When I first started work at the central bank, my first boss told me I hadn’t been hired because I was bright and had all the answers; I was expected to ask the right questions. Well, this week has been a glitter show of how to not ask the right question.
The most glaring must be when a journalist appeared to want to know if a Cabinet minister is giving unfair advantage to a company with whose principal it is alleged he’s having an extra-marital affair: the key question goes to the contract, and procurement policies, not the personal contact, and the question is NOT “Are you cheating on your wife?” The answer to that question gets you no closer to knowing what the public need to know about the management of public assets.
More painful than asking the wrong question is the social capital and credibility wasted by the journalist as a mouthpiece and ear of the people. It’s the people not the peeping! On live streaming, when you have the minister and permanent secretary where you and the nation want them to ask pertinent questions about the handling of the pandemic and procurement policies you want to ask about hanky-panky?
Anyway, good to see the president of the Press Association of Jamaica grab the reins to stop the runaway horse.
Second to that is a Cabinet minister, who doesn’t seem to care what his nearest and dearest are doing with their business, so doesn’t ask them about it and lands in the hot peas soup when they get free dibs on a huge piece of defunct sugar land. Oh, the problem with that? He’s the minister of agriculture!
The winds swirling around Jamaica are bringing sand from the Sahara and no rain; the land is parched and the dams are drying up. But, the whiff of ministerial impropriety is also swirling around the nation’s nostrils.
The adage about ‘fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me’ keeps coming to mind. Weeks after the minister in charge of land and the environment is found to have brokered a sweet deal for himself adjacent to protected areas, we have the minister of agriculture handing over prime agricultural land for a song to his ‘life partner’ and her son setting up the only supplies shop on the property…and he doesn’t ask any questions about their business dealings. The shame of that is added to by how the PM has dealt with two glaring cases of poor judgment by people whose task is to exercise good judgment. In the first instance, give another ministerial portfolio over housing and water. In the second case, taking away the agriculture portfolio, but keeping the man as minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
As those with keener eyes than mine can see, shifting the ‘chairs’ around the ‘deck’ doesn’t really cut it, expect for speed of reaction. OPM seems like a ‘detention room’ for naughty boys: do 1000 lines—‘I will not get caught again showing such poor judgement’. Those with a more cynical bent. who smell a heavy dose of economy with the truth, may suggest OPM means Office of Practising Mendacity. I agree with Julian Robinson and others saying shifting ministers is not the solution:
It doesn’t send the right messages, at all. I’ve written recently about what it takes to dismiss a Cabinet minister and it seems the key to the exit is hidden so high that not even the PM can reach it. Oh, boy! You forget the election is in the wind? Sorry, my bad. 😦
Be that as it may, I fear the PM, too, isn’t asking the right questions of those who work for him and of himself. Keeping people who you admitted as showing judgement poor enough for you to strip them of certain portfolios as part of Cabinet and so collective decision making begs logic.