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THA post mortem: allegations and party financing
The truth of the ole mas played during an election campaign can be judged by the silence with regard to the allegations made by both sides during the contest for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). Those who heard the campaign allegations must now expect that the Attorney General and the Prime Minister will pass on the information they hold about the alleged corruption in the Milshriv deal to the police for investigation—that is separate from the claims that the THA acted without proper authority, which is a matter for the courts.
It is reasonable to assume that the AG and PM will inform the DPP so he can have the police pursue the culprits who allegedly made off with large chunks of state funds in the land deal. So, too, will Chief Secretary Orville London instigate a formal investigation into the source of funds which allowed Ashworth Jack to construct a mansion on “pumpkin and bodi.”
The investigation will have to find out if Jack really attempted to sell Tobago to the UNC in exchange for the financing of his multi million-dollar mansion by a contractor who finished the PM’s home. National Security Minister Jack Warner must also pass on information he has to the police to investigate alleged corrupt practices of London, whom he alleged illegally/unethically owns shares in gas station/s etc.
What of the slimy allegations made against London concerning his personal integrity? So, too, must the Government pursue allegations that the other London was able to claim financial reimbursement for medical bills to which he was not entitled. That the allegations made during the campaign seem to have been trumped-up mamaguy for a gullible electorate is a serious indictment against the political parties, political culture and electorate.
It means that the electorate is not taken seriously by the parties in the belief that it amounts to an emotional mob ready to be swayed by mauvais langue and emotional appeals. In one era it was rum-and-roti politics. Today, with the hold of information technology, it may be cell phones and the always present carrots—jobs for the boys—and contracts for the bigger boys who contribute to survival of the party.
In its response mainly to the campaign thrust of the TOP/PP, the electorate en masse refused to succumb to the bait. However, a large percentage voted with the allegations and offerings of the TOP/PP. Similarly, 60 per cent either voted with the PNM or resisted the TOP/PP without requiring a full accounting from the party and leader for the 12 years his regime was in office and the billions spent.
To compound the unreality and frank dishonesty of electioneering is the reality of the parties having collected tens of millions—reported to be $20 million from the TOP and $5 million spent by the PNM—without accounting from where the funds have come.
Both these parties and the PP, are on record as calling for greater transparency in how campaign funds become available and constitutional and institutional change to force accountability and transparency on the parties. Indeed, each party routinely alleges that among the sources of campaign funds are those which come from drugs and arms dealers. Yet not one official of either party has come forward with a credible explanation of the source/s of the funds.
In the circumstances in which parties do not account for their campaign funds in a systematic fashion and by legal requirement, the society cannot make serious judgments about the individuals and institutions the parties will be beholden to in office. Last year, Minister Jack Warner, when asked about the firms which sponsored the visit by Shaquille O’Neil, simply said he was not going to reveal the name of the firm or individual.
As part of the antidote to tribal herding instincts and party fanaticism, which allow for corruption to fester in the political culture, the electorate must come to understand the battles fought for the right of every individual arrived at the voting age to cast his/her ballot without reference to financial status, ownership of property, social class, colour, ethnicity and gender. The vote must be valued above cheap blandishments and rank dishonesty of leaders.
People have to force the change on the politicians and parties; they never voluntarily hand over power.
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