Sun | Mar 29, 2020

PNP calls for stronger action on corruption

Published:Wednesday | February 26, 2020 | 2:36 PM
PNP President, Dr Peter Phillips - File photo

The People's National Party (PNP) has taken issue with Prime Minister Andrew Holness over his handling of the resignation of former Education Minister Ruel Reid.

In an exclusive interview at Jamaica House yesterday, Holness said not accepting the resignation would have compromised the integrity of Jamaica’s “entire system of government”.

“Once I had knowledge of the allegations that were made [against Reid], I had no choice obviously but to bring the minister before me and have a conversation about the issues that are now public knowledge,” said Holness.

READ: Ruel had to go

Reid resigned in March 2019 amid swirling allegations of corruption, cronyism and mismanagement at Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), which falls under the Ministry of Education.

Seven months later, Reid; his wife, Sharen; daughter, Sharelle; CMU President Fritz Pinnock; and councillor for the Brown’s Town division of the St Ann Municipal Corporation, Kim Brown Lawrence, were arrested on fraud-related charges for allegedly diverting approximately $50 million from the CMU.

The PNP is accusing Holness of being tardy in addressing corruption issues. 

“… the records show that Prime Minister Holness only asked for Reid’s resignation after PNP president Dr Peter Phillips raised the issue at a press conference months after it was widely known across the society.

“… it is alarming that Prime Minister Holness was aware of the allegations against the former Education Minister and all he did after months of delay, was to have a ‘conversation’ with Reid and ‘allow’ him to resign,” a spokesperson said in a statement today.

The party is calling for Holness to tell the nation when he first learned of the criminal investigations into activities at CMU and Reid’s alleged role.

It also wants him to state what actions he took when he was first made aware of this information.

“As in the case of Ruel Reid, for many months, Prime Minister Holness delayed his response to the corruption cancer at PetroJam involving former Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley. He finally responded long after the matter had already spilled and was overflowing in the public domain. He was forced to act only after significant pressure from civil society and the Opposition,” the spokesperson argued.

READ: Wheatley falls 

“This lack of responsiveness was also evident with the Office of the Contractor General Report on the corruption enabling $800 million de-bushing programme. For months the Prime Minister ignored questions on the matter tabled by Shadow Minister of Technology Julian Robinson in the Parliament,” the spokesperson added.

READ: OCG questions honesty of three gov't ministers in controversial de-bushing programme

The PNP contends that the government must effectively respond to corruption given the threat it poses to good governance, order and growth.

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