Bajans, vote on January 15th!

How to deal with corrupt politicians

Election fever is in the air. So much anticipation. There is no question that there is a swing in the polls. BLP supporters are now saying they are going to win by a small majority, while DLP backers say they are going to win big. If the DLP wins, the party should have a clear view of how to deal with corrupt politicians.

Integrity legislation is critical, and the DLP have made this issue part of their package. But what about amnesty; is it necessary?

Why is amnesty necessary?

A group called “Barbados Forward” (quoted on BFP) made the case for amnesty beautifully:
“We talked a lot about this one and figure it will cause the most
ruckus. But we see that the fastest way to fix things up is to forgive and
forget.”

If DLP were to adopt a hard line against corruption and press for retribution then the backlash from people trying to protect their assets would throw the island into turmoil for an extended period of time. The spectre of jail time, even if it is in a new jail, will drive desperate people to acts of desperation. The DLP should offer an amnesty to preclude such acts of desperation.

Corruption amnesty is not a new idea

  • The World Bank thought it was a good idea: World Bank in corruption amnesty BBC News“Firms which have defrauded the World Bank in the past
    will not be penalised if they admit their wrongdoing, the bank says.”
  • South Africa used the concept of amnesty in its Truth and Reconciliation Committee: “the granting of amnesty to persons who make full disclosure of all the relevant facts”
  • “Pakistan’s Government has cleared the way for Benazir Bhutto, the former
    Prime Minister, and her husband, to reclaim hundreds of millions of pounds
    frozen in Swiss bank accounts, according to senior anticorruption officials.”
    - Dean Nelson, Lahore and Ghulam Hasnain, Times Online, UK
  • Kenya: “Amnesty on Corruption should include a Ban from Public Office” post by Dr. Stephen Kabera Karanja
  • “CORRUPTION-KENYA: An Amnesty Perhaps Not Worth Its Weight in Gold By Joyce Mulama
    NAIROBI, Oct 4 (IPS) - A recent proposal by Kenya’s government to provide amnesty to corrupt officials who return stolen funds has prompted concerns in the East African country, where some fear the initiative may encourage more graft — and ultimately a culture of impunity.
    “If you calculate the amount of money lost through corruption, you cannot afford to give amnesty,” Maina Kiai, chairman of the Kenya National
    Commission on Human Rights, told IPS.” “
  • “We can stop the rot in Nigeria by changing the corruption game and my suggestion can have a chance with an attitude of forgiveness. Corruption flourished because of the buy in from the very top of the Nigeria society and this top down relationship has cascaded into every aspect of life in our country.A national corruption amnesty should be set up to allow people to hand in stolen monies without fear of prosecution.” Anti-Corruption Day, Nigerian Lighthouse for Good Governance

Focus on eliminating corruption

While we must bear in mind that nobody is perfect, we must also deal with corruption. If we don’t bring corruption under control, it will further endanger our health. If we poison our water supply what will happen? How will tourists react? Will highly skilled locals flee the country? Corruption will necessarily bring disaster - the only question is the magnitude of the disaster. We should focus on eliminating corruption.

Keltruth Corp. feels that the best way to eliminate corruption is to offer an amnesty with the following provision:

“Tell us about your corrupt practices - all of them. Corrupt practices not declared during this window of opportunity will not be eligible for amnesty.” The corrupt individual would then have a chance to confess, and these destructive practices would be revealed to all.

After the amnesty

If the DLP’s integrity legislation is enacted, this will persuade politicians to be honest. It is possible that some politicians may need to supplement their income to maintain their lifestyle. Keltruth Corp. recommends a substantial increase in salary for all members of Parliament. This is a small price to pay compared to the alternative.