Under duress from Caribbean Shores area representative, Kareem Musa, who charged Prime Minister Barrow with nepotism for the absolutely sweet BTL contracts the UDP government gave to his ex-wife and his brother, the Prime Minister returned to the same weak defense he gave, each of the countless times he has been charged with the crime (a strict dictionary definition of the word).
The Prime Minister said that nepotism for a political leader occurs when they use their power to give jobs to family members who are insufficiently qualified. He said that someone shouldn’t be denied a job they are imminently qualified for because they are closely related to the person who gave them the job.
There are a few pearls from the court world, and one of them is that justice must be seen to be done. That means that what the people think, counts. We can clutch our dictionary like it is the Bible, but what’s therein isn’t gospel.
Nepotism is anti-meritocracy, and the worst thing about it is psychological — the negative effect it has on the minds of people. When people see they are living in a world where getting by has more to do with who know you than what you do, frustration and negativity set in.
It is amazing, but it does seem that the Prime Minister spent his 13 years at the head of our country believing that he was in a court room. It isn’t the Bar that made him leader of Belize. The people of Belize made him leader, and whatever we believe nepotism is, is what it is.
Interestingly, based on the dictionary definition of nepotism, a court would convict the Prime Minister of committing such an offense when the decision was made that one of his boys was the most qualified person to run BTL. Before I go on, all human beings have blind spots, and one of the PM’s blind spots is similar to the one Mr. Gapi Vega has. These men believe that they and their faamli are smarter than everybody else.
What effect did the placement of the Prime Minister’s son at the head of BTL have on the people of Belize, and what effect did it have on the psyche of the human judges who presided over the former owner’s claim for compensation? We have seen how the mighty Americans treat entire nations when their leaders have expropriated private companies. Check out the pressure they put on Cuba, Venezuela, Grenada, and Chile.
Expropriation of private companies is not done only in countries in our part of the world. We know why we had to take back BTL, and we know why the entire process had to be free of any taint. If Belize’s political leaders had grown up in a proper sports culture, they would have known that for any family member to make the team they had to be head and shoulders better than the rest. In this instance, even if the young man was head and shoulders above everyone else in the field, the optics of the BTL nationalization did not allow for him being placed in such a high position there.
The court wouldn’t condemn the PM as a nepotistic fiend for giving his ex-wife and brother the absolutely sweet contracts at BTL, but out here that thing reeked. The Prime Minister said that no one can dispute the credentials of his ex-wife and brother. That is true. What is also true is that if a lawyer wants to make a mint they go into private practice.
I don’t know what they teach lawyers in school; I know what they don’t teach. Hmm, maybe it’s the substance they have to work with. Why are Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro and Mahatma Ghandi so great, so honorable, and so many lawyers are show-me-the-money-and-no-matter-the-charge-I’ll-turn-over- every-stone-turn-a-blind-eye-to-the-truth-to-get-you-acquitted?
Everyone knows that there are giant sums of “clean” money to be made off the dirty drug trade. The coca growers of South America run great risk, the cocaine chemists run great risk, the cocaine runners in fast boats and planes run great risk, the young men who land the planes and pick up the wet drops run great risk, the security people for the drug lords and for the country run great risk, the kingpins and the politicians who protect them for substantial grease should be at great risk, ah, but the attorneys for the defense, are pure. Oh my, how much they make for the legal alibi they produce.
Defending drug dealers, that’s what a lawyer does if they want to make gobs of money. The old UDP said you aren’t supposed to do it like Mr. Harry Courtenay did. The UDP spent an entire term, 1993 to 1998, hunting down Mr. Harry Courtenay over a reported $3.34 million that he made doing work for the Social Security Board. If I remember correctly, Mr. Courtenay was the Chairman of the Social Security Board, and he did some private lawyering for them and collected the fat sum.
Oh no, that’s not the way to do it. The way to do it is to be the brother or the ex-wife of the PM. The obscene amount mentioned in the House, no one working for the Government of Belize should make winnings like that. The last budget presented in the House was for $1.3 billion, and the person who is at the head table to see that that great sum is spent on the right things and is properly accounted for, gets paid around $100,000 per annum.
What a terrible effect it must have on the psyche of the nation’s top lawyers — the Solicitor General, the DPP, the Chief Justice — when the payment mentioned for one year of work by the two chosen lawyers (work that resulted in court losses for Belize, I must add) is more than any of them could earn working their entire lives for the Government of Belize?
When the government took back BTL, it became the property of the people of Belize. The people of Belize have a set pay structure. House reports say the brother and the ex-wife of the PM were paid like they work for a British bank.
Nepotism, another name for favoritism, saps energy from sports too
In my column I’ve tried to send a message to John Saldivar that it is improper for a minister of government to be so up close to sports. Effectively, John’s minions helped to wrest the management of the FFB from Dr. Bertie Chimilio, who had fallen out of favor with much of the football family because he seemed to have no interest in free and fair elections. Check the records. Since then, all the football titles have gone to John’s team, the teams for the ministry John used to run, or to close political affiliates of the present government.
I read or heard somewhere that UDP BMP was rolling out its sports plan, and all I want to hear is that the minister is going to keep the appropriate distance from the game if he and his party win again. Sports is one of the vehicles that can help to unite a nation, and no claim of love for sports should allow a politician to gum up that goal. Government ministers can have favorites, but only in countries that are like the ones the present US prez damned, do you find government leaders being so up close (in sports).
Remember, justice must be seen to be done. GoB ministers up front in sports create confusion in the minds of the sports officials. It’s a lost opportunity for the country when a team led by a government minister represents us abroad, because the specter of a politician feeding off the glory of our athletes is sapping.