Before proceeding any further with my exposé of the KDI corruption affair that I embarked on in the previous instalment of this series of articles it will be helpful to point out a few things.
First of all, readers should be clear that it is not my intention to cause any undue or avoidable hardship to Barbadians.
I am mindful of my homeland's dependence on foreign direct investment as a key component of its economic well being - a point, coincidentally, underscored this past weekend by the country's Opposition leader, former Prime Minister Owen Arthur.
I am mindful too that in the prevailing, perilous global economic climate, there is a premium on this kind of investment for Barbados, as such investment is perhaps harder to secure now than it has ever been.
Nonetheless I persist with Canadian diplomat Isaac Goodine's story of how he and his family fell victim to fraudsters in my homeland because I believe that any hardship arising from this expose is outweighed by the benefits to Barbadians that may accrue from confronting the corruption that plagues the island.
In his book "How Barbados Works: A Case Study of Systemic Corruption" Goodine declares that his intention is not to tarnish Barbados' image, but rather to demonstrate that "there are many honest 'Bajans' on the island and abroad,who are frustrated by the prevailing coruption in the system and feel powerless to bring about change by themselves.
These Barbadans Goodine calls "the silenced majority" and states his intention to challenge some of them to tell the truth. He expresses the hope that persons in Barbados' civil society will help the government and its agencies clean up their act.
"This is also their story." he says.
It is certainly my story.
I refer to myself as a Barbadian in "exile" (in my All Voices profile and elsewhere) because that is precisely how I see myself. It is the price I am being made to pay for challenging Barbados' elitist, vested interests.
It is a consequence of my ongoing battle with corrupt politicians, religious clerics, artists, academics, journalists, business people and other groups and individuals who perpetrate, perpetuate, exploit and benefit from corrupt practices in Barbados.
It is not only my and other Barbadians' story though. Other Caribbean citizens - like- suffer as a result of the corruption that retards the regions' political, economic, spiritual and wider social progress.
I persist with this exposé and the cricketing fairness petition so far associated with it (others are being conteplated) for the benefit of honest, hard-working people everywhere.
As I indicated in the previous article in this series, I am mindful of the interdependence of all the earth's "cricketing" citizens.
I feel a profound affinity with the Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy activists fighting for fairness at the creases of the Western world's financial wickets. (I recently signed a petition of "Occupy Norwich" movement.)
Like Goodine, a devout Christian, I believe in the biblical dictum "a little leaven leavens the whole lump". He says corruption is harmful to everyone, not just those directly disadvantaged. I say that corruption anywhere dehumanizes and deminishes people everywhere.
One final note: readers should bear in mind that Goodine's study was written in 2000. Since then, with the availability of more information perhaps, his views (especially his views about the role of Dr. Basil Springer in the fraud to which he was subjected) have softened a bit.
A Batsman's Psalm
The Lord is my umpire;
For impartial judgement and fairness I shall not want.
He maketh me to bat confidently on any pitch;
He leadeth me to detect elusive slow-pitched deliveries
He restoreth my run rate: he leadeth me in the path of
An excellent batting average for his name sake.
Yea, though I walk out to the crease
To face the most savage, short-pitched deliveries,
I shall fear no evil:
For thou art with me:
Thy helmet, thigh pad and “you-know-what-box”,
They comfort me.
Thou prepares a triple century before me
In the presence of my enemies;
Thou annointest my bat with strokes;
The score board ticket over.
Surely the most glorious straight-drives,
Square-cuts, backward sweeps, pulls and hooks
Shall follow me all the innings of my career
And my name shall be a memorial at Kensington Oval,
This Batsman's Psalm is a simultaneously profound and light-hearted cricket lover’s reworking of the popular biblical Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd...”) that I wrote several years ago.
Some West Indies cricketers will recognize it, as I presented copies to them several years ago after a match they played in Barbados.
I cannot say for sure, but this first experiment with what I have called “Cricket Scripture” may have been inspired by that nadir of international cricketing conduct – the lowest point to which individual effort in the international game has possibly ever sunk: the claim by former Australian captainto have fairly held onto a catch that television replays clearly showed he had dropped.
Dismissing the prize West Indies batsman, that was arguably the most critical incident of the first (and for that reason critical) match between Australia and the West Indies, when they met at Kensington Oval in 1995 to compete for the prestigious Frank Worrell Trophy.
Indeed, the universally respected official cricket chronicle Wisden describes Lara’s dismissal in that first encounter as “the most controversial - and perhaps the decisive - moment of the tour.”
Then, as now, I saw it as a profound psychological assault that deeply demoralized West Indies cricketers and fans. I think it strengthened in many Caribbean people the notion that those who ruled the cricketing world were against us: the sense that no matter how clear the evidence in our favour on the cricketing field – or beyond the boundary, if I may invoke CLR James’ socio-political assessment of the sport - we should only expect unfair, damning judgements.
It seems to me that the apparent decision by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) to fully exonerate its Chief Executive Officer Ernest Hilare, Director Sir Hilary Beckles, coach Ottis Gibson and other top (especially Jamaican) Caribbean cricketing officials but insist on a retraction from batsman Chris Gayle is likely to have a comparable negative psychological impact.
It seems to me that the Board’s silence on the inflammatory, scandalous characterization of Gayle as a “criminal”, virtually, by University of the West Indies (Cave Hill campus) Principal Professor Beckles is a particularly lamentable demonstration of Caribbean cricketing governance gone awry.
Unfortunately, this kind of grievous governing behaviour is all too common a feature of Caribbean life. It not only blights our sports, but impacts the political, commercial, religious and other spheres of our lives.
Isaac Goodine found this out the hard way, through his experience with KDI. In “How Barbados Works”, his “case study in systemic corruption” on the island, he writes “I have come to question the country’s laws and constitution and intend to expose the rottenness of its corrupt system.”
“My family and I have suffered significant financial loss, and experienced severe emotional distress.” he writes, and notes that while much of the anger and frustration he felt has subsided, there remains “a deep sadness at the revelation of the spiritual malaise within society and lack of social conscience among the elite.”
“It is sad that people we came to know and trust lied and cheated. It is sad that a system we had come to believe in let us down.” Says his study.
Goodine testifies to the existence of a “stony silence” that insulates corrupt Barbadian elites from the just consequences of their actions.
"The people who cheated us are no ordinary people, but the elite of Caribbean society, with the right family ties." he says. "They have high education and intelligence and are successful in their own right, with no public record of fraud." he adds.
Goodine’s case study notes that these elites represent Barbados abroad and that the system of which they are symbols "has long made Barbados the favourite recipient of official development assistance (ODA), and now the world's favourite offshore investment center in the Caribbean."
We can conclude that it is these elites' lofty social position that not only makes their unscrupulous exploits possible, by suggesting that they are above reproach and can be trusted by locals and foreigners in financial and other matters. And we can also conclude that when their victims, local or foreign, lose confidence in them, it is the elites' lofty positions and corresponding connections that intimidate many into silence.
Goodine suggests as much when he writes "I am only one of many victims of the fraudulent operation of which I am writing. Ironically, I am the only one who can tell the truth."
He says he has found out that "when it comes to the truth and the facts, Barbadians are afraid".
Goodine attributes this fear largely to "a draconian Official Secrets Act modelled on the old British act, and libel laws said to be among the strictest in the world."
And as I have indicated previously, the role of British law and other imperial cultural legacies in Barbados is particularly apparent, I think in the attitudes of some of our elites to cricket.
Some thought too should be given to the attitude and attachment of Professor Beckles and others to American centres of “imperial” power, which have largely come to replace British imperial influence in the Caribbean.
A memorable instance of “name-dropping” by Sir Hilary, prefacing a public lecture, whereby he indicated that he had been in the company of American presidential hopeful Al Gore (or was it John Kerry) shortly after he lost his battle for the White House tocomes to mind here.
To be continued...