Letters & Opinion

The Politics Of Corruption

LET’S face it, politics in Saint Lucia has a stench about it. It is seen as being plagued by corrupt politicians who launder money, accept kick-backs from investors and divert money from well-meaning, friendly governments, for their own purposes.

LEWIS..."There will be no investment"
LEWIS…”There will be no investment”

Of course, that view is rooted mainly in perception, as there is no hard, actionable evidence that our politicians are not honest, law-abiding citizens. If there are corrupt politicians, none have paid the price. But when the negative perceptions are encouraged, not by the people, but by the politicians themselves, the people cannot be blamed for thinking the politicians know what they’re talking about, and that what they say is FACT.

Consider the following statement made at a political meeting of the United Workers Party (UWP) in February 2000, by Dr. Vaughan Lewis, former Prime Minister and Political Leader of the United Workers Party:

“When your country becomes corrupt, and investors know that you have to hand the dollars before they can sign the contract, there will be no investment except by the mafia and money launderers, and bobolists and so on. We have enough examples in our country…”

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In that same speech, Dr. Lewis said some things that threw a veil of calumny over the then and current Prime Minister. Dr. Kenny Anthony took the matter to court and won his case. But the damage to the already disfigured face of politics had already been done.

Since then, even more damage has been done with allegations flying left, right and centre about corrupt politicians. Public servants have not escaped the tongue-lashing. Recently, one politician and former Minister insisted that if there are corrupt Ministers, it’s because there are corrupt public servants, or words to that effect. All of this gives credence to Papa Vader’s calypso that ‘we’re living in a For-a-Cut society.’

But what worries me and what should worry every Saint Lucian politician and citizen is the damage that these allegations are doing to Saint Lucia’s image.

While our politicians delight in making each other out to be corrupt and untrustworthy, other countries do the exact opposite by creating a culture of zero-tolerance of corruption. While successive Governments in Saint Lucia establish Commission after Commission to probe alleged acts of corruption, and while these Commissions produce reports that go nowhere; in other countries the rule of law is invoked and the police and the courts are brought into the picture from the very outset.

The USA and Singapore are prime examples of countries where the Rule of Law is firmly applied on corrupt politicians. In these countries no one is above the law and no one is allowed to believe that he/she or she is above the law.

And this is exactly how it should be.

President Nixon along with more than 70 people, including White House aides and Cabinet officials, were convicted of crimes related to the Watergate break-in and its cover up. Former Governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen are the latest examples of powerful politicians in the US who have paid the price for abusing the people’s trust. They were sentenced to prison terms of 2 and 1 years respectively for accepting gifts from a businessman. Last week, Oregon governor John Kitzhaber stepped down because of corrupt acts, not by him, but by his fiancee.

Singapore has an even more aggressive, no-nonsense approach to corruption than the USA. Singaporeans expect their leaders to set the tone and to act responsibly. And overwhelmingly and consistently, they do. From his very first day in office, former PM of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew set about to ensure that every dollar in revenue is properly accounted for and reaches the people, as one full dollar, without any dilution along the way. Successive leaders have continued along this path. Singapore’s Prevention of Corruption Act give agencies like the Corruption Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) wide powers to investigate the bank accounts of suspects and their families, as well as powers of arrest and search. A One-Stop Corruption Reporting Centre enables people to make complaints discretely and responsibly.

Even more impressive is the fact that Singapore markets its consistently high ranking on the global corruption index, as a key selling point in its investment strategy. Investors are impressed by the culture of “Integrity, Service and Excellence” of Singapore’s Public Service.

Corruption is not only about bribery. It can take many forms. It includes selling access which raises the issue of campaign financing and that troubling citizenship by investment proposal. Nobody knows who donates money to our political parties. But everybody knows these donations are not made for the mere fun of it. If we’re serious about curbing corruption, we should have campaign finance laws in place.

Saint Lucia desperately needs to clean up its image as a corrupt country. But little headway will be made in that quest unless its politicians become irrevocably involved. It’s bad enough that money donated by a foreign government does not go into the Consolidated Fund. But it’s even worse when that money is not used for the purpose and in the manner that the donors intended and that the people expected.

It’s unacceptable that we have fangless, lifeless entities like the Integrity Commission. If the Public Service Commission has dismissed or disciplined any public officer for corruption, we have not heard about it. Still, the allegations continue.

As a rule, allegations of corruption should not be made against anyone, if they cannot be proven in a Court of Law. Parliamentary privilege should not be used to unfairly impugn the characters of MPs. We have had enough of that disgusting practice. Those who knowingly peddle lies as the truth for political advantage are just as corrupt as those who steal from the public purse. As the prominent Methodist Minister, socialist and pacifist, Baron Donald Soper once noted “what is morally wrong cannot be politically right.”

We make a big deal that Saint Lucia is the Land of Laureates. But every act of corruption that goes unpunished and every allegation of corruption that is not proven, only increases the perception of Saint Lucia as the Land of the Lawless.

Our politicians and our people have a choice: to teach ourselves and others that politics is not about corruption, calculation, lies, intrigue, under-the-table-deals; but that it is about honesty, fairness, integrity, and improving ourselves and our country.

by The Virginian

6 Comments

  1. Good article. As you rightly allude to, it’s not just about having laws, it’s about enforcing them. The nations problem is not actually one of law, the constitution is perfectly fine, many laws on the statute book are fine – it’s because nobody is policing them. The criminal and civil courts are woefully slow. The forensics department isn’t working. The civil service is unresponsive to people’s needs and their total cost is largely responsible for the debt problem of this country.

    Until someone comes in and sorts that out everyone will keep going around in circles. It’s boring but essential functioning if government. But no politician has yet demonstrated an aptitude for far sighted thinking and attention to detail. We are just left with smooth talking incompetents.

  2. Letter: The path to modern day scientific socialism in the Caribbean

    Published on February 28, 2015 Email To Friend Print Version

    Dear Sir:

    Most Caribbeans are unaware that their governments are gradually leading them into a better life, a life of equality and better times. It’s only a socialist government that can take you there; it’s only a socialist government that can carry the flag on your behalf.

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    Remarkable leaders like Ralph E. Gonsalves, Kenny Anthony and many others in the Caribbean are gradually leading their people towards the richness of life that can be found in places like Cuba. Where people are happy with their lot and have wonderful health care and education.

    Labour, social democratic and socialist parties are now a major political force in democracies around the world, with numerous member parties of the Socialist International leading governments or representing the main opposition force. It is highly recommended that everyone reads each online edition of Socialist International.

    Instead of leading people in the old fashioned method of a coup and revolution, today’s clever Marxists are leading their people forward to the same utopia without violence, but unlike revolution it takes time to carry out the scientific socialist method of converting the people to proper social thinking and behaviour. Today, schoolchildren are being led forward at a quicker pace towards socialism than their parents, and rightly so, because our socialist future rests in the hands of our children. Socialist governments employ socialist teachers, which helps guarantee our children being put on the right path at the earliest ages.

    We in the socialist movement promise to bring a better life for you and your children, to get rid of the failed capitalism system and methods and send them back to the old imperialists where they belong. Our people deserve better and that is the road we are all currently on. Forget the ‘Yellow Brick Road” and march with us on the “Red Brick Road”, a road to a better future.

    Most of you have noticed that the Caribbean rich have got much poorer over the last 15 years. That is part of the gradual policy and process of the quiet march towards true socialism. You may have also noticed that many of those unable to work towards our socialist future have left the islands to work in countries such as the USA (“the Empire”). That is also good because it has left us with a populace that is malleable to form into a true socialist society. A society where there is no need for the continual disturbance of the people by holding public elections. A society whereby we can choose a leader, a figurehead, someone who is loved and can be at the head for many years to come. That will give us a comfort that we can embrace and endear without the bother of fighting among ourselves to appoint leaders for very short periods, before the process is repeated time and time again.

    May I suggest you begin by reading “Progressive Politics For a Fairer World”

    One real leap forward in the Caribbean has been the formation of ALBA by Cuba and Venezuela, the very real commitment by the foresight of Caribbean leaders who have joined their countries. ALBA’s future is guaranteed and each member state has a framework to work within to achieve Scientific Modern Socialism at the quickest possible route, which benefits the people. That is what ALBA promises you, assistance to achieve socialism in the soonest times, by assisting your leaders financially and politically.

    May I wish well all the Caribbean comrades; keep working for a better future.

    Nigel X. Huggins

  3. Let us continue to bring the truth to light, I found this on Caribbean news now and would like to alert the St. Lucian people on what is really going on with those politicians.

  4. What is really going on?
    There is no easy way to summarize the problem at least not in a single sentence or spiel that works at a drinks party. We live in an age that encourages full consultation as a key resource where several options should be made available to the electorates. The age old notion which insists that countries who face economic crises are best suited to socialist principles, (not socialist habits) no longer applies and needs to be reconsidered.
    In retrospect the picture being painted by “POOR PEOPLE FED UP “in his discourse, sounds more like the creation of crabs in a barrel after Robing Hood had taken charge of ‘whats going on’.
    In this modern twenty first century there are more socialist millionaires in power than there were 30-40 years ago, that is the nature of the corruption and bone of contention.
    Some modern day socialist politicians today believe they can sell their own mother on the road to success, if they become successful they can always buy her back.
    The problem in the Caribbeans has always been a voting system based on uncertainty, the old battle between the have and have not no longer applies, collective work and responsibility is the key, as we all have a stake in the economic success of the nation. Can I suggest to POOR PEOPLE FED UP play a few Bob Marley tunes now and then and give the reading of International Socialism back to its author to edit.
    Reading between the lines it appears that the present generation of politicians in the Caribbean come from a very different breed, often laden with degrees in law, business and criminology accumulated during their tenure in office, which guarantees additional qualifications as experts at abuse of power and how to oppose the rule of law.

  5. For years I have followed with interest the machinations of political and judical life in St Lucia, and it has not always pleasant, or hope inspiring.
    Once à pig has it’s nose in the trough it is hard to get it away from it, so with corruption, it has gone on for so long, unchecked and with no accountability for misdeeds, it will never be corrected.
    I speak as one who has sought the assistance of both the above mentioned entities in a legal issue, only to find how deep this evil runs.

    All the best your efforts St Lucia, but it will take people of great courage and integrity to root it out

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