Claudia Gardner, Assignment Coordinator
The Jamaica Civil Society Coalition and the Hopewell Development Area Committee staged a forum on integrity and good governance at the Hopewell Missionary Church in Hanover last Thursday.
The forum was held specifically for persons in leadership positions from community-based organisations, churches, youth groups, and other civil society bodies in the parish.
In his written remarks, which were submitted to the meeting, Custos Rotolorum of Hanover Dr David Stair said the nation could no longer afford to accept abuse of authority by elected officials and other leaders.
"The theme of this forum speaks to the rising mood in Jamaica where the citizenry is no longer prepared to sit by and allow our elected officials, and those in positions of power and authority in the public and private sector, to operate by less than acceptable standards. We are no longer prepared to be satisfied with less than the highest standards of integrity and good governance," Stair said.
"More and more, we, the common citizens, have begun to understand that corruption and unethical acts are not things that we only read about in the newspapers or hear on the radio and are so far removed from our daily lives that they have no direct influence on us as individuals. We now understand that when such acts take place, they have a direct impact on our communities and our personhood," the custos said.
Stair said acts of corruption severely affected the country's ability to provide adequate basic services for the population.
"These behaviours directly affect the ability of our Government to provide water, electricity, roads, health facilities, schools, and other basic infrastructure important to the growth and sustainable development of our communities and our nation," the custos, who is also a medical doctor, added. "Without these, the individual lives of our people will never be better either socially or economically. Lack of integrity in high places also threatens the very fabric of our democracy - a priceless right that we must never take for granted."
Nadiya Figueroa, deputy director of external relations at the National Integrity Action (NIA), in her presentation, said Jamaica had not made enough effort to deal with corruption within government.
"How come in the 10 years before Independence, three ministers were locked up for abuse of authority and corruption, yet in the 50-plus years of Independence, we have only had one minister convicted? How come Jamaica has not been able to join the ranks of other countries, which have resolved to arrest and try persons in high places for abuse of authority and corruption?" she questioned.
She made reference to elected officials and former heads of governments in Trinidad and Tobago, The Turks and Caicos, and The Cayman Islands who were tried and convicted for acts of corruption.
"People in Jamaica want our system of law, governance to work, and to abide by the rules of the land, but there is the wide perception that some persons get away scot-free. The rule of law, accountability, and integrity must be demanded from the top," she said.