Commentary - A bit of advice for Justice Carey
Wilberne Persaud, Financial Gleaner Columnist
I HAVE known eminent retired Jamaican jurist Boyd Carey for many years. We met through a mutual friend, the late H.I. McKenzie - a Mwalimu, or teacher, a sociologist who deeply understood, among other things, Caribbean social structure, family norms and links among lifestyles, health statuses and their influences on Jamaica's development prospects.
Our conversations were interesting, often amusing and enlightening.
Well do I remember one of Justice Carey's signature judg-ments in a not-so-well-reported case of plagiarism and alleged libel involving Professor Alfred Francis and John Gafar whose work incorporated material intentionally cribbed from another - Professor Hines of London University's Birkbeck College.
Bertie Hines, a highly accom-plished, 'self-made' Jamaican migrant to the United Kingdom, was an adviser to Prime Minister Michael Manley. He attempted to come to grips with pricing structure and inflation in Jamaica based, in part, on data collected on farm gate and final consumer prices.
Chunks of Hines' unpublished material and analysis were incorporated wholesale into Gafar's work without even a hint of acknowledgement! When this fact was noted and communicated to colleagues by Professor Francis, a tearful, remorseful Gafar first apologised but later responded by accusing Francis of libel, and sued.
Justice Carey's judgment was a tour de force in several important respects, in what for Jamaica was an unusual matter. It vindicated Professor Francis' stand for the only currency of the academic enterprise - seek with honesty and integrity the truth as it may unfold, follow wherever it leads!
As you can imagine, I am disturbed at the way in which Carey is today under fire for his role in the FINSAC enquiry, based on alleged fees and an alleged relationship he and his wife are supposed to have had with FINSAC resulting from an accommodation with the failed Century National Bank (CNB).
Defeating the truth
I figure if conflicts actually exist, Carey would recuse himself.
Having shared all this with you, however, I reiterate my view that the enquiry, as conceived and unfolding, can be of little use if the objective is to determine truth, while offering remedial prescription based on causes of the 1990s meltdown of Jamaica's locally owned and controlled banks, insurance companies - its financial services sector firms.
Asking questions of former board chairmen and women, owners and borrowers bankrupted during the crisis is unlikely to lead anywhere but towards self-serving, biased opinions.
Justice Carey is now painfully aware the bias runs more than skin-deep.
As a columnist considering himself as having some slight understanding of these matters, my past comments have often been castigated as evidence of PNP bias, as 'spin', the work of an 'Omar apologist' and the like.
The words of cargill
I want to offer Justice Carey a bit of advice, and encourage those with heads buried in partisan sands at polluted 'die-heartedness' beach, to consider the following.
In a Gleaner column, August 1, 1996, titled 'The banking crisis', we find this:
"When our banks were just branches of foreign banks (Canadian mostly and one English, Barclays), we never had to worry about our deposits. The banks of which they were branches were solid as rocks.
"But now, we have mostly Jamaican banks and some of them are run by Buttoos more keen on fine buildings and splendid offices to boost their little egos, than on running a bank properly. The great trouble with many of them is they don't stick to banking, and buy into hotels and other businesses, using our deposits to do so. As such, people are not very expert at running these businesses, when they bust, so does the bank.
"The Ministry of Finance and the BOJ are rightly keeping a sharp eye on our financial institutions. What is now needed is a constant and continuous supervision of all banks. In the past, the head offices of the foreign banks which had branches in Jamaica supervised those branches on a regular basis. The BOJ and the Ministry of Finance should do that too.
" I greatly admire Dr Omar Davies, even though I think he keeps some bad poli-tical company. I hope my admiration is not mis-placed. Previously, I would have said the same about Eddie Seaga, but in view of his latest antics, and his involvement with loans from CNB, he now seems to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
"The unfortunate CNB seems to have become a feeding tree. Apart from the politicians who have borrowed money, a lot of others had been eating off Big Daddy."
Now guess from whose pen these words come?
The writer is the late Morris Cargill, who, by his own admission, supported, though not unquestioningly, the Jamaica Labour Party.
My advice to the chairman of the FINSAC commission is to consider this opinion carefully.
It smacks of truths ordinary Jamaicans know and feel, if not fully understand.
Jamaica's financial meltdown was not unique. Its causes were similar to those of all financial bubbles and busts in history. Cargill captures it simply, and as usual for him, with dry, biting humour.
Greater skill needed, mr carey
To the partisans, I say, just as you will not choose your medical practitioner based on his political 'specialty' like visiting a veterinarian for your heart operation, so, too, you should trust the judgement of impartial professionals and specialists for analysis of the meltdown. Some do exist, even though not on the commission.
Finally, it might be that Justice Carey landed centre stage in a firestorm the core temperature and diameter of which he was unaware. Observer Executive Editor Desmond Allen quotes Carey on January 24 as saying: "I don't sit as a judge. I'm more like a policeman, investigating what went wrong."
I'm afraid policeman skills won't cut it.
He needs supporting detectives and K-9 sniffer dogs with highly developed noses. Worrick Bogle and Charles Ross aren't up to that task.
There are reports, forensic and other-wise, costly in their preparation, by foreign, totally un-connected experts that surely can assist Justice Carey in his policeman's investigative quest.