REMARKS BY THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL HE THE MOST HON. SIR PATRICK ALLEN ON, GCMG, CD, KSt.J ANTI-CORRUPTION CONFERENCE ORGANIZED BY THE OCG MARCH 9, 2015

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Someone once said that “The accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference.”

 

No doubt everyone in this room agrees with that. Societies develop a culture based on their way of life and regrettably, that culture could also work as a barrier to progress. People become indifferent to corruption which insidiously can become part of a culture of how things are done. We have seen it in various aspects of Jamaican society where corruption has undermined development programmes and projects for the wellbeing of our people.

While it is not my intention to list those aspects here, I emphasise the urgent need for us to change the mentality which makes it so difficult to overcome this scourge of corruption. This is why I so readily accepted Mr. Dirk Harrison’s invitation to be here this afternoon and lend my support to this thrust. I commend him and the staff of the Office of the Contractor General most heartily for the initiative which led to this three-day conference.

It is pleasing and significantly encouraging to observe that this morning’s session was dedicated to our children and youth. It is at that level that we must pursue focused action to ensure that they are sensitized against the destructive culture of corruption. I believe that youth who are positively motivated will be committed agents for change within their own families and communities.

The pervasive nature of cross-border corruption is a phenomenon which demands international collaboration for its effective reduction. This is critical within and among nations linked by migration and Diaspora populations, as well as significant commercial exchanges. I want to acknowledge and thank our international partners for their interest in and participation in this conference.  Your support for our development is well noted and appreciated.

In 1998 Transparency International included Jamaica for the first time, in its global list of countries assessed on its corruption perception index. The score then was thirty eight percent. Jamaica has hovered at that level since then, reaching its best rating of forty percent in 2002 and falling to its worst of thirty three percent in 2011. In 2014, we again scored thirty eight percent as we had done for at least five previous years.

Despite the stated commitment of leaders in both public and private sectors, the laws enacted and the National Integrity Action’s excellent work, and public awareness campaigns, we are still lagging in the fight against corruption.

In our fight against corruption we cannot be double-minded, nor should we become disheartened since it is the future of our country, of our children, which is at stake.

Last month South African businessman, Mr. Graham Power, spoke at several events in Kingston, when he visited as a guest of Wycliffe Caribbean. I had the opportunity for a discussion with this prosperous businessman who now leads a campaign which he has named: “Unashamedly Ethical”. I know that he also met with the Most Hon. Prime Minister and members of her Cabinet, the Leader of the Opposition, church and business leaders and also with Prof. Monroe who heads the National Integrity Action.

What struck me most was Mr. Power’s own experience in which construction-sector leaders recognised that his company was growing. They encouraged him into activities that were unbecoming for that booming sector and for a while he went along with their modus operandi, but after his conversion to Christianity, his “Damascus experience”, Mr. Power was determined to be, ethical, accountable and transparent in all his undertakings.

People, including members of his team, were convinced that his construction business would fail. Instead, today he leads the most prosperous construction business in South Africa. In fact, he has become the preferred bidder for government contracts, because of his solid reputation as a man of integrity.

By being unashamedly ethical, Graham Power is changing the culture which says that bribery and other forms of corruption are essential in business.

We have political and business leaders and other persons of integrity in Jamaica who can do the same thing here. They understand that we cannot liberate our people from poverty, unless we eradicate systemic corruption which constantly makes some rich and others poor; some as high rollers and others as no rollers; some who can afford and others who cannot.

I believe that when Jamaica’s leaders and followers unite in unrelenting action against corruption, they will hasten the attainment of our objective of social transformation and economic development and a fair, equitable and just society. Near the start of the second century AD, the acclaimed Roman Senator and historian Cornelius Tacitus wrote: “When the state is most corrupt, then the laws are most multiplied“. This remains even more relevant today when increasing means for corruption are fueled by abuse of the information technology revolution. Laws of which we would never have dreamed twenty years ago, now occupy the attention of law makers here and elsewhere across the world.

Of the 199 member states of the United Nations, 174, including Jamaica, are parties to the 2005 UN Convention Against Corruption. However, according to Transparency International, corruption remains a serious threat to socio-economic development in the large majority of states. But International Conventions and domestic laws will not eradicate this threat.

What we need is for people at all levels, to understand the real danger that corruption poses, and to be prepared to stand for a ‘true purpose’ in the fight against corruption, regardless of the cost. So many people have given their lives in this country for ‘causes of their day’ that needed urgent, immediate attention!

I dare say that corruption is the ‘cause of the day’ and I would like to stand by the person or persons who are prepared to be bloody and wounded in that fight – Jamaica needs some good men and women in that cause!

Combating corruption is never easy where the erosion of values and positive attitudes has created a fertile ground for criminal activity. It is not a ‘stroll in the park’ it is a long tedious, tiring tussle through the mud, because it goes right back to the family where too many parents have abdicated their nurturing and character building role.

Very often a child’s first introduction to corrupt practices is in the home. They witness parents or guardians stealing water and electricity and eluding the authorities for those and other illicit activities. In these instances they are used as the “look out” and later forced or enticed into crime. Corruption abuses children! It robs them not just of their innocence, but of their childhood.

Confucius said: “The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home“. That is where the transformation must occur if it is to take root and grow from house to house across this land.

It must flourish in our houses of education, schools and training, as well as our business, civil society and media houses.

I believe that together we shall beat this monster of corruption and so I encourage:

  • Our leaders to stand strong and let us all lead by example;
  • The Office of the Contractor General and the National Integrity Action to stay faithful to their respective mandates and commitments; and
  • The media to help foster a national psyche energized by the examples of our people who are committed to a culture of excellence.

 

Carpe Diem! We must seize the moment and unite our best efforts and intellect to overcome this scourge. We might not eradicate corruption in our lifetime, but the normative transformation, that germinated seed, will flourish in the conscience of our nation. Let us leave a legacy of integrity, probity and transparency for our children!

I believe in Jamaica and that we can and will create that legacy which will vastly assist us to achieve our Vision 2030 to become the place where we choose to live, work, raise our families and do business.

Thank you!