Current Affairs

Current Affairs




PM pledges no corruption
Says gov't will seek unity, avoid arrogance
Observer Reporter
Thursday, October 24, 2002



Prime Minister P J Pattersonn (right) accepts the instrument of office from Governor General Sir Howard Cooke after Patterson took the Oath of Office at Emancipation Park yesterday (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

P J Patterson yesterday returned to his post-election theme of unity and again promised an administration bereft of corruption as he took the oath of office after last Wednesday's victory at the polls by his People's National Party (PNP).

Patterson was being sworn-in for an unprecedented third consecutive term as prime minister -- the fourth for the PNP government -- and symbolically took the oath of allegiance to the constitution and the Jamaican people during a public ceremony at the recently-built Emancipation Park.

It was the first time that a Jamaican leader, following last month's amendment to the constitution, was swearing an oath to Jamaica and its people, rather than 'the Queen, her heirs and successors'.

"I humbly pray that I will prove worthy of the trust which the people of Jamaican have, once again, reposed in me and the team I have the privilege to lead," Patterson declared.

Since the election victory, in which the PNP received an estimated 53 per cent of the popular vote and 34 of the 60 seats in the House of Representatives, Patterson has been trumpeting the need for unity, and had declared that he intends to make this, as well as the fight against crime, central planks of his new administration.

But the prime minister, whose past administration was hit by a series of embarrassing scandals and Opposition claims of corruption, has stressed that this can only be accomplished in the context of a government lacking in arrogance and which is transparent and honest.

Yesterday, the prime minister said that in the week since the election, he had received assurances from all sectors of the society regarding a willingness to work with the government to create "the kinder, more tolerant society we all desire".

"The team (Cabinet) I choose will be expected to serve diligently and with humility," Patterson said. "There must be no taint of corruption or any semblance of abuse of power.

"I am ready ... ready to work steadfastly, without arrogance, with integrity, decency and fairness to do the people's work," he added.

In fact, Patterson stressed that their wish for material and social advancement notwithstanding, the clear message he took from the Jamaican people out of the election campaign was their wish for harmony in the country.

"I have received a clear and unequivocal message from the people in every sector, every class and every age group, that their demand at this time is for a land of unity, peace and harmony in which we all can share this most beautiful space on earth with which the Lord has blessed us abundantly," he said. "Let me state unequivocally, and with all the sincerity at my disposal, I remain totally committed and will engage all my energies, my intellect and my skills to ensure that we achieve this objective."

Renewing his call to the Opposition on election night for both sides to work together for Jamaica's benefit, Patterson said yesterday: "Today, I renew that offer, fully conscious of the respective roles that the electorate has authorised us to play.

"Today is the beginning of a new era in the life of our nation. Today, we begin to move forward as we grasp the opportunities for an unprecedented period of economic expansion and social transformation."

Patterson, however, did not refer to a letter sent to him on Tuesday by Opposition Leader Edward Seaga calling for a summit to discuss areas of critical concern to the Jamaica Labour Party and to set the framework for a parliamentary relationship.

It is expected, however, that the prime minister will respond to Seaga after he has named his new Cabinet and outlined their programmes, ruling PNP sources said.

Apart from his theme of unity and tolerance, Patterson said that among the objectives of his new government will be:

* a stepped-up fight against crime and violence;

* continuing to equip the security forces with the latest technology and providing them with the support to protect the society from drug traffickers, gunmen and other criminals;

* a comprehensive programme to further reduce poverty;

* an aggressive programme for inner-city renewal;

* an acceleration of the programme of land reform and the provision of affordable housing;

* maintaining the programme of infrastructure development through the construction and repair of roads and highways, the provision of water and electricity and the expansion of air and sea ports.

He also stressed the need to implement a programme of constitutional reform after years of study and consultations and the reorganisation of local government to facilitate democratic participation at the community level.

"We must build a land of social justice in which every Jamaican, irrespective of class, colour, religion or gender is afforded equal protection under the law," Patterson said. "There can no be let-up in the programme of education and training that equips our young people to be meaningfully employed, earning decent wages, thriving in economic security and living in dignity," he added.