Sun | Feb 5, 2023

Alfred Dawes | Black boys from country

Published:Sunday | January 22, 2023 | 1:23 AM

“No matter what Bolt has achieved, being one of the greatest athletes in history, a sports legend ... one of the most famous Jamaicans ever ... a national asset, those achievements are still not enough to shield him from what it means to live in...

“No matter what Bolt has achieved, being one of the greatest athletes in history, a sports legend ... one of the most famous Jamaicans ever ... a national asset, those achievements are still not enough to shield him from what it means to live in Jamaica as a black man.

“Our leaders are almost silent on the issue. What that tells me is that even with all his riches and achievements, he is still not as influential as the uptown elites ... he is still a black boy from country who got lucky. They still believe that they are more entitled to enjoy his hard-earned riches than him ... entitled to be more renowned than him ... so they want to leave him broke and broken. Then say he wasn’t astute enough to manage his finances and probably deserves this hard-learned lesson. It was a real raid on Bolt with no fear of consequences ... no sophistication to the plot. Just a sense of entitlement knowing they control the systems of justice. If they had believed that there’s any semblance of justice or consequences that could follow, they would have tried to do it differently. It’s just shocking on every level.”

The above, said by like me, a black boy from country, echoes the sentiments of many Jamaicans who have watched the news surrounding the wiping out of their hero Usain Bolt’s retirement savings, in what is on track to be the largest financial fraud in Jamaica’s history. Have no doubts about it, this is turning out to be a pitch battle in Jamaica’s ongoing class warfare. Already the framing of the fraud is that of uptown Kingston elites carrying out the heist on a black man who was lucky enough to jet into their ranks at an early age. The portfolio minister and prime minister were behind the ball in commenting on not just a mega fraud, but one committed against pensioners and one national treasure. This has allowed the rumour mill enough lead time to ramp up production on conspiracy theories and cover-ups.

LEAKED INTENTIONALLY

I am a sceptic enough to believe that the confession of the alleged mastermind was leaked intentionally. With all fingers pointing towards her for even what she didn’t take, her handlers wanted to get it out there that she was not the one who robbed Bolt. She was not going to be a fall gal. There were plenty more thieves taking advantage of lax oversight and lack of consequences to their habitual flouting of financial regulations. But who could have moved such a massive number of US dollars in a country where transferring from my US dollar account in one bank to my account in another bank requires several rigorous steps to prove I am not a crook? Word on the street says it was no bearer. It makes sense that it has to be a “big” man or men, most likely well connected and almost certainly of a Kingston 6 or 8 address. Jamaicans are no fools. They know that the light treading, as if on thin ice, because of the fear of lawsuits, speaks volumes as to the status of those likely to be involved. This velvet gloved treatment of suspects or offenders by the authorities is where the obvious differences between black boys from country and the elite in the cities is more pronounced.

The last time Jamaica had so much negative press around a scandal was the doping commission’s disgraceful anti-doping programme, that almost relegated Jamaican athletes, at our athletics peak, to the pariah status of the former soviet bloc. It was poor oversight then that caused a breakdown in the anti-doping programme. It is again poor oversight that has allowed Bolt, who survived the JADCO debacle, to be robbed mercilessly. The Financial Services Commission (FSC) is tasked with ensuring that if events like these happen, they are few and far between, and certainly never in a company flagged by their auditors years ago and still thought to be non-compliant. While we look for the missing money and the crooks, we must also look at why this could have happened because if that is not addressed, there will be many more stories written for a Netflix series on Jamaican scams.

NOT MUCH SAID

“Sometimes when a man a seh something, you must listen fi what him nah seh.” A wise man once told me this gem and it has served me well. In reading the statements of the prime minister and the minister of finance, there is not much said on the failure of the FSC at all levels to prevent this crime. Focus has been shifted to the executive director who resigned. However, the FSC is not one man. Were there reports and recommendations? Who received these reports and recommendations? Who decided not to act on them? These are very pertinent questions that ought to be addressed rather than lamenting and steering focus towards the criminal investigation only. Regulators are there to regulate. If that is not happening in one of the largest financial centres in the Caribbean, then we the people must know who the responsible parties are.

If the prime minister fails to launch the appropriate in-depth probe of the FSC and the events surrounding their misregulation of SSL, he ought to be reminded of one thing, when he is eventually far removed from the corridors of power, and the phone calls dwindle along with the awe and respect, he will then realise that he was never truly one of those he sought to protect, he will forever be a black boy from Ensom, Spanish Town.

- Dr Alfred Dawes is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and CEO of Windsor Wellness Centre. Follow him on Twitter @dr_aldawes. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and alfred.dawes@gmail.com