Wed | Nov 29, 2023

‘We will not be scared’

Panton labels threats against IC staff as reprehensible

Published:Thursday | March 23, 2023 | 1:21 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Justice (Ret’d) Seymour Panton.
Justice (Ret’d) Seymour Panton.

Integrity Commission Chairman Justice (Ret’d) Seymour Panton has lashed out at persons who have reportedly threatened the lives of persons working with the anti-corruption body.

“We will not be frightened or scared into inactivity,” Panton told The Gleaner, adding that the situation is “sad and reprehensible”.

Panton was responding to a number of questions posed to him by our newsroom.

Turning to another matter, Panton, the retired president of Jamaica’s Court of Appeal, was asked whether the commission would take action against Executive Director Greg Christie in the wake of calls by government senators for his resignation or removal.

A ruling by the commission’s director of corruption prosecution that a case against Prime Minister Andrew Holness should not be pursued, which was released two days after the February 14 tabling of a report referring the head of government for a corruption probe, sparked a firestorm about procedure, law, and conspiracy.

In an earlier Gleaner interview, Christie rejected calls for his resignation, declaring that he has been unbiased in his duties at the agency.

Panton, in an emailed response to The Gleaner, said that the executive director has been following the law in every respect as far as it concerns his duties.

“That is also the position as regards the director of investigation. I should also point out that the commission has not received any complaint that any officer of the commission has exceeded his or her jurisdiction,” said Panton.

Further, he noted that he had already stated the commission’s position in respect of the report.

“As far as the Integrity Commission is concerned, the officers of the commission are following the law. We realise that most persons who have been making comments have not read the law governing the commission’s operations. If they have read it, they clearly do not understand it,” he added.

On Wednesday, Everald Warmington, a member of the Joint Select Committee reviewing the Integrity Commission Act 2017, made a submission to amend the law in his capacity as member of parliament for St Catherine South Western.

Warmington said that the failure of the commission to include the ruling of the director of corruption prosecution in the matter concerning Holness amounted to “an act of misleading Parliament or gross negligence”.

He added: “Furthermore, the commission failed to await the advice from the director of corruption prosecution pursuant to Section 34(1)(b) of the act. This, therefore, raises questions of the motives of the commissioners and the executive director.”

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck urged the committee chairman to bring members of the Integrity Commission before either the parliamentary review committee or the oversight committee next week to answer questions regarding the publishing of the report on the prime minister.

Chuck said that the actions of the commission have left many to question whether the agency is “acting with integrity”.

“I am worried, very worried, that you don’t know which public officials – and I am not talking about parliamentarians ... – there are many permanent secretaries and public officials who are very worried that complaints could be made against them,” he said.

He insisted that at an “appropriate time, we should insist that the executive director be here to explain on what basis they could have published that report and why the ruling was not published even within one minute or one hour after it was sent to Parliament”.