Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
Richard Azan yesterday resigned from his post of junior minister, a day after saying he had no regrets over his role in the messy Spaldings Market saga.
Azan, the former state minister in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, delivered his resignation, dated September 20, 2013, to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller yesterday. The prime minister accepted Azan's resignation.
While Azan yielded to vociferous and sustained calls from civil society and the Opposition for him to resign, the one-time junior minister has vowed not to go quietly.
"In the circumstance, I wish to stand down from my ministerial position. I will, in the meantime, vigorously fight to clear my name, which has been defamed by the contractor general's characterisation of corruption and by utterances in sections of the media," read a section of Azan's one-page resignation letter.
A copy of Azan's missive issued by the Office of the Prime Minister revealed that the embattled politician still believes he did nothing wrong. "I wish to assure you and the Cabinet, that I received no money, favours or personal benefit, financial or otherwise from the erection or rental of the shops by Bryant Construction," said Azan.
The North West Clarendon member of parliament also vowed to mount a legal challenge against the findings contained in Contractor General Dirk Harrison's 140-page special investigation into the construction of the shops in the parking lot of the market.
"My legal team has reviewed the report and advised that the contractor general has come to certain conclusions not supported by the facts and the team recommended that the report be challenged. My team has also advised that the contractor general's report shows no evidence of dishonesty on my part," Azan outlined.
In accepting Azan's resignation, Simpson Miller praised the politician for his work done during his tenure.
Azan's resignation comes five months after The Sunday Gleaner first revealed that he facilitated the construction of 10 wooden shops at the Spaldings Market, which falls under the purview of the Clarendon Parish Council. The rental fees for the shops were also collected at Azan's constituency office.
REFERRED FOR PROSECUTION
On Tuesday, the contractor general's findings, contained in a special report tabled in Parliament, concluded that Azan's actions were, at best, "politically corrupt" and referred the matter to the director of public prosecutions to determine if the politician and others should be charged for conspiracy to defraud the revenue of the Clarendon Parish Council.
Reacting to Azan's resignation, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness said good sense had prevailed. "The situation with Mr Azan was untenable. The Opposition was not prepared to stand by and allow a minister of Government to thumb his nose at the people of Jamaica with statements made in the press," he said.
"The situation threatened to turn Jamaica into a laughing stock and, therefore, we took the move to send a strong message to the Government that we would not be sitting in Parliament or any other fora with them until or unless Mr Azan either resigned or was dismissed by the prime minister," Holness added.