Christopher Serju | Why aren’t Samuda and Co informers?
Like the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA), but for different reasons, I am looking forward to the disclosure by Karl Samuda, minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, of the list of processors involved in defrauding the Government of billions of dollars in taxes by diverting refined sugar destined for their operations to the shelves of supermarkets islandwide.
The JMA wants to get its hand on the list so it can cleanse its ranks of the many criminals who have been giving the organisation a bad name for too long. I, on the other hand, want to help in getting the word out about these villains parading as genuine businessmen and women, whose names should be noised abroad - far and wide.
The police should be apprised of their well-documented criminal actions to which Minister Samuda, Karl James, chairman of the Sugar Association of the Caribbean, and Allan Rickards, chairman of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association, will readily attest.
My expectation that the compendium of compelling evidence supplied by these stalwarts of industry will form the basis for airtight cases leading to the prosecution and conviction of these wayward manufacturers is predicated on recent happenings, nay rather informed utterances by the aforementioned trio.
The anticipated impact of the fundamental shift in the regime for importation of refined sugar announced by Samuda just over a week ago was crystal clear, as he explained at a press conference last week Wednesday.
"I believe that with these measures, we will see, if not a total elimination in the shortest possible time, we will see a cessation of this insatiable appetite to funnel raw materials into the retail market, on which no tax is paid," the minister declared. Moments afterwards, though, he was hard-pressed to defend this statement if fact. "I can't tell you the exact number that have been implicated, but I am advised that there is sufficient evidence that it has taken place," was his feeble response.
Two days later, in the wake of an ultimatum by the JMA for Samuda to name and shame the criminal processors or retract the statement, Rickards, in a statement issued on the letterhead of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmer Association, came out swinging in defence of the new import rules for refined sugar.
Describing the action as "very helpful and long overdue" that "would go a far way towards preventing the flow of uncustomed sugar onto the retail shelves", he congratulated Minister Samuda for "action long sought by the industry to help stem the massive loss of revenue to the country" via this route.
In welcoming the minister's resolute action, Rickards declared that the "illicit billion-dollar activity of some of those who import refined sugar for processing/manufacturing purposes could not be allowed to continue".
Of course, with all this in-knowledge of the extent, intricacies, value and volume of this illegal activity, I am confident that Samuda, James and Rickards, as right-minded Jamaicans, would have already acted on the recommendation of Don Wehby, chief executive officer of the GraceKennedy Group.
"If he (Samuda) has information about illegal use by manufacturers, whether within the JMA or not, it is his right as a Jamaican citizen to report it to the police so it can be properly investigated," Wehby told The Gleaner recently.
With corruption allegedly rampant in all walks of business in Jamaica, it would be remiss of these noble men not to share their insider information with the police. Failure to so would, in my view, be tantamount to aiding and abetting these culprits who have been robbing the country for far too long. Also, at a time when citizens are being asked to help in the fight against crime by telling what they know, about vicious crimes such murder, rape and assault, it cannot be too much for these stalwarts of the sugar industry to step up and do their civic duty.
Of course, I'm preaching to the choir, since these men being all well read can appreciate, I am sure, Edmund Burke's reminder that:"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
- Christopher Serju is freelance reporter who specialises in rural affairs and agriculture. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and christopher.serju