Mon | Sep 24, 2018

Gov't senator wants more politicians jailed

Published:Friday | June 23, 2017 | 4:18 PM

​Politicians are among the powerbrokers Jamaicans need to see dragged to jail to remind them that the justice system does not recognise status when punishing wrongdoers, Government senator, Kerensia Morrison, has argued.

"Jamaicans believe that we are quick to lock up the man who steals the mangoes but the man who cannot account for millions of dollars of hard-earned tax payers' money walks free and is only accused of mismanagement, misappropriation and cost overrun," Morrison said during her contribution this afternoon to the State of the Nation debate in the Upper House of Jamaica's Parliament.

According to her, Jamaicans will feel confident in the justice system when the penalty is "sure" regardless of money, power and connections.

"When they (Jamaicans) see the handcuffs going on some powerbrokers in society, politicians and their friends, that is when they will be convinced that di ting get serious.

“When we look at the international world, high profile businessmen, professional sportsmen and women, hip hop and R&B moguls, politicians who have to resign, pay hefty fines or serve time when they commit a crime, we wonder if it can happen here," she added.

Morrison's comments come in the same week that the outgoing United States ambassador here Luis Moreno, and the Contractor General, Dirk Harrison, lamented the lack of successful prosecutions of high profile corruption cases.

"The best thing that we could see is that people be held accountable for doing inappropriate things, taking inappropriate money, fronting for or endorsing companies, projects, people that have adverse information found on them," he said in response to a Gleaner question at a function on Monday at Harrison's office.

According to him, Jamaica has "ways to go" in successfully prosecuting people who could "serve as an example" that the Government is serious about corruption. "I would like to see some high-profile cases come to fruition.”

Greg Christie, a former contractor general has said, since Independence, only three senior public officials have been convicted and jailed for corruption.

He said they were former Labour Minister J.A.G Smith and his permanent secretary, Probyn Aitken who were locked up for fraud in the early 1990s. Former Resident Magistrate Norma Von Cork was jailed in April 2002.

Some of the concerns about the lack of corruption prosecutions especially among high profile Jamaicans stem from the perception of corruption in Jamaica based on Transparency International’s annual reports.

The 2016 report saw Jamaica slipping 14 places to 83 out of 176 countries. Jamaica received a score of 39 out of 100. On the Corruption Perception Index, zero is seen as highly corrupt and 100 as very clean.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn has also been blamed but she has insisted that her office prosecutes less than one per cent of corruption cases. Clerks of Courts supervised by the Chief Justice are responsible for most corruption prosecutions.

The Parliament is debating a major anti-corruption legislation which Prime Minister Andrew Holness in February said is one of the commitments “to bold and decisive actions to eradicate corruption”.