Here, there, and everywhere

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Two news items crossing the wires from around the region caught our attention, and they certainly highlight a problem that appears to be afflicting the Caribbean. They sounded so familiar, and they reminded us that when it comes to governance here in this blessed archipelago, many of our officials seem to ‘knock one head!’ Many of our leaders, bless their cynical hearts, all appear to have graduated from the same school . . . of thought, that is. And we the people suffer!

Consider, if you will, the following CANA report out of Jamaica. Seems the leader of the opposition in Jamaica, Dr. Peter Phillips, had penned a letter to Prime Minister Andrew Holness calling on his administration to do more to address alleged corruption and other vexing things in ‘Jam Down.’ According to the good doctor’s missive, “Given the unprecedented number of instances of corrupt or irregular conduct of, and within, the government, and what appears to be an endemic situation, Commissions of Inquiry [should] be established forthwith to enquire into the scandals relating to the Ministries of Education and Energy, and their relevant agencies, and the Urban Development Corporation, and the Rooms on the Beach transaction. [Moreover] all agencies and commissions which have a role in fighting and investigating corruption, should be allowed by the government to discharge their functions and duties effectively and impartially in relation to the unresolved matters. Neither you, nor any member of your Administration, must place any impediment in their way . . . and the government must cooperate with the opposition in convening the relevant Parliamentary Oversight Committee during the course of next week to review and recommend changes, where necessary, to make the operations and functioning of the National Integrity Commission more effective. [And there ought to be] a Commission of Inquiry into the operations of the Ministries of Education and Energy, and their affiliates.” Hmmm!

Sadly, we have seen this movie before. Heck, in almost every island, the disaffected body politic will answer, “corruption” and “irregular conduct” and “whither the Integrity Commission” in response to the question, “What’s on your mind?”  You will also hear the people clamouring for commissions of inquiry and transparency and accountability. National Housing, Nyamco, Barbuda hurricane donations, and eBooks, anyone? Hmmmm!

 Of course, the good Jamaican doctor was not done voicing his disgust at what he sees as the extant corruption situation in his fair state. Nay, he told his supporters that, “From the very first year, the very first few months, after the Jamaica Labour Party government came in, they set about to take the people’s resources and use it as their own.”  Sigh! We feel their pain! Seems this corruption thing is a cancer sweeping across the Caribbean, and it certainly needs to be excised.  Actually, the good doctor cited “the police used-car, and Petrojam scandals,” and declared that “If Petrojam was the mother of all scandals, you are going to have to call what is happening within the Ministry of Education the granddaddy of all scandals in the country, millions and millions of your money … and while that is going on, rat is overrunning Spanish Town Hospital,” Ouch! So uncanny! The similarities are undoubtedly striking! Indeed, one could easily pick any capital – Port Au Prince, St. George’s, St. John’s – and switch the names of the scandals and the principals and arrive at the same godforsaken story. It is a curse!

 Look, in the Bahamas, a ranking official has had to deny favoritism in the awarding of a contract to Bahamas Hot Mix. Yes, our very same Bahamas Hot Mix . . . er . . . “Hot Mess!”  In Haiti, opposition groups have called for the resignation of President Jovenel Moise, accusing him of embezzling Petrocaribe funds – funds to assist the poor, mind you – and Haiti’s poor are the poorest of the poor.  Actually, Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes (CSCCA) issued two reports that raise eyebrows about Moise. In Grenada, the opposition is crying foul after it came to light that some former members of parliament were still running up mobile phone bills, some as high as EC$70,000, at the expense of the Treasury – and, by extension, at the expense of the poor. Needless to say, the opposition was outraged, and declared, “We are dismayed at the level of corruption.” In Jamaica, the Minister of Education, Mr. Ruel Reid was forced to resign amid allegations of corruption. The opposition is alleging the serious misuse of public funds and corruption at the Jamaica Ministry of Education. Sigh! At the expense of the boys and girls of Jamaica! To his credit, Jamaican Prime Minister Holness did not cover for Reid, and he cut him loose to clear the way for an investigation. And the Grenadian Prime Minister, Keith Mitchell, has expressed his “embarrassment” in the aforementioned phone bill scandal and pledged to set things right.

Meanwhile, in Belize, the Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, has denied any involvement in a land scam. According to him, “[There is some talk] that I met with these people when I didn’t? That they would have presented me with a wish list when they didn’t? That there was a white paper that I was given when it wasn’t? That they would have asked for favours when they didn’t? What is it? That is what I am telling you.” Sigh! Again, this sounds so familiar. Odebrecht, anyone?

As you can imagine, we could go on and on and on citing examples of malfeasance and perfidy in high places on almost any given day in almost any country washed by the Caribbean Sea, but that would be superfluous. You get the point! Our children and poor people are suffering; our infrastructure is crumbling; pensioners and government workers are struggling, while so many of our officials make out like . . . er  . . . well . . .

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