Being human beings, each and every one of us is corruptible. But there are two things that can prevent us from being corrupt: conscience and consequences. And they go hand in hand.
Even if a strong foundation of morality, ethics and righteousness reduces our chances of becoming corrupt, it will not be enough to prevent this from happening. There must be consequences, whether from our God (through religious or spiritual conviction), or from society, (through social sanctions), or from the laws of the state (through the justice system).
For its survival, stability and sustainability, every society must establish a reliable and sustainable system of values and laws by which individuals, groups, organizations and the state itself, are governed.
This system of values and laws has to be designed on a foundation of human rights, integrity, transparency, accountability, principles and ethics, not on the whims, fancies and personalities of the leaders of the day. It has to be about PRINCIPLES, NOT MEN.
Anything else will open the door to corruption among the leadership of the state, among the ordinary citizens, and among the social and economic partners in the state.
And corruption will cause law and order, respect, values, discipline, productivity levels, government revenue, democracy, and, indeed, the entire state, and civilization, to collapse. The pages of history are filled with tragic examples of this.
And in every one of history’s examples, the collapse has been caused by leaders who have been corrupt, or who have been otherwise compromised and unable to control corruption.
But the initiative must come from the leadership, who must set the tone and the standard.
And when ethics, transparency and accountability, whether it be for themselves, for Government or for the society as a whole, appear not to be top priority to leaders, then either the people will themselves drop their own standard, (which opens the door to dire consequences), or they will press for a higher standard.
And in the latter case, the people will, and must, reject such leaders.
This has happened in Tunisia and Egypt over the last four to five weeks, and it is happening, as we speak, in Bahrain, Libya, Iran and elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East, where the masses have decided to take a stand in their own cause, and have started to get rid of corrupt, autocratic leaders.
Tunisia’s President, Ben Ali, had been in power for since 1987, while Mubarak had ruled Egypt for 30 years, and Ghaddafi has ruled over Libya since 1969.
Mubarak, a former army general, and Ghaddafi, a former army colonel, are said to be among the world’s 20 wealthiest persons, while the average person in Egypt and Libya earns about US$2 a day.
Like so many other leaders before them, they were so intoxicated by their own power that they failed to learn from history, and they had no respect. And it is now Consequences Time for them.
They will be forced to do things that they never wanted to do, such as account to the people for decisions and actions that they took, for their arrogance and distaste for democracy, for the wealth which they accumulated while in power, and so on. Maybe their last years on earth will be spent in a jail cell…if they are lucky.
I want to put some matters to you, and ask you, as you ponder on them, to answer two questions, namely: Do you believe that the leadership of St.Kitts & Nevis is corrupt? And whether or not you do, are you ready to demand a full accounting, and the sacking of the culprit(s), if any?
1. The Prime Minister recently said that all finance-related negotiations have been effected on behalf of the Government by the Ministry of Finance. Make him now publish the documents involved in all negotiations with Unit Trust and every other entity that has loaned money to the Government. Make him also inform the public if persons not employed in the Ministry of Finance were involved in the negotiations, and if so, how much were they paid?
Make him also show you evidence of the negotiations for debt forgiveness from SACE, the Italian Government agency involved in the US$25 million loan accompanying the sale of the hydrofoil boats back in the 1980’s.
And as he stiffens his neck with reluctance to disclose this information, you must make him understand that some of us know that SACE is likely to forgive debt only if it has to do so, (and I do not know if it did not had to in the hydrofoil deal) or if SACE, (or some person, corporate or human, who is influential with, or of interest to, the Government of Italy) stands to get something in return.
For example, in 2005, SACE cancelled a US$73 million debt owed by the Government of Antigua & Barbuda. And , it is alleged that just a few months later, the Antigua & Barbuda Government sold US$22 million worth of property to Flat Point Development Ltd., a company said to be under the influence of none other than Sylvio Berlusconi, Italy’s Prime Minister, for a mere pittance of US$700,000.00.
The question, therefore, is: Has any big land deal (or any other big deal) in St.Kitts been part of the quid pro quo to get SACE in 2007 to forgive the St.Kitts & Nevis’ Government US$33 million debt to it? And if so, which land, or other, deal?
I was in Cabinet at the time and I do not recall being informed of any of this, far less its details.
And despite our PM’s claim that all finance-related matters have been negotiated by personnel in the Ministry of Finance, was there any outside individual or corporate consultant, involved? For example, might Lex Consulting or someone close to Henley & Partners have been involved? And if so, how, in what way and how much money was paid?
Is there still more to be told in the hydrofoils’ debt forgiveness story? If so, it could provide some real drama for the people of St.Kitts & Nevis, and for the Italian people and media.
I hear that a very tenacious Italian investigative journalist is checking it out.
We shall see.
2. Can the PM credibly rationalize to you the tsunami of small Chinese food shops and supermarkets that have, for all practical purposes, now displaced locals from two very vital niches in our economy?
On top of that, these businesses use what is essentially Chinese slave labour, thereby cutting costs, blocking out locals from jobs, and in the process underselling other businesses which employ locals. Is the PM happy with what he says are lower prices for our consumers in an environment of growing unemployment and disaffection among the citizens of this country?
And has he worked out the math to see how much less the Government will collect in revenue because of these operations? Has a macro-economic and social impact assessment been done? Does he care?
3. Can he credibly rationalize to you the presence of a supermarket operating at Port Zante, which was not zoned for such facilities? Is it a ‘friend’ thing?
4. What conclusions might Kittitians and Nevisians reach when, some fifteen years after introducing the Bill to Parliament for a first reading, our PM proclaims, and with no small amount of contumely, that Integrity in Public Life legislation is not a high priority for him?
Is there any good reason for you, private citizens, to allow your bank accounts and your electronic and telephonic data to be invaded and opened to scrutiny, while the person occupying the highest position of public trust in the country arrogantly tells you that you are not allowed to examine his finances and his assets, and that he has no immediate plans to allow you to do so?
Is this, when the story is finally told, going to turn out to be mini-Mubarak or mini-Ghaddafi? Do you not have the right, and the responsibility, to find out?
”Who is this guy?”
5. Is it fair that people are trying their best to send a poor struggling man like James ‘Brother Bumpy’ Davis to jail for debt when big shots’ girlfriends who embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Government walk free, when other big shot fraudsters, scammers, hustlers and rapists walk free, and when big shots’ buddies are allowed to operate whore houses, untouchable by the law? What are these things a sign of?
6.And finally, after all of these years of controversy, and after all that has been said and done concerning electoral reform, is this ‘ferrying’ of votes between St.Kitts and Nevis not a stinking shame?
There you have it. And I am sure that you can add other matters to the mix.
Now, what is your verdict?