Mon | Nov 23, 2020

Party believes electorate moved by anti-corruption fight

Published:Monday | November 25, 2019 | 12:00 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer
Juliet Holness tickles the funny bone of Dr Keith Mitchell, prime minister of Grenada, on the conference stage in the National Arena yesterday.
Lorna Green, from St Elizabeth South West, lives up to her name in the party colours outside the National Arena.

The leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has expressed confidence that it will be successful at the next general election, notwithstanding the weighty albatrosses of high crime, corruption scandals, and anaemic economic growth during its three and half years in government.

Dr Horace Chang, JLP general secretary, said that the 76-year-old party has been making a concerted effort to deal with the various issues, which he said persisted long before his party reassumed power.

“These aren’t new events ... . I think it is a question of what we are doing about it that will impact on us in the future, and we have certainly taken some significant steps in dealing with the corruption issue in terms of building out the institutions. We’ll complete the MOCA (Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency) regulations, I suspect, before the year is out, and they have their full independence and autonomy.

“So, too, does the Integrity Commission. They sometimes take long, but from where I sit, I know they are doing thorough work ... . We know it’s a major issue, and we are taking steps to correct them, and I think that’s where the electorate are looking,” said Chang, who is also national security minister.

The general secretary was speaking to The Gleaner yesterday at the JLP’s 76th annual conference held at the National Arena in St Andrew.

Dent in crime

Police crime statistics show that 1,187 murders were committed up to November 23, compared to 1,173 over the corresponding period last year.

JLP Chairman Robert Montague, who was also at the conference, said voters would take note of the efforts being made by the party to put a dent in crime.

“Crime is a matter that is ongoing, and we have been bold enough to implement innovative measures. These measures, of course, will take time and the average Jamaican knows that there is not a one solution. Crime is a multifaceted thing,” said Montague, a former national security minister.

In July 2018, Dr Andrew Wheatley resigned after calls from the Opposition and members of civil society for his removal because several agencies under his science, energy, and technology portfolio were tainted by allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

Subsequently, Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis, in December, of the same year released a damning 113-page report on the operations of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) and its affiliate, the state-owned oil refinery Petrojam, pointing to “explicit acts of nepotism” at both entities and deficiencies in human-resource recruitment and management practices.

More recently, the party was this year rocked by the Ministry of Education-Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) scandal that saw former Education Minister Ruel Reid being sacked. Reid, his wife Sharen, daughter Sharelle, along with CMU President Professor Fritz Pinnock and councillor for the Brown’s Town division, Kim Brown-Lawrence, are on corruption and fraud charges.