«197 Leave of Absence Friday, July 23, 1999 HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES Friday, July 23, 1999 The House met at 1.30 p.m. PRAYERS [MR. SPEAKER in the ...»
Mr. Speaker, I quote that merely to emphasize that I agree with the Member for Diego Martin East that we ought to be very mindful, careful, and diligent in the way we pursue and act on this very important matter of corruption. I am not standing here to presume or pretend that we do not have a real problem on our hands, but in the real world in which I live, it is indeed the myopic man whose world encompasses only Trinidad and Tobago in terms of the panorama of issues with which citizens of this country must necessarily deal. We are a part of the global economy, we are on to the Internet, we have ambassadors abroad, or citizens who travel, live, and do business abroad and, indeed, the influences that come to us are very often sometimes of our own making.
I have heard it said that crack cocaine was invented in Trinidad. I do not know. I know that Trinidadians have invented pan and they beat pan all over the world. The “Roaring Lion” sang calypsoes and called this country the land of the calypso and has influenced people all over the world and, indeed, our carnival is influencing people all over the world. In a similar fashion, Mr. Speaker, the question of corruption is not a local thing, and it did not start three years ago.
Mr. Speaker, we have suffered in this country from that kind of myopia, that kind of moral blindness, that kind of parochial, provincial, partisan peculiarity which prevents us from getting to the genesis and to the bottom of things, thereby we limit ourselves in terms of our potential and our prospects to deal with the matters that haunt us.
222 State Agencies Friday, July 23, 1999 [DR. THE HON. M. JOB] Before I sit this afternoon, I would demonstrate to you quite clearly that while the substance of the allegation and the presentation merit our concerns, the methodology, the way it was presented has vitiated, has in fact corrupted it, Mr.
Speaker. So therefore, we will now take excerpts from the presentation of the gentleman and I start where he ended. He said on July 12, 1999: the people of this country would have to intervene as the first hurdle to check this gang of people who have been abusing the authority of Cabinet; a gang. Who is going to protect the people of Trinidad and Tobago from the Panday Administration and the Panday gang?
Mr. Imbert: Who said that?
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member for Diego Martin East, I appeal to you. It is boorish behaviour to be interrupting things like that. Let the Member speak. Let him speak, you would have an opportunity to talk. You may not agree with what he says, but let him speak. It is really childish to be acting like that. If that is intended for the press, it does not really work. Let him speak.
Dr. The Hon. M. Job: Mr. Speaker, ever since I came here I have tried my best to use the time I have on my feet to the benefit of the people who sent me here in the first instance, and the people of the country in general. If I would be
allowed to continue, the word “gang” in the dictionary which I have in my hands says:
“a group of people who associate together or act as an organized body for criminal or illegal purposes.” Mr. Speaker, I want to say quite clearly that ever since I came into this Government, I have not associated with anyone for any criminal endeavour, or any criminal purpose. I have not heard it described in my presence. I know of no conspiracy to abuse the authority of the executive for any criminal purpose. So therefore, I take objection to the allegations that I am part of a criminal conspiracy abusing the privilege of Government in Parliament. There are other things which I would go into because the Motion dealt with the question of tendering and before I sit, again I promise you I will quote from the budget speech from the Rt. Hon.
Dr. E. Williams, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance; a speech which he gave to the House of Representatives of Trinidad and Tobago on Friday, December 1, 1978.
The reason I would do this in the context of this speech is because the question of tendering, implementing projects, the question of serving the public’s interest, of delivering services to people when you have a tendering process that is 223 State Agencies Friday, July 23, 1999 a burden on the citizens of this country was dealt with quite elegantly by the then hon. Minister of Finance, Dr. Eric Williams. I know as a matter of fact—because I am a diligent student of Dr. Williams’ work—that many of the allegations that have been drawn at his door were not necessarily of his making. I remember one eminent, profound intellectual said, so it is said of him, that you cannot have the 40 thieves without Ali Baba—a reference to Dr. Williams. You know the story of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves. As President Nixon or someone of them said, the buck stops there. So that Williams is blamed for the corruption of many. In fact, as I did say, corruption has been endemic in Latin America as indeed in the world in which we live ever since mankind started walking on two feet. You would find it in the Bible.
If I would be allowed, I am just trying to point out that this issue with which we are dealing is a consequence of the negligence of the hon. Member for San Fernando East, of the delinquency of the Member. The dereliction of responsibility and duty of his party is that they have left this country naked and unprotected from international and endemic corruption. They have built no institutions, they have passed no law, no rule, no regulation. They have nurtured no culture which was subversive to corruption in this country.
It is not true, as the Member for Diego Martin East is alleging, that what you need is a Prime Minister to save this country from corruption. He said it here, I have it here. That is the most preposterous, a most ludicrous, a most absurd conclusion for anyone to draw in the context of the reality that human beings have a nature which is not changed, has not changed, and would never change, that is why we need law. We need law not because we need protection from bad men, we need law to protect us from the good men who would turn bad when they get the opportunity. To be tempted is one thing, to fall, another, and many of us do fall.
We become weak in the face of the temptation. That is why we need law.
Mr. Speaker, this document I have here to emphasize what I said when I started, while I agree with the entirety, I agree without reservation with the Member for Diego Martin East that we need to deal with corruption because of its consequences and cost; costs to democracy, liberty, freedom. The potential to subvert the correct order of mankind is so great when we allow corruption to run rampant, that we need to empathize with and support the Member for Diego Martin East and this is what I did. I am supporting him. All I am asserting—and I know before I sit this afternoon, that the audience and the court would agree with me that his argument was irreparably damaging, corrupted, subverted, and vitiated 224 State Agencies Friday, July 23, 1999 [DR. THE HON. M. JOB] by his concentration and partisan politicking and ignoring the fundamental substance of the issue, which is, that we need to have laws and the institutions and the wherewithal to ensure that those who are corrupt must be brought to justice.
You cannot deal with corruption in this country if you are going to look at it as a problem that emerged in Trinidad and Tobago three years ago. That is wildness. That is intellectual irresponsibility, it is chicanery and sophistry.
Hon. Member: What is that?
Dr. The Hon. M. Job: Sophistry. You know like the sophists.
“The Caracas Convention The Inter American Convention Against Corruption Excerpts of final text adopted in Caracas, March 29, 1996.
ARTICLE III...the States Parties agree to...create, maintain and strengthen:
4. Systems for registering the income, assets and liabilities of persons who perform public functions in certain posts as specified by law and, where appropriate, for making such registrations public.
5. Systems of government hiring and procurement of goods and services that assure the openness, equity and efficiency of such systems.
8. Systems for protecting public servants and private citizens who, in good faith, report acts of corruption, including protection of their identities...”
Mr. Speaker, I want to repeat that:
“8. Systems for protecting public servants and private citizens who, in good faith, report acts of corruption, including protection of their identities...”
I happen to know that I am part of a Cabinet that is in the process of passing a Bill which came before Cabinet. I cannot remember if it was approved—I think it was approved—dealing with this very same issue. Until that Bill comes to this House, Mr. Speaker, there is no law here. These people were in Government for 34 years. They never thought it fit to do that—never thought so! The Opposition comes in here and talks about “three years ago we started to have corruption in Trinidad”. Three years ago! So, we are going to stop corruption in Trinidad by 225 State Agencies Friday, July 23, 1999 going to the “marish and the parish”, from Cedros to Charlotteville, expressing nonsense to innocent children. Some of the calypsonian trade union leaders and poet laureats in the house of PNM—to mischievously, and in the way of the sophists, mislead the minds of the simplicity of the problems and the simplicity of the solutions.
Mr. Speaker, Article VIII again goes on to deal with the question of law and
the legal system. I quote:
“Subject to its Constitution and the fundamental principles of its legal system, each State Party shall prohibit and punish the offering or granting, directly or indirectly, by its nationals, persons having their habitual residence in its territory, and businesses domiciled there, to a government official of another State, of any article of monetary value, or other benefit, such as a gift, favor, promise or advantage, in connection with any economic or commercial transaction in exchange for any act or omission in the performance of that official’s public functions.” Law, getting here as is customary, using Parliament to gallery, informing innocent children that the question of corruption is that we need an honest Prime Minister and, if we get an honest Prime Minister we are not going to have any corruption. That is not true!
Dr. Williams knew that. Dr. Williams complained on sundry occasions. I can stand here in any event and quote page, paragraph after paragraph of Dr. Williams dealing with this question of corruption and the question of institutionalized corruption in Trinidad and Tobago under his stewardship. He complainted about that. He put Permanent Secretaries—I do not want to call names to embarrass
them—I think one of them is now deceased so I can probably call his name:
Eugenio Moore, with the George V Park matter. There are so many others. On the question of corruption, it was perceived as the allegations made.
Mr. Speaker, I am here not to condemn, not to criticize but to encourage the Members from Diego Martin East, West and all the others who want to come here and raise issues of corruption to do so in a manner that is beneficial to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and not in a manner which is going to cloud the issue and prevent us from dealing with it.
Dr. Williams in his 1978 Budget Speech—page 809 on this print out—talks about implementation and the consolidation of projects. At the 17th Annual Convention—this is a note I took, not from this place, but from another place to
put here so that I would be able to combine them—Dr. Williams said:
226 State Agencies Friday, July 23, 1999 [DR. THE HON. M. JOB] “We are part of a concern that is widespread over the world: that integrity of persons holding public office...” and in a context of “mounting evidence of corrupt practices.” Corrupt practices, Mr. Speaker, this is not Job it is not anybody here, it is Dr.
Eric Williams: the one and only, the eminent. That band of epigoni sitting there,
imitators. Never ever equal. As John the Baptist when he was touching Jesus said:
“There comes after me one, the latchet of whose shoes I would not be able to unloose.” [Interruption] Mr. Speaker, could we have some decency, some decorum, some order?
That race of epigoni: not understanding that they can no longer afford to merely bask in the sunshine of greatness; that they must reflect their own light and illuminate their own destiny. Unable to do that, they resurrect the dead as often as there is an election; the better to deceive the innocent to believe that their creed and their message is synonymous with, is identical to, is equal to the purposes of that eminent and great, late citizen of this country. This is what Dr. Williams was saying: evidence of corrupt practices in Trinidad and Tobago. It did not start three years ago.
This man—the Member for Diego Martin West—comes here with a motion to deceive the public and to mischievously prevent us from coming together as a common polity to marshal our thoughts, to marshal our efforts and our energies to deal with corruption and corrupt practices in Trinidad and Tobago. One of the most monumental disasters that has ever hit this land is the corruption that was encouraged by the PNM, that has devastated, destroyed thousands of lives. You can sell off a state enterprise, you can close it down or dismember its assets. But, when you destroy a human being through the corruption of government by incompetence and neglect, you destroy a man, his children and his grand children even unto the third and fourth generations.
It is written in Exodus: the sins of the fathers will visit the children, even unto the third and fourth generation to them that hate me. That is what they do, and they did it with eyes wide open. They corrupted the process of textbook writing.
They turned it into a—should I say—fountain of filthy lucre. It became—in the hands of these monstrously mischievous distributors of patronage and sinecures— a tool to degrade and injure and to corrupt the lives of thousands of our citizens.
227 State Agencies Friday, July 23, 1999
I am quoting from Dr. Williams here: