JO - Short pants for free bulbs?
Short pants for free bulbs?
Friday, November 16, 2007
THE LAST TIME a government minister experienced incarceration for running afoul of the law during his term of stewardship, he came from the JLP side of the House. It has remained a blot on the party's escutcheon ever since. Now, if some people have their way, it is time for some in the PNP to face the possibility of short pants (aka prison garb).
The avid pursuit by the Golding administration of the Trafigura issue and what has come to be known as the "light bulb scandal" should have the PNP quaking in its shoes, if the allegations being made are proven and guilt established.
It is evident that Mr Golding intends to have the two issues among centrepiece achievements of his first 100 days in office.
It would no doubt be a crowning moment in his stated intention to cleanse the Jamaican political stables of the taint of corruption and indicate to all and sundry that scandal will be banished from the realm. But first the case has to be proved.
With the heat turned up under former Minister of Energy Phillip Paulwell and Junior Minister Kern Spencer, and the resignation of both as shadow spokesmen for the energy portfolio, the scandal pot is gathering steam. Mr Paulwell, in particular, is finding scant public support.
There are persons in the wider community salivating with glee already at his anticipated downfall. Why? They say his name has been called in connection with too much that was questionable during his ministerial tenure. Even though he has never been charged with any malfeasance, his reputation has been thoroughly muddied. Mr Spencer is attracting attention for the first time, especially after he broke down and cried in the House and in front of the unrelenting cameras at that.
The media doesn't even bother to mask its glee. Just as things were getting a little dull, the action is back, thanks to this. The cartoonists, for whom the pickings were slim up to a few day ago, are now in full swing, bringing out their caricatures of former PM Simpson Miller 'minding' her two "babies". Fasten your seat belts. The turbulence is just beginning.
It will be very interesting to finally know what was behind the light bulb story. Much has been made of the fact that the bulbs were free. Freely received they should have been freely given, but apparently there is no such thing as a free bulb. What must be answered is why was there such an elaborate distribution process, why did it cost so much and why the questionable accounting?
Questions about the distribution of the bulbs didn't start just the other day. Opposition voices were opposing it while the distribution exercise was on, mainly on the grounds that it was an electioneering ploy by the government which (not unsurprisingly) defended it as a necessary conservation effort.
ALONG THE WAY, local myths developed. One of the more interesting was that the bulbs were being installed by the Government to spy on the people. One man told me, with utmost conviction, that there was a camera in each one and it was there to take pictures of the people in their homes. When asked what would happen to the pictures when the bulb was of no further use and was discarded, he had no answer except that well-known standby, "If ah nuh so, den a nearly so it go."
Well, it is clear that the new government's concern is to prove that there was skullduggery afoot and somebody will have to pay for it, or, as old timers used to say, somebody will have to wear short pants. All things being equal, there should be room for another axiom, "innocent until proven guilty", but there's not much of that around right now. The jury of public opinion has pretty much reached its verdict, never mind that the case has not been tried. Let us see where it leads.
THE OTHER hot story is the revelation by the prime minister in the House that in the Trafigura matter (remember that?) the Dutch criminal code (section 177 and 178) is to be invoked to seek out and convict anyone found guilty of bribing a public official in Jamaica.
Some persons are under the impression that this means the Dutch initiative would be played out in the Jamaican courts. A legal mind advises that this is not so. What it really means is that some person or persons from the Netherlands will be facilitated to come here and do investigations, the findings from which would then assist the Dutch authorities to build a case against Trafigura.
Jamaica, for its part, would have to do its own investigations for its own legal process. However, said my legal source, it is obvious that the outcome of any case in the Netherlands would have implications for a trial here. A guilty verdict there would certainly carry weight with public opinion here.
My source reminds that there is no love lost between the Netherlands authorities and Trafigura, which has had the finger pointed at them in other matters before this. It can be understood therefore why the present Jamaican administration is pursuing the issue so zealously, to establish that Trafigura did bribe a Jamaican official or officials. Guilt by association? The drama continues... into the local government elections.
'TIEF' OR ABSTRACTION?A few days ago, I was in conversation with officers of the Jamaica Public Service on the matter of theft of electricity - or abstraction, to put it in a more refined way. Anyway you cut it though, tiefing is tiefing. At street level, the popular view is that it is "poor people alone who tief light". Apparently not. "Better class of people" who live Up So, don't hesitate to do their share of electricity robbery. Some have even built into their mansions technology for bypassing the meter so that they can have all their creature comforts without taxing the card.
I asked how many "society thieves" have been brought before the courts? The answer was "some". Did any of them have to pay at the $10-million top end of the fines? Nobody could remember that ever happening. So, where is the moral authority to upbraid those at the other end of the social scale who see nothing wrong with "throwing up a line" to bring power down into their yards?
I was assured that JPS has stepped up the drive to nab the thieves, of whatever social stratum. It is a priority for the new CEO of the company who arrived here just over a year ago from Brazil. More light crooks are facing the courts, but many more remain out there.
The fact that some nine persons have been electrocuted so far this year for tiefing light gives cause for concern. Up Town "abstractors" are too sophisticated to "throw up line", but they're tiefing just the same. When will their day of reckoning come and when will all de tief dem be fully exposed to the public gaze?