Wed | Jun 3, 2020

Letter of the Day: Holness mansion not beyond scrutiny

Published:Thursday | July 2, 2015 | 12:00 AM


I'd like to comment on Robert Dalley's letter in The Gleaner ('Why the intrigue over Holness' house?' (July 1, 2015), which followed a series of reports in the Observer. Prior to seeing the photos of the massive structure being built as a home for the opposition leader, I had no opinion and reserved judgement.

But even in its unfinished state, the house makes quite the statement.

Now, don't get me wrong, everyone has the right to do what he or she wants in this life - if it's within the person's means and done legally.

But as a public servant, what is done privately can be questioned, and we expect leaders to lead by example. The leader of the Opposition is also paid from the public purse, and is employed full time as such.

The mansion being built in Beverly Hills for the past few years without question is extravagant. Not even our wealthy athletes or musicians flaunt such extravagance. The property looks more like a hotel structure than a private residence.

Mr Holness is sending quite the message while most Jamaicans are forced to struggle daily just to make ends meet. At a time when the country is going through such a difficult time economically, the timing couldn't be worst to display such extravagance as a public official who aspires to become PM.

It was just recently that Mr Holness also called on Government to take a 15 per cent pay cut in their relatively low salaries to show "moral leadership" and solidarity with the plight of its employees who are also underpaid.

I thought, what a hypocritical statement for someone who earns approximately J$5 million plus benefits per annum (approx US$50,000) before taxes, yet can afford a mansion that seems to be valued above US$2 million!

And even if his wife earns double, triple or quadruple his income, the expenditure is worthy of inquiry. There is also concern about his lack of judgement. Did he not think people would question this extravagance? Some have argued he has every right to build whatever, and at least he's building the house in Jamaica and not elsewhere. But that's hardly even the point.

Any public servant, especially at his level, is accountable, and his wife, by virtue of who she married, is also accountable.

We also read recently that Jamaica ranks behind Haiti, in terms of financial well-being in a global financial report. And what does this have to do with Mr Holness personally? Everything! So as 'frugal' as Mr Holness says he has been, we know politicians rarely set the best example.

And this is exactly why there are legitimate concerns and intrigue with the property.