The scandal surrounds allegations of corruption and victimisation at the island's only oil refinery, and questions surrounding the use of public funds, and the Minister's stewardship of the ministry has fueled public outcry for Prime Minister Andrew Holness to act.
The National Integrity Action, NIA, header by UWI Professor Trevor Munroe in a statement yesterday, said it believes that it is fitting that either Minister Wheatley tenders his resignation forthwith or the Prime Minister asks him for his resignation.
"NIA appreciates the commitments made by Prime Minister Holness in the statement to Parliament on June 26th, but at the same time urges the Prime Minister and Minister Wheatley to act in accordance with good practice relating to the fundamental constitutional principle of 'Individual Ministerial Responsibility," the statement said.
"We note the Prime Minister's commitment, “to take certain policy actions to ensure that Petrojam functions with probity, transparency and accountability,” and further look forward to the actions, “to ensuring transparency and forthrightness in addressing the challenges at Petrojam.”
"These commitments and the proposed policy reforms require further action, in the context of - to use the Prime Minister's own words - “the impact that allegations of corruption have on public confidence.”
"Against this background, NIA recalls the appropriate conduct of previous members of Jamaica's Executive when faced with similar allegations. On November 29, 2011 during PM Holness' first administration, then Minister of Transport and Works, the Hon. Mike Henry, tendered his resignation in a letter which stated, inter alia, “In light of ongoing attacks on the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme… I take full responsibility for the issues which have arisen and today tendered my resignation as Minister of Transport and Works with immediate effect.” In a similar vein, on July 13, 2009, Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport and Works, the Hon. Joseph Hibbert, following a meeting with Prime Minister Bruce Golding, tendered his resignation to give himself - as stated in his letter of resignation - “Time and freedom to clear my name and my integrity,” the statement continued.
"Prior to these two instances of a Minister and Minister of State doing the right thing, in October of 2006, then Minister of Information, Colin Campbell resigned from the Cabinet arising out of allegations relating to the Trafigura affair. In 2002, then Minister of Housing, Karl Blythe, also tendered his resignation in the context of allegations relating to Operation Pride," it added.
The NIA statement pointed out that "It is relevant to note that Section 70 of the Constitution of Jamaica does not require the Cabinet either to approve the appointment or the ending of the appointment of a Minister of Government. The Governor General is required to act, “In accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.” Further, that the Code of Conduct of Ministers (Ministry Paper No. 19/2002) requires, “Ministers of Government… to behave according to the highest standards of constitutional and personal conduct in the performance of their duties” and to be “accountable… for the policies and operations of their Ministries, Departments and Agencies.”
The statement concluded that "In light of the above precedents of good practice and the need for urgent, appropriate action to arrest the decline of public confidence in governance, NIA believes that it is fitting that either Minister Wheatley tenders his resignation forthwith or the Prime Minister asks him for his resignation. Neither step would in any way presume guilt of the Minister nor need to await any further investigation by the Auditor General, MOCA, the Integrity Commission or the Public Accountability Inspectorate."
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