If Jamaicans, are not concerned, about the concerted efforts to destabilize the Integrity Commission, by the Government, then they should be, as this is following a well-established pattern, where when this Government, finds that the established Guardrails of our democracy and or for the preservation of institutions set up to rein in corruption, no longer follow the official narratives and or dictates, of the ‘politburo’, then the campaign of destabilization and character assassination, is set in play, usually by the Government’s apologists placed in the media; its social-media armies on IG Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok.
Strangely, it now seems that the Government has departed from its Playbook, and instead of using its Social-Media Employees, (And that’s another story, as well-placed sources within the JLP have been saying the JLP has lost its Social Media Army, to Peter Bunting and Mark Golding, who have recruited, the usual JLP bloggers. Vloggers and commentators).
What is strange about the attacks on the Integrity Commission, is the shrillness of the attacks; the seeming orchestration, as it appears with each passing day, a different Portfolio Minister, steps up to the Podium to either blast the IC and or its Officers; Or question the IC’s Independence.
To date, the body count of Cabinet MInisters Attacking the Integrity Commission Includes Justice Minister, Delroy Chuck; Minister Of Constitutional Affairs, Marlene Malahoo-Forte; Information Minister Robert Morgan; Junior Minister Everald Warmington; and the unkindest cut of all – Former Ministers and demoted Backbenchers, James Robertson and Robert Montaque. But the war was declared in February, as this was when Government Senators in the Upper House sought to chastise the IC, for not signing off on the Prime Minister’s declaration. The War has continued since, with the latest salvo, seemingly coming from the Cabinet, and a few chosen MPs who, it is said are desperate to find their way back into the Cabinet, so are willing to prostrate themselves at the altar of political expedience, to return to the Cabinet.
To make the Chorus of Government members decrying the work and efficacy of the IC, even more suspicious, is the fact that, at the time of writing this article, not one single, member of the Governing JLP, at the level of MP, Cabinet Minister, or Junior Minister, had signed the Commission’s code of Conduct, designed to bring about better governance, probity, and best practices, to our national affair.
And if that’s not ominous enough, there’s the matter of the somewhat contentious outstanding filing of the Prime Minister, and his wife, MP Juliet Holness – Supposedly, the Commission cannot reconcile their declarations, with their known assets; and rather than signing off on their declaration, giving it a clean bill of health, the Commission in its wisdom, has refrained from doing so, but still affording the Prime Minister and his wife, time to address their outstanding issues.
Now, bear in mind that the Integrity Commission, a legal construct of the parliament, was already hamstrung by the way the Parliamentarians wrote and legislated the act into law, as the law seems to have more possible penalties designed to make the Commission a Paper-tiger, rather than an empowered body, created to hold accountable, those who run afoul of its statutes.
Not only was the Commission, defanged, but it was also stripped of its voice, as it is illegal, for Commissioners and or officers of the Commission, to publicly comment on its investigations, findings, and or recommendations, at the risk of imprisonment. Please note, there are no corresponding penalties, for transgressors of the Integrity Commission Act.
Now this is clearly, untenable. But to compound the ineffective nature of the body, we now see the all-out assault on the Body, by Government members, who we can deduce are circling the wagon, to protect the Prime Minister and his wife, should the Commission get to the point where it has to put its adverse findings in an official report to the Parliament.
So, let us be clear, the beating of the war drums By Government members is not an act of isolation done out of concern for the protection of the People and its resources, but rather its an act of treachery, being played out, at a time when the Parliamentary oversight-Committee charged with revisiting the laws and statutes governing the IC, are on the verge of voting new rules to govern the conduct of the body. And it is safe to say any such new rules being contemplated, will be designed to cover up the failings of those lawmakers, who take umbrage to the fact that the Commission has been asking hard questions, and for supporting documentation, to buttress the declarations of those required to make statutory declarations, and to give account for their stewardship and or explain, the expenditure of public funds and or any new-found riches.
But the Cabinet members and those clamouring for the re-ordering of the Rules Governing the IC, miscalculated badly, and their show of pique and faux concern for the ‘integrity’ of the members of the IC is about to blow up in their faces, as now, the business of outstanding declarations from our MPs to the Integrity Commission, is no longer an internal matter, as it has attracted the attention of some of our international ‘partners’, namely the USA, and other donor Countries. And according to one source, Jamaica is no longer considered a worthy or cooperating partner, of the US, because of reports of widespread corruption in the Government; the Government’s new role as China’s paramour in the region; and reports emanating out of the US, citing Jamaica as a transshipment hub, for the illegal export of Russian petrol and petroleum products, despite an international embargo, imposed by the United Nations, for Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine. The reports left the US with no option but that of taking a deeper look at its bilateral relations with Jamaica, and this it did and it found Andrew Holness and his administration wanting.
Consequently, no photo-op with the US VP in the Bahamas, as the Jamaican Prime Minister, was practically left in the Dog House, with little or no official recognition of his presence, and not even a little sidebar, as the US State Department, did not want to give the Prime Minister any wrong signals, by having its VP cozying up to its onetime ally.
Now, it would seem to those of us looking on, that to steady the diplomatic boat that is clearly adrift, the Jamaican Government would be seeking to mend fences, by expelling those facilitating the flouting of the UN embargo on Russia; seek to renegotiate its various treaties and or agreements with China, with a view of lessening the Chinese footprints on the Island and in the region; and try and remove the cloud of corruption hanging like a shroud over the Administration, to facilitate warmer and more productive relations, but it seems there was a policy decision taken by the Holness adminstration to dismantle and or discredit the Integrity Commission, and or curb its power to investigate and report to the parliament on the shenanigans of our Legislators, so rather than address actual corruption, they seek to harness the watchdog. And thus leaving themselves unshackled and unencumbered to carry on plundering the Country’s resources without any oversight.
The problem with this prognosis is that it does not help in restoring Jamaica’s international standing, or mend relations with the US, or earn the Government any international plaudits, as the US has effectively ‘black-listed’ the Country, as was made evident in its recent travel advisory to its nationals, raising Jamaica’s ranking to a tier 3, destination, in terms of the country being a risky and potentially dangerous place to visit. And this is very instructive, as indeed, the risk meter carries a ranking of 1 to 4., Four being the most dangerous, a ranking reserved for countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, etc.
So, here, is the problem, as our little tin-Gods rail against the Integrity Commission, the US is reining them in. and with Tourism, being our number one Foreign exchange earner, unless the Government Shape up, it can expect to ship out, as the tier 3-rating can be made into a tier 4, and the battering the Tourism Sector would take, coupled with the fact that Jamaica has been red-flagged as an international transshipment port for Cocaine dealers, causing a number of airlines to threaten to curtail their airlifts to the Country, as Cocaine dealers, are said to be becoming more and more ‘creative’ in their ingenuity to facilitate their export of the substance, they are reportedly taking more and more risk to export the illegal substance, to the point of trespassing on the wellbeing of aircraft and endangering the lives of passengers and crew, as it is now being reported that they now tamper with the aircraft themselves, in their bid to conceal their Drugs.
But to compound the problems facing the Administration and the Country, commentators are saying if the Country continues on its current path of corruption, sanction-busting, and rapprochement with China, we are heading back to the Cold War era of the 70s where the USA walks away from its friendship with Jamaica, and become an agent provocateur, fermenting strife and social instability, that would make Haiti look like a Kindergarten when disgruntled Jamaicans start venting.
So the question is: Is this war against the Integrity Commission, just a smokescreen for the Diplomatic fallout to come; and who benefits, because it’s certainly not in the Country’s best interest? And who in the Government sanctioned giving Russia transshipment access to Jamaican ports, to circumvent United Nations, United States-Backed Sanctions, against Russia?