The opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has rejected Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ decision to relieve Andrew Wheatley of a portion of his ministerial portfolio, adding that the country’s political leader is ‘too weak’ to do the right thing by firing Dr Wheatley entirely.
It said the prime minister’s move is a smokescreen aimed at quelling public outcry against the litany of allegations of corruption that engulfs the state-owned oil refinery – PetroJam, which falls under the Energy portfolio held by Dr Wheatley.
Prime Minister Holness yesterday announced that the Energy portfolio has been shifted from Dr Wheatley’s control to the Office of the Prime Minister. Dr Wheatley is now only in charge of the Science and Technology portfolios.
General Secretary of the PNP Julian Robinson said the prime minister should explain why Dr Wheatley is fit and proper to remain in charge of Science and Technology, but not Energy.
“How can one explain losing confidence in part of an individual while maintaining the other part of the same individual in high esteem?” Robinson said.
“The public could draw only one conclusion, and it was that Dr Wheatley had committed grave infractions, which excluded him from Energy, but the prime minister – hiding behind the Cabinet, is too weak and has no stomach to do the right thing by firing him (Dr Wheatley) entirely.”
Robinson said the PNP repudiates Prime Minister Holness’ attempt to “hoodwink the nation into believing that he has disciplined Dr Wheatley by firing him [only] from the Energy portfolio”.
The PNP said the removal of the Energy portfolio is a ‘gentle slap on the wrist’ for Dr Wheatley.
“All well-thinking Jamaicans who expect the country to uphold its tradition of transparency, openness, probity and accountability in governance should reject the gimmick announced by the prime minister,” the opposition party advised.
Meanwhile, the PNP stated: “Dr Wheatley’s disregard and recklessness started with his role in the now infamous $600 million de-bushing programme where the Contractor General, in a detailed report to parliament, labelled him – along with five other ministerial colleagues as mendacious and parties to a ‘corruption-enabling mechanism’ which was devised to divert resources for use other than for their stated purpose.”
The PNP further said, even as the spotlight shines on the ‘profligacy’ at PetroJam, there are also allegations of nepotism, cronyism and outright corruption at the Universal Service Fund, which is another agency under the ministerial ambit of Dr Wheatley.
“We have taken notice that there is still no action on the call by the private sector, in a joint statement last week, for a forensic audit of the Universal Service Fund,” added the PNP.