Thu | Aug 13, 2020

Stop feeding the greedy - Panton stands firm on position regarding donations to parliamentarians

Published:Thursday | July 9, 2020 | 12:33 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter

“Unshakeable!”

That’s how retired justice Seymour Panton described his stance in relation to parliamentarians who are used by individuals as a vehicle to distribute scarce benefits to their constituents.

Panton, a former president of the Court of Appeal, argued that persons who wish to make donations should do it themselves or distribute them through established charities.

“When money is delivered in a constituency in that manner, what is likely to happen is that the greedy will benefit, not necessarily the needy. That is my personal unshakeable position,” an unapologetic Panton told The Gleaner.

On Tuesday, during the inaugural meeting of the Integrity Commission Oversight Committee (ICOC), at least two lawmakers questioned the source of authority of Panton’s position, which he expressed in a report tabled in Parliament last week.

Sandals hotel mogul Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart recently gave $31.5 million to the 63 members of parliament to distribute to their constituents.

ICOC Chairman Karl Samuda highlighted Panton’s remarks in the annual report, saying, “It is a statement worth reading”.

“That was a contentious remark. I want to see the source of authority of that statement,” said committee member Mark Golding.

“Like you, I am not sure where the authority is vested,” said Samuda.

Panton made it clear that the statement represented his personal view, noting that it was not intended to question the integrity of any parliamentarian.

He said that parliamentarians have a tendency to “give things to henchmen to distribute, and henchmen usually look after their own”.

The Integrity Commission chairman also noted that “we don’t want the perception that when persons give things like these that they are expecting to get anything in return”.

He said that there might be persons applying for contracts and succeed legitimately, but the perception that might be created “is that well, because they gave ‘so-and-so’, this contract has succeeded”.

In the annual report, Panton said: “There should be no question of giving money to a parliamentarian to distribute to constituents … . Parliamentarians are not supposed to beengaged in the distribution of gifts, scarce resources. or spoils.”.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com