PM signals anti-corruption changes
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has said that the issue of corruption has now been made a political weapon.
His comments come against the background of calls by the parliamentary Opposition for him to step aside from his role as prime minister prior to a ruling by the director of corruption prosecution at the Integrity Commission (IC) which absolved him of any charges. This followed a report from the director of investigation at the IC that implicated him in a possible conflict of interest.
Prime Minister Holness was greeted by jubilant Jamaica Labour Party supporters and party officials yesterday at the party headquarters, Belmont Road in St Andrew, following his return to the island from a CARICOM meeting and on the heels of his corruption probe and ruling.
The director of investigation at the IC had referred a report to Director of Corruption Prosecution Keisha Prince-Kameka, implicating the prime minister in an alleged conflict of interest, after it concluded that he may have influenced the awarding of millions of dollars in government contracts to the company of a business associate.
The investigation surrounds allegations that contracts were awarded to Westcon Construction Limited and that there is a connection and/or relationship between the proprietors of the named entity and Holness, who was then minister of education, youth and information.
The report details an investigation into the award of government contracts to Westcon Construction Limited between 2006 and 2009.
It was revealed on Thursday that a ruling from Prince-Kameka did not prefer charges against Holness in support of the allegations.
On Friday, government ministers and Labourites were in a jubilant mood and said they stood by their prime minister and leader.
“I want to thank you all for coming out and welcoming me back home and greeting me. I know it’s about to rain, shower of blessings obviously. Now I am just coming back from CARICOM to look about the business of the region and I think we had an excellent meeting. I was really tied up looking about issues to do with Haiti, issues to do with crime which is affecting all the countries in CARICOM,” Holness said.
The prime minister said that he saw the news about his probe in the papers which he claimed amounted to a distraction.
“Being the now seasoned politician that I am, I was able to focus and essentially compartmentalise and pay attention to getting the job that you elected me to do, done. In every crisis, however, there is an opportunity and I believe that what has happened has presented Jamaica, the entire Jamaica with an opportunity to take a serious look at our anti-corruption framework and legislation and I believe you are beginning to see emerging this general perspective,” Holness said.
The prime minister reiterated that neither he nor his party or Government is in any way supportive of anything that is corrupt.
“I think that there is now an opportunity to make the legislation more precise, to make it more practical and to refocus it on where the problems really exist. We must use it as an opportunity to reaffirm our own commitment to treating with the issue of corruption which has been made into a political weapon,” Holness said.
The head of government said he has to balance everything and be forgiving because at the end of the day, his administration is still responsible for Jamaica and its success.
Holness said he will use the next couple of days to review the statement from the chairman of the IC.