– Expert advises
Christopher Camponovo of Halcyon Law Group thinks that if the financial incentive of corrupt practices is taken away from past offenders and they are then made to serve time, a clear message would be sent that corruption will not be tolerated in Guyana.
Camponovo spoke at a recent symposium that focused on the relationship between oil and corruption.
The prevalence of corruption in Guyana was highlighted at that symposium and so were the dangers of the crime.
Highlighting the effects of corruption, one of the facilitators quoted former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon. “When desperately needed development funds are stolen by corrupt individuals and institutions, poor and vulnerable people are robbed of the education, health care and other essential services.”
Camponovo said that it is important that the money be recovered and returned to the state. He described that as a key part of the justice the people of a country should receive.
“Find the money, the money can be found; at least a large part of it. If you remove the financial incentive, people will think twice about it in the future. That will help in the changing of the culture of corruption.”
The lawyer said that when the culture changes, Guyana will be better off.
“Guyanese must develop anti-corruption attitudes to progress,” Camponovo said.
“Where there is a culture of corruption, where it is accepted, any anti-corruption strategy will fail, but in some ways I am an optimist because I do think cultures can be changed.”
Camponovo is one who thinks that to a large extent, law enforcement and the judiciaries are to be blamed for the high levels of corruption in Guyana and the wider Caribbean. This is so because it will only take a few good examples to be made out of corrupt officials to send a message that the crime would not be tolerated.
That is the view also held by United Kingdom’s Dr. Perry Stanislas.
At the same anti-corruption forum, Dr. Stanislas noted that corrupt behaviour is determined by the relative strengths or weaknesses of institutions. It deprives a nation of much needed revenue, he added.
The security expert and University lecturer made that point before referring to an article published in this newspaper in 2012. In that article, Transparency International labelled Guyana as the most corrupt country in the English-speaking Caribbean.
While things are a little better now as regards Guyana’s standing, the country still has a long way to go. Dr. Stanislas said that the desired change will not be achieved unless the crime is no longer tolerated.
“(Guyana) needs to develop an attitude that if you steal from the country we (the law) will be coming after you,” said Dr. Stanislas.
Dr. Stanislas singled out Jeffery Archer, a former British Minister, famous author and wealthy businessman; Martha Stewart, successful business woman and entrepreneur; Conrad Black, former owner of British Daily Telegraph, and several famous hotels/businessman and asked what was the common thread.
“These are rich powerful people but they all spent time in jail; that tells us something about the country they come from.”
Camponovo, noted that very often in Nigeria corrupt politicians are arrested, placed before the court and sent to jail. He said, however, that the problem is that there are so many of them.
He said that this is one area where Guyana’s small population comes in handy. “It will be easier for Guyana with a smaller population, smaller business community, government, etc. you only have to set a few examples,” said Camponovo.
He said that no strategy to tackle corruption can ever be complete without prosecution. “You have to bust some of the bad guys to send a very clear message to people that corruption would not be tolerated. That’s a combination of civil actions and criminal actions.”
He continued, “Where there is a culture where it is accepted any anti-corruption strategy will fail. But in some ways I am an optimist; I do think cultures can be changed and I think the people of Guyana have it much better than the people of Nigeria in the sense that it is a smaller country, population is smaller, institutions are smaller and in some ways more manageable, in Nigeria everyday someone is prosecuted but nothing seems to be changing.”
Camponovo said that if wrongdoers are made to face the fire and are held responsible for theft in a way that respects the rule of law, respects judicial and prosecutorial processes it will effect real change.
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