A lack of decency from Mr Paulwell

Monday, July 16, 2018

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The late American journalist, cultural critic, and satirist Mr Henry Louis Mencken once said: “It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favour of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.”

Our recollection of Mr Mencken's words was stimulated by the nasty attack last Thursday on Mrs Carolyn Warren by Mr Phillip Paulwell, the People's National Party (PNP) spokesman on energy.

Mr Paulwell issued a statement calling on Prime Minister Andrew Holness to immediately fire Mrs Warren from her post as managing director of National Energy Solutions Limited (NESOL) because she had a drug-trafficking conviction.

According to Mr Paulwell, Mrs Warren's appointment to the position was just another example of the lack of accountability by Dr Andrew Wheatley in the performance of his duties as minister of energy and reason why he should be dismissed by the prime minister without further delay.

Mr Paulwell also ascribed culpability to the board of directors of NESOL, saying “it is clear that no due diligence and fit and proper criteria were applied in selecting Mrs Warren as head of such an important company in the Government of Jamaica”.

Although Mr Paulwell demanded that the board disclose whether Mrs Warren had made any declarations to them of her past conviction, Mrs Warren herself, in admitting the offence, said that she did not disclose her error, which was made 25 years ago, because she is aware that most people would judge her for it. She therefore apologised for not making the declaration.

Obviously Mr Paulwell's target in all this is Dr Wheatley, who really has serious questions to answer about his stewardship of the energy portfolio.

However, for Mr Paulwell to drag Mrs Warren into this political battle suggests that he, and indeed his party — which has not seen it fit to admonish him — have no regard for the collateral damage they create in their thirst for blood.

In his statement, Mr Paulwell firmly stated that Mrs Warren's drug conviction was “confirmed through police and intelligence sources” and that she “spent some three years in prison”.

However, when he was confronted with Mrs Warren's counter that she was given a suspended sentence, and therefore spent no time in prison, he claimed, in an interview with Mr Mark Wignall on Nationwide Radio last Friday, that he did not know that she was not incarcerated. Really?

If Mr Paulwell and the PNP had gone after Mrs Warren based on her job performance and provided incontrovertible evidence that she was incompetent, no one could fault them. However, what they have done is to destroy her attempts at rehabilitation, a principle observed by the justice system and promoted by legislators and the wider society.

To be frank, the attack coming from Mr Paulwell is really hypocritical, given that early in his career, his involvement in the NetServ matter which cost the country millions of dollars, was excused by a former prime minister as “youthful exuberance”.

Mr Paulwell, we expect, hopes to become president of the PNP and, eventually, prime minister of this country one day. Even if he doesn't achieve either goal, he would do well to be guided by the words of former United States President Theodore Roosevelt: “The most practical kind of politics is the politics of decency.”

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