Wed | Apr 24, 2019

Ronald Thwaites | Squandering credibility

Published:Monday | February 11, 2019 | 12:18 AM
Andrew Holness

No matter your political preference, every nationalist has to acknowledge that the cause of inclusive and sustainable development requires strong and credible political leadership.

If those in charge of government are compromised or become the objects of disbelief and ridicule, they become trumpish, incapable of eliciting the loyalty and sacrifice required to tackle any of our huge national problems – especially crime and its ugly sister, corruption.

That is why last Tuesday in Parliament was so depressing, even though it began on a reflective and hopeful note. Lynvale Bloomfield’s gruesome murder had understandably scared and shocked every member.

The tributes by the prime minister, Dr Peter Phillips and others evoked memories of a constructive, mild public servant, noticed and memorialised in death more than he had been in life.

But it was his West Portland neighbour, Daryl Vaz, whose vulnerability and sincerity held my attention. Yes, vulnerable, because the slaughter of a sitting member of parliament can be seen as increasing the risk of controversial presence in the public space for all, but for Daryl more so, since the suspicion mill is grinding and the political scuttlebutt as to who killed Lynvale, and why, have inevitably caused rabid partisan fingers to point his way.

I choose to believe Vaz’s truth and sincerity this time. But there is one big caveat that I expressed when I crossed the aisle to commend him. To ring true in our condemnation of this tragedy, each of us has to make a commitment to reduce the vileness of the partisan divide.

If we really mourn the wasted blood of a colleague, then our mutual relationships cannot stay the same. And time and circumstances will have to hold us to account.

One bad card after another

Then after that uplifting episode came the gross squandering of the prime minister’s credibility. It happened in his answers to Julian Robinson’s questions about the sweetheart deal to an obviously enormously powerful lady at the center of the Petrojam scandal.

Was our, yes, our, Chief Servant really defending a clearly corrupt secrecy provision and ramming down our throats the big “hulla” that this was a real bargain spend of taxpayers money?

Can you be corruptly recruited, perform abysmally, be paid extravagantly, deserve to be fired, and still get a big, big money for your silence and because of your threats?And all that is defensible by the highest authority of the land? The attorney general coaching him (God forbid!) as he drew one bad card after another, only to have her later disclaim involvement in the mess after all, was dangerously pathetic.

So who really advised the prime minister? Why were he and the board and management of Petrojam as afraid of the bromides of this special lady as Bill Clinton’s White House was of the loose-lipped and demanding Miss Lewinsky? Who will find the stained blue dress in this instance? Or is it that possibility that has led Mr Holness to try to buy out the case which had already sunk his namesake?

I have re-read the last paragraphs and chided myself at their uncharacteristic sharpness. But no: truthfully, that was how it came across in Parliament. So that and more must fairly be said.

More frightening, though, is the mindset of anyone, in any administration, who could so set up and then be ambushed by political or personal favourites.

What if Paul Ashley is really right that this is an artfully contrived charade designed to disguise fall-out?

What would this say about governance and confidence? Could there be more to come? Who else but the prime minister should we turn to for assurances? And after his trifling with our intelligence last Tuesday, will we trust him when he does speak?

Answer for yourself whether, as we are implored to believe, this aspect of ‘Petroscam’ has now been “cleared up” to the justice and satisfaction of the Jamaican people? Ask yourselves whether the scourge of corruption has been stanched - or further embedded.

- Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Kingston Central and opposition spokesman on education and training. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.