Thu | Jun 1, 2023

Gregory: Stop emasculating the IC

Anglican leader wants energised fight against corruption, protection for min wage earners

Published:Thursday | April 13, 2023 | 1:34 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
The Right Reverend Dr Howard Gregory.
The Right Reverend Dr Howard Gregory.

Anglican Archbishop of the West Indies Dr Howard Gregory has called on the nation’s political leaders to “stop fiddling with and emasculating the Integrity Commission (IC)”.

He issued the charge in a wide-ranging address during the opening service of the 152nd Annual Synod of the Diocese in Montego Bay, St James, on Tuesday under the theme ‘A Renewed Church for a Time of Critical Social Change’.

The Annual Synod is the highest decision-making body in the Anglican Church, and its business sessions are being conducted from April 12 to 14.

Gregory, who is also Bishop of Jamaica and The Cayman Islands, reasoned that the country has developed a culture of corruption, thievery, fraud, dishonesty, extortion, and scamming.

He said that citizens are tired of the pervasiveness of corruption and the seeming inability of political leaders of both political parties to act decisively in addressing the situation.

“We must, therefore, as Christians, stop playing around with party politics and demand of our politicians that the Integrity Commission be allowed to do its work and not be an instrument for the protection of vested interests and the status quo,” he said during his Synod charge.

Reflecting on the state of Jamaica, Gregory noted that employment and labour relations are being made a major driving force for the widening social and economic gap within the nation.

The clergyman asserted that though Jamaica’s economy is moving in a positive direction, “the streets below tell another story of a moral, social, and religious crisis of corruption, injustice and deceit”.

Gregory said that Jamaicans are losing a sense of the value and respect due to each other, which is reflected in the ease with which lives are taken, the widening social and economic inequalities, and the distinction in the value and treatment accorded to different members of the society.

“The person who has no appreciation of his own sense of value and worth will have no appreciation for that of his fellow citizens, with a knife or gun in hand,” the archbishop said.

He underscored that there are open-ended levels of salaries for those at the top, while wages of a significant section of the population are fixed at levels that are not liveable even as poverty abounds.

Effective June 1, the national minimum wage, which now stands at $9,000 per 40-hour work week, is to increase to $13,000, while the minimum wage for industrial security guards is to move from $10,500 per week to $14,000.

“It is noteworthy that the salaries paid at the highest levels never raise any questions about their inflationary effects, but any increase in the minimum wage is deemed a cause of inflationary escalation in the economy … . The privileged, who can spend $9,000 on one afternoon’s happy hour, seem not to be concerned about the many who go to the pharmacy counter to ask for half of their prescription to be filled because they cannot afford the full amount, or those who cannot pay to have the preliminary medical tests for $200,000 and more before they have the medical procedure done to save their life,” Gregory remarked.

He said the Church has a calling to attend to the state of life in the nation by upholding the dignity of persons and the imperative for the pursuit of justice.

“At the same time, the Church must also attend to the walls of its temple and the renewal from time to time of our covenant relationship with God in Jesus Christ. This renewal requires a reawakening of our call to mission and ministry, which resides in our baptismal covenant,” the bishop said.

Gregory challenged the members of the diocese to renew their baptismal covenant so that they may be blessed with energy for social action and generosity in stewardship, among other things.