George Davis, Guest Golumnist
I sympathise with Richard Azan. After calling for him to step away from his position as state minister for transport, works and housing, I feel more sorrow than satisfaction now that he has been barricaded by circumstances into so doing. Mind you, I'm not sorrowful, just not as chipper as many others who believe he has damaged his party unnecessarily and forced his defender in chief, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, to expend some of her considerable political capital. My sympathy for Richard stems from the fact that despite his admission on April 8 that he blundered in how he authorised the building of the shops and the arrangements around the collection of the rent, he still thought the incident was not significant enough to threaten his status as state minister. And after the report of the contractor general which found him acting in a politically corrupt manner, Richard still didn't believe it was enough to cut short his second stint as state minister in the transport and works ministry.
I sympathise with Richard because he basically got in trouble for solving a problem which was plaguing a small group of constituents in the area of North West Clarendon, where his navel string was cut, he took his first shave and where his sense of obligation to his people led him down a path of indiscretion. The Spaldings market is not just any old place to Richard. Unlike some people who get transplanted to win safe seats, Richard is a true man of the town. He attended Spaldings Primary, Spaldings High and went across the border to Holmwood Technical. The place means much to him and in an interview before the 2011 election he spoke of the need to improve the Spaldings market so the vendors would no longer have to sell their wares in the sun and rain. This supports the idea that he had no corrupt intent when building the shops, but was simply trying to fulfil an election promise to his people.
But all factors considered, Richard let himself and his government down badly with how he went about the task. Hearing all that has been said from all the Comrades who have spoken publicly on the issue and hearing from Richard himself, it's safe to conclude that Richard, even after admitting to blundering, does not believe he did anything wrong. Richard, who does not believe that even though he had no power to authorise the construction of shops on government land, was stupid in allowing the collection of rent at his constituency office, was out of order in allowing someone to use his Justice of the Peace stamp to endorse the receipts, still maintains he did nothing wrong. That for me is both sad and unfortunate and explains why I have sympathy for him. For how can a 49-year-old man with one full term as member of parliament under his belt, one full term as junior minister in the bag and a winner of two parliamentary and one local government election, not know that he should not have done those things? What makes it worse and dictates that sympathy is the apposite thing to feel for Richard is that all of his comrades in arms, barring Local Government Minister Noel Arscott, have publicly supported his actions. That is amazing. So not only does Richard not know that he did wrong, other responsible public servants, big men and big women, have been telling him that he did nothing to require his resignation! Isn't that troubling? And at the same time worthy of sympathy? In all this, the prime minister's support for Richard puzzles me. I find it strange that this prime minister, whose name nobody can mix up with hanky panky or political carelessness can support Richard in circumstances she would never ever have allowed herself to be in. She would insist on the process being followed, for no guy nor girl will ever put Portia and corruption in the same headline.
So children, I ask that you sympathise with Richard. He knows not what he doeth and can't differentiate between right and wrong. And those around him can't either. Which is why the rest of us have to bawl and scream at them. Selah.
George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.