I have tried to make people understand that the street crime that is plaguing us is related to the boardroom crime that is being pushed under the rug…. Therefore if we do not address one, we can never reduce the other. Simply put, all those missing monies, unaccounted monies…swindles for self enrichment of political leaders and their close allies, amount to a daily dose of criminal activity which goes unpunished. However, when these resources are siphoned off for the improvement of the “quality of life” for a few, it means that the resources that could spread out to truly improve the quality of life of the masses have disappeared.
My people, there is a correlation and we better address those thieves, crooks and criminals in the pretty suits and with fancy post and titles, otherwise the desperation of the ones feeding at the bottom will mean that there will an increase of violence as they turn against each other to seemingly survive. However, that same set who become desperate will eventually even turn on those who have been building their ivory tower on the backs of the poor….
Quality of life
I listened and followed with sarcastic amusement when I first saw the news that the police were cracking down in the streets against people violating the “quality of life” crime and juxtaposed that with the recent statements by the very Honorable Prime Minister, Dean Oliver Barrow, who says that since assuming office the quality of life of Belizeans has improved.
I think the most recent display of his government’s example of what is the “improvement of the quality of the life” for the average Belizean is rather indicative of the fact that the average man on the street will always pay a higher price. So the Police claim that they were instructed to enforce the petty offences as a means to getting criminals off the street, so they launched their full assault on the public and the results still did not stop the murders and gun violence.
Rather, what the quality of life campaign did when it brought youth and minors in for petty offences was first to deprive them of their freedom by placing them in lock up for offences which were easily bailable at the police stations. But the poor folks, no pun intended, not knowing better were scared and to avoid prison time packed the Magistrate’s courts and clogged the already burdened judicial system, with frightened teenagers pleading guilty and being convicted. However the ramification of this, sadly, is that so many youth out of school for the summer vacation now have a criminal record, mind you of a petty offence, not an offence that will be expunged from their record. So now when they seek a job or apply for a visa or seek re-entry into an institution of learning, their police record will show a conviction. Yes, a simple conviction which tarnishes their record, reputation and status in society.
I say that the relevant authorities should have issued a warning that these laws will now be enforced, give people at least one week to fall into compliance, then do their sting operations and then even so, give first time offenders a warning…. not a charge sheet! The law is not an ass: the people who apply it are the asses and asinine!
White collar crimes
Imagine applying this same principle to deal with those whose quality of life indeed has improved but because they have swindled, misappropriated, mis-spent, mishandled or outright misappropriated monies from the various government departments, entities and statutory boards. For me, the criteria would be that we should equally set the police up to conduct stings on anyone who in the past five years has inexplicably had an increase in his/her wealth, be it through land now in their name, the vehicles they now drive, the places they can now afford to travel, the quality clothes they now wear and all the latest gadgets and phones they now own. Let’s line them up.
For example, Elvin Penner would be a great candidate to apply the quality of life test under white collar crimes. Who can forget his famous interview of January 18, 2012 with the media as he was questioned about the hundreds of nationality applications he was pushing in at the Immigration Department. Here is how that went:
Hon. Elvin Penner: “Well I believe that if I’m working day and night for them [immigrants seeking nationality], and they are out here seeing it, I don’t think that they would turn their backs on me.”
Jules Vasquez: “It also has a cost for you. Each head is $300.”
Hon Elvin Penner: “I’m trying to work with them. I’ve always committed myself from day one when I got into politics that anybody who applied for their nationality, and they qualified, I would pay half of the cost. So, I am telling them that now as well. I will pay half of the cost of nationality. Of course, we do the police record on our own, so there is a cost. But it’s of course, two fold; there is a political reason behind it. We want to get our voters in. I won’t deny that any at all. I would wish that every politician in the country would do that because this really proves that you are pushing and going the extra mile for you to win your division.”
Marion Ali – Love News: “But can you do that with government funds?”
Hon. Elvin Penner: “No.”
Marion Ali – Love News: “How are you doing it?”
Hon. Elvin Penner: “Everything I have to pay for, I’m digging myself into a hole,[emphasis mine] but I’m sure there will be some Good Samaritan who will help me out.”
Jules Vasquez: “If you’re paying half for 100, that’s $15,000.”
Hon. Elvin Penner: “And that’s about what we had already spent in the paperwork because even those who didn’t qualify, we already did their medical reports because we weren’t sure if they qualify.”
Dig a hole… fill the hole
Here is the prime suspect in a criminal activity perpetrated while in office as Minister of State in the Ministry of Immigration, confessing he dug himself in a hole when during elections he expended money to assist potential voters…and no one seems to have had a problem with that tactic! I say it is bribery…what say you?
However that hole had to be filled back and what the FIU, Police and Prime Minister need to be investigating is how come, he dug himself in this financial hole, yet is able to live a high lifestyle and by all accounts of his pictures on Facebook posted by his wife, they are prosperous?
It seems Citizen Kim sent the Good Samaritan and by all accounts related by Penner himself, he helped to expedite Citizen Kim’s passport. These are the very words of Elvin Penner sent by e-mail to the media on September 27, 2013: “What I do know is that an Asian person whom I have known through business trips, even before I entered politics, came to me for a signature so he could get his passport. He also mentioned that he needed it urgently since he was about to go on a trip and was more than willing to pay the regular one day service fee. The picture on the nationality document he presented to me, the Korean passport that he had with him and the passport size pictures that I also signed did not raise any suspicion since they were all of the same person. The person whom I knew as Mr. Kim. Wanting to help a business person I made sure that everything was in order on the application form and personally went with him to the passport office to see to it that he would get proper attention and would get his passport the same day. [emphasis mine]
Really, after this very incriminating statement…please tell me how the quality of life crimes have not been applied to this situation with the same rigor. An ordinary black youth from Southside Belize would be pulled in and left in a cell for the full 48 hours, if not beaten in between and still released because there was never any suspicion, much less evidence to start with. He is a case of sufficient suspicion and prima facie evidence and Penner has not one day spent an hour, much less a night at Belmopan Police Station lock-up! And you wonder why crime is so rampant?
THE INUSTICE IS CRYSTAL CLEAR! This is the reality of the quality of life we now live…where the powerful get richer and the poor are made powerless! Has Penner’s hole now filled back?
Make the link
The pot in this nation is bubbling and the lid will soon blow off as there is just so much a person and a nation can take. The damage control the PM tried to do with his staged interview by a hand-picked interviewer is rather a disgrace. Further it holds true to his favorite saying: “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” He was calling the tunes and was not once challenged in his answers…. What a masquerade!
And the masquerade continues because until the leaders of this nation can make the link between street crimes and their unaccountable non-transparent actions, there is no solution on the horizon. Let’s take the health sector as an example. Now we all need health services, for emergencies, natural events such as pregnancies and life-threatening illnesses such as AIDS, diabetes, etc. Moreover, the health sector is also to provide preventative care so that we work towards a healthy population because it is common sense that a healthy people will be a productive people.
However, the health sector is the one next to the Lands Department that is steeped in scandals upon scandals, and with a CEO who is a spin doctor but unable to be accountable. We have seen proof of an Auditor General’s report which deals with monies missing from the Southern Regional in which one Nelsy Sommerville is the prime suspect, but the police are yet to intervene; then there is Melida Guerra unmasked for using the funds for personal gain in the audit of the National Health Insurance Program, who is defended by the CEO after he and his Minister got their ticket paid for by NHI money, which is illegal, unethical and improper. Even who gets hired, as the Pharmacist Association notes, is being controlled and manipulated by the Government, as the daughter of Minister Erwin Contreras is hand-picked for a job she did not yet qualify for.
Then there is the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH)… hmmm I don’t even know where to begin with this one since we have gone from questionable medical supplies, questionable prices and payments to suspicious transactions for radiation machines, to the reality that they are basically almost bankrupt.
Since June it seems the CEO, Dr. Gary Longsworth, realized that the financial situation at KHMH was already at “crisis” level, but the higher authorities kept it quiet. However the leaked June 2014 e-mail of Longsworth to Board Chair Chandra Cansino states: “This matter is now at the point of crisis and there is the high likelihood we will not be able to meet next month’s payroll…we have maxed out our overdraft facility where no further checks can be cut, we have vendors calling every day and not releasing orders because we owe them.”
It is the poor who MUST use the KHMH and the public health system as they cannot fly out like the Barrow monthly or regularly to seek medical attention in the USA nor can they afford Merida, Mexico, Guatemala, not even Cuba. The white collar criminals can afford all these places and more. So each time they mismanage or misappropriate, it’s the poor who are once again victimized…. In the same way the police do, but less openly. It’s the quality of life of the poor that gets worse. Imagine KHMH unable to get and pay for basic supplies, bandages to surgical material… sad!
But with all this the political leaders stand by Dr. Longsworth and Dr. Allen… hmmm!
My people, this is crisis upon crisis, and the lid will soon blow off! God bless Belize