Letter to the editor: A Tale of Three Events - Two Letters, One Fire and A Mayor
THE EDITOR, Sir:
I would like to share my thoughts on three recent newsworthy events, two of which continue to consume a significant portion of the airwaves and one which, to use an expression - 'meh' - is kinda sorta of on the media's radar.
Event number one is Andrew Holness and the Senate letters. My summary; pre-signed letters were used to remove two opposition senators who have now managed to overthrow their dismissals. This case again signals the need for significant constitutional reform.
Event number two is the Riverton dump fire. This fire resulted in massive disruption of normal activities in the surrounding metropolitan areas, including postponement of a major elementary school examination and several health-related impacts.
Everyone shares responsibility for this fire as we continue to engage in consumption and disposal patterns that are unsustainable. All Jamaicans need to take personal responsibility for separating their waste and learning about backyard composting. If you don't have a backyard then along with your community, complex, housing scheme or school, you can start composting. Admittedly, major responsibility for this recent environmental insult lies with the state agencies in charge of solid waste management. Rightly so, questions have been asked about the level of competence of the persons appointed to oversee solid waste management. Are they political appointees with limited experience?
A special investigation conducted by the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) on the award of government contracts at the Hanover Parish Council painted a not-so-pretty picture of the former mayor. The OCG's investigations found instances of nepotism, favouritism, and conflicts of interest involved in the recommendations for the award of government contracts to relatives and persons affiliated with the mayor. It appears that the former mayor had a direct role in the award of 22 contracts, with a cumulative value of $3.7 million to relatives, friends and cumbolo. In comparison to the senate letters and the fire, this case of apparent nepotism causes the highest level of concern to me. Yes, I agree, a well-functioning opposition party is key to a good democracy, and most definitely, a raging fire that pumps noxious substances into the environment with potential long-lasting effects is very serious and possibly deadly. However, this latest 'scandal' requires similar attention and should cause equivalent outrage as for the other two events.
This case is symptomatic of why Jamaica has not moved at the same pace as some of its contemporaries that gained independence around the same period. Nepotism and corruption are a large reason why after spending trillions of dollars from taxes and foreign aid over the past 50-odd years, what we have to show for it leaves much to be desired. This plunder of the public purse not only occurs at the local government level, but central government, quasi-government agencies, major infrastructure projects, and so on.
I expect that we will hear the usual political line that "while the behaviour was unethical, no laws were broken". In fact, the mayor's political party's 'integrity commission' is currently investigating the matter with a view to determining what disciplinary measures should be taken. I ask the question, however, what about the investigation from the director of public prosecutions and the police? Examples like this scandal in Hanover are too commonplace. Jamaicans seem to be content with phrases such as "a so di runnings go" or "everybody haffi eat a food".
Peter E.T. Edwards, PhD