Orville Taylor, Contributor
However, the vagaries of a sister neighbour which is apparently trying to become a frenemy has to play number two on the agenda because we have immediate problems here in Jamrock.
Last week, I wrote a short treatise on the lotto scam and the negative repercussions to Jamaican society on the whole. Then, as the week matured, the newspapers carried pictures of men, wearing wrist ornaments, tightly bonded to each other. In one shot, a man was at the back with an upward gaze, while his companion was looking him in the face with eyes which spoke to a deep conjugal bond.
The Lottery Scam Task Force, like a skilful set of mariners, has set its nets, baited its hooks and trawled in its attempt to break the back of this scourge on Jamaica. Over the past few weeks, it has been bringing in minnows and a few snappers, but this time it seems to be catching big fish.
Now we know that being arrested and charged is not the same as being convicted, because the detained could be eventually absolved in a court of law. However, it is beyond doubt that the holding of deputy mayor of Montego Bay and councillor for the Granville division, Michael Troupe, and two other members of his biological troop, as well as his colleague People's National Party (PNP) councillor for the Salt Spring division, Sylvan Reid, is cause for grave concern.
These men who were netted by the police are not simply being placed on the deck of the fishing boat to dry. I can guarantee that they are in deep ship. Say what you want about the police, but they are not as stupid or as corrupt as one thinks, and if left to do their jobs and given the right kind of equipment without political interference, they can do wonders.
Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington, who I believe strongly backs Senior Superintendent of Police Fitz Bailey - who was cruelly dragged over the coals last year because of his attempt to do good police work - seems optimistic. "Once an individual attracts the attention of the task force, they are classified among the top-tier actors within the scamming operation. As to where we go next and who we go after, the intelligence will direct us. That's all the consideration, as long as we consider you to be involved on the basis of credible intelligence, we are coming at you."
Over the past few years, the Organised Crime Investigation Division has been steadily pulling together all its information as it spread its net. Building a profile which seems to be strongly supported by empirical evidence, the cops earned the ire of certain interest groups. Truth is, the stereotype is unflattering, and to be suspected of being involved in the Montego Bay lotto scam has a double whammy of being both gay and criminal.
Thus, even if the Troupes and Reid get off scotch-free, there may be some questions about their honesty and their sexuality. Detentions - especially if they lead to arrests and charges - are like curry stains; even when removed, they have a lasting impact on the integrity of the fabric they contaminated.
No one knows how this will be resolved. However, the PNP, Troupe and Reid have to act decisively. There are calls for the councillors to resign. However, that is premature, but PNP General Secretary and National Security Minister Peter Bunting's suggestion that they might have to take a back seat is the right approach.
Quick to get mileage out of this high-octane situation, G2K West, the St James Chapter of Generation 2000, the Jamaica Labour Party affiliate, quickly repugned the detentions and declared that the organisation was appalled over the alleged involvement of the three.
It further went on to ask for St James members of parliament to declare publicly if they have received any campaign financing from the accused men. Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams has expressed surprise, while Lloyd B. Smith, who has barely completed the buttoning of his trousers from the last stink in Parliament, is understandably silent.
However, Bunting, who made money long before the lotto scam, the Olint, World Wise and Cash Plus Ponzi schemes, and just before FINSAC, was very strident in stating where his head is. Building on Bailey's work, he instituted the Lotto Scam Task Force which, for all appearances, is colour-blind in sniffing out criminal elements.
PNP'S GOOD RECORD
It is refreshing to know that no one is seen as above the law, and despite all of the controversy, scandals and corruption regarding its governance in the past, the PNP has a reasonably good record of going after crime lords, even if they are its loyalists. In his own words, Bunting declares, "The security forces know that no one in this society ... will get any political protection from this administration ... and that they have a free hand to conduct their investigations and operations and to go wherever those lead."
Two months earlier, a very orange supporter with a strange nickname was arrested. This resulted in uproar and anti-Bunting sentiments. Years earlier, this same PNP administration took on and took out Donovan 'Bulbie' Bennett, the then leader of the PNP-aligned Clansman Gang. In the same era, area don for the PNP enclave of Matthews Lane, Donald 'Zeeks' Phipps, was arrested and convicted. Earlier in its regime, it procured the arrest and conviction of former JLP Minister of Labour J.A.G. Smith, along with his conspiratorial permanent secretary, Probyn Aiken.
Yet, it is this same administration that was in power when the don of all dons, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, grew in stature and wealth, benefiting from millions of dollars in government contracts. It is this same PNP which, instead of being forthright with the Trafigura issue, went to the highest court to prevent the public from knowing, in absolute terms, what the dealings were and whether the money was returned.
Similarly, as the JLP washed the pie and egg off its face as Olint's master scammer, David Smith, was revealed to have given large amounts of money to its campaign, the PNP was non-committal as to whether or not it had received any of the dirty money as well.
Then, to the consternation of clean-minded people, veteran lawyer and PNP Chairman Bobby Pickersgill asserted that he did not believe that if the party had indeed got any money, it would be under any obligation (legally and morally, I imagine) to return it. That is old politics and governance. Furthermore, proceeds of crime are simply that, and decent people and parties cannot keep them.
Nonetheless, the signs are encouraging. With the assurance that the Government is not removing the commissioner, despite the hope among some elements that it would have happened, he can act with less pressure. And notwithstanding his strange apology last year on behalf of SSP Bailey, who did and said nothing wrong, he and his staff are generally committed to have a relatively crime-free society.
I see a silver lining.
Orville Taylor, PhD is senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology, Sociology and Social Work at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.