Saturday, March 08, 2014
Politics attracts criminalityMark Wignall
FOR those who came in late, there is more ‘evidence’ than doubt that too many of our politicians, in this island of crooks, are themselves crooked.
In 2005 a well-known JLP politician who eventually became a somewhat controversial minister of government (to me a good, effective minister; to others he was too crude) and I had a ‘conversation’ via computer. He gave me full details of the lotto scam, called names, but when I quizzed him as to how much involvement these ‘names’ had in the criminality he backed off and left me with, “You have the skills; investigate it.”
The JLP politician who titillated me with the information knew where I stood with him. Unlike many other politicians, he knew that I knew he was a rarity — clean as a whistle. He was not exactly a favourite in the party hierarchy and he sought no alliances in any faction. For that and many other reasons, I genuinely liked and respected him although we were never really friends.
As he laid out details of the scam he would end most of his sentences with, “The question is, who is B…?”
Along the way I stole the time while having a family gathering in Montego Bay to leave the soft comforts of Chupski early in the morning, drive my little compact out the gates of the all-inclusive and head for the many innercity pockets on the outskirts of the tourist resort city.
It was in those very pockets that the story started to unravel. First the men running the scam had contacts inside the various agencies which were licensed to receive cash. Not exactly way up in the hierarchy but clerks who, after a while, were making regular mortgage payments on houses. Where did the initial downpayment and the ‘healthy’ monthly payments come from?
My investigations then took me to a small beach resort which the scammers pretty much had under control. In the parking lot they had their fancy cars while at beachside there was a literal convoy of jet skis. On that specific property, I gathered that it was unimportant if real guests showed up, simply because the scammers were basically showering the hotel owner with raw cash on a regular basis.
In the resort areas where many of the smaller hotels tend not to have the same high level of service and amenities as the bigger, more established all-inclusives, to that 30-room property the perpetual presence of the scammers was a godsend.
I was quite fearful of talking to policemen in Montego Bay. It was not that I mistrusted them. I was in MoBay not directly to investigate the scam but while there I made contact with a ‘friend’ I knew in one of the troubled, inner-city pockets. He knew a senior cop and wanted to link me up but I was able to convince him that if something quite nasty happened to him, considering that crooks have long had their tentacles inside the JCF, I would not be able to live with myself.
For about five days I met and spoke with a number of people, most of whom were very fearful of the possible impact of the information they had conveyed to me. After returning to Kingston, I sat in front of my laptop and wrote the story. I read it over a number of times and then ditched it.
To me, there was no way in which it could pass the editor’s test. Second, there was just too much in it, even without calling names, that would put my own life under pressure. Third, and to be quite honest, I had grown tired and maybe just a little bit fearful of having more stories of that type published. In a small country like Jamaica, there are not many places to hide, and, as in 2002, I was not again prepared to vacate my home and move from hotel to hotel as the telephone threats came in.
Are scammed people purely gullible?
One day in 1999, I received an e-mail telling me that I had won a 14-day Caribbean trip for two.
The sender of the message was smart enough to state that although I had bought no ticket in anything, it was purely a randomised ‘computer selection’.
Did I believe it? I thought it could have been genuine.
The message had a phone number attached to it. I called the number and made reference to the e-mail.
“Is this thing real, on the up and up?” I asked the pleasant female voice that answered.
“Oh, very definitely so, sir, and before I go any further, let me congratulate you. I am certain that you and your loved one will have many memories of this trip,” she said.
“So, when can I take it up?” I asked.
“Oh, that is up to you, sir. Hold a minute and let me put you through to the department handling reservations.”
In about 30 seconds an even more alluring voice of a vixen was on the line. “Good day, sir, when would it be suitable for you to embark on this dream of a voyage?”
It caught me off guard. “Well, let me see. I would have to check with the lady,” I said after answering her query as to where in Jamaica I lived.
“Not a problem, sir. In the interim we would need some details to complete the paperwork. After all, we do not want you to show up in Ocho Rios and have to return to Kingston.”
“Yes, that I can appreciate,” I said, without even realising I was being sucked in.
“First,” she said, “I will need to know your credit card number.”
I didn’t have a credit card. Never sought nor had one at any time in my life. I said to her. “Unfortunately, I do not have a credit card, never had…”
The line went dead. She had no further use for me and left me with only a dial tone.
Power piles on top of power
Given that too many of our elected officials are rotten to the core, those outside of the party political orbit who are involved in wrongdoing are smart enough to detect the smell and, in time, they will circle the overblown carcass and seek to pluck more than is due.
The ultimate power in any democracy or dictatorship is the political administration running the ship of state.
Politicians are always hungry for cash and more cash. At the same time, those involved in illicit drugs and trading in guns, extortion, scamming and suspect business practices know that the hungry cow needs grass and more grass.
Without trivialising it, it is almost natural that power from any part of the spectrum will naturally always tend to seek out power from another part. It follows that in short time, the gun and drugs runner who has 100 soldiers, the thug involved in extorting $20 million per month, the scammer who probably makes that same amount per week and the businessman who is linked to all of those previously mentioned are all drawn to the politician.
To cap it all and to give it an air of respectability, the entrance is made easy for religious power to enter. Once the whole is mixed, the politician is really the one who paints it all over as good, decent and something worthwhile to emulate.
They speak words of peace in the daylight while in the night they release the dogs of war.
I can remember in the early 1990s ‘war’ had broken out between two inner-city pockets. Emissaries from both sides would meet and speak loudly of peace and shake hands. Not long after leaving the ‘concord’ — the meeting of agreement that hostilities would be lessened — orders were surreptitiously issued to ‘turn up di war’.
That politicians are funded by drug and gun runners and others trading in dirty money is stale news in this country. That our politicians still have the nerve to strut before us and pretend blindness and expect us to honour them with their self-imposed ‘honourable’ is plainly stink and sickening.
They call party workers and tell them, “Listen, we have been given some free stuff and we need volunteers to distribute them. Can you find six by this evening? We can provide them with a stipend for lunch.”
The party operative, eager to please the ‘boss’, bends over, gets the ‘stuff in small boxes’, distributes them to the community and weeks later, not even the lunch money has been delivered.
A year later the news breaks that many millions have been made distributing the small stuff in boxes.
A politician is held up to the light of public scrutiny. For him, the institutions of the land must be used to confuse the people. He may no longer be ‘honourable’ through his tears but he survives.
A man steals a dozen mangoes and he goes to prison! And they talk to us about love, kisses and justice and we are expected to buy into the cavalcade of stupidity, arrogance and feigned trust. Time awaits them, yes, time. But, as time goes, so must we — who wish it on them — be also consumed by the same cruel wave that must come with time.
50 years old and decrepit
ACCORDING to The Economist magazine, Jamaica is a basket case.
Well, that’s not exactly news but, except for Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, who as prime minister last year had the guts (and the political stupidity) to tell the nation the truth, to the ruling PNP Administration and our confused prime minister, all seems to be well.
Alice is in Wonderland and Wonderland is in Jamaica.
Says The Economist of Jamaica: “The small island has won a string of world records, and may claim more at the 2012 Olympics. Its economy, however, is not so speedy: on current forecasts it will finish the year with the slowest average growth rate since 2000 in the Americas — behind even earthquake-stricken Haiti.”
Did the article mention our beloved neighbor Haiti, at times the scourge of the Caribbean and a country that a ‘developing’ country like Jamaica would never want to be compared to?
For all of last year, the then Opposition PNP made Finance Minister Audley Shaw’s life one veritable hell. ‘IMF, IMF’ was the clarion call. Why can’t you get it right, Audley? You have no idea what you are doing, Audley.
The PNP said they could solve it, as if somehow we the people could just sit home watching TV or making babies while they worked it out for us.
The PNP could not afford to tell us that Jamaica, in year 50, is being taken to the cleaners because of our accumulated years of sloth and not participating in the real economy.
So, like the one before, the PNP sought power for power’s sake. Damn, someone has to be there! Let us eat, boys! Let the people nyam each other!
Now that the PNP is in power since December last year, we are now being told that the IMF agreement, or something like an agreement, will be signed before the end of the calendar year.
So why did we change administrations if all the PNP can do is mirror the performance (or non-performance) of the JLP?
It’s basically a game of musical chairs (one chair) between the PNP and the JLP. Only, the music is a slow funeral march.
Someone in the PNP Administration needs to tell the people the truth simply because no one believes the real truth when it is told to us by the JLP. We are, after all, captives of the PNP.
Again, The Economist lays it out bare: ‘Jamaica has run fiscal deficits in 44 of its 50 years of Independence. Few people pay taxes: the middle class is small, the informal economy big, and enforcement chilled-out. Only about 3,000 of the country’s 65,000 registered firms are thought to contribute. The Government has steadily dished out waivers to favoured industries.’
Our people are like a particular religious cult whose people are always on the road hawking its books. These people say that they are in the world but are not of the world. Sounds like Jamaicans.
Listen again to The Economist: ‘The island will need a political makeover to improve its policies. Both main parties pander to interest groups whose votes are controlled by unsavoury strongmen. Many tame constituencies plump almost unanimously for one party, a voting pattern one foreign diplomat compares to North Korea’s. That means policy proposals have little effect on elections.
‘Damien King, the head of economics at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, believes that Jamaica’s economy has the potential to reach Chinese growth levels of eight per cent a year. But unless its politicians start to streamline the bureaucracy, raise more revenues and invest them wisely, that will remain as likely as a Chinese gold medal in the 100-metre sprint.’
Ah, it perfectly captures why the PNP, the master of the garrisons, will always win elections. But when will we the people begin to win?
We have to begin to formulate our own solutions. The PNP and the JLP are plainly our enemies.
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