We do not have a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy


Monday, July 23, 2018

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Jamaicans do not like injustice in any form. Most of the rebellions and uprisings in Jamaica had injustice as the signal causal factor.

Jamaicans also like to kill the messenger, and those who bear bad news generally do so at their peril.

The Carolyn Warren story puts Phillip Paulwell squarely in the middle of those two Jamaicas. Warren told a tear-jerking story of having committed “a mistake” 25 years ago, paid her price, and has been working on rehabilitation and in her church ever since. Of the one error, said she, “I did not disclose my conviction. They did not ask and I did not tell.”

The Americans have a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. I do not think we do in Jamaica.

But was that just an error in judgement, or was it an indictable failure, or worse?

In any case, confession, I believe, is not only good for the soul, but must precede forgiveness. One cannot be asked to forgive and forget where confession is absent.

So the question arises: Is the Carolyn Warren story about our collective ability to forgive and support her rehabilitation or is it about cronyism and lack of accountability and systems in the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology and its agencies, such as Petrojam, the Universal Access Fund (UAF) and National Energy Solutions Limited (NESol).

Warren arrived at NESol in August 2016 as the new human resources manager after having worked at a private company, Nationwide News Network, for 14 years. Perhaps she is a beneficiary of nepotism, or she may not be; but such is the overhanging question mark when politicians hire.

This is, therefore, not a story about a woman achieving CEO status 21 years (not 25 years) after being convicted for cocaine trafficking pulling herself up by her own bootstraps through discipline and commitment to Christian values. And never forget that cocaine trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes which can be committed, as it results in putting cocaine poison in the bodies of children and youth and destroying them for life. There's little to no opportunity for a second chance as users will be recovering for life.

Now, says the lady, she is reformed and working with young people while repairing damage to her family. Who am I to determine the sincerity of her language? But I would be more convinced had she made full disclosure.

When I served at the Jamaica Urban Transit Company, even the casual workers who wash buses had to present a clean police record. A chef at Jamaica House who prepared meals for a prime minister was fired by the permanent secretary for failing to disclose he was a deportee. No amount of pleading by the then prime minister could save him.

So, if Warren deserves her second chance, so do hundreds of Jamaican youth convicted for a spliff and who are now sitting idly on street corners in urban Kingston and St Andrew and under trees in rural Jamaica. So does the ex-Jamaica House chef.

Warren, it seems, has been given this second chance, and by this act has distorted the entire vetting system in the public sector. If she survives, this distortion will be forever. It will not only affect NESoL, it could well also be the Bank of Jamaica, the foreign service, Jamaica House, and King's House, as well as the Jamaica Defence Force and Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Ridiculous? Really? Tell me if someone with a conviction for a drug trafficking-related offence, which cannot be expunged, can be given a trusted position to manage billions of dollars of public funds? Why cannot a poor 18-year-old boy convicted for a spliff or wounding during a foolish fight be rehabilitated to join the police force after five years of excellent behaviour? We have to make up our minds, because what is good for the goose must be good for gander.

Under her watch, NESol has been in the news for the wrong reasons.

No doubt, there is a judgement issue here.

I wonder if many of those attacking Phillip Paulwell would leave their businesses in the hands of Warren? Just a question. They love to fight to the last drop of someone else's blood but not their own.

Her failure to disclose is fatal; it trumped genuine reform and permanent rehabilitation.

Colin Campbell is a former minister of information in a People's National Party Administration.

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