Let the chips fall where they may
Let the chips fall where they may
published: Wednesday | February 6, 2008
We believe solemnly in the principle that a person is innocent until
proven guilty in a court of law, having been afforded a fair opportunity
to confront his accusers.
So, notwithstanding the seeming prima facie case of corruption against
Parliamentarian Kern Spencer by Contractor General Greg Christie, we
reserve our judgement on the matter.
For, as Mr Christie suggested, there now has to be a criminal
investigation by the police, after which it will be up to the director
of public prosecutions whether charges are brought against Mr Spencer or
Either way, Mr Spencer, figuratively or otherwise, should be allowed his
day in court. The matter should be followed to its logical end and the
chips, as they say, allowed to fall where they may.
Indeed, this would not be unique to Mr Spencer. One recalls that in the
early 1990s, J.A.G. Smith, the minister of labour in the Seaga
government of the 1980s, and Probyn Aitken, his permanent secretary,
were jailed after being convicted for stealing money from the farm
This, though, is more than a legal/judicial matter. It also has
political implications and speaks to governance and morality in public life.
In that regard, we expect more than a legalistic response from Mr
Spencer or the party of which he is a member and on whose ticket he was
elected to Parliament for the constituency of North East St Elizabeth.
It is, indeed, a matter on which Portia Simpson Miller, the president of
the People's National Party (PNP), has to be seen to act firmly if the
PNP, lumbered with the perception of corruption during its tenure, is to
rebuild public trust.
First, Mrs Simpson Miller needs – both publicly and privately – to
apologise to the Cuban government for the scandalous fiasco that the
light bulb project became during her tenure as prime minister.
Given Cuba's economic situation, it would have been a sacrifice for
Havana to donate several million energy-saving bulbs for free
distribution to the Jamaican people. It is a great embarrassment to
Jamaica that this project was so poorly executed, and worse, may have
been the subject of illegal actions.
It is interesting to contemplate what might have happened in Cuba if the
reverse were the case and the inference drawn by a state overseer in his
report on his investigations was that the minister charged with managing
the project was possibly involved in corruption, criminal conspiracy and
conflict of interest.
Mrs Simpson Miller acted correctly when she leaned on Mr Spencer and his
former boss at the energy ministry, Phillip Paulwell, to step down from
their posts in the shadow cabinet.
It would make sense, in our view, if she advised Mr Spencer to resign as
constituency repre-sentative, or at least, seek leave of absence from
the House. This would accomplish two things, the first of which would be
of a greater value to Mr Spencer. He would have the time and freedom to
attempt to clear his name without the encum-brance of parliamentary
But more important, it would send a signal that politicians in general,
and the PNP in particular, intend to foster a culture of accountable
Criminal conduct is not only behaviour for which there ought to be
consequences. Poor judgement, too, should have a price – and of this Mr
Spencer is surely guilty.