You-all know that this man-in-the street columnist knows his place. Lofty subjects like the (vagaries of the) law, I leave to those qualified. Never–the-less, as patriotic, concerned or affected citizen, I venture to comment even on complex matters of national significance and some who insist on thinking I’m smart-or informed- do ask for my opinion. I am measured, cautious, open minded. Not too assertive.
Take the charges (of misconduct) against Dr Ashni and Mr Brassington. How do I feel? An attorney or two shared views. I maintain my own layman’s version.
Since late 2015 and throughout 2016 I would applaud officials like the AFC vice-president Ramjattan and Dr Clive Thomas for indicating they were going after PPP officials who, allegedly, plundered the public purse. Then there were dozens of forensic audits. Audits like peas! Promises to prosecute faded, stagnated. SOCU emerged even as SARU/SARA advised that the crooks had a real, significant “headstart”. (Accountants and attorneys were allegedly expert at cover-ups and covering tracks.) Subsequently, foreign experts were acquired to sharpen white collar crimes investigations and, most likely to prepare cases for successful prosecution.
I recall the U.S. ambassador outlining how Guyanese investigators may access accounts and information relevant to fraudulent resources now nestled in the United States and just this Monday the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) – with an old acquaintance I fondly call “Major Retty”- spelt out how it is approaching its noble task of trying to recover billions allegedly stolen from the state.
Man, agencies mentioned Monday include the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), UN Convention Against Corruption, Caribbean Institute of Forensic Accounting, Fraudnet, et al. Somehow I seem to feel that the SARA strategies could yield more results than the current SOCU initiatives. Which brings me to Dr Ashni and Mr Brassington.
The beneficiaries, a company “stolen”?
Obviously, not even a knowledgeable expert attorney should be commenting fully on the ongoing cases against the two PPP-friendly officials.
But attorney Anil Mohabir Nandlall uses his freedom of speech to give legal opinions about charges brought against his high-profile clients. Naturally the nature of (the history of) these proceedings can never escape some politicisation. Mr Nandlall never allows us to disregard that. But my layman’s mind is intrigued by his assertion that “…if these transactions are criminal—-then the persons who benefitted from them are the purchasers. Are they not beneficiaries of the illegality?” interesting! If at an auction or by other more secretive means, persons acquired (government) assets at rock-bottom prices, I feel Frankly Speaking, that the buyers committed no crime.
Both sellers and buyers might be morally guilty of unfair trading but hardly legally culpable. But let’s await the learned magistrate’s decision when the accused will be handcuffed once more.
However, Attorney Nandlall’s observations provided me the “benefit” from varying fallout from this case. (Ironically, I once saw in Linden Town, current NICIL head Horace James and Winston Brassington partying heartily together). Sam Hinds is now advising Mr James to watch what he James is now doing.
Then some political and business acquaintances named top business magnates – captains of local industry – who allegedly benefited from political sweetheart deals. They’ll never be charged. Again the reps of a Trinidad company regaled me with the ‘story’ of how a very respected and revered local business icon allegedly “stole” a whole company! Oh boy, what fallout! I’m too poor, too uniformed and too innocent to grasp these goings-on.
Exploitation! In spite of laws
There is a concept – and practice (?) – of advocacy journalism. The investigative journalist exposes, advocates, lobbies on behalf of persons or causes. Perhaps I can’t master that. However the appeals, to me, of two young female workers have influenced me to report – simply – the following.
Would you like your honest, needy but hardworking mother, daughter or sister to have to stand for 11 1/2 hours as a security guard at a supermarket? Where she has only half an hour to have a snack or water off the premises? After the Security services boss approached her sexually? Well such practices seem “normal”.
Then, for just a minimum wage for six days a week – or seven – you must clean 20/30 hotel rooms without proper gloves and be treated most shabbily by a “supervisor”? The two stressed young ladies complained. There are the labour laws and regulations. But poor needy circumstances force females to accept wages in such a manner that both PAYE and NIS are avoided. Some Chinese employers also seem to be tyrannical.
The exploited females long for miner-Minister Simona who used to barge in unexpectedly to certain work places with her Labour Inspectors to inspect everything!
Ponder and imagine…
● Indeed, Chairman Gabriel Lall, last Saturday, denigrated to the max his minister’s parliament. Wrote GHK: “20% of honourable returning strivers would lift parliament (raucous, retarded and recidivist) out of its longstanding cesspool…” Ouch! Arrogant?
● A new Public Service announcement is assuring us that His Excellency promises no homelessness by 2022. Mighty! And bound to be president still.
● His Excellency’s GECOM Chairman now has a spanking new GECOM branch office in Linden. Where?
● Czarina Gail Teixeira’s questions on the People’s Militia should be answered fully. What’s to hide?
● Will a new orderly Capital Georgetown emerge – especially with regulated vending – after two years of oil revenues?
● Great! The government is supporting the Hits and Jams Carnival.
’Til next week!