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Corruption strangling soul of the nation
Corruption, in all its variegated forms, and entrenched deep in the society and culture, not crime, the latter being a fallout effect of the former, is the most pernicious problem facing T&T in the 21st century. This evil infests itself on the poor and systematically destroys the soul of a nation and culture is no more institutionalised than in the financing of political parties by corporate interests that seek first preference to contracts funded by the public purse.
This means that corruption is endemic at the highest political and corporate business levels; business executives hand out hundreds of millions to politicians and especially the major political parties as a means of purchasing influence in the award of hundreds of billions of dollars in contracts, and the politicians, from prime ministers, opposition leaders down, accept the undocumented funding as they in turn seek to bribe their way into control of the Treasury.
Commentators, editorial writers, civic minded groups such as Fixin T&T, the T&T Chapter of Transparency International, those religious leaders who still have a conscience, Independent Senator Helen Drayton and a few others have consistently called on the national Parliament to pass laws and regulations to control campaign financing, to no avail. Politicians are simply not interested in making transparent their sources of funds with which they seek to buy their way into political office.
In mamaguy talk, AG Ramlogan says the PP government will contemplate campaign finance legislation in January 2016—what contempt for the nation! Dr Keith Rowley and the PNM’s position is to the effect that the party is interested in campaign finance but only if the ruling party is.
The focus must therefore shift to exerting pressure on the business community, the chambers of commerce, the manufacturers associations, to implement measures that will require their members to adhere to very transparent systems and practices to allow citizens to monitor campaign funding by the business community.
If that is not done and strictly implemented not one chamber, not one business operator can thereafter make a convincing complaint about corruption in government. Here are a few examples of the entrenched corrupt practices.
The award of billion-dollar contracts to businesses which fund the campaigns of parties and collect when their party wins; the slaughter of Dana Seetahal to prevent her from revealing some form of corruption and crime; the notorious attempt by the Government to make it possible for a group of its financiers to escape prosecution through the premature passage of the Section 34 legislation; the insertion of a clerk in the position of director of national intelligence—with the PM saying “move on”; the free handout of TT$55 million to the Christian churches, no stipulations in place; the quiet acceptance of the bribe money by our spiritual leaders; with full contempt for the churches, the PM challenges them to give back the money.
The hand out of vouchers by the Prime Minister’s office and the ready acceptance by journalists of the bribes; the annual contribution by unknown business operators to allow the Prime Minister to be Santa to children and their parents—the contributors have no other objective than to make the PM more likeable to voters.
Corruption is at the heart of criminals warning Dr Kokaram-Maharaj not to accept the position at the regional health authority that awards tens of millions annually in contracts; Inshan Ishmael threatens to give video exposure to criminal activities, he is warned of possible violence; corruption and incompetence are entrenched in the construction of the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway, the Armstrong Committee says certain feasibilities were inadequate, many were not even attempted, but the Environmental Management Authority issues Clearance Certificates.
Corruption was built into the infrastructure of LifeSport: the Cabinet and Minister of Finance increased grants from a few millions to hundreds of millions, no questions asked, no adequate reporting by the minister required; the Cabinet paid $7.5 million to drag an almost worthless water truck out of a ditch.
The importation and re-export of narcotics by organisations with large capital, the police lock up fellas with two sticks of weed; mass wastage in ministries reported annually by the Auditor General; boards of state enterprises are appointed on the basis of party and kinship.
The Governor of the Central Bank, and he is an official who needs to be taken seriously, says business operators are hoarding, and worse, using foreign exchange to trade with partners who have links to terrorists. Has he called “999”? You name it, the most egregious problems of the society and their causes are buried deep in corruption.
To be continued
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