Editorial: Dust mites, bugs, eBooks, et al under the carpet

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The glib explanation and airy wave of dismissal did not escape anyone. Neither did the self-congratulatory pat on the back for saving the Antiguan and Barbudan taxpayer an enormous amount of money. Of course, we’re talking about the sleight-of-hand manner in which the sordid eBooks chapter was closed as No collusion! No conflict! No hanky-panky! Nothing to see here folks! Talk about blowing smoke up the people’s gazoo! 

No independent investigation! No attempt at getting to the bottom of this fishy and slimy mess! After all, an independent investigation might reveal uncomfortable truths! Then persons who know where ‘the bodies are buried’ might start squealing. And the whole enterprise – ‘this thing of ours;’ this matter of getting rich creatively; and using their contacts for personal gain, could come crashing down like the packs of cards that it really is. So out of an abundance of caution, the dear leader breathed a sigh of relief and announced with manifest happiness that his initial angst and annoyance and threats to deal firmly with  . . . er malfeasance, were . . . well . . . hyperventilation. “Is joke he was making!”

The thing is, this dry-joke is not sweet. Antiguans and Barbudans are hardly amused! Not when they are anteing up a great deal of their hard-earned money to pay for a product that is scarcely worth the paper upon which the failed contract was written and signed by er, well . . . idiocy. That’s the only way to charitably describe the eBooks mess. Any other word must lean towards extortion. Again, we are using a euphemism (extortion is not a euphemism, but for lack of a better word) so as not to impute improper motives.

But nobody is fooled. From the outset, this farce looked like a duck, walked like a duck, quacked like a duck and smelled like a duck. And according to former New York City mayor, Edward Koch, “If it does all those things like a duck, then it must be a duck!” Sigh! Sadly, the good leader, in a supreme act of hubris, told Antiguans and Barbudans that they should willfully suspend disbelief; they should willfully suspend commonsense and their calls for an independent investigation and transparency and accountability, and believe that a duck is a hen.  Say what? Abracadabra! Poof! Scandal done! And the Minister of Miseducation survives to continue his idiocy in the theatre of the absurd! Comic relief, anyone! Shakespeare is proud!

Meantime, the school children of Antigua and Barbuda suffer another semester under this (again we are being kind) incompetency. It is a crying shame! Here we are, saddled with tablets dubbed by some as ‘E’ for empty – as in a dearth of useful and relevant content, and practically useless save as a collector’s item/exhibit for how not to negotiate a contract. Seems, Derek Bok’s African proverb is apropos, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!” We suggest that the quackery from the Ministry of Miseducation is a whole lot of ignorance!

Of course, left unanswered are pertinent questions such as, how could an honest-to-goodness company take such a haircut on a duly signed contract from US$250 down to US$80? Clearly, the profit margin was highly inflated. Or was there something else in the mortar . . . other than the pestle? And who stood to get that “something else” in the mortar? What are the unseen connections and relationships in all of this? And why not even a demotion or a reassignment or a reprimand, at the very least? Is the good leader, a man who has staked his legacy and reputation on being thorough; a man who frowns on anything that could tarnish and impugn the standing of his administration, a man not given to “suffering fools gladly,” truly satisfied with the charade in the Ministry of Miseducation? If he is, then we have totally misjudged him!

Then again, could it be that his hands are tied . . . hence the haste to sweep this eBooks morass under the carpet? Could it be an unwillingness to sweep up the dust mites and bugs and all the other dust particles under there? We mean, the eBooks will fit in quite nicely under the carpet because they are already under beds and in boxes and on shelves gathering dust. Where is a good vacuum when you need one? Alas, the good leader will not manoeuvre it! Achoo!!! The people are sneezing! And pretty soon, in light of all that is being swept under the carpet, there will soon be no more room for any other scandal. Oops! Pardon us! The Global Ports giveaway is now jostling for room under there!

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