Ian 'Magic' Hughes
Thursday, 29 March 2012 02:30
By Ian Magic Hughes
Antigua St John's - There was a time when Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer would flinch at the thought of corruption, much less corruption in the United Progressive Party (UPP).
As a matter of fact, Spencer went as far as to state that he had "ZERO TOLERANCE" for that stuff called corruption.
I imagined that Spencer would NEVER tolerate any of his colleagues who engage in corrupt practices, and for many it was a bold and extremely necessary stance by the nation’s chief servant.
Wrap Spencer in white from head to toe, for when it comes to corruption, he would have none of that.
The prime minister also went as far as to move a number of bills through Parliament to apparently address such practices.
Thus the genesis of the trilogy of anti-corruption legislation: The Freedom of Information Act, the Integrity in Public Life Act, and the Freedom of Information Act.
Such legislation would have been foreign to the former administration, which has been embroiled in numerous scandals of corruption.
Guns to Columbia and MBS inquiries are just two such issues, while the IHI matter, where the late owner of West Indies Oil, Bruce Rappaport, repaid millions of dollars for his part in the scandal comes to mind.
Anyway, those days are behind us, drowned under the blue tsunami of transparency and accountability when Spencer led the UPP to victory in 2004.
Thanks Mr Prime Minister, we are on the road, or may I say wave of change, corruption out the door, never again, never again.
Not so fast.
It would appear that Spencer’s ZERO TOLERANCE was nothing but HOT AIR.
Now I know that many believe that Spencer may be many things, but corrupt, impossible.
I am not accusing Spencer, especially without any shred of evidence, of being corrupt.
I am reminded though of these words from my mother, “The upholder is worse than the thief.”
Again, I am not accusing anyone of corruption, but I have a few observations and questions which anyone who has "ZERO TOLERANCE" for corruption would address.
Remember that much publicised resignation letter that then deputy prime minister Wilmoth Daniel wrote to Spencer less than two months after the UPP beat the ALP the second time in 2009?
“Prime Minister, several months ago I was approached by a fellow minister, during my tenure as Minister of Public Works.
“He informed me that if I agreed to support the purchase of the above-mentioned property, I would receive US$100,000 immediately from the owner, Mr. Elias Hadeed.
“Furthermore, that Mr Hadeed would give me another US$100,000 upon completion of the sale. Naturally, I declined this offer as it would have been totally against my principles and ethics.
“At the time I chose not to take the matter further, in the hope that the said minister would see the error of this course of action.”
I await the details of the investigation into that matter.
Two things should have resulted.
If Daniel was truthful, a ZERO TOLERANCE Spencer should have dealt with this accused minister according to his stated standards.
If Daniel lied, then likewise Spencer should have "run the deputy" out of town, clearing his seat in Cabinet.
For all his high standards and extremely low tolerance level, Spencer still sits with both ministers in Cabinet.
The fencing scandal and the subsequent sticking plaster called an investigation don’t cut it for anyone with extremely high ethical standards.
On the real, how could anyone justify $8.6 M for a 669-seat facility at St Johnsons Village or a bathroom costing $600,000 at Yasco?
The prime minister surely does not appear too perturbed, even though these projects don’t pass the smell test of integrity.
The price tags for sidewalks and roads under the Spencer-led administration are incredibly high, and should be investigated.
So what has the prime minister done?
Then there is the hot topic of the Wadadli Power Plant with the price tag of US$52 M and counting, which Spencer appears to be defending with his blood comment.
Any reasonable person, much less one with ZERO TOLERANCE for corruption, must recognise it is not a brand new plant as is advertised.
What Spencer needs to recognise is that there are many in this society who have had enough of the bleeding of the poor for those in high places.
He holds one of the highest offices in the land, and he has to lead by example, stamping out that dreaded disease called corruption at the top by those in positions of authority.
Incidentally, while many things are blamed for the destruction of societies, recent research suggests that corruption by elected officials is the main cause of this degredation.
We've got to be very careful here. Remember, if we continue on this path we may be moving away from a democracy to a form of government we may not want to be associated.
A state of unrestrained political corruption is known as a kleptocracy, literally meaning "rule by thieves".
In addition, though we tend to measure corruption in dollars and cents, political corruption is the use of power by government officials for illegitimate private gain.
It’s time for Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer to step up to the plate and address cancer, perceived or real, for the benefit of Antigua & Barbuda.
How about that?