Holness must show that he stands on the side of justice - PNP
The Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has pounced on the admission by Prime Minister Andrew Holness that the country’s entire system of government would have been compromised if former Minister of Education Minister Ruel Reid had not resigned.
According to the PNP, the prime minister must now demonstrate that he stands on the side of justice.
Since his admission, which is contained in a newspaper report on Wednesday, the PNP has urged the prime minister to tell the country what he knew, when he knew it and whether he offered information to the investigative agencies that are probing the matter.
Holness demanded and got Reid’s resignation last March, days after the PNP, led by its president, Dr Peter Phillips, sounded the alarm of impropriety at the Ministry of Education and some of its affiliated entities, in particular, the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU).
Following a months-long probe by several investigative bodies, Reid, along with his wife Sharen, daughter Sharelle as well as CMU president Professor Fritz Pinnock and Jamaica Labour Party Councillor, Kim Brown-Lawrence were arrested and slapped with multiple fraud and corruption charges. The charges are in relation to $56 million which the defendants allegedly diverted from the CMU for their own use.
The PNP, in a statement Wednesday, is demanding that Holness reveals more.
Said the PNP: “For the first time Prime Minister Andrew Holness is publicly admitting that he was aware of the grave nature of the allegations against former Education Minister Ruel Reid in regards to the far-reaching and unconscionable plunder of the CMU. However, the records show that Prime Minister Holness only asked for Reid’s resignation after PNP president Dr Peter Phillips raised the issue at a press conference months after it was widely known across the society”.
The PNP said it is alarming that Holness was aware of the allegations against Reid yet all he did after months of delay, was to have a ‘conversation’ with Reid and ‘allow’ him to resign.
The PNP said it was “reminding the prime minister that he has an obligation, as a citizen and as a national leader, to cooperate with the law enforcement bodies to bring about justice, especially in the cases of corruption at the very core of his government”.
It is urging him to assure the nation that he shared the information in his possession with the Financial Investigation Division and the prosecutors. This, especially in light of a statement by the Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck last October following the arrest of Reid and others. Chuck had described the actions of the detectives as “salacious” and warned them to be careful about the way in which they gather and present evidence before the court. He later apologised for the statement.
The Opposition wants Holness to “tell the nation when he first learnt of the criminal investigations into the cancer of corruption at the CMU and the leading role of Reid, his longtime confidante.
“The prime minister must also state what actions he took when he was first made aware of this information, which he now says could have compromised the entire governance structure of the country,” the PNP demanded.
It charged that “the prime minister has continued to demonstrate a high level of tolerance for corruption and the plundering of the public purse by his general lack of responsiveness while serious issues threaten the very stability of the nation”.
“The prime minister needs to assure the country that there is full cooperation from himself and his government and he needs to give the assurance that he is willing to stand on the side of justice.
Anything less makes the prime minister, through his own declarations, an accomplice,” the PNP stated.