Portia’s Contempt: The Richard Azan Scandal
After months of waiting, the country has the verdict of the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) on the Spaulding market scandal. The newly minted Dirk Harrison has concluded that Junior Minister Richard Azan acted in what is tantamount to a “politically corrupt” manner, in relation to the construction of shops on parish council lands. The Contractor General has since recommended the Minister to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to determine if his actions warrants criminal prosecution for conspiracy to commit fraud. The tabling of the report in the House of Representatives has thrown the government in a tailspin, with many sectors of the society calling for the resignation or dismissal of the minister. However, the Information Minister, clothed in her usual arrogance, has advised the country that no action will be taken against the minister until he has had a chance to consult with his attorney and his colleagues. Why would a man accused, by a Commission of Parliament, of political corruption be granted any time to consult anyone? To what end?
You will recall that some time ago I advised the Prime Minister that the time had come for her to step aside and allow for new and credible leadership of the country. Her inaction is again the subject of great concern and distress to me, only this time the inaction threatens the very legitimacy of the Government of Jamaica.
After facing intense criticism some months ago for her handling of the debacle, the Prime Minister advised the country that she would only act once she was in possession of the report from the OCG. Still, more than twenty four (24) hours after receipt of same, the country is yet to hear from the head of the government, and we are now being told that there is no timeline set for when action, if any, is to be taken against the junior minister. According to the Information Minister, the Cabinet has not had a chance to meet or discuss the report, and she is not sure when either will happen. We must reject this nonsense. As leader of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister is charged with disciplining the Ministers who serve at her pleasure. Any suggestion that the Cabinet needs to meet in order to decide the fate of Azan confirms the worst fears of Simpson Miller’s detractors, she is not in charge of the Cabinet or this country. This was not the intent or purpose of the principle of collective responsibility. Even if one accepts the argument that the Cabinet must first meet, the Prime Minister should have summoned them to a meeting immediately after learning of the conclusions of the OCG. Richard Azan should have never been allowed to turn up for work as usual with the stench of corruption hanging over him; it is an affront to the Jamaican people, and to the principles of integrity and good governance. The Prime Minister’s inaction drips with contempt and is a clear indication that she lacks moral courage or the capacity to do what is right when required. Say what you will about Andrew Holness, but when he needed to act, he acted – decisively and swiftly. This matter must be laid squarely at the feet of the Prime Minister, and she must know that enough is enough. The time has come to shape up, or ship out.
My chief concern is that far too often the Prime Minister says one thing and does another. This is the same Prime Minister who bemoaned a big Cabinet and turned around and appointed an even bigger one, this is the same Prime Minister who wept at heavy taxation, and then turned around and allowed her Finance Minister to unleash a tax tsunami on the Jamaican people. Yes, this is the very same Prime Minister who upon appointing the same Richard Azan as a Minister at King’s House in January 2012 stated that corruption would have no place in her government; the very same Prime Minister who trumpeted the power of the people, and condemned the arrogance of the JLP administration. This is that same Prime Minister. Reader, I am tired. I am tired of a government with no conscience, no basic sense of decency. I am tired of a government who considers it appropriate to conduct business as usual, no matter the cost. Something now has to give. We must not accept this as a people, this is not a patty shop, and it is not banana republic. This is a country grounded on the rule of law. In any self-respecting democracy Richard Azan would have been history, not only as a Minister, but as a Member of Parliament. I warn you “Queen Portia”, you risk your credibility, your very legitimacy. History will judge you harshly for the half-truths and whole lies. We, your subjects, petition you urgently…ACT. Azan must go now.