17 August, 2007


Curacao’s Example.

Aruba is notorious as being the most corrupt country in the West Indies. For decades it has been owned from top to bottom by the New Jersey Mafia. Not to be compared with St Maarten. That is owned by the Sicilian Mafia. In Aruba, no serious crime is committed except with approval of the bosses. Gratuitous crime is bad for business. The massive casinos and houses of prostitution that are the basis of Aruba’s tourist industry might suffer an unacceptable drop off in income. Anyone guilty of an unauthorized crime is seriously punished. And, I do not mean through the courts! That is one reason why the murder/disappearance of the silly little blond US chick on Spring Break in Aruba a few months ago was so shocking. It was bad for business, and clearly had not had official approval.

Second to Aruba must be Curacao. It has been run by its own home-grown mafia for generations. Even St Maarten and Aruba could not stand it any longer, and sought and gained separation. So, we read the Curacao press usually with disbelief and dismay. Their political confusion is normally too complex to understand.

A correspondent recently sent me a Curacao story from the Friday August 17 issue of the Daily Herald. It had me spellbound. The new government in Curacao has repudiated a recent increase of salaries for government ministers. That salaries increase had been instituted by the outgoing government. The article read:

WILLEMSTAD--The Council of Ministers has decided to revoke the proposed hike in salaries and new pension agreement for Members of the Island Council and Executive Council in Curaçao. The decision of the Island Council on June 28 to approve the hike is against the general interest of the Netherlands Antilles, Prime Minister Emily de Jongh-Elhage said. Approval of the salary increase immediately sparked widespread criticism from political parties and various sectors in Curaçao. Consequently, Lt. Governor Lisa Richards-Dindial did not sign off and publish the island ordinance.

An editorial in the same issue of the newspaper was even more revealing:

With its decision to revoke the salary hike and new pension scheme for Curaçao’s Commissioners and Island Council members, the Council of Ministers has gone a long way in reassuring the public that the Netherlands Antilles can adhere to principles of proper governance. Once the Advisory Council stated that the June 28 decision by the outgoing Island Council three days before the new council took office was against the penal law, the Islands Regulation ERNA and the general interest, it was clearly the only way to go. Some doubts had risen about the incoming PAR-led governments at both the federal and island level having the guts to reverse the much criticised decision by the former FOL-led coalition, mostly because FOL is also a member of the new coalition with PAR and PNP. The fact that several controversial appointments by the outgoing FOL-led Executive Council were not reversed added to the concern. There was some discussion on forming a committee to look into that matter, but so far little else

Stories appearing on various websites and in newspapers have suggested that in recent times Anguillian government ministers and members of the House of Assembly have increased their salaries on two separate occasions. The most recent one when a general salary increase of 20% was announced. To quote my correspondent:

When we in Anguilla look to Curacao as an arbiter of ethical governance, we're in big trouble.

I am reluctant to post anything about integrity in government when I am under threat of legal action by government Ministers. However, this is such a revealing story that it deserves more air-time. Besides, the purpose of this Blog is to discuss just this sort of issue. It would be very sad if a threat could silence this Blog. But, I ask you to be careful in your comments. My lawyers tell me that I must not be thought of as encouraging malicious comments.

What is your view? Do you believe that we can learn anything from Curacao? Do you believe that our Ministers acted in the interest of the public when they increased salaries?


  1. What can we learn from this story from the U.S. ? :
    Pentagon Paid $998,798 to Ship Two 19-Cent Washers (Update3)
    By Tony Capaccio

    Aug. 16 (Bloomberg) -- A small South Carolina parts supplier collected about $20.5 million over six years from the Pentagon for fraudulent shipping costs, including $998,798 for sending two 19-cent washers to an Army base in Texas, U.S. officials said.

    The company also billed and was paid $455,009 to ship three machine screws costing $1.31 each to Marines in Habbaniyah, Iraq, and $293,451 to ship an 89-cent split washer to Patrick Air Force Base in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Pentagon records show.

    The owners of C&D Distributors in Lexington, South Carolina -- twin sisters -- exploited a flaw in an automated Defense Department purchasing system: bills for shipping to combat areas or U.S. bases that were labeled ``priority'' were usually paid automatically, said Cynthia Stroot, a Pentagon investigator.

    C&D and two of its officials were barred in December from receiving federal contracts. Today, a federal judge in Columbia, South Carolina, accepted the guilty plea of the company and one sister, Charlene Corley, to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to launder money, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald said.

    Corley, 46, was fined $750,000. She faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years on each count and will be sentenced soon, McDonald said in a telephone interview from Columbia. Stroot said her sibling died last year.

    Corley didn't immediately return a phone message left on her answering machine at her office in Lexington. Her attorney, Gregory Harris, didn't immediately return a phone call placed to his office in Columbia.

    `Got More Aggressive'

    C&D's fraudulent billing started in 2000, Stroot, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service's chief agent in Raleigh, North Carolina, said in an interview. ``As time went on they got more aggressive in the amounts they put in.''

    The price the military paid for each item shipped rarely reached $100 and totaled just $68,000 over the six years in contrast to the $20.5 million paid for shipping, she said.

    ``The majority, if not all of these parts, were going to high-priority, conflict areas -- that's why they got paid,'' Stroot said. If the item was earmarked ``priority,'' destined for the military in Iraq, Afghanistan or certain other locations, ``there was no oversight.''

    Scheme Detected

    The scheme unraveled in September after a purchasing agent noticed a bill for shipping two more 19-cent washers: $969,000. That order was rejected and a review turned up the $998,798 payment earlier that month for shipping two 19-cent washers to Fort Bliss, Texas, Stroot said.

    The Pentagon's Defense Logistics Agency orders millions of parts a year. ``These shipping claims were processed automatically to streamline the re-supply of items to combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan,'' the Justice Department said in a press release announcing today's verdict.

    Stroot said the logistics agency and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, which pays contractors, have made major changes, including thorough evaluations of the priciest shipping charges.

    Dawn Dearden, a spokeswoman for the logistics agency, said finance and procurement officials immediately examined all billing records. Stroot said the review showed that fraudulent billing is ``not a widespread problem.''

    ``C&D was a rogue contractor,'' Stroot said. While other questionable billing has been uncovered, nothing came close to C&D's, she said. The next-highest billing for questionable costs totaled $2 million, she said.

    Stroot said the Pentagon hopes to recoup most of the $20.5 million by auctioning homes, beach property, jewelry and ``high- end automobiles'' that the sisters spent the money on.

    ``They took a lot of vacations,'' she said.

    To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Capaccio at acapaccio@bloomberg.net .

    Last Updated: August 16, 2007 15:16 EDT


  2. That "silly little blond US chick on Spring Break" you refer to has a name - Natalee Holloway. Your uncouth, blase attitude is despicable

  3. Some public men are destined to be loved, and other public men are destined to be disliked. But the most important thing about a public man is not whether he's loved or disliked, but whether he's respected, and I hope to restore respect to the presidency at all levels by my conduct."

    --Richard M Nixon, shortly before being elected President

  4. Two years ago the Government of Antigua and Barbuda asked you to investigate allegations of corruption in the management of the Antigua Public Utilities Authority. This resulted in what is called in Antigua "The Mitchell Report".

    In your report you quoted "The Seven Principles of Public Life," from an earlier report published in the UK. It is worth repeating here, but bowing to your lawyers, I make no representation on how it applies to those who want to see your head carried though The Valley on a stick.

    The Seven Principles of Public Life

    1. Selflessness
    Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

    2. Integrity
    Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.

    3. Objectivity
    In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.

    4. Accountability
    Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

    5. Openness
    Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

    6. Honesty
    Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

    7. Leadership
    Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.

  5. You usually have insightful, intelligent and constructive things to say. I am disappointed in your denigrating description of that unfortunate young woman, however "silly" she may have been. Whatever she did, she did not deserve to be murdered; blame the perpetrator, not the victim. It was uncharacteristic of you and distracting from your central point.

  6. Why was I so irritated at the memory of Natalie Holloway that I could not remember her name when I wrote this article. I tried for quite a while, but it was barred from my memory. So, I called her that “silly blond US chick”. It reflected my annoyance at having to think about her story. That casual description has caused a number of complaints. So, I have tried again to remember what my problem was with Natalie Holloway. Then, I remembered. My anger was nothing to do with the girl herself. Tragic as her story was, the real scandal was the way that the US media used it to drum up viewers for their disgusting programmes.

    The Natalie Holloway story was a construct of two unbearable female TV anchors in the USA. Grace somebody, and her predecessor attorney who has now moved from CNN to Fox. I am sorry, but I cannot remember the names of these two presenters either. They are both blond and ugly, and have law-related programmes. I am sure you know who I mean if you look at US television. The point about the Holloway story is that, up to that time on US TV programmes related to crime, only the murder or disappearance of little blond girls was getting massive US TV coverage. The disappearance of not a single black or Indian girl at that time was ever reported on US TV. There were at least ten times more of those. The imbalance of it was soon apparent even to US commentators. Several criticisms of the TV stations were made. Things began to change after a while, several months into the Holloway story began to wane. Gradually, a token black girl or boy has begun to get a mention when they are murdered or disappeared. Now, it is almost taken for granted to have the odd black face thrown in as leaven for these stories. How many of you were as offended as I was at the inappropriate amount of time this idiotic, irrelevant story took up on the so-called “news” channels? It was around that time that I stopped looking at either Fox News or CNN.

    The last time I looked at the WHO data, over 500,000 women die every year from preventable complications related to pregnancy. That is the equivalent of 1,000 jumbo jets, or nearly three a day. Not a word of this is considered newsworthy. It is no more “natural” than a deliberate murder is. But, two years ago, an irresponsible young person was tragically murdered in Aruba, and the US media had a feeding frenzy around her still-concealed body. And, I am supposed to feel sorry for her? The whole thing made me sick. I have wiped her name clean from my mind.

    On to a different subject, while I am on a ride. I have been meditating on the idiocy and cruelty of the Roman Catholic Church which has just condemned Amnesty International for having done something positive. Something, moreover, that was so long overdue. The Church, based on a miserable theory that an independent life begins at conception, has urged all Catholics to cease supporting Amnesty International because that organisation has recognised the right of raped and brutalised women, who become pregnant as a result, to have an abortion if that is their wish. I join the vast majority of thinking persons in believing that the unborn fetus is not entitled to be granted the same right to life as a person who has been born alive. The number of damaged Third-World women who will now be forced by fat, rich, white, self-righteous Christians to add the burden of an unwanted pregnancy, and the ensuing years of child welfare, to the torture they were put through is uncalculated. In my opinion, each one of those rabid archbishops and similar-minded “Christians” ought to have something unmentionable done to their private parts with an unlubricated broomstick. And, then to carry it around, in situ, for the rest of their lives. Just to teach them the true meaning of the lesson they are preaching.

    I am sorry if you find that disgusting. That is how I find the Catholic Church’s position on the issue. The disgust I feel does not encourage me to be calm or to write in measured tones.


  7. As to salary increases, the following should be remembered:

    1. It is not unusual for legislators to vote themselves pay rises. It happens in the UK and USA and so it can happen in Anguilla.

    2. In all such cases there is the niggling question of "quis custodiet custodes" (who is keeping an eye on the custodians, to make sure they don't abuse them position entrusted to them)? In countries like the USA, the country is set up in such a way that no one branch of government is all-powerful - the legislature, judiciary and executive keep each other in check - in theory. In business, pay rises for the board of directors are usually dealt with through a compensation committee which should be as independent and as free of influence as possible. If the board become indulgent the shareholders will kick them out.

    3. An argument in favour of giving people in the public sector (including the civil service and the Honourable Members) pay rises is to make sure that they are fairly compensated for doing what they do, and are not tempted or feel forced to accept bribes on account of how their full-time job pay packet does not pay enough.

    4. The corrollary of point #3 is that there should be a register of members interests where every source of income received by a Government Minister is made public (and therefore they can be challenged and prosecuted if they omit anything). Such a register is mandatory in other countries and should be mandatory in Anguilla before they receive one cent, let alone a pay rise.

    5. In a previous posting you discussed the issue of the number of Ministers and how the incumbents saw fit to disagree on this point with the suggestion of the Constitutional Commission (which made some excellent, common-sense points). Could there be any connection between the Ministers giving themselves a pay rise (sticking their snouts in the gravy train trough) and their reluctance to change the number of Ministers?

  8. Thank you, Justice Mitchell, about your straight talk about the primitive beliefs common among us and perpetrated by our churches.

    I note a report in this week's "Islander" newspaper on Ascension Island, a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic, that the Anglican Church there has their priorities right:

    "Because of the Dew Pond Run/Walk on Sunday 26 August , Mass will be celebrated at 7 pm and not at 10.30 am."

    Nuff respect, God.


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