Former Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Dr. Andrew Wheatley has this weekend given an interview in which he has laid his hands bare, declaring that he had no responsibility for any of the suspect activities that have been uncovered in the operations of Petrojam, Nesol and other government entities that were under his portfolio.
On the basis of his pronouncements, he seems credible but is that enough to convince the Jamaican people that his hands are clean and he was just a minister operating by the rules in distancing himself from the operations of the entities?
Perception is often the master of truth and that is why the old adage says “shun all appearances of evil”.
Dr. Wheatley needed no help from the Opposition or any other sector of society in painting of himself, an image of someone prone to excesses, with more than a passing taste for the high life. His post budget Wakanda party did a great job of that and if he thought that there would have been no questions in its wake, then he should simply be chastised for amplified naivety.
The first question that a reasonably thinking observer would have asked was “who is paying for all this?” Without firm answers or even a proper inquisition, the first inference that would be drawn by the cynical public is that it was government’s funds used in throwing this lavish party.
Dr. Wheatley has made it clear that it was his own private money but that would have done nothing to derail the growing perception that there were corrupt practices taking place at agencies under his ministry and that he might have in some way been befitting financially.
At this point all of that remain insinuation and perception but how dangerous a combination those two can be.
Another old adage, “show me your company and I tell you who you are”, is quite questionable in logic, because Jesus Christ died on Calvary between two criminals and we would never classify our Lord and Saviour as a criminal.
But perhaps Dr. Wheatley attracted unnecessary attention to himself by hanging out with the wrong folks and that gave the Opposition room to tear him to pieces. The fact that the inquiries have pointed to some formidable, some tenuous associations with some entities and individuals who were beneficiaries of contracts from the agencies under his ministry, certainly did not help his cause.
So there are many lessons to be learned from Dr. Wheatley’s unfortunate fall from grace, for those who offer themselves for public service at the highest levels. It is often not about what you did or didn’t do but about what you might have seemed to have done – again a feature of that ubiquitous monster, perception.
Dr. Wheatley is a very bright young politician whose career is not beyond redemption. Interestingly, the man who led the onslaught against Wheatley, Leader of Government Business Phillip Paulwell has been embroiled in more controversial charades concerning the government’s business than any other politician in Jamaica’s history. So there is hope for Dr. Wheatley.
As perverse as the argument may seem, Wheatley’s downfall has actually put a fillip in Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ leadership cap. The Prime Minister is proving decisive on matters that give rise to public concerns and has acted swiftly to tackle semblances of corruption. This is more than can be said for some of the past leaders who excused away questionable behaviours with the wave of a hand, in some cases attributing such behaviours to “youthful exuberance”.
Dr. Wheatley should take the time now that he isn’t carrying the “burdens” of a ministry to focus on the work that he has been doing in his constituency with a view toward providing the people of South Central St. Catherine with a better standard of living.
By Alphanso Gomez