Phillips: Commission of inquiry needed to probe corruption claims
Demanding that a commission of inquiry be commenced into the operations of the ministries of education and energy and their affiliates, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips yesterday chided the Government for its silence amid a slew of corruption allegations bedevilling the Andrew Holness administration.
The call was among several outlined in a letter to Holness, the prime minister, and summed up the concerns shouted by hundreds of orange-clad protesters who marched from Half-Way Tree to the Police Officers Club on Hope Road in St Andrew yesterday.
“Given the unprecedented number of instances of corrupt or irregular conduct of, and within, the Government, and what appears to be an endemic situation, commissions of inquiry [should] be established forthwith to enquire into the scandals relating to the ministries of education and energy, and their relevant agencies, and to the Urban Development Corporation, and the Rooms on the Beach transaction,” Phillips, the president of the People’s National Party, said in his letter.
Traffic at standstill
A sealed copy of the letter was handed over to the police for delivery to Holness at Jamaica House, as the crowd, which brought traffic in Half-Way Tree and along Hope Road to a standstill, funnelled into the Police Officers Club with placards bearing their demands.
Some marchers called for Holness’ resignation, while others urged the speedy arrest of ousted Education Minister Ruel Reid, who is currently under investigation for corruption allegations involving the Ministry of Education and its affiliated Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) and HEART Trust/NTA.
“From the very first year, the very first few months, after the Jamaica Labour Party Government came in, they set about to take the people’s resources and use it as their own,” Phillips declared to the crowd, listing the “bushing”, police used-car, and Petrojam scandals among the Government’s misdeeds.
“And if that (Petrojam) was the mother of all scandals, you are going to have to call what is happening within the Ministry of Education the granddaddy of all scandals in the country, millions and millions of your money … and while that is going on, rat is overrunning Spanish Town Hospital,” he said to shouts and the sounds of vuvuzelas.
Opposition Senator Damion Crawford, who was among the supporters, said the JLP Government is being allowed to get away with too much.
“We have a Government that stole cars from the police, $200 million still not found, and we have a Government now that is stealing books from the children because of what is happening at the Ministry of Education. So we are telling, just telling those who are angered by it that they have support, and those who are not angered by it that they are in the minority,” said Crawford, a PNP vice-president.
PNP DEMANDS OF THE GOVERNMENT
- That all agencies and commissions that have a role in fighting and investigating corruption, including MOCA, FID, the police, the Auditor General’s Department and the National Integrity Commission, be allowed by the Government to discharge their functions and duties effectively and impartially in relation to the unresolved matters. Neither you nor any member of your administration must place any impediment in their way.
- That the Government cooperate with the parliamentary Opposition in convening the relevant parliamentary oversight committee during the course of next week to review and recommend changes, where necessary, to make the operations and functioning of the National Integrity Commission more effective.
- That given the unprecedented number of instances of corrupt or irregular conduct of, and within, the Government and what appears to be an endemic situation, commissions of inquiry be established forthwith to enquire into the scandals relating to the ministries of education and energy and their relevant agencies and to the UDC and the Rooms on the Beach transaction.
- That in keeping with your promise in the last general election campaign and to provide some assurance to our people about their sustained safety, the Government immediately presents to the country, the outline of a crime control plan which embodies a strategic and programmatic approach to implementing initiatives required in the fight against crime and violence and the expected outcomes.