On Friday, March 16, 2007, during the Budget Debate in the Barbados Legislature, Opposition Leader David Thompson asked Prime Owen Arthur to explain how it was that the Prime Minister received and deposited a huge cheque into his personal bank account at Speightstown.
It was obvious to all that the Prime Minister’s words and demeanour were that of a guilty man. In legal terms, Owen Arthur exhibited Mens rea – a guilty mind.
Within a short time of the outrageous televised exchange between Thompson and Arthur, Barbados Free Press readers began commenting on the cheque deposited into the Prime Minister’s personal bank account – calling for the Prime Minister to explain himself and for BFP to write an article about the corruption. During the next few days we received 23 emails each saying to the effect “Why aren’t you covering this story?”
Naturally, we had been all set to write an article about the debate exchange – hammering away at the PM’s corrupt behaviour and our usual themes of no accountability, integrity legislation or conflict of interest rules – but Shona suggested… “Don’t write a thing about it. Watch what happens. Ignore it and see whether the Nation News or anybody mentions it at all.”
So that’s what we did – nothing.
Anyone must realize that had this exchange happened in the Parliaments of the UK or Canada, or in any legislative sitting in the United States, the media in those countries would have been all over the story. The Prime Ministers in the UK or Canada would have been hounded with questions by a responsible media. Questions like…
So we waited for something to appear in the media… and Shona was correct. Nothing. Zero. Not a word. (I married a woman who is pretty and smart, you know!)
The Barbados media published not one word on the story until we published notice that we were about to launch a series on money laundering that would expose a Minister of the Barbados Government who laundered money through ScotiaBank. (see New BFP Series Coming Next Week published Thursday, March 22, 2007 8:01pm Barbados time)
And when those neutered puppy dogs at the Nation News finally did publish something a full week later, it was carefully crafted damage control meant to say “Ho hum. Just regular politics and name-calling. Nothing to see here, folks. Boys will be boys. Let the two parties work it out.”
The two articles also left out important details of the allegation as stated by Thompson and during the Prime Minister’s reply.
No worries, folks… Even if the Bajan media long ago forgot their duty to the citizens of Barbados, we intend to keep on hammering away at the corruption that is undermining the foundations of our democracy.
But for now, have another read of what The Nation News printed a full week after the Prime Minister of Barbados admitted publicly that he accepts political donations in his own name.
The Nation News: Article #1
The Politics Of Cheques
I am not going to say to anybody in this country that political parties do not receive contributions from companies.
– Prime Minister Owen Arthur last Friday.
NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME, in our recent history, the banner of cheque payments to public figures has been raised in the arena of political combat.
In a dramatic prelude to the general election of 1976, electrified TV viewers saw the Government benches sit dumfounded as Opposition Leader J.M.G.M. “Tom” Adams stood up in the House of Assembly and made documents of the House, photocopies of cheques to a number of Barbadian political personages from controversial Barbadian-born international figure Sydney Burnett-Alleyne.
The cheques that made the Dems squirm paid off for the Bees by sparking much controversy right through a very tense general election campaign that saw the ultimate removal of the then three-term Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration.
A recent exchange on the floor of the House revived memories of those turbulent political times.
In the tradition of his wind-up remarks in the annual “Budget” debate on Friday night, Prime Minister Owen Arthur injected a personal assault on Opposition Leader David Thompson.
After a number of exchanges and counter-accusations between the two, Mr Thompson then asked Mr Arthur to explain the circumstances surrounding a cheque payable to the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in an amount which exceeded a political candidate’s statutory limitations, and which was allegedly deposited to his account at a bank in Speightstown, St Peter.
In responding, Mr Arthur admitted personal receipt of a cheque which he said had been endorsed and deposited to the BLP’s account. He in turn asked Mr Thompson to reveal what sum had been given to the DLP by CLICO, a corporate name long alleged to be funding that party.
Barbadians have a fascination with the size and nature of political donations, as we saw in 1976, and we suspect that this will not be the last we hear about this latest monetary matter.
The electorate’s interest in political cheque-writing has more to do with intrigue than income because, unless the matter is taken further, the public will not get to know all the details. Just enough to get gossip going.
There is no limitation on the size of donations which political parties may receive from benefactors, but there are, under the provisions for Representation of the People Act Section 52 (1), guidelines for candidates to incur expenses on a per capita basis in respect of people registered to vote in the riding.
Candidates thus are required to declare their full expenditure in an election, and that sum may not be more than the stipulated multiple of registered voters. It has moved from $1 per head to $10, but is still regarded as being unrealistically low.
So, if nothing else, this latest cheque-counter-cheque skirmish may lead both parties to agree that the whole question of campaign financing should be subject to bipartisan examination and consequently make recommendations for realistic changes.
… read the original article online at The Nation News (link here)
The Nation News: Article #2
by ALBERT BRANDFORD
The brain may devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps o’er a cold decree. – William Shakespeare, – The Merchant Of Venice.
BY NOW, after he’s been in office for nearly 13 years, Prime Minister Owen Arthur’s “hot temper” has become legendary almost throughout the land, but certainly within Government circles.
Stories are legion about the “fate” of those who have run afoul of the man who once confessed to having to exorcise his own “demons”; still, most of them have been anecdotes by public officers or Barbados Labour Party (BLP) colleagues.
The wider Barbadian public, however, has had to wait for their “treat” at the end of the annual Budget presentation when they can get a glimpse of the fearsome side of their Prime Minister.
The wrap-up of the 2007 Financial and Economic Policy Statement (Budget) on the evening of Friday, March 16, was the latest example of that terrible temper running amuck but this time backfiring disastrously.
It was the tenth time in 12 Budget presentations that Arthur had used the wrap-up segment carried “live” on late night state-owned television to rip into his opponents, chiefly the current Leader of the Opposition David Thompson, who has borne the brunt of those verbal assaults usually with a certain equanimity, but he surprisingly turned the tables last Friday night.
“The Prime Minister has to remember that if you are boxing you must expect to get a punch!” said one colleague who witnessed a clearly flustered Arthur mopping his brow after Thompson’s unexpectedly fierce counter-attack.
Now, after years of behind-the-hands speculation by some Barbadians about the source of financing for major political parties, both Arthur and Thompson have acknowleged the receipt of contributions from businesses, with the Trinidad-based regional multinational, CLICO, being named as a contributor to the two parties.
After Thompson denied telling the Press he had $3 million to spend on the next general election, he accused Arthur of personally accepting a cheque for the BLP which was deposited into his account in a Speightstown bank branch.
Arthur retorted that he would never dispute the fact that he received contributions for the BLP.
“And I have received some in my name and have passed them over to the BLP,” he added.
“I am not going to say to anybody in this country that political parties in Barbados do not receive contributions from companies,” he said. “Now, [Thompson] has a cheque that was given to him by CLICO. Now that you know what a company gave the BLP, tell us how much CLICO has given the DLP [Democratic Labour Party].”
It seemed a watershed of some kind: either the end of these controversial Budget night titillations, the end of the age of innocence for Barbadians about their politicians and money, or both.
Some will recall how Arthur started out on this path of Budget controversies.
* APRIL, 1995: It began towards the end of his very first Budget presentation, when approaching midnight on what parliamentary sources said was the longest third-day sitting in memory, Arthur hinted broadly at firing then Governor of the Central Bank, Calvin Springer.
It was also the first real glimpse the Barbadian public had of Arthur’s temper – which must have reached ballistic stage a few days earlier when he abruptly forced the cancellation of a Press conference by Springer to review the economy.
“I am not into a witch-hunt,” an obviously angry Arthur said. “I want to see Barbadians employed, but I believe that my relationship with people must be a professional relationship, and I do not expect that if the Central Bank was telling me three months ago that growth was likely to be two per cent, that you would now come by way of a Press release days before the Budget, without discussing the implications of it with the Minister of Finance, and saying it’s dropping to one (per cent)”.
He was also incensed that he had retained Central Bank directors appointed by the DLP; that he had asked the bank in March for submissions on Budget proposals but did not receive them; and that he had to learn from a Press release about measures which Thompson said were already in his possession.
* MAY 1996: Strong adjectives flew angrily across the floor of the House as the Budget debate was abruptly brought to an unexpectedly torrid and stormy end.
Tempers flared during a verbal fracas when Arthur read a letter which purported to link Thompson with persons seeking waiver of property transfer taxes.
Arthur hinted that on December 10, 1990, an attorney sought a waiver from the ministry, but the matter stayed there until Thompson became Minister of Finance. But while on April 22, 1992, public officers recommended against, Thompson on April 24 approved.
* SEPTEMBER 1998: Arthur raised the Budget temperature just after midnight by calling for the resignation of Securities Exchange of Barbados (SEB) members whom he said did not discharge their duties in the institution’s best interest when they approved a $9.6 million waiver in fees to CIBC. He also charged that in 1992, the DLP granted CIBC $53 million in waivers at the same time it was sending home thousands of workers and slashing public workers’ salaries by eight per cent.
He accused Thompson of being involved in negotiations to bring in casino gambling although the DLP Cabinet was opposed.
* OCTOBER 2000: After Thompson had accused Government of spending $200 million of public funds to buy three sugar industry factories in return for campaign donations, Arthur challenged him to convene a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of which [Thompson was chair] and he would give evidence.
Arthur in turn referred to Thompson’s conduct as Minister of Finance in 1994 in relation to the sale of the Heywoods Resort as “outrageous” and read correspondence which he said sought to muzzle the chairman of the Tourism Development Investment Corporation.
* AUGUST 2001: Arthur forced to deny the existence of a “secret deal” involving the controversial GEMS Resorts project and an unidentified Florida company, as charged by Thompson, who said everything bought by the resorts was up to twice the cost of the items leading to the doubling of the costs of the Savannah Hotel.
Arthur defended his extensive travel overseas, while charging that Thompson, without similar responsibilities, had been absent
from Barbados 21 times in 2000, or an average of twice a month.
* OCTOBER 2002: Arthur made a series of revelations about a possible “misdirection” of funds from the Barbados Public Workers’ Co-operative Credit Union, brandishing letters which he said referred to payments that could only be approved by the general body which had been made by the board of directors, including then Senator Clyde Mascoll, to members and employees, including $10 000 to Irene Sandiford-Garner, a DLP General Council member, for medical assistance.
Loss to credit unions
One letter, Arthur said, was from the Registrar of Co-ops advising the credit union that persons holding office on January 15, 2002, including Mascoll, should make arrangements to make good the loss to the credit union as a result of the disbursements.
He also accused Mascoll of building a house in St Peter and altering it without Town Planning permission, and said that department had been planning to push it down.
* NOVEMBER 2003: Arthur had a war of words with new Leader of the Opposition, Clyde Mascoll, over an IMF document which suggested “an agreement in principle” with Government to cut the public sector wage bill by half of one per cent in fiscal year 2004/5-2006/2007.
* DECEMBER 2004: Arthur ignored Thompson’s taunts and focused his wrap-up on Mascoll’s strictures. The controversy was between Mascoll and Government backbencher Rommel Marshall over certain remarks about the former’s ailing mother.
* JANUARY 2006: Arthur dusted off a near 30-year-old report to attack Philip Greaves, who was seen as supportive of Thompson’s return to the DLP leadership in preferenceto Mascoll.
Political leaders on all sides who lose their tempers on such occasions would do well to ponder the words of the English-born American revolutionary politician and writer, Thomas Paine, in The Rights Of Man (1791): A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.
… read the original Nation News article here.