Friday, May 15, 2009

The Incorruptible Ostrich

The trouble with having lawyers in charge of the country is that they have a different perspective from normal folk. We see right and wrong; lawyers see legal and illegal. And unfortunately, when the lawyers are leaders of the lawmakers, if something is illegal, that's easily fixed. If something is legal, it doesn't really matter whether it's wrong or right, the only thing that matters is that no one will go to jail...ever! Ethics and morality have been put through the shredder and are no longer relevant in our democracy's struggle for survival.

The media is abuzz this week over one TV station's offer of a reward for information leading to the conviction of individuals involved in corruption at the Ministry of Lands. Earlier this week the Prime Minister was on another TV station proclaiming his personal incorruptibility. I don't dispute that the PM himself is not corrupt, but he should be careful for whom he puts his head on the block, as he has now done for the Lands Minister.

The PM has long asked for proof of corruption, and he renewed that request again this week, specifically in relation to the Lands issue. The problem is, being mortal, he suffers from a blind spot where 'friends' are concerned. Being a lawyer, he deals with that blind spot by demanding a level of proof normally reserved for a courtroom. Minister Coy is, to date, the only minister unschooled (let's be polite) enough to leave that kind of proof. You can bet that his colleagues have learned from his mistake, and then go double or nothing that Coy's not the only member of Cabinet who operates in the certain knowledge that Ministerial rank puts you above the law. Remember, he gets to be Minister again after a six-month holiday, and we haven't heard of any real penalties for the constituent he intervened to here to email info about penalties, I'd love to be corrected.

A memorable example of the triumph of denial over doing what's right would be Ms Haylock's contract between NICH and one Gegg. This document was procedurally suspect, ethically questionable, but not actually illegal, and so Ms Haylock, a good friend of our leader, was excused with a light slap on the wrist while the Minister who dared to question the transaction was given das boot, an outcome many pundits predicted. And so it will apparently go into eternity, cyclical but endless.

Let me say very clearly here that "the PUP did way worse," "this is the way it's always been" and all the other similar expressions are absolutely unacceptable to us voters. Equally unacceptable is the notion of a leader who closes his eyes and proclaims his personal innocence while others run rampant. "I didn't burn down the house" does not absolve you if you stood by watching the flames consume it. We fired the PUP because we didn't like what they were doing; doing ten percent less doesn't mean your crowd is better, it just means they aren't (yet) as bad. But yes, I do acknowledge that it is progress to have an incorrupt leader -it just isn't enough progress.

Prime Minister, Edmund Burke said it best: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Do you want to go down in history as the incorruptible leader who presided over rampant, unchecked corruption? Or would you prefer our descendants to remember you as the true leader, the statesman who made the hard decisions, who punished even his friends harshly if they did wrong, who made our country a shining example of democracy and discipline? It's not too late for the latter.

What will your legacy be, Honourable Prime Minister? Incorruptible ostrich or exemplary leader?


  1. Good points all. I tend to think of Mr Barrow as the parent who thinks his children can do no wrong. You didn't mention them, but what about Juliet's loan/grant? What about Zenaida as mayor of a city she doesn't live in? There are other examples, many of them. A good parent also must be a good disciplinarian who recognizes that his children aren't perfect and tries to keep them on the right path. Honestly, it doesn't look like Mr Barrow is the parent we can count on for that even-handed discipline.

  2. History's main function is a view into the past, to make the future better, or in some cases admit that nothing's changed. Belize's Political History fits into the second. Perhaps as the writer puts it, this Party is 10% "less" corrupted. Our P.M., who is a lawyer by profession, has done extremely well- look at his track record and client base. The line of ethical and unethical, moral and immoral, has become almost invisible. He actually commended Boots for owning his own company, so he can build homes "for the poor", and yes, so what if he makes a profit. Boots promised to put it back into the housing scheme to benefit the "poor". C'mon...I'm no schmuck. And I'm no OSTRICH. This is but one of the many schemes occurring in our little Country. Spare the rod and spoil the child....that's our leader's motto. He needs to take off those blinders, admit to the corruption rampant in his party and seriously work on making all those in power as incorruptible as he is.
    May 16, 2009 10:27 AM

  3. Just got this story right after I read yours, and I wanted to share it. Things happen in mature democracies too, but there the police and judiciary take notice, and corruption is put out in the open for 'naming and shaming'. Here's the link: