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Dishonest politicians in the region… you better be careful!

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Editor: Dishonest politicians in the region must be careful because there is a wind of change blowing from as far as South America.

For decades we have been hearing about corrupt and dishonest politicians. Save and except former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Basdeo Panday, who was hauled before the Courts and sentenced to six years imprisonment by a magistrate,{{more}} no other politician in the region has been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.

Panday, who was charged in 2001 for failing to declare $TT 1.16 million, was eventually cleared a decade later, following several appeals which eventually ended up at the London based Privy Council.

There have been allegations against prominent politicians in Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda and most recently St Kitts/Nevis, but charges have not been laid against any of the lawmakers or former legislators. But it seems as if the new administration in Guyana is taking drastic action against former lawmakers in the Republic. A 54-year-old former Minister of Public Service Dr Jennifer Westford appeared before a magistrate in Georgetown on Wednesday, charged with the acquisition and transfer of several government vehicles. Her personal officer, Margaret Cummings, 36, was also charged. They were placed on $2 million bail. Westford was granted a total of $800,000 bail and Cummings, who faces additional charges of forging receipts, was placed on $1.2 million bail. They were ordered to return to court on August 10.

The APNY/AFC coalition, during the election campaign, spoke out against massive corruption and promised to prosecute the wrongdoers. Meanwhile extensive investigations in other ministries, government corporations and agencies are now underway. It is hoped that the governments in the region take a page out of Guyana’s book and clamp down on alleged dishonest practices by politicians. Although there are reports of favouritism, shortcomings and dissatisfaction in certain areas, St Vincent and the Grenadines, comparatively, is not known as a corrupt country.

Elections in this multi-island state are constitutionally due on March 28 next year, but the campaign has already started. The governing ULP is going all out to win for the fourth consecutive term, but the opposition NDP is preparing to block the move.

Oscar Ramjeet

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