ONCE newly appointed US ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater settles in, one of her areas of focus will be fighting corruption in the island.
At a press conference at the US embassy on Wednesday afternoon, Bridgewater — who at midday presented her credentials to Governor General Sir Patrick Allen — said she had a history of fighting corruption and would continue the trend here.
“I’ve also been a very strong proponent of working to fight corruption in countries. I’ve had a history of that in the other countries I’ve worked in, [and] Jamaica will be no different,” she told journalists.
Ambassador Bridgewater has previously been posted in Ghana, South Africa, Belgium, the Bahamas and Jamaica.
“We will be looking at ways, collaboratively, at how we can address corruption at all levels, petty corruption or grand corruption,” she added.
In the same vein, Bridgewater commended the country for having moved up 12 places on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, from 99 to 87.
“I want to commend Jamaica because I learned that on the most recent Transparency International Index for 2010, Jamaica has improved its ranking, so I commend Jamaica and Jamaicans on this achievement,” the ambassador said.
In her address, Bridgewater, whose appointment comes almost two years after her predecessor Brenda LaGrange Johnson, gave a broad outline of areas of cooperation between Kingston and Washington, which she intended to continue and expand. She said, however, that she intended to engage not just Government, but all members of society.
She mentioned the issues of transnational crime — of which money laundering and drug trafficking are part — consular services, health and education initiatives, community policing, human resource development, and trade and investment.
“I look forward to continuing these and expanding other works that we can do collaboratively,” she said.
“Drug trafficking is a major problem here and in other countries in the region and that was reason the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative was formed. It’s one important area to look at. I also want to look at ways to encourage investment in Jamaica, investment that might create jobs,” Bridgewater said in response to questions.
On the matter of trade and investment, the ambassador said there was “considerable” interest in and goodwill on part of Americans towards Jamaica. She added that it would augur well if that interest was met with a welcoming and “enabling” environment.
“I want to use this time in Jamaica to not just talk and listen to members of Government, but to all members of society. I want to listen, I want to learn because Jamaicans have distinguished themselves around the world and I think the challenges that Jamaica faces today, the answers probably are with Jamaicans and I want to find ways that we can capitalise on that and work together to strengthen the bilateral relations and issues of trade, investment, security and safety, which I know is paramount on the minds of many Jamaicans,” she said.
Bridgewater entered the Foreign Service in 1980. She was nominated ambassador to Jamaica by President Barack Obama in July and arrived in the island for her second stint last Thursday.