Devon Dick | Bad Blythe, badder Burke
'Bad, Bylthe' was the Saturday Gleaner's headline. Karl Blythe, challenger for the presidency of the People's National Party (PNP) against serving president, Portia Simpson Miller, made disparaging remarks about Simpson Miller's health. He has since apologised for his remarks. Blythe was poised to face disciplinary action because his statements were deemed, according to Chairman Bobby Pickersgill, as "unethical and false comments".
Meanwhile, Paul Burke, general secretary of the PNP, is badder than Blythe in his reported claims. Burke states that it is a standard practice to receive monies from foreign firms through an agent. He disclosed the percentage rate and also the estimated value of the contribution to the political party. This amount was not handed over to the central treasury. There is no press release claiming that Burke will face disciplinary actions, which can only mean that, unlike Blythe, his statements were not deemed to be 'unethical and false'. So the PNP accepts his statement as true. However, what of the ethics?
NO RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION
This is a very strange decision not to bring charges against Burke based on ethics. Burke has not said anyone impersonated him or doctored his statement. Burke has not retracted his statement. He gave details about this immoral modus operandi. That Burke was aware of the practice and did not report it to the police is at best unethical. This is tantamount to a kickback. It is a corrupt practice. Burke did not appear upset with righteous indignation at the practice. That Burke knew of the practice and there is no evidence that he tried to stop it, is grounds for him to resign. Burke ought to go. And in going he must tell all, so that others who knew of the practice and benefited from the practice can also pack their bags and go. He should share with the Office of the Contractor General and the police all he knows about the practice with all the details and evidence.
Norman Horne, the PNP treasurer, claims that five senior PNP members did not hand over resources to the central treasury that was rightly due there. That smells like fraud. Horne could only know the exact number of persons based on donors telling him that they gave money to these five persons for the party and they did not hand it over. The police should gather the information from Horne and make the charges. If what Horne said is true, then some persons have defrauded the PNP and should go and wear short pants. If what Horne said is false, then that is a horse of a different colour.
Let us not pretend that we have never heard about kickbacks. There are anecdotes about government ministers who charge 10 per cent or get houses or other payments. There are politicians whose lifestyles do not match the salaries paid to them. We have heard of politicians not handing over monies that were due to the party. This is not hard to rectify going forward. Donors must state on the cheque the name of the political party and stop the practice of writing it to a third party. Donors must demand a receipt.
It is possible that defrauding political parties is the root of many evils in society. Persons know the runnings and so corruption becomes systemic in the society. It becomes a model for extortionists. It is an inspiration to corrupt cops who have illegal businesses. This needs a Commission of Enquiry to investigate how these practices have corrupted our society and how we can prevent the rape of a democracy by persons who rob the party's treasury and get funding by immoral and illegal ways.
PS: Airy Castle, St Thomas, has lost one of its distinguished sons, Leroy McKenzie, who was my form teacher at Calabar and who served with excellence at Dunoon. Condolences to his wife, mother, and other relatives.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.