J’cans ‘hungry’ for jailing of corrupt bigwigs, says diplomat
The Jamaican public is “hungry” to see top-ranking government officials pay the consequences for alleged acts of corruption in the public sector, says Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, outgoing head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Jamaica.
In an exclusive interview with the top EU diplomat in the region, Wasilewska said that corruption not only undermined democracy and good governance but also depleted economic resources, depriving the country of critical infrastructural development and social support.
“I think the public is hungry to see consequence, not just to have the news break that whichever high-level person is involved in something, but to see that come to a conclusion,” she told The Gleaner.
In her four-year tour of duty in Jamaica, Wasilewska said that the dynamic of responses to corruption has not been steady.
“There are definitely spikes when there are decisions or moves that are very promising, but I also do feel that sometimes the outcomes are not quite there or maybe they take longer than the public would expect,” she argued.
“I can’t say that over four years I have not seen efforts to address some of the big issues that came up here, but you can only assess that once there is not just investigation, but also if there are grounds for prosecution,” she added.
The diplomat highlighted efforts from anti-corruption agencies locally to cramp corruption.
“There have been strong efforts from different agencies looking at different issues. A lot has come out in the media, but you can only decide on them when they are proven and consequences are taken.”
As the ambassador departs for another assignment, she told The Gleaner that some of the corruption cases that are before the courts, or being pursued for charges, will remain on her radar.
“I have seen some very promising steps ... . I’ll be watching from a distance to see if there is enough proof and prosecution of people who are involved,” she added.
Wasilewska admitted that corruption not only plagued Jamaica but was also a problem within the EU.
“I would be a hypocrite if I did not say that we struggle with corruption as well, but it is what you do with it, whether there is a political commitment, whether there are institutions, mechanisms, and whether there are investigations and prosecutions that make all the difference,” she said.
Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) in January positioned Jamaica as the fourth most corrupt state among Caribbean countries, ahead of Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Haiti.
The 2019 index showed Jamaica scoring 43, one place lower than the 44 it scored in 2018, in a context where zero is deemed very corrupt and 100 is very clean.
With a score of 43, the country’s ranking has dipped from 70 to 74 out of 180 countries.
The Holness administration has been bedevilled by acts of corruption in the last four years with the resignations of two government ministers.
In recent times, Holness has had to reassign two other government ministers over controversial land issues.