By Dr. Francis Antoine
Corruption occurs frequently because good people sit by and allow bad people to do bad things. If corruption persists and becomes pervasive then a culture of corruption develops. Such culture of corruption is responsible in many ways for the decadence of many societies.
As it stands today, Grenada harbours a culture of corruption that is bad for our social and economic development. Yes, we all do make errors. And for those of us who erred and have apologised, and corrected our errors, we must be given another chance to serve our organisations and societies. But errors that are repeated and become a pattern of behaviour, those are not permissible and must bear the necessary consequences.
Corruption is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically but not always involving bribery. Corruption often requires others to look away or simply to keep quiet. Synonyms include dishonesty, unscrupulousness, double-dealing, fraud, misconduct, criminality, wrongdoing, venality, extortion, crookedness, sleaze, decay.
Corruption is, in essence, the impairment of the integrity, virtue, or moral principle of someone; and that in itself represents depravity, decay, decadence. Corruption often requires inducement to do wrong by improper or unlawful means. It may include bribery and gross departure from original acceptable practices or from what is correct.
We are aware of that farmers are very hard working people. Many of our farmers toil on very difficult terrains, sometimes dangerously so.
Very many struggle to get by every day. Many have large families dependent on them as the sole bread winner. So how, for example, is it that someone who is not a registered member of the GCNA becomes a member of the board, far less to become the Chairman of the board?
Why is it that the other elected members of the said board allow that to happen repeatedly year after year after year? That, by its very nature, epitomises corruption, dishonest conduct, or fraud.
Further, the fact that two elected members of the said GCNA board get away with that illegal act is even more damnable. That raises the question, does anyone sincerely care anymore about the welfare of the nutmeg farmers and farmers in general?
What about the GCNA organisation that allows that to occur? What are the elected board members doing during its term of office that allows that malpractice? What impact does such corruption have on the image of our tri-island nation, and the Caribbean in general?
The issue of corruption is of further concern when one realises that one or a few members of the board of that organisation can move funds from various financial accounts to buy (invest or gamble) life insurance in one’s personal name without the board’s consent.
What is also disconcerting is the fact that the few members who did that are not challenged by the other members of that board. This, therefore, raises the question of misuse and mismanagement of monies by the GCNA board. None of us is perfect, and to err is human. But being human is no excuse for knowingly allowing corruption.
The issue of corruption is both disgusting and frustrating when one finds out that even after an authorised investigation was conducted, and, according to separate independent legal reviews of the investigation, the activity of those few members may amount to criminal activity.
Yet, other elected board members do nothing about the issue. Thus, they in part allow corruption or fraud to occur. In addition, when some farmers raise questions and concerns about what amounted to having gambled farmers’ money, they are simply being frustrated or ignored. Other farmers simply feel helpless or powerless to do anything about it. Many refuse to even further participate in their own organisation.
Martin Luther King said that “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
It seems that there is quite a lack of people in Grenada willing to stand up for what is right, hence the persistence and development of a culture of corruption. Could it be that we have become lethargic and are too absorbed in trying to make ends meet? Or could it be that we are too busy to be concerned about our society in general? Or could it be that we have become selfishly greedy pursuing our own goals and are too busy to be concerned? Or could it be a combination of those and other reasons?
Despite that though, there is great hope for our people because of those few who have, over the years, taken action and raised their voices and continue to do so.
I call on all Grenadian farmers, Grenadians and Caribbean people in general, to always do the right and honourable thing. Let us clean up the corruption in our organisations and societies. So, for example, there should never ever be any elected GCNA board member who is not a qualified registered member making decisions on behalf of farmers.
That would amount to gross dishonesty or fraud.
There should never be people on boards or in authority, or in any organisation or body, making decisions that do not take into consideration the best interest of our farmers, our people, and our island nations.
We do know that people are not perfect and errors do occur. We also know that a few people will attempt to defraud others in order to line their pockets. That is why there are a number of people elected or appointed to maintain checks and balances that should prevent fraud.
However, when those elected or appointed people become aware of misdoings and do nothing about it, then they too become liable for the fraudulent act(s). We know that a man is judged by the company he keeps. So, if a man fails to point out corruption in the organisation to which he belongs then he is likely to be either corrupt and/or condones corruption.
We are familiar with the saying that the upholder is as guilty as the thief. And if a man aids and abets a criminal act he is made to pay a price. In the GCNA such a man cannot claim to be concerned about farmers while he does nothing about corruption ongoing in GCNA; hence, he must be hypocritical if he does nothing about corruption when he sees it. Such a man would have lost all moral authority and integrity because he failed in his moral obligation.
We must, however, acknowledge and applaud those who over the years have made repeated efforts to challenge the board to do the right thing, even though their efforts were being rebuffed and put down by the board. It is good to know we still have quite a few good men, and the farmers know who they are.
Failure to say and do something on behalf of farmers, when farmers money was being misused in order to buy personal life insurance unbeknown to the GCNA board and membership, and to now claim to be sorry for farmers who do not receive a salary (make that income) during the off season for nutmegs and cocoa, is grossly disingenuous.
If that man was not concerned then about the misuse of GCNA’s farmers money being used to pay illegal board members, but now complains about having to pay court cost for being forced to do the right thing by the nutmeg act, then that person is being disingenuous.
In industry or business individuals are held accountable for their responsibilities. When they succeed they are rewarded. When they fail they are made to pay the price, which may be demotion, dismissal, or pay the difference if it is a contract.
In government political parties lose their right to govern. However, in Grenada quite a few fraudsters seem to succeed in getting appointed to boards and institutions, even when there are doubts about their integrity. Oh yes, we must be going the wrong way.
Our farmers work too hard for us to allow them to be taken advantage of. This, therefore, is a call for all of us, who believe in right and wrong, and who want to see better for our tri–island nation, and the Caribbean in general, to show some intestinal fortitude and stand up for what is right, because we can fall for anything that is wrong.
Farmers need to make sure that at the upcoming area meetings they select delegates who will represent their interests. Farmers also need to know that those delegates must be accountable to them and report back to them in a timely manner.
Farmers need to make sure, henceforth, that they actively participate in the management of their own affairs without fear or despair. We must rally together to bring about a better GCNA. Yes it will not be easy and, as a fellow farmer recently reminded me, things will not be financially good for the new board.
We will falter, and we will make mistakes, but we must not be daunted by the size of the tasks ahead of us. We must be prepared for the tough battles ahead and, if we are united in our efforts, we will succeed.