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Mind-boggling squandermania: But Rowley must loose lions on culprits

If a mere ten percent of the sums of money quoted by almost every new PNM minister as having gone to waste or astray under the previous government is factual, then at least a billion dollars was squandered or stolen during the tenure of the People’s Partnership.

Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar celebrates victory at the 2010 General Elections. (Copyright Frederic Dubray/AFP 2015)
Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar celebrates victory at the 2010 General Elections.
(Copyright Frederic Dubray/AFP 2015)

 

If the ministers were accurate and truthful in their allegations of profligacy, then an astounding TT$10 billion dollars, at least, found its way into the bank accounts of assorted thieves and accomplices.

The allegations were so startling, they had me speechless. A billion dollars in fees paid to select attorneys for representation that could have been had at a fraction of that. Houses constructed at inordinately high costs, much more than what private home owners would pay—and that without the benefits of economies of scale.

The much vaunted early childhood education centres costing three, four times what they did when the project began under the Patrick Manning government. Roads restored by the heavily-indebted WASA after pipe-laying at exorbitant costs, and over surfaces well beyond the scope of works. Fraudulent distribution of “food cards” to the tune of tens of millions.

And they have not scratched the surface of what may have been siphoned off mega-projects such as the TT$7 billion highway to Point Fortin, the TT$1 billion wastewater plant, the TT$500 million Debe campus, the TT$1.5 billion children’s hospital, to name the more prominent.

Photo: The site for UWI's Debe campus. (Courtesy sta.uwi.edu)
Photo: The site for UWI’s Debe campus.
(Courtesy sta.uwi.edu)

It is not that we did not suspect that the politicians were squandering, maybe even stealing the oil dollars as they flowed into the coffers by the billions, at an average of US$85 a barrel for the duration of the PP’s tenure.

We expect politicians to waste taxpayers’ money: hell, it does not come out of their pockets, although a reverse-flow is not unusual. It’s our money that they waste or steal, and we have no say over the banditry except once in five years—nearly six, last time around.

It is the sheer scale of the squandermania that boggles the mind: not millions, not billions, but tens of billions—gone, buried in concrete and pitch, under over-priced bridges and roads, and in bank accounts that are beyond the reach of the short arms of our law enforcement agencies.

And you know what is more distressing? You and I know that not one political thief will make a jail, quite unlike the destitute mother who shoplifts to feed her starving children, or the underpaid father who “tief a lil ting’ to send his kids to school.

I challenge Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to show me otherwise.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures to supporters at Balisier House after the election results on September 7. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures to supporters at Balisier House after the election results on September 7.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

I do not expect, nor do I want, the new Government to waste time and more money on commissions of enquiry, costly forensic investigations and similar devices that take us nowhere.

The Uff Commission sat for months, the CLICO/HCU probe for longer, but to date not one of the thieves who stole taxpayers, depositors or policyholders’ money has been brought to book.

Like the late calypsonian Penguin’s Devil, they “shaking up dey tail in people face”.

So no, I don’t think the population would want to see scarce good money thrown after the bad billions already lost.

However, where there is clear evidence of malfeasance, loose the lion on the culprits, whoever they are, whatever their status or office: they are capital thieves.

More important, the PM has a great opportunity to put an end to waste and banditry under his watch, as he promised on the campaign trail.

I note the cutbacks in air travel for all public officials, and the reining in of abuse of public vehicles as positive signs. Let every high official know that wrongdoing, especially fiddling with public funds, will be met with the full force of the law.

Photo: Former Sport Minister Brent Sancho (second from right) is flanked by ex-Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and former World Cup 2006 star Stern John during the opening of the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Former Sport Minister Brent Sancho (second from right) is flanked by ex-Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and former World Cup 2006 star Stern John during the opening of the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

To misquote big brother Makandal Daaga when he spoke on the PP platform as he too enjoyed fruits-of-the-boom, “Never again!”

Now, a word to my colleagues in the State-owned media and other government agencies who found themselves wildly feeding in the multi-million-dollar trough, so much so you couldn’t tell the difference between hog, politician or journalist.

When all else fails, when leaders and institutions abandon the people, they expect journalists and writers to rise to their defence, to rescue them from abuse and pillage.

In the words of master-writer Frederick Forsyth, best known for his thrillers, especially “Day of the Jackal”, but who was and continues to consider himself a reporter told The Outsider in 2015: “A journalist should never join the Establishment, no matter how tempting the blandishments.

“It is our job to hold power to account, not join it in a world that increasingly obsesses over the gods of power, money and fame…

Photo: Journalism is under threat.
Photo: Journalism is under threat.

“A journalist must remain detached…watching, noting, probing, commenting, but never joining…”

AboutRaffique Shah

Raffique Shah
Raffique Shah is a columnist for over three decades, founder of the T&T International Marathon, co-founder of the ULF with Basdeo Panday and George Weekes, a former sugar cane farmers union leader and an ex-Siparia MP. He trained at the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was arrested, court-martialled, sentenced and eventually freed on appeal after leading 300 troops in a mutiny at Teteron Barracks during the Black Power revolution of 1970.

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137 comments

  1. Loose the lions by all means. Just do not restrict the trials and punishments to one party.

  2. Maybe if trinidad was a serious country. Elections time come. accuse the ruling party of corruption. win the election on it. business as usual

  3. Guess Rowley too will make a jail along with d whole of d THA

  4. Let’s do this.Set a precedent.And if not jail,bullpistle at least.

  5. Let’s do this.Set a precedent.And if not jail,bullpistle at least.

  6. If no one is at least charged and before the courts the Govt will lose credibility

  7. Not only the lions the whole zoo

  8. Jail only made for the grass roots people not one person in any government going to jail only small fry going there.

  9. corruption started since we we gained independence and ppl talking about it as though it now started

  10. I know it seems longer, but the gov’t is just over 1 month old. There is nothing we know, have seen or heard from Dr Rowley to indicate that this govt would not go after the corruption in the past administration. Trust me, they are fully aware of what’s required. The one mistake would be to run around like a mad people talking about who should be charged or not. Taking that risk could make you end up like Anand Ramlogan and Calder Hart, a lot of hot air and nothing to prove corruption. ‘Ra-ra-ing’ like the fmr AG does nothing; we have to let the process work.
    As blatant as the allegations may seem, proper investigation of gov’t corruption takes time, if you want to ensure you have a ‘winnable case’. What we have seen during the budget debate was the gov’t laying out the case for criminal investigations that are sure to commence. I do not believe this gov’t would lay those blatant allegations out in public and do nothing. They campaigned on this and, again, we have seen nothing to show otherwise.
    ALSO, as of YESTERDAY the process has started and the fmr gov’t is already ‘helping’. TWO investigations have commenced right before our eyes, the $290 million the gov’t allocated to the Couva Hospital and the situation where two lawyers were representing a dead client. What do people think those are? Those are investigations into possible criminal activities! It’s happening!
    So we have to let the process take it’s course. A ‘rush’ into these issues is EXACTLY how cases like these are ‘lost’ in the courts. What Shah and company should focus on, for the time being, is putting pressure on the police to give us the status on ONGOING INVESTIGATIONS into wrong doing in the past administration. Why can’t we hear about ‘the weed’, why hasn’t Anand been charged for witness tampering, what’s going on with ’emailgate’? That’s the pressure that’s needed because if Dr Rowley releases ALL the ‘lions’ in Africa and we do not have a police service that’s functioning, it means nothing. Let’s pressure the police now!

  11. How can anyone be reprimanded when it will implicate the same #financiers that have been jumping between PNM and UNC over the years?

    The cartels will never allow it.

    Or any present government will quickly be replaced.

  12. The bottom line for me is this: if no one faces any real and serious consequences for their malfeasance, corruption and plain old thievery, then we are lost. This is the opportunity. We are on a knife’s edge. Our society will continue to rot and devolve into lawlessness, immorality, anarchy and chaos. #JailTheOrcs

  13. You know,,

    the PNM passed a bill to make everyone in the UFF commission and Clico Enquiry exempt from Prosecution …

    BUT — let us talk about section 34, which did not single out Ish and Steve, but if passed was applicable to EVERYONE ,,,

    let us call the PP corrupt …

    but the PNM who passed special legislation to protect a select few (including the current Prime Minister who should make a jail based on information revealed in the Clico Inquiry) ..
    That is “Morals and Ethic” , for you. …….

    and not one Jark Arse, bray about the injustice with this bill…

    And freaking helen drayton, broke ranks with the Independents to vote FOR the bill …..

    • Only an idiot or an innocent talks about “breaking ranks with the Independents;” check the dictionary if you need an objective definition of “Independent.”

  14. As the WASA whistleblower found out there are still deeply entrenched political appointments monitoring the evidence gathering process in statutory bodies.

  15. I don’t want to hear anything about corruption and tiefing unless at least one former gov’t mnister is before the courts

  16. Following up on my last post; how can one reduce VAT and yet expect to get more revenue from it? It means that items that zero rated will now have a 12.5% VAT charge. Your grocery bill is going to be higher – much higher. The good news for some is that while basic necessities have increased in price, alcohol and cigarettes may get a 2.5% VAT reduction.

    It is not a matter of liking the PP or hating the PNM, it is a matter of wanting the best for T&T regardless of who is in power.

  17. I would really like to see objective, investigative journalism. While in the recent past some fed off the fat… today they seem all hushed and rosey-eyed, still on honeymoon bliss due to PNM affection. I am disappointed in the Trinidad Express for being biased in their stories with slants to bolster the PNM.

    PP was wrong, but they got away with it due to sleeping watchdogs; I am concerned the same will happen with the PNM. It has started, but the dailies are not highlighting it. for are the effects of all these proposed taxes on the middle class or small to medium sized businesses? These measures will be detrimental. Why was Agriculture given .8 billion – scarcely enough to cover recurrent expenditure despite being merged with other Ministries. This means no new programmes, and staff cutbacks.

    Much more can be said, but readers will not read long posts….

  18. William Ross, I tip my hat to to you! Independent minded Trinis need to get organized.

  19. How long must we wait before we see some sign that the government is intent on dealing with this in an appropriate manner? http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-34430597

  20. Politicians, senior civil servants and other well connected “businessmen” of this country have historically evaded any kind of sanction. In fact the exact opposite occurs, imagine UNC financier Ishwar Galbaransingh being awarded a $14 million government contract! I have to ask myself what kind of country am I living in, where something like this occurs and nobody bats an eyelid, business as usual? It’s obvious that corruption is tolerated by certain sectors of the community and those that don’t seem unable to get anything done about it. I am not talking about a witch hunt but mounting criminal prosecutions and retrieving stolen assets. And let me state categorically the last thing we want is another government inquiry. What’s been lacking is the political will. I am not listening, it’s all theatrics now. I’m not taking any notice of those saying it’s different this time, they serious, when appropriate action has commenced, only then will I stand up and take notice, until then it’s just ole talk, business as usual! http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2015-07-23/namdevco-packing-contract-ish-was-lowest-bidder

  21. Talk about Crime in Political Places

  22. This is the opportunity to cleanse the political process since public opinion is no longer confined to a few privileged media-savvy individuals but now the broad sensitivities of a rapidly expanding mix of social media participants where the true essence of democratic scrutiny unfolds almost instantaneously!

  23. I get what your saying. I’m just saying the mindset needs to change. Even if there was the fear of getting in trouble for littering, it wouldn’t stop most here, who do. You know in your heart, without being told, that it’s wrong but it seems that a lot don’t care enough about themselves and their fellow countrymen, to have to be told not to do something. I was never told by anyone that it was wrong, I just knew that it had it’s place ( in a garbage can. That’s what they are for ) no one ever told me it was against the law and the law didn’t make me think twice about doing it. I know we are just talking about littering here but it’s just an example and if it’s such a struggle to get people to do the right thing without being told to, that’s what makes me frustrated. I see people driving like idiots and it doesn’t make me want to do the same and I don’t need a law in place to make me think twice about doing it.

  24. Not this time! This is early days and this catastrophic political banditry cannot and will not be pushed below the carpet.

  25. You know what the difference between Trinis and Canadians?

    Canucks know if they break the law there are consequences.

    You act naive. Well your talk is naive. Parents first my good man. I never needed anyone to look up to outside my family. Let us start there.

    There must be zero tolerance for crime, from littering to traffic offenses.

    When that happens we will see a paradigm switch. Until then?

  26. By setting an example in the way they do their work and by giving them opportunities that are worthwhile. Get them involved in the community. Give them a reason to take pride in their country, someone to inspire to be, to look up to, that is not a criminal. It starts with the small stuff. It doesn’t cost money to take pride in your surroundings. A simple thing like not having to be told to not litter and pollute this beautiful place. Start small and work from there. I see so many examples of people who don’t give a damn about how their actions affect others around them. the younger generation is learning by example.

  27. What about personal responsibility? You like cliches? How us the government to look after the youth?

    What about parents? Religious organizations?

    The crooks have to be brought to justice. That’s how we look after the youth. We show then skullduggery doh pay.

  28. Nothing ever gets done. All time is spent blaming the previous administration instead of fixing the never ending ongoing problems in this country. Stop building things that you can’t afford to maintain. Fix the existing infrastructure first. Next look after the country’s youth. They are going to be in charge before we know it and the hope for a future of TT.

  29. Bring on the super tax. This has been done by many nations where obvious price gouging has occurred. Dare the guilty to challenge you.

  30. if u is a police or politician u good to go