‘When the lights go on, the cockroaches scatter’, is what popped into my mind when I read about the Ministers of Finance, Health and Trade and Industry, the Attorney General and the Adrian Scoon party boat issue.
A special restaurant licence was issued to businessman Scoon without the approval of Finance Minister Colm Imbert. Surely the granting of such licences is the job of the Comptroller of Customs, so I don’t understand the problem.
Was it that the 100 Boxing Day partygoers aboard the MV Ocean Pelican could have broken the Public Health Ordinance and begun a super-spreader Covid activity? What triggered the police to board the vessel?
Whatever the reason, the Minister of Finance is not taking one for the team and supporting the view that the MV Ocean Pelican was a floating restaurant docked at Chaguaramas.
He has broken ranks with three of his cabinet colleagues and has launched an investigation to find out how ‘…despite clear written instructions to the contrary on 3 December 2021, the Customs and Excise Division issued the said licences, without the approval of the Minister’.
One can just imagine the tension at the next cabinet meeting and the implications for those other ministers who may be in the process of finalising their workarounds.
The party boat issue is not new in our society. As a matter of fact, it is symptomatic of the systemic breakdown that has occurred in every institution. For everything, the go-to strategy is to find the workaround.
Scale up the shenanigans of this party boat issue and we see how the system can be manipulated and how people in the circle can be confident and believe that, as long as they are in the know, they can engage the workaround.
What businessman Scoon did has unfortunately come to exemplify the way we do business by using workarounds. His mother, the Minister of Trade and Industry, may have publicly washed her hands and said that her son ‘is a big man’—but that does not change the fact that she has some responsibility for nurturing a young man, whose entrenched value is to default to working around the rules.
His alleged phone call to the Attorney General while being questioned by the police is instructive.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh peeped out from behind the curtain and said that his legal advice was not to comment since ‘the matter is now the subject of a police investigation’.
The optimistic side of me is saying that the Minister of Finance has placed a stake in the road because it is the first time in this administration that we are publicly seeing disagreement within the Cabinet. His ego is so large that he is unlikely to leave this investigation open-ended and will see it through to some conclusion.
Hopefully someone will be charged with misbehaviour in public office or some other breach.
If this happens, then 2022 will be a good year. It began with the Minister of Finance taking a stand by not agreeing to take one for the team by saying that he did not approve the party boat and launching an investigation.
I look forward to seeing more of this kind of behaviour, which is transparent and focused on consequence management.