Submitted by Heather Cole
Amidst the celebrations of 50 years of Independence, the Attorney General of Barbados made an unexpected announcement regarding corruption. In an article in Barbados Today dated March 4, 2016 under the heading “Not Here”, the Attorney General did NOT promote the touted administration’s promise of anti-corruption legislation. Instead he said corruption was not a major problem and that his administration was not interested in pursuing anti-corruption legislation any time soon because it was not a priority.
What is corruption?
It is defined as a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal gain. From the looks of it, we have entered an era of systematic and political corruption in Barbados.
It makes one wonder what the priorities of this government are. What the public perceives as the priorities of this administration were first outlined in the Democratic Labour Party Manifesto. The most glaring of these was to be the implementation of Integrity Legislation. To date the government has not even hinted that the promise they made to the electorate will be kept. The very fact that the Attorney General rose to defend the Government is an indication that corruption is a big problem. Government’s corrupt practices have escalated during this administration and include the Cahill Scam, theft by the Speaker of the House, Mara and David Thompson’s involvement in the Clico Affair, the Coverley Lease, missing information on the Auditor General’s Reports, the depletion of the NIS funds, contracts awarded in contravention of government’s financial rules, Government giving away tax free and other concessions as well as the buying of votes in the last election.
Let us examine the implications of his statement – corruption degrades the moral fabric of any society which becomes so steeped in filth that it is unable to remove it. After 8 years of being rocked by scandal after scandal, one wonders if his next pronouncement will be that there is no crime, no guns or no drugs. Will he state that these are not major problems and his administration is not pursuing any more legislation to counter them because they are not priorities?
He admitted that there is a tear in the very fabric of society and yet his intention is not to mend it? It is like a perpetrator of a crime boldly admitting guilt while showing no remorse. Perhaps the statements are opening the flood gates for corruption in the wider society, heralding our descent down the slippery slope. It can lead to a mafia type society where bribes and payments abound to get simple things done or payments given to look the other way. With acknowledged corruption, a precedent is set that informs the youth that things are to be achieved through corrupted methods and patronage. There is a rise in suspicion and lack of trust amongst the citizens and residents of a country that leads to fear mongering. The established functions of government become so adulterated and this ultimately affects the poor who become unable to pay for bribes and turn to crime to obtain bribe money. Damaged as it is now, the election process of buying votes will only get worse, making elections neither free nor fair.
Ultimately those statements speak volumes about the character of the person that the island has entrusted the responsibility to uphold the laws of the land and create new legislation when it is lacking. His statements do not infer integrity neither responsibility nor accountability to the people of Barbados and the Attorney General should resign.
Since there is an admission of corruption, the people want answers to many questions relating to the Cahill Waste to Energy Plant, Clico, Coverley, contracts that have been awarded outside of the proper tendering process and concession given to various parties. They also want investigations; the guilty sent to jail, explanations to mysterious money on bank accounts of persons who entered Parliament broke, moneys returned to the public purse that were unlawfully taken, the audited financial reports for Ministries and Departments of Government and resignations from Parliament.
Also, in light of this admission by the Attorney General, the Government needs an open rebuke from the church. To date the church has been silent but it needs to take a leaf out of the book of Pope Francis who is very critical about corruption. There is a role to be played by the church, other religious organizations and groups in civil society to denounce corruption in high places. Along with prayers, it is time for these groups to stand up and speak out and not wait until this same corruption is manifest within their doors.
In our 50th year of Independence, it would have been worth celebrating if Attorney General made a statement that Barbados was corruption free. The icing on the cake then could have been that since the implementation of the Integrity Legislation not one Member of Parliament’s activity had been called into question.