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The curious case of Andrew Holness' house

Published:Wednesday | December 2, 2015 | 12:00 AM


Politicians in other English-speaking liberal democracies understand that once they toss their hats into the ring, all aspects of their past and present lives will be put under a microscope.

Jamaicans in general, however, know very little about our politicians. Not even the most basic information is revealed by the press. It is often rumoured that some prominent politicians actually reside abroad with their families and commute to Jamaica to carry out their duties.

So the amount of media attention being paid to Andrew Holness' house is quite curious, if not unprecedented. To be sure, when he started building it Holness must have known that whether as prime minister or leader of the Opposition, his house would attract attention. And he should have been prepared to answer any questions about it that arose.

All's fair in love and war and politics. Anything that one side thinks will gain them traction, can and will be used. Peter Phillips has every right to make Holness' house an issue on the campaign platform. And the electorate can make their own judgement as to how relevant an issue it is.

Yet the first principle of journalistic integrity is equal treatment of all. So why is Holness' house the only one featured in the press? Where are the other politicians' houses? How can it be that with 63 elected members of parliament, the media deem only one of their houses newsworthy? A fair and balanced press should by now have also put the houses of Portia Simpson Miller, Peter Phillips, Peter Bunting, Audley Shaw, Daryl Vaz, et al, on our front pages so we can compare the abodes of all our politicians.

Some have challenged Andrew Holness to publicly release his parliamentary integrity report. I personally hope he takes up the challenge. More transparency is always better for democracies. But surely such calls imply that all 63 MPs should do the same. As they say, same knife stick sheep stick goat.

Some have labelled the 'Andrew Holness house issue' an irrelevant distraction from the real issues facing the country. I disagree. If our press does its full and proper duty and starts asking 'hard talk' BBC-style questions about all our elected officials, the 'house on the hill' can and should become a watershed moment in Jamaican politics.

For if we Jamaicans really want a better country, we will have to demand the same standards of transparency from all our leaders as obtains in prosperous democracies like the US, Canada and the UK.

Kevin Obrien Chang