EDITORIAL: Going nowhere on this horse

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It would seem that politicians will never understand that the more they close opaque curtains on a topic, the more people want to see what’s behind. It goes beyond politics and to human beings’ basic curiosity. Why don’t you want me knowing? What are you hiding? Let me see!!!!
This is exactly what is happening with the Freeland fiasco. The stories do not reconcile, and the people have legitimate questions that need answers so that they can feel comfortable with how the entire situation was handled. They feel insulted that they are being brushed aside by the powers that be. And the more they are brushed aside, the more they want to know.
It is important for the prime minister to clear this up as he is the one in possession of the report issued by the Comptroller of Customs, Mr. Raju Boddu. He was also the one who launched the first salvo when he dismissed Senator Freeland as a possible candidate to represent the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party in the Rural East constituency, a constituency that ultimately ‘selected’ his wife, Maria Bird-Browne, because of her popularity.  
Transparency is necessary to quell the curiosity of the people and answer the myriad of questions that they have. So far, the PM has referred everyone to Michael Freeland for answers but the only thing we could possibly hear from the former senator would be a version of events that paint him in the best light – if he talks at all! What the people want is to hear from other sources. Sources with intimate knowledge of what transpired.  
Let’s make it clear that we are not interested to hear what Senator Lennox Weston has to say on this matter because he has delivered a story in Parliament that cannot be verified by anyone. The only thing people want to hear from him is where his robbery story came from? After we hear and verify that, we will determine the next steps.
Even that scenario is aggravating and frustrating. How can the leader of government business in the Senate tell a story about a robbery and provide no proof? We were expected to just take his word for it? So far, there has been no corroboration of the great car robbery. Not from the PM, not from the Commissioner of Police, not from the Attorney General, and not from the Comptroller of Customs. Not even Michael Freeland himself has said, “Yeah!  I was robbed!” No corroboration, yet nothing. Things go on as though he didn’t say it. We guess that falls under some type of obscure parliamentary privilege!
Some of the kool-aid drinkers insist that there is nothing more to be gained by inquiring further. They point out that Freeland has resigned and the money has been paid back, and ask, “what more do you want?” If only our system of justice worked the same way? Imagine if the accused could simply pay back what they took and all would be forgiven? We would have so fewer inmates in our prison.
For those that are saying that we are beating a dead horse, we see it differently. We see that the horse has bolted, it ran up Queen Elizabeth Highway and is grazing on the lawn of the prime minister’s office. All he has to do is look out of his majestic window and he will see it there.
Why not make the report from the Custom Department public? There are no matters of national security involved. Why keep the December report such a secret? A secret to such an extent that we did not know it existed until recently.
In most places, a government would cite the findings of the report that led to the resignation of a senator. Not here in our bit of paradise! Near $120,000 can go ‘missing’ and there is no explanation because it was apparently paid back. Is that what we refer to as good governance? Is that what passes as transparency and accountability?
The mere fact that Freeland resigned, was forced to pay back the money, and will no longer function as a Customs/Port auctioneer indicated that this was a serious matter and it raises serious questions about the man who was appointed to sit in the Senate. Top of that list: what did he do?!?
So, what happens next? Will the curtains be raised to allow the light to shine through or will they remain closed? If they remain closed, the perception will always be that something really wrong happened and the government chose to sweep everything under the rug because it involved a good comrade.  
Again, that is just human nature. If you have nothing to hide, then what are you hiding? Release the report and let the chips fall as they may.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.
 

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