By Youri Kemp
Caribbean News Now associate editor
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, during her contribution to the parliamentary debate on the Integrity in Public Life Bill, urged people who may have been involved in wrongdoing or corrupt activities to come forward and receive immunity in the eventuality of the axe falling on those who her government finds wanting in relation to their management and abuse of the public purse.
Mottley said: “I say to those today through you, sir, that the attorney general is available to talk and listen to anyone in this country who recognizes that there is a come to Jesus moment that ought to happen for some people in this country and that pending the passage of the legislation that they may want to do a sealed statement and give it to the attorney general.”
While corruption was not a big theme in the May 24, 2018, general election, when Mottley’s Barbados Labour Party (BLP) won all 30 seats over the then incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP), issues such as incompetence, cosy dealings with certain investors and waste in public funds that led to certain issues to overflow into the public domain were front and centre.
During the election, the water and sewage crisis in Barbados in early 2018, where sewage and wastewater was bubbling up into the main city square and backing up into the water table and water supply, created a stir as the then DLP government was caught off guard by the issues that created the problem.
Also, prior to that sewage crisis, the then DLP government signed onto an Inter-American Development Bank-funded water and sanitation systems upgrade project for Barbados, which was marked as completed in 2016.
A progress report on that project published on the IDB’s website, which stated that a US$53 million loan, of which $3 million was placed forward by the government of Barbados, was completed, with a total disbursed amount of just over $43 million for the entire project.
In addition, the “sweetheart deal” that regional hotelier and property developer, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart of Sandals Resorts International (SRI) received from the then DLP government resulted in the BLP accusing the then government of allowing Stewart and SRI to get away without paying their fair share of taxes. SRI has since denied this, and claimed that a legitimate agreement was reached with the government on these tax concessions and there was nothing untoward in this regard.
Continuing with her debate contribution, Mottley said: “I appeal as leader of this country to those who knew that they helped participate, because it takes two hands to clap… so I ask, sir, that persons examine their consciences and persons recognize that this government is prepared to give people the opportunity to come forward, ask for forgiveness and let us move forward.”
She further warned: “If there are others who are part of the same transaction who choose not to come forward and they are found out, well, they will feel the full weight of the law as the law is to be determined because, as I said at the beginning, there is one law in the country [but] what we will not do is look to find tens of millions of dollars to go on a witch-hunt.”
To date there have not been any formal investigations into the claims Mottley made in parliament, neither are there any pending court cases on the matter of corrupt officials.
There is also no word on whether or not a special committee in parliament, or government, will be created to deal with Mottley’s claims.
In addition, Mottley also asked for people to “walk back” from their contracts that they were awarded by the previous administration, because the government cannot afford them.
Barbados has entered into formal negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with regard to a stabilization programme for the country.