Sun | Nov 17, 2019

‘It saddens me’ - Holness says JLP embarrassed by Reid’s arrest, insists no interference to come from party

Published:Monday | October 14, 2019 | 12:09 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, leader of the Jamaica Labour Party, addresses an Area Council One meeting at the Girl Guides Association of Jamaica headquarters in St Andrew yesterday.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, leader of the Jamaica Labour Party, addresses an Area Council One meeting at the Girl Guides Association of Jamaica headquarters in St Andrew yesterday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday stressed that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) would not interfere with the ongoing investigation and court case involving former Minister of Education Ruel Reid, even as he fired shots at the People’s National Party (PNP).

Holness, who was addressing a JLP Area Council One meeting at the Girl Guides Association of Jamaica headquarters in St Andrew, said he was saddened by the debacle that has engulfed his administration.

Reid, his daughter, Sharelle; his wife, Sharen; President of the Caribbean Martime (CMU) University Professor Fritz Pinnock; and Kim Brown Lawrence, councillor for the Brown’s Town division in St Ann, were offered bail when they appeared before court to answer to corruption and fraud charges.

The five were arrested just days after PNP President Dr Peter Phillip held a press conference demanding that a status report on ongoing corruption investigations be given within 30 days.

Phillips had called out the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency over the absence of an arrest in the matter.

“There is no question that it (Reid’s arrest) saddens me, that it saddens the entire party, and I know you who sit here as well, you are indeed very saddened, very concern about what happened,” Holness said yesterday.

It’s the first time he has publicly addressed the issue of Reid’s arrest.

“I want to make it clear that ... the Jamaica Labour Party that now has leadership and responsibility for the future of this country, the institution of the party, is strongly against anything that could be characterised as corruption, malfeasance, and abuse of public funds,” Holness stated, adding that concerns being raised are being taken seriously by the party.

“We will do everything in our power to ensure that wherever there is corruption, wherever there is misuse of power, misappropriation of public resources, that this administration will ensure that the mechanisms are in place to ferret it out and bring them before the courts,” said Holness.

Addressing the supporters directly, some of whom are delegates, Holness said: “You play a very important role in holding Government to account. And what I know about the delegates and workers of the Jamaica Labour Party is that dem love dem party bad, but dem love dem country more. And dem will defend dem party, that dem nah go change, but dem not going to sit down and watch the country mash up.”

Holness said he had no problem with corruption being part of the political narrative and being a political issue as it sends the signal to players that if they tolerate corruption, there is a political price to be paid.

“This Government understands that, so when we sit together as a Cabinet, when we sit together as a party, we have to look into ourselves, we have to reflect on what it is that we need to do, and the first thing is that the Government must never interfere in the independent processes to investigate and prosecute corruption,” Holness said to loud applause from supporters.

The prime minister said that while he was in South Korea recently, he received messages from supporters who thought that the PNP had more insights into investigations surrounding the CMU scandal than the Government.

“I know that there are many more in the party who feel that way, but in a sense, it proves what I have been saying. This Government will not interfere, will not try to, in any way, sweep under the carpet, will not try to, in any way, influence the process.”

Holness appealed to Labourites who felt distressed by the situation to “calm yourselves” as he took shots at the PNP.

“This matter, which is a political matter, what the electorate has to now consider and decide is what did this Government do when they were faced with allegations of corruption versus what the pretenders did during their time,” asserted Holness as he gestured to bell-ringing supporters.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com