Fri | Oct 30, 2020

No surprise as commentators name Wheatley political loser of 2018

Published:Saturday | January 5, 2019 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Dr Andrew Wheatley poses with superhero characters at a Wakanda-themed party hosted by his ministry in May.
Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis emerged as one of the winners for her performance last year.
Oswald Williams, chairman of National Energy Solution Limited (NESol), and Carolyn Warren, the then managing director of the entity before the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee meeting at Gordon House last year.

Former Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley has received the unanimous nod from two of the island's leading social/political commentators as the biggest loser on Jamaica's political stage last year.

Wheatley lost his ministerial lustre after news surfaced of widespread corruption at a number of entities under his command. He eventually "agreed" to be relieved of the portfolio and now sits on the backbenches of Parliament, where he has been tasked with working on poverty alleviation measures, using the Mustard Seed Communities model of success and accountability.

At the other end of the scale, the commentators put the Wykeham McNeill-chaired Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament, and Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis as the two big stars of 2018.

According to attorney-at-law and author Dr Paul Ashley, Wheatley should work free for Jamaica for the rest of his life.

"The image of that man, emerging from the green Mercedes-Benz, entering Parliament, is one of disgust. That image will never leave people's minds, given what happened," said Ashley.

"Not to mention all of what has emerged about Petrojam under his command, and no one can tell me that he did not know anything that was going on, because he was close to the people there," added Ashley.

The one-time talk show host pointed to the former chairman of Petrojam, Perceval Bahado-Singh, who resigned under pressure as the reports emerged about operations at the state-run oil company, as one of the close personal friends of Wheatley, as he argued that the former minister appointed persons he knew and trust to direct the affairs of the agencies under his portfolio.




Ashley charged that Wheatley made former government minister Phillip Paulwell look like a rookie, despite the allegations of corruption and cronyism that emerged at the entities under the former's portfolio when the People's National Party formed the Government.

"Yet here comes this newcomer that made Paulwell look like an intern," charged Ashley, whose other losers included Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, Paulwell, Transport Minister Robert Montague, and St Andrew South West Member of Parliament Angela Brown Burke.

Ashley argued that Paulwell should take "a long vacation leave and keep silent". He added that "Brown Burke left no legacy, except chat", while Montague's police used-car saga was another reason for political diarrhoea, and Phillips' best days are behind him.

The outspoken commentator charged that the PAAC and the auditor general were the best providers of accountability, with the committee giving better service to the country than the Parliament, most of the time.

"The media was the next big winner in the year. It 'kaapeted' (carpeted) the country with reports, and because there were so many outlets, new and established, stories were everywhere," said Ashley, as he added the PNP's Damion Crawford, who was elected to one of the party's four vice-president posts, as the big political winner of the year.

Ashley said while Prime Minister Andrew Holness was one of the political winners of the year, he was also a loser, as his "dithering on Wheatley's removal, and the number of old people hospital at Jamaica House" showed definite signs of weakness.

The University of the West Indies lecturer Nadene Spence also named Wheatley as the biggest political loser of the year.

According to Spence, "he appeared as if he was not accustomed to anything good and so he came to the ministry and muddied everything."

She added the Wheatley's green Mercedes-Benz imagery at Parliament was "hurtful and repugnant".

For Spence, Phillips was also among the political losers as he failed to "motivate, communicate and inspire".

Women and women's issues were also among the losers for 2018 named by Spence. She pointed to the fate of Brown Burke, who was the highest-ranking female in Jamaica politics before she was voted out of one of the PNP's four vice-president posts during the September internal elections.

The success of the states of public emergency in reducing murders was also a highlight for Spence for last year.

"A government's first responsibility is to save lives and many were saved. As a result, the prime minister became a winner, but not a runaway one, as now that the SOEs are over, or near over, alternatives must be put in place," said Spence.

Finance Minister Nigel Clarke, who was elected to Parliament last year and quickly ushered into the Cabinet, also received the nod from Spence.

"In no time he seems to be managing the affairs of the country quite well. He comes across as a smart manager of the economy," said Spence.