Talk alone won't change a thing

Monday, December 10, 2018

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Dear Editor,

A war needs to be waged against corruption in Jamaica. No longer should we sit around and allow the gains in Jamaica to be ravaged by cost overruns, nepotism, mismanagement, theft, embezzlement, misappropriation of funds, fraud, political interference, youthful exuberance, and political skulduggery. We should demand decisive action against such practices.

It is our future that is at risk. Our collective voices should be waged against the wall of corruption, as in Jericho until it falls.

Some weeks ago the National Youth Parliament convened, and we gave our perspective on the state of the nation. One member said that Jamaica is in shambles. Another lamented that she has witnessed too many acts of corruption as a youth in little Jamaica and enough is enough. Are our political leaders listening to the youth or do they lead from a distant place? Our cries just weeks ago have become a self-fulfilling prophesy in the recent Petrojam matter. Here, corruption has rocked Jamaica again. Our political culture is as an albatross to growth and prosperity.

I can't recall in previous scandals — Trafigura, Cuban light bulb, furniture — anyone being charged? This sustains the argument that we need to advocate fearlessly for stricter laws to bring perpetrators involved in corruption to justice. Until we see powerful and influential people being charged for culpable acts of corruption in Jamaica we cannot take comfort. As youth, we are to turn up the pressure on our post-independence prime minister to implement heavy sanctions on acts of corruption. Talk alone won't change a thing; we need clearly defined laws which guide actions.

This scandal should not be just another nine-day wonder but one which leads to the enactment of new laws of accountability, transparency and equity. Equity because it was unjust for a man to be sentenced to three months for stealing four dozen ackees — and rightly if he did the crime he should serve the time — while people involved in acts of corruption have, over the years, got slaps on the wrist. What is good for the goose is good for the gander, even though “jackass seh worl' no level”.

After every act of gross negligence or malpractice in government we become even more desensitised to the political process. We look to our prime minister for a change. He was catapulted into leadership on the heels of a message of being “youthful, new and different”. We also hoped for divine intervention, but then again faith without works is dead.

Admittedly, Professor Trevor Munroe of the National Integrity Action has found himself between the devil and the deep blue sea. Will he succeed with his message of integrity, or is it time for the citizens to take collective action? Presumably, Munroe will continue to preach like Noah to the antediluvian world. As for Donna Parchment Brown, our political ombudsman, she too has her challenges. Her position allows her a little latitude to make a comment now and then, or call a meeting for the optics, but that's it. Probably Parliament needs to take less recess and meet more often so more laws can be passed. Once or twice a week is not sufficient.

But what will it take for Jamaica to turn? If $5.2 billion worth of missing State-owned oil is not enough I can't say what will be. At real value, this sum could educate thousands of ambitious youth. That would have been money put to good use. After all, it's our money. Why should we allow our money and resources to be mismanaged and do nothing? Are we so weak? So stupid? So ignorant? So cowardice? If we continue to turn a blind eye we will pay dearly. In the interest of democracy, we need to send a strong message to the Government. I am hoping for a response from representatives of the various youth groups.

Montel Hill

Youth parliamentarian

monteljohnrosshill@gmail.com


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