Political leaders keep making the news for among the worst of reasons. Though the allegations against them do not rise to the pitch of serial child molestation, or murderous wife beating, they come very close, through the white collar predations that always involve money, the poor people’s money rechanneled, compiled, and squandered by the vault full without qualm or conscience.
They come from all over and, particularly from underdeveloped countries languishing in poverty, countries that could use every penny that comes to state treasuries. It is of powerful political leaders soaked through and through with the perverse, who now stand as barbarous examples of what goes wrong when they are trusted with the reins of government, and with access to the money and the privileges that come with it.
There is the report on the wife of the former Prime Minister of Malaysia accused of soliciting millions in graft and bribes (KN February 7th). Then, there was the revealing saga of long serving President Tedoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea, also accused of runaway corruption, now being compelled by the IMF to declare his assets. Next, there is Angola and that father-daughter combination that ran wild and wreaked havoc, through billions misappropriated in an endless splurge that gutted their nation and left it with the dreariest of prospects.
No society deserves these vulgar wretches, who should all be put away for life with hard labour. We must consider doing the same here for those who have done so, and dare to think that they could get away with such again, as well as those who are planning to do so. Be they political leader or minister or cabinet presence. Be they opposition parliamentarian or public service professional. Be they chairs and directors of boards, who first plot on how to game the system for personal benefit and then actually execute their nefarious ambitions.
And, lest anyone forget, there is that possible pinnacle of them all in Nigeria, where a handful of their rulers – and their cabals – have engaged in the endless gouging and spiriting away of billions, while their people struggle with poverty and violence, as they rip each other’s livers out in either sectarian and secular hatreds.
It seems that the eternal curse of Third World countries is to be gifted with governing presences such as these. Some gifts they are! They could be done without. And as we prepare, despite the devastating divisions, for the promised oil dividends, as scrambled and distorted as they are by Exxon and its contract, the resolve must be: not here! Not now! Not anyone! Because when they help themselves lavishly, it is at our expense. For the more that they grab, the less there is for each one of us.
Less roads, less light, less schools and hospital facilities and all those progressive things that the oil money could make possible. We do not have enough people to absorb all that oil money, contract renegotiated or not, and with some corruption factored in as a reasonable precaution. There should still be more than enough petroleum power rushing downstream to include and inundate one and all Guyanese, including those who come to take advantage of our opportunities.
It may be a forlorn hope, given our rancid and rancorous divide, but this population of 750,000 souls must have zero tolerance for any misconduct with respect to oil, oil proceeds, and oil management. On this commonsense has to prevail, on this there can be no negotiation: one strike and it is out. Out of office, out of contention, and out of law-abiding society. By the latter, we mean in prison. If not, then Guyana stands to follow in the destructive paths of Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Malaysia, and Nigeria. We don’t want that, do we?
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