'Deglamourise corruption, promote honesty, says Rev Miller
Dwight Bellanfante, Gleaner Writer
NOTING THAT even churches were falling victim to extortion, a leading academic and top religious figures are calling for moral incentives and life skills to be built into social-intervention programmes, especially those targeting the nation's youth, as a means of combating such corrupt practices.
"Corruption is a moral problem with socio-economic manifestations. It requires a change in thinking as it is born of selfishness, the fear of poverty and the feeling that it is a normal way of living. A nuh nutten, so we see and nuh see, hear an deaf, etc," the Reverend Al Miller, head of the National Transformation Pro-gramme, said during a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum held at the newspaper's North Street, central Kingston, offices. The forum was conducted to explore ways and means of defeating the culture of corruption in Jamaica.
Miller pointed to the need for public praise and affirmation of honest individuals, as well as "infusing all social-intervention programmes with life skills" and creating opportunities for youth to improve themselves in practical ways. These, he said, were means by which corruption could be de-glamourised and honesty promoted as the better way of life. He said a citizens' charter that recognised that all Jamaican citizens must be treated as first-class citizens should also be implemented.
Also sounding the alarm were Peter Espeut, of the Jamaica Council of Churches, and Professor Trevor Munroe, director of the National Integrity Action Forum, based at the University of the West Indies, Mona.
Munroe, whose group unites the leading anti-corruption watchdogs in the society to promote anti-corruption outcomes, said the benefits of honesty needed to be seen in terms of how it affected areas, such as the economy and investment. He pointed to issues, such as the high level of government waivers granted in January 2010 ($5.7 billion), and the debilitating effects on areas, such as the low rating given to Jamaica by bodies such as Transparency Interna-tional, which recently ranked Jamaica 30 out of 32 Latin American and Caribbean countries.
He noted that his group was focusing on the need to "transform anti-corruption rhetoric into anti-corruption action" through a programme of consistent advocacy and advancing legislative reforms, including examining best practices in successful prosecutions of corruption cases using inter-national examples, among others.
In his comments, Espeut said the fact that churches were being targeted by extortionists pointed to an increasing decline in the moral and social fabric in Jamaica as formerly, such institutions were spared such overtures. He noted that the best deterrent to corruption and crime was "a high possibility that the perpetrator would be caught".