Full speed ahead with Tivoli enquiry
McPherse Thompson, Assistant Editor - Business
CRITICISMS ABOUT the Government's intention to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the enquiry into the police-military operation in west Kingston in May 2010 appears not to have dampened its resolve to continue the investigation.
Finance and Planning Minister Dr Peter Phillips said that if for no other reason, the country needs to know exactly what happened to ensure that Jamaica never finds itself in such danger again.
He was responding to comments from a participant, who questioned the Government's decision to pay $50 million to one of the commissioners for what is slated to be three months of work, during the Mayberry Investments Limited's monthly investor forum in New Kingston on Wednesday.
Asked what message he was sending to Jamaicans, considering the enormous bill, Phillips said he was told that there is a set of questions in Parliament "which I will answer in relation to that".
He, however, said that some rates have been agreed which are the standard rates in the profession.
"Depending on the amount of time taken, he said, "the report can be produced for either less or more, but will not exceed the amount budgeted".
The finance minister said for the current fiscal year, "We [are] not talking about that number that you posited, and we are to see what is the amount that will find its way into the Budget that is to come."
As to whether "we should or should we not have a report, my view is firmly in the category that, as a country where 70 or more of our citizens perished, where there was a determined, what you might call quasi-insurrection, police station firebombed, police attacked, where there were allegations of misconduct on the part of international criminal conspiracy taking control of communities, where there are allegations of misconduct on the part of security forces, where there are allegations of complicity between public authority and criminal elements, that the country as a whole needs, if for no other reason than to determine that we never walk such a road again, to know exactly what happened," Phillips said.
"What disappoints me is that it seems to be that this event, the aftermath of which generated a general public coming together that we needed to find out and not walk that road again, now seems to be, as we are so often wont to do, divide and reduce everything to a point of contentiousness and partisan bickering. It's a thing that we need to avoid as a country," he added.
NO MORE FINSAC SPENDING
Asked whether the Government should not find the $20 million requested to complete the report of the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC) enquiry into the financial meltdown in Jamaica in the 1990s, Phillips said: "My answer is simple. We have paid for the report already. What we are waiting on is the report. It's more than was the original budget. In fact, the correspondence shows my predecessors saying [the commissioners in that enquiry] needed to provide the report by December 2011."
Asked why the Government does not sue the commissioners to ensure that the report is delivered on the ground of breach of contract, he said: "I haven't sought the legal advice in that matter. Suffice it to say, I have said that if there is secretarial assistance needed to type it, prepare it, I'm prepared to do that. But I don't think we should buy the same thing twice."