Tue | Dec 5, 2023

NETFLIX MYSTERY

Gabriela Morris calls for end to intrigue, outing of parliamentarians under probe

Published:Saturday | September 30, 2023 | 12:09 AM
Senator Gabriela Morris.
Senator Gabriela Morris.

THE YOUNGEST lawmaker in Jamaica’s legislature has charged that the country is being run like a Netflix mystery thriller in relation to the cloud of secrecy surrounding six parliamentarians who are being investigated for illicit enrichment by the Integrity Commission (IC).

Opposition senator Gabriela Morris declared on Friday that the time has long gone for the identities of six parliamentarians under probe for illicit enrichment to be revealed.

She called on Prime Minister Andrew Holness to name the parliamentarians who are under investigation and show the country that his administration eschewed corruption.

“We are running a sovereign nation like a Netflix mystery thriller. The longer you take to tell the people who are suspected of taking them for a ride, the more speculation builds and greater the intrigue,” Morris said her contribution to the State of the Nation Debate.

“It is nothing short of barefaced to practise this glaring politics of obfuscation and omission. The people want to know who has been denying them their national development and slowing their growth while it is reported they are enriching themselves,” she charged.

She recalled that some seven years ago, the prime minister was forthright in his pronouncements about persons alleged to be involved in acts of corruption, suggesting then that they be named.

“The prime minister himself, in a video from 2017, espoused the importance of accountability and stated that we cannot say we are serious about corruption if we are not serious about identifying who,” Morris said.

SIX PARLIAMENTARIANS UNDER PROBE

The director of investigations at the IC, in responding to a query from a parliamentary oversight committee, indicated that the six parliamentarians now being investigated for illicit enrichment had been contacted by the anti-corruption body and informed that they are under probe for the designated crime.

In August, the prime minister indicated that consultations with government lawmakers to ascertain whether they were being investigated by the IC for illicit enrichment elicited a negative response.

“I have asked as far and as wide, and I haven’t got that response from everyone, but as far as I have been told, no,” Holness told journalists as he toured the Clarendon Northern constituency.

However, there has not been an update on whether the prime minister has now contacted all government lawmakers.

In August, The Gleaner contacted opposition lawmakers in the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament who said they had not been contacted by the IC regarding a probe into illicit enrichment.

The prime minister issued a gag order on government lawmakers in August preventing them from declaring whether they were under investigation by the IC.

Morris told her colleagues in the Senate on Friday that the issue involving those being probed for illicit enrichment continues to cast a dark shadow over the country.

She argued that corruption in all its forms threatens the foundation of the country’s democracy, undermines trust in state institutions and hinders the nation’s progress.

While acknowledging that corruption was not a new problem in Jamaica, Morris said it was a persistent and pervasive challenge that demands the unwavering commitment of state actors in order to eradicate.

TRUST DEFICIT

She said that many Jamaicans including young people have lost faith in politicians and government institutions.

The opposition senator argued that it was not surprising that there was a trust deficit, noting that the country has seen “acts of corruption go unpunished, ministry after ministry, board after board, and ministers shuffled around after allegations of corruption come to light”.

Calling for Jamaica to get tough on corruption, Morris said that graft had taken away money for children’s education, deprives the country’s hospitals of basic necessities, negatively impacts funding for road repairs and siphons off taxpayers’ money to make a few cronies richer.

Voter apathy among young people, according to Morris, is being fuelled by glaring acts of corruption and the lack of accountability that are exhibited in Jamaica.

She said it was crucial for the leadership of the country to foster an environment of accountability and trust “where young people can once again see the potential for meaningful change and actively participate in shaping the future of this country”.

Earlier this year, Jamaica improved one place on Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) country rankings, but remains the fourth most corrupt state in the Caribbean.

In the 2022 CPI, Jamaica scored 44 on the CPI with a ranking of 69 out of 180 countries.

editorial@gleanerjm.com