By FRED LIVERMORE
All of the daily media had a field day with the recent announcement of the arrests of former Attorney General, Anand Ramlogan and recently resigned UNC Senator, Gerard Ramdeen, on allegations (relative to white collar criminality) of conspiracy to defraud the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.
This revelation comes at a time when this twin-island republic is absolutely tired of the daily menu and diet of human suffering and of brutal, fiendish destruction of human life.
Every day testifies to the increase of insanity, murder, and suicide. Who can doubt that satanic agencies are at work among men with increasing activity to distract and corrupt the mind, and defile and destroy the body? Have not greed and ambition and love of pleasure as strong a hold on men’s hearts?
State of Affairs
Truly, citizens of Trinidad and Tobago are living in the midst of an “epidemic of crime,” at which thoughtful, God-fearing men everywhere stand aghast.
The corruption that prevails, it is beyond the power of the human pen to describe. Every day brings fresh revelations of political strife, bribery, and fraud. Every day brings its heart-sickening record of violence and lawlessness, of indifference to one another.
Where do the solutions lie? Is it in human flesh? Is it in institutions that are currently failing the country? Is something wrong with the oath taken when assuming political office? Has public trust taken a nose dive and fallen at an alarming low level? Is there a history of bribery and corruption by political administrations since the country attained independence?
Can the two main political parties claim innocence and be exempted from corruption when in office? Sadly, the truth is that white-collar criminality, bribery, corruption and money laundering have grown progressively worse under these administrations and in more subtle and sophisticated ways.
As a political party, and one that held the reins of governance for more than forty years, the People’s National Movement (PNM) can never hold itself out as a stellar example on transparency, accountability and integrity or as a paragon of virtue.
Rather in its machinery and sinews of operation, working with mysterious secrecy and consummate craft, a compendium of national disgrace, shame, humiliation and embarrassment eventually emerge in national inquiries and probes and commissions like the Gene Miles fiasco and the Gas Station affair, the Johnny O Hollaran massive money laundering inferno, Sam Wallace the Caroni Race Track scandal, and too many others to mention.
Throughout their tenure of office, the PNM has left an undoubted legacy of corruption scandals, whilst the money and the politicians run freely. That is the nature of the beast of politics. As former Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday stated, “politics has a morality of its own”, or better yet, its own ten commandments predicated on the adulation of power, position, and worship of the Almighty dollar. The carnal nature of man is also governed by the lusts of the eyes, pride of life and the lusts of the flesh. Who can deny that fact?
Looking at White Collar Crimes
But what is white collar crime? Internationally renowned Sociologist Edwin Sutherland reportedly coined the phrase “white-collar crime” in 1939 to describe frauds committed by business and government professionals.
These crimes are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust for financial gain including obtaining or avoiding the loss of money, property, or services or to secure a personal or business advantage. These are not victimless crimes.
In his practicum, White Collar Crime and Everyday Corruption: From the Colonial to the Behavioural, Dr Dylan Kerrigan (University of the West Indies) said, “Conversations about corruption, both as white-collar crime and more mundane forms like using personal networks of influence to make bureaucracy more efficient or access jobs and more, are familiar topics.
In Trinidad there are many recent and older examples of massive forms of state corruption that distress the populace. These include in recent times the $1 billion Piarco Airport enquiry in the 90s, the Section 34 fiasco in 2012, the $24 billion treasury scandal and collapse of Colonial Life Insurance Company (CLICO) in 2009, the $34 million contract for no work given out in 2014 by a former sports minister and a former prime minister found guilty of infringing the Integrity of Public Life Act in 2002.”
Countries in the Caribbean do not generally have legislative provision for whistle-blowers’ protection. There are two key obstacles to the successful prosecution of white-collar crime in the Caribbean:
- finding a jury to handle complicated financial crime cases; and
- the absence of whistle-blowers to offer evidence in court of the alleged crimes.
In Trinidad and Tobago corruption has many faces. From the everyday ‘bobol’ of getting into a Carnival band or making bureaucracy more efficient to more corporate forms
Another way corruption is spoken of in Trinidad and Tobago is as “bobol.” In fieldwork bobol has been described and defined to me as “entrepreneurial graft,” “eat ah food,” and “political corruption.” Bobol is spoken of in radio chat shows, in everyday situations, by politicians, as the theme for Carnival bands, and on the news.
Is it a Political Master Stroke to Convince the Population or Seeking Political Redemption?
Clearly, many political observers and analysts are looking at the timing of this corruption allegations as well as the mediocre and dismal and bleak governmental performance over the past approximately four years. Bearing in mind that this year and 2020, there are two elections to be held, and no doubt, the population needs to be aroused and convicted. But by whom? Does the population really care anymore?
Perhaps the PNM may be thinking that the public will come out and support them, just like the PP in the dying days of the last General Election.
So many changes are needed in this country, especially constitutional reform, but the politicians are only playing mind and rhetorical games with the population. While politicians pontificate, the truth is white-collar crimes and its offspring, money laundering are here to stay.
Their roots are deep, firmly embedded in and marinated in our society’s institutions and have a functional relationship with the proponents with the entrepreneurs of transnational organized crimes. White-collar functionaries have a permanent place in the hearts of desperate and deceptive human beings who relish power, position and profits.
Nothing can change that fact, unless men have a change of heart from the carnal to the spiritual. Which political administration did not benefit from the largesse of white-collar operations?