Tue | Feb 7, 2023

LETTER OF THE DAY - Dangers of single anti-corruption commission

Published:Friday | April 9, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

Your editorial of April 7 championed the idea of a 'Single Anti-Corruption Commission', and previously, on March 24, you described Contractor General Greg Christie's suggestion for tackling public corruption as "novel and provocative". (Christie's idea is the establishment of a powerful anti-corruption czar and "a new office ... vested with the exclusive and independent criminal jurisdiction to prosecute all corruption offences ...".)

The weakness of this novel idea is the assumption that the 'powerful anti-corruption czar' would be absolutely free of our Jamaican inclination towards corruption and our almost national/cultural acceptance of dishonesty, greed and trickery-based tenets of our insidious 'Anancy culture'.

Most of us know well the statement, 'Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely', attributed to Baron John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, British historian and moralist, known simply as Lord Acton. What many of us may not know is why he wrote it.

About 140 years ago, the church was in 'debate', because Pope Pious the Ninth declared the 'Doctrine of Papal Infallibility' (The Pope is preserved from even the possibility of error, when he solemnly speaks to the church on faith or morals). Religious 'high thinkers' argued about divine revelation and the action of the Holy Spirit, all insubstantial from the common person's perspective. For, to the common man at the time, it simply meant that the Pope could do no wrong. And just as today, the church was fraught with rumours of wrongdoing.

In was in this context that Baron Action wrote to Bishop Mandell Creighton, Bishop of London, warning about the danger of absolute power. A not so known portion of the statement by Lord Action is: "Great men are almost always bad men ... still more when you super add the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority ... ."

Defeating corruption

So the questions I ask are: Do we dare even consider imbuing anyone or any single office with what seems like absolute power before we fix the negative moral issues that plague us? Can any single person or entity defeat this Goliath called corruption and his supporting cast of endemic Jamaican proclivities?

I don't think so! What we need instead is a national collaborative effort that will choose a set of national values such as honesty, justice, trust and truth and creatively compel them on every citizen in overt and covert ways.

For until we altogether entrench positive values in our personal, community and national psyche, then even the best of us will, like the worst of us, have difficulty rising above the negative tendencies of our current culture.

So, instead of a single anti-corruption commission of high-paid personnel and a single anti-corruption czar, why not use the money to establish a clever and pervasive messaging campaign from 'cradle to grave' that will convince us all to shed the vices we so naturally embrace right now?

I am, etc.,