are again mounting for Integrity Commission (IC) Executive Director Greg Christie to resign from that body, this time over his “ask the Government” retort to journalists who solicited his feedback to Thursday’s gun attack on Ryan Evans, the commission’s director of corruption prevention, outside the agency’s New Kingston office.
Christie’s response, which came ahead of indications by the police that robbery was the motive for the attack — as a briefcase that Evans was carrying was taken in the incident — has been seen as politically biased and inflammatory by several individuals.
On Friday, distinguished attorney Peter Champagnie, King’s Counsel, described Christie’s comment as reckless and said he should resign.
Equally, the Jamaica Accountability Meter Portal (JAMP), in a statement issued to the media, said Christie’s position was “untenable” and called for him to step aside.
“We appreciate that the work the commission does on all our behalf can and does present considerable strain for its staff, and we also appreciate that this has been further exacerbated by reported threats over time as well as a hostile commentary emanating from our parliamentarians,” JAMP’s Executive Director Jeanette Calder said, adding that Thursday’s shooting incident could only have served to heighten the stressful environment in which the IC staff work.
She however noted that, while JAMP felt deepest regret and sympathies for the troubling attack on the commission’s director, “the comments of its executive director were highly unacceptable and irresponsible”.
“Of particular note is the wide variance between Mr Christie’s comment and the commission’s official position of ‘no comment’ pending investigation,” Calder said.
“Impartiality, as well as the appearance of impartiality, are the gold standard and currency for the very crucial work the commission performs on our behalf. We are of the considered view that the commission’s statement of apology on behalf of its executive director is an inadequate response, given the extent to which we believe Mr Christie’s response has further compromised the confidence of many Jamaicans and undermined that element of impartiality that is vital to achieving their objectives,” she said.
According to JAMP, Christie should resign in the interest of both the Integrity Commission that he has served since May 2020 and the anti-corruption cause that he has fought for over two decades.
Champagnie’s call came in a biting letter to the editor of the Jamaica Observer.
Noting that it was expected that parliamentarians be biased in their public pronouncements in favour of their political parties, Champagnie said gatekeepers of national integrity exhibiting bias must be rejected.
“Mr Christie, when asked… by a reporter what his thoughts were about the unfortunate shooting of one of the commission’s officers, responded by saying that the reporter should ask the Government that question. This response is reckless and betrays the very core function of what the Integrity Commission ought to represent. It provides fodder for those who would want to suggest that our Integrity Commission is politically biased,” Champagnie said.
Pointing out the indications by cops that the shooting attack sprung from a robbery, Champagnie said, “Mr Christie’s utterance therefore must be condemned in the strongest possible terms and does not augur well for good governance in Jamaica. Recent precedent has now been set as to what is expected of public officials in the face of an accusation of less-than-acceptable standards. Mr Christie would be well advised to follow suit and resign.”
According to Champagnie, civil society “must insist” upon the resignation and not “only reserve the exercise of their vocal cords for politicians”.
“It must insist on Mr Christie’s resignation. Politicians themselves, on both sides of the aisle, must be unified in this position. They must not be hypocritical, as many have been by refusing to concede to the fact that the strict usage of duty-free concession licences is more honoured in the breach than the observance. That this is so provides no justification of any deviation of what should be obtained in law. However, one should not politicise this matter beyond what it is. Not everything should exhibit political bias, akin to Mr Christie’s comments. Time come. Time come for Mr Christie to resign,” Champagnie declared.
Also on Friday, Young Jamaica, the youth arm of the Jamaica Labour Party, said Christie’s remarks “intimating that the Government had any involvement in the incident are not only speculative but also highly irresponsible”.
“In a time when it is crucial to uphold the principles of transparency, accountability, and fairness, Mr Christie’s premature conclusions without any supporting evidence have raised serious doubts about his ability to carry out his duties impartially,” Young Jamaica President Rohan Walsh said in a statement to the media.
“We repeat our call from February 2023 for Mr Greg Christie to resign immediately from his position as executive director of the Integrity Commission or, alternatively, urge the Integrity Commission board to take necessary actions to remove him from his duties. We believe that his recent actions and the inflammatory statements he made have severely undermined the public’s trust and confidence in the Integrity Commission’s ability to carry out its duties without bias or malice,” the youth arm said.
In February this year Government senators called for Christie’s resignation or removal over the commission’s handling of the findings of a probe into conflict of interest allegations against Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
The commission came under fire for allowing its findings in the probe — including the referral of Holness for possible criminal sanction in relation to the awarding of Government contracts 14 years ago — to be tabled in Parliament without information that the prime minister had eventually been exonerated in the matter more than a month earlier by the commission’s director of corruption prosecution.
Additionally, Christie’s retweet of a media report on the investigation without reference to the ruling added more fuel to the fire.
Those events resulted in JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang — who is also the deputy prime minister and minister of national security — issuing a release stating that his party had lost confidence in Christie, who had been appointed executive director of the commission on May 18, 2020.
The current firestorm comes even as politician Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert on Thursday bowed to public pressure by tendering her resignation as Speaker of the House of Representatives and Member of Parliament, after an Integrity Commission investigation report cited her for failing to declare in her statutory filings a motor vehicle she had purchased through a concession afforded to legislators.
The commission’s director of corruption prosecution, Keisha Prince-Kameka, ruled that Dalrymple-Philibert be charged with four counts of making a false statement in breach of the Parliament (Integrity of Members) Act, 1973 in her statutory declaration for the periods ending December 31, 2015, February 25, 2016, December 31, 2016, and December 31, 2017; and four counts of breaching the Integrity Commission Act, 2017 for making a false statement for the periods ending December 31, 2018, December 31, 2019, September 3, 2020, and December 31, 2020.
Additionally, the commission’s director of investigation, Kevon Stephenson, recommended that the report be referred to the prime minister “for him to take such disciplinary and/or administrative actions which both recognises the seriousness of Mrs Dalrymple-Philibert’s conduct” and to deter recurrence.
Further, Stephenson said he found that Dalrymple-Philibert had breached Section 36 of the Customs Act and recommended that his report be referred to the commissioner of customs to recover the duties paid on the vehicle and to apply “such penalties as the commissioner may deem to be appropriate”.
Stephenson also recommended that the report be referred to the financial secretary in order to recover allowances paid to the House Speaker in relation to the vehicle.
However, shortly after the report was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, Dalrymple-Philibert issued a statement explaining that she had forgotten to include the motor vehicle, which was primarily used by her sister, in her declarations.
Dalrymple-Philibert said she was surprised at the conclusion reached by the commission, given that she has “always filed [her] statutory declarations and have done so in a timely and transparent manner”.
Her response fuelled calls for her resignation.
In her resignation letter on Thursday, Dalrymple-Philibert restated that the omission of the vehicle in her statutory declarations was a genuine oversight on her part.
“There would have been no allegations against my name had I included the vehicle in my declaration; therefore, I had no motive to have deliberately omitted it,” she said.