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Polygraph ministers, shadow cabinet

Published:Wednesday | April 14, 2010 | 12:00 AM

BOTH PRIME Minister Bruce Golding and Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller are aware of the widespread perception that Jamaican politicians are linked to gangs and criminals and are, therefore, complicit in the criminality that has contributed to more than 460 murders so far this year.

Yet, these leaders of the Government and the Opposition do nothing, or little, to purge these apparent links to criminality.

If Mr Golding and Mrs Simpson Miller want to be taken seriously that they are committed to ending the bloodletting, they must now demonstrate a clear intolerance for mingling between government and/or party officials and those who facilitate or encourage crime.

Primary responsibility

As the chief executive of the state, the primary responsibility clearly rests with Prime Minister Golding, who must show that his executives, the Cabinet, are clean and uncompromised.

Mr Golding might start by personally interviewing each member of the Cabinet, minister of state and parliamentary secretary about his or her connection, affiliation or relationship with gangs, gang leaders or their proxies and/or other criminal elements. Ministers and parliamentary secretaries must also declare whether they are, or have been, engaged in acts of public corruption or other illegalities, and these declarations should be legally binding.

Further, the sworn declarations should be buttressed by polygraph tests, which prime ministers should make mandatory for membership in their Cabinets, but which, preferably, should be written into the Constitution.

Opposition also accountable

But this obligation to demonstrate an absence of cosiness with crooks and bad men is not the Government's alone. The political Opposition, too, ought to be held accountable.

So, Mrs Simpson Miller should demand similar compliance from all members of her shadow cabinet, party frontbenchers and closest aides.

These requirements can be implemented with relative ease, given that the appointees that they cover are within the direct gift of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, as opposed to seats in the House of Representatives, which are contested in direct elections. Perhaps, in time, the Constitution can be changed to make such integrity testing applicable to MPs as well.