Thursday, April 17, 2014
The lotto scam cultureBetty Ann Blaine
So who's surprised that a PNP politician is fingered in the latest episode of the lotto scam? Quite frankly, it could easily have been somebody from the other side of the political fence as well, since that type of association is fast becoming the culture of Jamaican politics - one in which politics and criminality have become inextricably linked.
Anyone in doubt needs to look at the events that have transpired in recent times - the Christopher "Dudus" Coke affair; David Smith/Olint saga; JDIP; Cuban light bulb scandal; Trafigura - and these are the ones we know of. I suspect that if investigations were to be carried out on all the other major projects undertaken by both PNP and JLP administrations over the last few decades, especially those in the period "BC" (before Christie), what we would discover would probably make our hair curl. Perhaps it is a good thing that those remain unearthed, or else our country would by now have found itself at the top of the global corruption index.
I imagine that because the JLP is the official Opposition, they have to say something about the latest lotto scam incident, but I would caution the Opposition to remove first the plank from their own eyes. What I find especially shameful about the political leadership now on display is that neither side has the moral authority to speak to the other. What would serve them both well is a wholesale repentance of their collective sins and a firm commitment to changing their ways. Of course, we as the governed must also confess our individual and collective sins - after all, you can't have a corrupter without a "corruptee".
One of the glaring manifestations of corruption is the conspicuous lifestyle of some of the country's politicians. I keep asking the question, "How are those so-called servants of the people able to amass so much personal wealth?" We know that a few of them have come into politics with some amount of their own money, but those are in the minority. Some of the others begin to acquire significant material assets after being in office for a relatively short period of time - how come, and what are their sources of income?
It would also be interesting to know what type of assets these folks have outside of Jamaica and when and how they were acquired. This is where investigative journalism would be very useful if only the Jamaican media was so inclined.
So we remain a country of open secrets. Everybody can tell you who owns what and who is involved in what, but few would be prepared to bell the cat. Some people say that it is more important to preserve life and limb - others are just content to be recipients of the largesse, regardless of how corrupt the sources might be.
I have come to recognise that a part of that largesse and the "political pull" for young people entering politics is the type of motor vehicle they might acquire. Before the election last year I overhead a conversation involving two young men aspiring for political office and the comments were about what type of SUV they were expecting to get when the party won. It is exactly that type of entitlement mentality that leads to corruption.
The lotto scam culture, which I describe as a culture of corruption, criminality and greed, is alive and well in Jamaica and has contaminated the system from top to bottom with apparently no age, gender, or socio-economic barriers. The round-up of the large number of "cross-dressers" allegedly involved in the lotto scam two weeks ago spoke volumes. I personally had no idea that anything of that scope and scale was taking place in Jamaica. The fact that some of those detained were teenagers is equally alarming.
One of the maladies of Jamaican society is the rabid materialism and the unfettered quest for more and more things. It is the big car, big house, "big man" that people respect, and to gain that type of respectability some people are prepared to engage in whatever scam is available. The lotto scam has been around for a long time causing murder and mayhem, and wreaking havoc on unsuspecting victims. Finally, something is being done to clean it up, and just like the Dudus affair, it appears as if pressure is being applied from outside forces to make sure that it is done.
It is one thing when ordinary citizens are caught up in acts of criminality. It's a completely different story when those acts of crime involve lawmakers and other members of the political directorate. Who is to set the example and guard the shop?
The irony of it all is that the minister of finance told the country that the shop was empty. What Dr Phillips didn't tell us, however, was that apparently not all the shopkeepers (politicians) are broke and that there might be some goods in the shop that are stashed away for certain privileged people. The nice sums being paid out to the administration's consultants is an indication that there is a part of the shop that is apparently not empty, and the PNP politician charged with the lotto scam makes it clear that not all the shopkeepers are apparently broke.
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