Op-Ed: David Rowe on Blackstone, the Rule of Law and the JDIP


By David P Rowe
Op-Ed Contributor

Sir William Blackstone, (1723-1780) was an exhibitioner of Pembroke College Oxford. He wrote his immortal commentaries on the laws of England, and thought that all law students must first have a University degree to lay a foundation for the study of law. He cautioned against introducing law to “raw and inexperienced youth in the most dangerous season of life.”

I thought of Blackstone’s description of raw and inexperienced youth when I learned of the Jamaican Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP) scandal because I thought it was a significant test for Jamaica’s young Prime Minister.

The Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme is, at best, a major cost overrun and, at worst, a master fraud.

The National Works Agency allegedly siphoned $1.2 million in part to refurbish its headquarters without receiving proper approval from Jamaica’s contracts commission.

The Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis, playing her professional role consistent with Westminster model’s checks and balances has criticized both the Ministry of Transport and Works and the NWA for not operating the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Program in a transparent manner consistent with general accounting principles.

She particularly criticized a lack of documentation and record-keeping to track payments. 

To make a bad situation worse, the experienced Patrick Wong was fined following a ruling by a Senior Magistrate that he had failed to respond to a lawful request by the Contractor General.

The JDIP Scandal has many heads like the mythical Cerberus. How much money is it that the JDIP cannot account for? How much money is unaccounted or under the watch of former Works Minister Mike Henry, who resigned this week?

Perhaps Blackstone is correct. Perhaps our current Prime Minister is a “raw and inexperienced youth in the most dangerous season of life … without any restraint or check but what his own prudence can suggest.” We can only wait and see; long live the Jamaican Constitution.

David P Rowe is an attorney in Florida and Jamaica and a professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal op-eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.


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