JIS News

Persons have been asking for me to address the Trafigura issue since the matter was brought to public attention.
I know that they have waited with expectancy to hear from me and rightly so.
Allow me to say, partial information can be quite convincing without being correct.
I have waited for the facts because I wanted not just to be convincing, but more importantly to be correct.
Specific actions have been taken:-. I have instructed that the monies be returned;. I am advised that a full audit is being conducted by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica;. I have called for all information pertaining to the matter.
In keeping with my pledge to the Jamaican people, in my inauguration address, I will lead a transparent and open government.
In considering this Resolution that seeks to declare a lack of confidence in the Government, it is important to begin by reminding ourselves of the sequence of events that has culminated in this Resolution being brought to this Honourable House.
On Tuesday October 3, the House was debating a Motion of Censure brought against the member for North Central St. Andrew.
This Motion was based upon a false charge by the member to the effect that a Report had been presented to the Cabinet by the Honourable Noel Hylton in respect of the construction of The Sandals Whitehouse Hotel, and that this Report had been deliberately suppressed by the Government because it reflected unfavourably on the Urban Development Corporation and other Government entities.
The member had refused to apologise.
Before this debate was concluded, the Opposition walked out of Parliament and called a press conference for the purpose of making a specific charge in relation to the receipt of monies by an entity linked to the Peoples National Party and coming from the foreign company- Trafigura Beheer.
The effect of this charge, Mr. Speaker, was a claim that these monies were monies that the company was contractually obligated to pay to the Government of Jamaica under an existing contract.
By this contract, the foreign company was engaged to lift oil provided by Nigeria to the Government of Jamaica, to sell this oil on the market and then to pay to the Government of Jamaica an agreed sum calculated on the basis of the amount of oil sold.
The Leader of the Opposition went on to say that these funds, having been improperly and illegally diverted from the Government to the control of the Peoples National Party, was then used by the Party to finance its recently held Conference.
The report in the media of the following day October 4, indicated that this was the specific and only allegation made at that time and in that press conference by the Leader of the Opposition.
This is made clear by the headline in the Gleaner newspaper of the following day which reads “Partying on State Funds” – “Golding accuses Government of using oil money to finance conference”.
This charge was immediately denied by the Government and the political party. It is patently false, in that at the time when this payment of money was made and received, no funds were due under the Nigerian oil arrangement to the Government of Jamaica, from the foreign company or anyone else. It was stated, by Officers of the Party, that this payment constituted a voluntary donation to the election fund of the Party by the company and therefore had nothing whatever to do with the diversion of monies that should have gone to the Government and people of Jamaica.
Faced with his obvious inability to substantiate his allegation of diversion of funds, the Leader of the Opposition and his Party in general have substituted another allegation.
This is to the effect that the amount paid for the benefit of the political party constituted an incentive designed to ensure that the existing contract with the foreign company, and which was due for renewal would be renewed.
In support of this claim, they point to the fact that the company, when asked to explain this payment, have said that it was not a donation to the Party, but a payment made in the course of a commercial transaction between themselves and the recipient, although they admitted to knowing that the recipient was linked to the Peoples National Party.
With respect to this new charge which now forms the basis of this Motion of No Confidence in the Government, I make the following comments:
Firstly, it is, and continues to be, emphatically denied by the Peoples National Party and the Government that any impropriety was involved in so far as receiving the money as payment for renewal of the contract is concerned.
In fact, this contract which has been in existence since the year 2001, and which has been renewed from time to time in previous years has not yet been renewed for the current period by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica which is the entity that would be responsible for the renewal.
Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear, the contract I am referring to is that dealing with the amounts Jamaica will receive from the oil that is lifted from Nigeria.
The Motion which seeks to blame the Government is therefore not based upon any proof of wrong-doing by the Government and is consequently totally misconceived.
Secondly, this Motion is a continuation of the strenuous attempt being made to divert attention from the behaviour of the Member for North Central St. Andrew which is to be considered in due course by the Committee of Privileges of this Honourable House.
My third comment is that, in seeking to score political points, the Leader of the Opposition has been a party to a clear breach of the Banking Law in so far as that law protects the confidentiality of individual accounts and the private transactions of the citizens of Jamaica.
The example that he has set can have far-reaching and detrimental consequences for the integrity of our banking system and financial institutions generally.
This is not the sort of conduct that can be regarded as a qualification for leadership of our country.
When one bears in mind that this use of improperly obtained documents was utilized as a diversion from another charge of improperly obtained documents and which was the subject of the Censure Motion in this House, I would suggest to the Leader of the Opposition, that he is in no position to charge anyone with not deserving the confidence of the people.
Those who seek to condemn others for not ensuring probity of conduct must themselves come with clean hands.
Finally, in order that some good may come of this episode, I intend to continue to press for reform of our electoral laws in so far as they deal with the question of the funding of political parties and expenditure on election campaigns.
This is a matter on which my Party and this Government and preceding Governments of the Peoples National Party have been consistently seeking to have firmly placed on a proper footing.
We intend to ensure that appropriate arrangements are made for this Parliament to take on board the preliminary agreements that have been reached with the Electoral Commission.
We must also give the general public; the people of this country, an opportunity to express their views on what needs to be done to ensure that our electoral process is not distorted by illegitimate funding sources and the overwhelming influence of wealthy donors.
Political contributions should, ideally, be open and acknowledged. However, even if it is eventually decided to retain confidentiality at the wish of the donor, the transaction itself must be so structured that it can be revealed at anytime without giving rise to embarrassment or suspicion.
This must certainly be an issue that must be fully addressed for any agreed system to command the confidence of the entire society. What is good for the goose must be good for the gander.
Legislation to achieve these objectives is long overdue.
I now call on the Opposition to demonstrate the sincerity of their commitment to the principle of transparency in, and regulation of, political contributions.
Such an opportunity would be provided by their taking part in completing the debate on the Bill which was tabled by the member for St. Catherine North East and which is still incomplete.
It would be further demonstrated by their cooperation in the work of a Joint Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament so that all voices can be heard and a national consensus on this issue, which is vital to our democratic system, can be achieved.
This country can rest assured that under my leadership no amount of money can be used to buy my defence of the Jamaican people. This Prime Minister is not for sale; not for 31 million dollars; not for any amount. My life, from that as a young girl to now as a woman in full bloom has always been about the people of Jamaica.