Thu | Jun 24, 2021

Dirty money; dirty government

Published:Sunday | May 13, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Orville Taylor, Contributor

When we were children, we were loath to request gifts we made to our former friends because we were afraid that we would end up with (hog) styes on our eyelids - the punishment for being a 'tekiback'. Someone who solicits the return of a present made initially in good faith is a slimy creature.

Nonetheless, there were occasions when your poor friend, who has no chicken 'coob', suddenly came in possession of large clutches of eggs, and even with the best of minds you knew that he must have committed some 'fowl' deed in order to get them.

If your parents or guardians were corrupt or thieves, they would offer no objection to the young man carrying long bag and then making scrambled eggs, fried eggs or omelettes, even though the eggs were poached from several unsuspecting farmers or householders.

It would have been easy to know who lost eggs, and honest parents, keen on raising their children right, would not only grab the little thief by the ear and give him half-dozen 'cuffs' across the temple, until he heard peanut cart whistles. Other parents, recognising that children who are unregulated will invariably get up to mischief, would have reproached the young man, sternly warned you about receiving stolen goods, and returned the eggs forthwith. For those which were already consumed, some sort of apology or recompense would be on the menu.

olint connections

The morally lined stomachs and palates would have been too sensitive to the contraband, and some serious retching would ensue. Having literally spilled their guts, although embarrassed, there would be clear admission of what caused the indigestion and take steps forthwith to clean up the mess.

Unless the meal were paid for or regurgitated, it would ride their chest like scandals on a politician. Nonetheless, for the decent, any alternative action would have led to countless sleepless nights. Whatever fabric of lies and deception are woven and worn by politicians, new fuzz and 'old lint' leave noticeable marks. Recent revelations, which confirm common knowledge, point to large amounts of money being received by political parties from convicted felon, ginnal and bandooloo par excellence, David Smith. He is serving such a long sentence in the United States, it could easily be called a paragraph. In fact, the paragraph is just part of a longer and more intriguing story.

Documents relating to a confiscation order from the Supreme Court in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) point to an attempt to recover money which Smith reportedly gave to the then Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the governing People's National Party (PNP) to finance their 2007 general election campaigns to secure State power.

This classic case of Anancyism has him playing two sides of the fence, with a virtual guarantee that he would be in the bed sheets of both Government and Opposition, whoever wins. That stroke of genius is in itself a Ponzi scheme, as he backed both the bell and the head.

Thus, not surprisingly, with all the suspicions and warnings, not one single charge was proffered against Smith. It has been my contention - and I am yet to apologise for it - that the PNP failed to adequately protect the potential investors when the get-rich-quick schemes which were too good to be true were selling like jerk chicken neck and back. This is so because when the Financial Services Commission finally acted against other Ponzi schemers, such as Cash Plus and World Wise in 2008, there was no new law on the books. Therefore, a logical conclusion is that the Government did not act as quickly as it could, within the confines of the same laws, even though it had raided the offices of some of the schemers.

On the other hand, even as the PNP government agencies did their token investigations and warnings, JLP parliamentarians were staunchly defending the schemers and complaining about guerrilla tactics. Guerrilla or not, the JLP, admittedly, was monkeying around with money from Smith.

Indeed, if one recalls the lame and pathetic campaign advertisements up to July 2007 and the dramatic change in the quality and quantity in the dying moments leading up to the September election, there is no doubt that the dirty dollars knocked out the fist from Parliament.

right to know donors

True, it is hard to bite the hand which feeds you, which is why the issue of electoral reform regarding campaign contributions must be a priority. Head of the National Integrity Action Limited, Trevor Munroe, has pointed to the tardiness of a seldom-meeting Parliament in passing the well-thought-out recommendations by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica.

The citizens in a democracy have a right to know who pulls the strings behind their government 'for the people by the people'. It is bad enough that monied interests bankroll election campaigns and, thus, ultimately will want their pound of flesh. However, dapper crooks will mask as legitimate financiers, and oftentimes only the eagle-eyed can see through the panache.

The JLP has acknowledged that it got money from Smith, but former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, a lawyer, who knows a fact different from an aspersion, has denied getting a penny, with a certainty as visible as his many multi-coloured shirts. Current leaders of the party have launched an investigation to determine the veracity of the assertions from the TCI. However, there are persons who are afraid to "ask the PNP", given that it has gone to great pains in the High Court to prevent its principals from publicly revealing what happened to the money it received from convicted corporate felon, Trafigura Beheer, during the same period.

Fool around with politics and our democracy if you wish, but studies have shown that there is a very strong correlation between the level of crime and violence in societies and their degree of corruption in government. Jamaica, despite being a robust democracy, is still a place with too much state dishonesty. Unfortunately, we cannot measure this objectively, although we know that both political parties are to blame for the homicide rates because they gave their supporters guns in the dirty days of politics in the 1970s and beyond.

Nonetheless, the subjective 2011 Global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) from Transparency International rated Jamaica's figure of 3.3 as 86th out of 182 countries. Graded out of a maximum 10, the higher the CPI is, the better the score. Between 2002 and 2006, the figure fell from 4.0 to 3.8. However, for the period 2007 to last year, it dropped to 3.3, held fast in 2008 and slithered down to 3.0 in 2010 under the JLP.

One may wish to play politics with the figures, but there is enough corruption to go around, and both political parties have been measured and fallen short. We await the conclusions of the PNP investigations, and assuming that the lawyers don't object, we will be informed if, or how much, money was received from Smith.

Nonetheless, one can hardly expect that a country which didn't bother to investigate and charge him would now be willing to find ways of giving it back. After all, the JLP seems near broke now, with many of its officers moonlighting to make-do, and the party doesn't appear to have the ability to repay. On the other hand, the PNP is in government but is not the government. It can, therefore, not use any official money to reimburse.

My sympathies to the victims who were scammed; hopefully, they will have more traction than Mike Henry is getting with the reparation issue, which a racially unconscious, black-dominated Parliament is ignoring again.

Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI and a radio talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.