Neither Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller nor Richard Azan, the ex-minister, should conflate the issues in Paula Llewellyn's ruling that Mr Azan was not criminally culpable with regard to his actions in the Spaldings Market scandal.
This should not be interpreted as a ruling that Mr Azan was not guilty of misbehaviour in the affair. Nor should it be seen as a pass for him to return to the Government.
Hopefully, too, Mrs Simpson Miller's sense for propriety in governance is now sharper, which should mean that Scean Barnswell will not be allowed to fester as chairman of the Clarendon Parish Council until after he has his day in court for allegedly lying to the contractor general. The malingering that attended Mr Azan won't do.
Indeed, if Mr Barnswell does not have the good sense to go, Mrs Simpson Miller, as leader of the People's National Party, of which he is a member, and on whose ticket he was elected to the local government, must make it clear that he no longer enjoys the party's support in that post.
For Mrs Simpson Miller to do otherwise would be a frivolous use of capital that would be far better spent in mobilising Jamaicans in support of the painfully tough, but necessary, policies the Government still has to implement to reverse the country's economic crisis.
This matter, we remind, has its genesis in Mr Azan's encouragement, facilitation even, of a private contractor to build, and rent, shops at the market in Spaldings, Clarendon, to satisfy a perceived need. Further, Mr Azan caused the rent for the shops to be collected at his party office.
WITHOUT FORMAL APPROVAL
The arrangement was without the formal approval of the Clarendon Parish Council and in clear breach of the Government's procurement rules.
Mr Azan may have gained no personal benefit from his action and, as Ms Llewellyn held, did not arise to an indictable offence under the law. But for his callowness, Mr Azan might have appreciated the egregious implications of his actions.
Ministerial whim is paramount to systems and policies, and the measure of accountability is the perceived need for, and baying approval of, political constituents. In that sense, Dirk Harrison, the contractor general, notwithstanding his apparent overstepping the boundary of law, into the realm of the political, perhaps comes closest to the point in branding the behaviour as politically corrupt. That is a potential gateway to other forms of corruption.
If Mrs Simpson Miller allows Mr Azan back into her Government anytime soon, she would have signalled an acceptance of political corruption and impropriety, and elasticity in her declared commitment to the highest principles of governance.
With regard to Mr Barnswell, he and his party must appreciate that credibility is crucial to leadership. Mr Barnswell's credibility is severely impaired by the prima facie evidence that he attempted to mislead the contractor general about the timing of awareness, and involvement in, the market affair.
His continued leadership would not only be deleterious to the work of the council, but also injurious to the prime minister and her Government.
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