MoBay youths specially picked for corruption conference
Tainted by their proximity to the spectre of the lottery scam in western Jamaica, a number of youths have been handpicked from Montego Bay, St James, to participate in the inaugural Office of the Contractor General Fraud and Anti-Corruption Conference.
The youngsters have been targeted because they are deemed to be impressionable, and so youths from the so-called "lotto scam belt" will join more than 100 high-school students at the Kingston-based event.
"I am not saying that I believe that only the impressionable ones can advance moral values, but I think that we should start with them because it can go a far way in advancing the way the rest of us think," Contractor General Dirk Harrison told The Gleaner yesterday.
"The purpose is twofold - one, to engage youngsters and, secondly, to increase awareness," said Harrison of the conference to be held at the Knutsford Court Hotel, starting next Monday.
"We are focusing on areas of the United Nations Convention against corruption, which is part of our obligations," added Harrison.
He said the first session would focus on the young with the second and third days looking at stakeholders, practitioners, persons who have operational roles in tackling crime and corruption, and public servants who need to be apprised about fraud and anti-corruption.
The conference will operate under the theme 'Confronting Corruption: Empowering a Generation, Transforming a Nation'.
"We have invited students from every high school in Jamaica and selected five primary schools in Montego Bay from what is considered a lotto scam belt," said Harrison.
He added: "We wish to engage these children, we are not trying to tell them what is right or wrong, so we have asked other presenters to consider and present topics which we think address ethical issues and generally children and crime."
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites will be featured in an address on the first day of the conference with Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon-Harrison and Mark Connolly, Jamaica's representative on the United Nations' Children's Fund, also scheduled to speak.
Criminologist Renee Cummings, Denise Herbal, mission director of the US Agency for International Development, Jamaica, and Dr Shazzeeda Ali, deputy dean in the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona, as well as Dr Omar Hawthorne, lecturer, UWI's Department of Government, are also expected to participate.
Harrison, a former deputy director of public prosecutions, has been contractor general since March 1, 2013.
Explaining why the issue of corruption is the main focus at the inaugural conference, he said: "I would say at this time, I think it should have been done already, it is part of my mandate, one of the things which I intend to bring to the table."
Harrison stressed that public education remains important.
"I wouldn't say that today or tomorrow is the best time, I think it is something that we should be doing continually because we need to inculcate in our children certain values."