stupid thing was for another time like in the 1970s when the police didn't really know which side had the heavy stuff and, even when the cops knew, the force was so corrupt that key people inside it were giving info to their political bosses in either the PNP or the JLP.

Now is 2019. Many people want to know why Ruel Reid, a solid Jamaican ‘black man’, has been so caught up in a corruption scandal.

"Nuh Desmond and him a di two only black man inna di Cabinet. So, a why dat happen to him?" said a 57-year-old man to me last Wednesday. He admitted to me that he had not voted in 20 years but said he liked what was happening with roadworks.

"Dat bredda name Peter Phiillips, mi haffi confess dat I don't like him. Him run him mouth too much."

"What has he said that you don't like?" I asked him.

"Everything," he said.

As I spoke to him, I realised that he was a JLP diehard. He said that he saw "things happening" and he liked that. "Nuff time in my area, gunshot buss, but it still look like di country a move."

It is stunning that one of the main Cabinet members in the Andrew Holness administration has been taken in by the police, locked up, and spent a night in jail like a common criminal. They came for him in the wee hours of the morning when most people would not even be thinking of brewing their coffee.

Last Thursday morning, I posed a question to a few men and two women in a bar along Red Hills Road.

"Yu tink sey di man did fi get lock up?"

"Yeah, man," said one of the women. "Police tek mi from wan dance two year ago and lock mi dung. Dem fi get lock dung to."

One of the men stared at me and said, "Missa Wignall, I don't want yu play nuh game wid wi by going on like seh yu more educateddan we. You and I know what go dung, so mek wi just mek it dead yah so right now. Society mek fi you, it mek fi dem. It nuh mek fi we."

I stared away from him because I knew he was right, at least in part.

 

What did Holness say to Ruel Reid?

 

Imagine that you were in the PM’s office in March this year when then Education Minister Ruel Reid was summoned and had to be seated there as the PM spoke to him. That conversation had to be either calm and reassuring, or it was explosive and devastating to Reid.

I cannot see the PM saying to Reid, "We have seen some things that don't look right, so I am asking you to clear out your desk and find other accommodation."

It is more likely that the PM said to him, "Ruel, I never thought I would have this conversation with you so here goes. $@#!!!. And please don't call me. I will call you."

We will never know what happened.

I have spoken to a few JLP Cabinet members and they are not in the least amused at the thought that PM Andrew Holness had been dithering over the matter.

Late last week, one said to me, "Peter Phillips going to get a blowback that is going to stay with him for a long time. He knows that that the PM is strongly against corruption. And then that weakened Peter comes and gwaan like is him calling shots. We are going to destroy him at the next elections ."

One reader out of an upper St Andrew address wrote in response to last Thursday’s column: "Mark, I just read your 10 October, Gleaner column. I liked it. Though it is a difficult time for the JLP, and I am a PNP man, I think the arrest of Reid and the others will benefit the PM and JLP in the future.

‘The PNP, unlike the JLP, never had the integrity to do serious investigations, much less arrest anyone, when it had scandals. It was always denials and distractions. Though politically risky, the PM and JLP allowing the police to do an investigation and arrest persons, including a former education minister, may play well with the public.

"The public may like to see that no one is above the law, including a former education minister.

"Thus, at election time, the JLP and PM can advance the position that they are tough on corruption; they even got a former education minister arrested."

One very obviously partisan PNP supporter emailed me late last Thursday to say, "You are so much in the pocket of the JLP that you don't even have the decency to admit that the party you support is dirty and rotten. I heard you on the radio trying to make Andrew Holness look good. Nothing you and your minions will do from now until the next election will stop Peter Phillips from becoming the next prime minister."

 

Who goes down with the sinking ship?

 

Last Thursday hike, I was hosting the talk show 'Cliff Hughes Online' when a caller suggested that while Andrew Holness as PM must understand the concept of the ‘buck stops here’, there were some people who were expecting him to adopt the maritime concept that the captain of the Titanic took after the cruise liner struck an iceberg and sunk beneath the icy seas.

In other words, they wanted the prime minister to resign. That, to me, is plainly idiotic. I agree that the boss of the factory must face up to the company directors if the factory burns to the ground. In that case, he would definitely need to go.

The question is, are we yet at that stage that the boss needs to go? And if the boss goes, who will be the next boss and what guarantee do we have that the newly renovated factory will not also burn again to the ground?

There is a lot of politics playing with corruption in this country. The partisans work like us to believe that there is PNP corruption and JLP corruption. That is just not so. The system is corrupt. That is the real problem.

In every Cabinet minister’s office, there are his staff and his busybodies. If he or she is a patriot and cares deeply about the country, there is hard work done. Really hard work. If that minister is clean, he or she has no real control if five layers beneath him or her, there are some rats eating out the woodwork.

If that is happening and it eventually comes out in the public wash, it is the duty of the minister to make himself disappear. If he finds, in his convenient blindness, that it was, after all, he and his associates who were the scamps, he needs too occupy a 5x7. A cell fit for his misdeeds.

In the 1980s, Eddie Seaga, as prime minister, was either paranoid or too careful that he found himself getting his hands, eyes and ears into every one of his Cabinet minister's businesses. What did he know?

It had nothing to do with the politics. It was what the system presented to them. The ease of being the boss and the facility to upend the system.

It still exists now and it would suit someone like Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips to realise that the glass house of the PNP has a stone-throwing problem.

Mark Wignall is a public-affairs and political commentator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.