Mon | Jul 22, 2019

Groups welcome Reid’s exit

Published:Thursday | March 21, 2019 | 12:16 AMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer

Anti-corruption watchdog National Integrity Action (NIA) yesterday welcomed Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ decision to strip Ruel Reid of his education, information and youth portfolios but urged law enforcers to speedily complete their investigations.

The operations of the Ministry of Education will now fall under the Office of the Prime Minister, with Karl Samuda, minister without portfolio, as the stand-in until Holness appoints a replacement.

In a press statement issued yesterday, its executive director, Professor Trevor Munroe, said that Jamaicans had lost confidence in successive administrations on governance matters and cited that as a factor for the country’s fall in ranking on the Corruption Perception Index 2018. The release said that Jamaica’s National Security Policy identifies corruption of public officials as the number one threat undermining “national security and economic advancement”.

Munroe said that Jamaicans should learn a fundamental lesson from the corruption saga: that reporting wrong and speaking out does matter and could bring results.

“We must now insist that the law-enforcement agencies conduct and complete their investigations into the allegations concerning the departments in the Ministry of Education and that prompt action be taken to bring charges against whomsoever the evidence justifies, whatever their status or connections ... ,” Munroe said.

Not impulsive move

Public commentator and attorney-at-law Dr Paul Ashley said the prime minister was not known to be impulsive, suggesting that his sacking of Reid came after deep consideration.

“Preliminary investigations into the allegations surrounding the former minister must have been grave and likely criminal for the PM to have taken such a decisive action. This, in the context of the by-election and his Budget presentation,” Ashley argued.

According to Ashley, the prime minister continues to make the cardinal error of making the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) “into a kind of political Riverton City by dumping all political problems there”.

Quick replacement

He said that the appropriate investigative bodies must now do their work, and the prime minister must move quickly to appoint a replacement.

He recommended that OPM Director of Communications Robert Nesta Morgan take over the information portfolio.

Political commentator Kevin O’Brien Chang said that Reid’s resignation was a welcome step.

“It’s not a good thing to have corruption in any government, of course, but corruption is a part of politics. What makes it such a good step is that the prime minister acted quickly and decisively. He didn’t dilly-dally as he did with Dr Andrew Wheatley and Petrojam. There were concerns raised by the Opposition, and clearly, there is documentation to back up some of these concerns,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), of which Reid was a former president, said it was shocked by his sudden exit.

“As a critical stakeholder, we will continue to monitor the development within this ministry because education is too important a sector to be shrouded in alleged corruption and controversy. We remain vigilant and responsible in the best interest of the sector,” said the JTA statement.

The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, in its response, said that while it was not aware of all the details of impropriety, “one benchmark of good governance is that if there are substantive imputations of impropriety, the persons at the centre of those allegations should step aside – even temporarily – without the shadow of their presence casting doubt on the investigative process”.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com