Officials seek new corruption plan
Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter
WITH MOST Jamaicans convinced that a high per cent of public officials are corrupt, local law- enforcement officials met with their regional counterparts this week to devise measures to deal with this problem.
The two-day conference, the first of its kind, opened in Kingston on Tuesday with law-enforcement officials trying to identify the types and levels of corruption and the status of anti-corruption initiatives in the region.
The law-enforcement officials were also trying to ascertain best practices in the fight against corruption and to draft a regional anti-corruption strategy.
It was also expected that the framework for a regional law-enforcement anti-corruption network would be established at the conference.
In opening the conference, Dr Karen Hilliard, mission director of the United States Agency for International Development in Jamaica, underscored the dangers of corruption.
"Corruption tears apart the fabric of society, undermines public confidence in government and can even undermine support for the very democracy that we live in," warned Hilliard.
"Corruption in law-enforcement organisations is even more a betrayal as these are the very institutions that countries entrust with the responsibility of keeping their citizens safe," Hilliard added.
That was a recurring theme for others at the opening ceremony as the regional law-enforcement officials prepared to begin the working sessions.
"The United States ... stands ready to partner with you in these anti-corruption efforts," declared Isiah Parnell, deputy chief of mission of the US Embassy in Jamaica.
For his part, Prime Minister Bruce Golding argued that the high crime rate in Jamaica was only possible because of the high level of corruption in the country.
"That corrosive element called corruption has invaded so many institutions of authority, including the police force, that the role of the (proposed special prosecutor) is critical in this fight," Golding said.
Legislative support ready
According to the prime minister, his administration is prepared to provide the legislative support to local law-enforcement agencies to assist them to reduce corruption.
But Golding warned that all the efforts of the state would fail if there was not a national rejection of corruption.
"Law-enforcement agencies alone cannot eradicate corruption. We may empower them through legislation, we may equip them ... we may enhance their capabilities through training ... but fighting corruption requires much more," Golding said.
"It requires a coalition of forces and a coalition of efforts. It involves the government, it involves the media and it requires, importantly, a recovery and a rebuilding of the values and standards that will turn the face of our society against corruption," Golding added.