Minister of Education Ronald Jones wants Barbadians to know that not all politicians are corrupt and that not every cost overrun is an indication that someone in Government has been the beneficiary of a kickback.
While strongly condemning such rumormongering, Jones acknowledged that quite often politicians were the very ones making the “sinister” accusations and tainting each other’s character.
“I know across the political divide from time to time once the price changes from the original cost, you simply put on it a cost overrun, when in fact a changing scope would mean a variation in cost. But what is more insidious, we do not do ourselves any good justice by either subtly, or not so subtly, insinuating that because the price of a project might have changed overtime that somebody associated with the project is getting a major kickback,” he said.
Jones went on to suggest that if a project moved from $18 million to $22 million in costs, it was now commonplace to hear that someone has walked away “with $2 million or something to that effect.
“This has continued overtime and is now becoming even worse,” Jones told the House of Assembly during debate on a resolution which sought to vest crown lands at London Bourne Towers, The City, in the National Housing Corporation.
He recalled that “about three years ago when another project was being looked at to deal with our garbage issue, at a town hall meeting, a well known Barbadian got up and asked those persons involved in the project, ‘who were paid the finders fees?’
“Of course that was a veiled comment to suggest that funds were passed in order for this project to see the light of day,” Jones explained, adding, “That kind of argument has percolated right down in the society, that every single politician, those who have been and those who will come, will continue to be tainted by that sinister brush.
“‘You have to be corrupt’ is the argumentation by every citizen of Barbados,” he said, while suggesting that “we need to move away from that level of argument.
“We need to move away from without facts, without knowledge, without information, looking at individuals whose character was not tainted, and now becomes tainted by simply becoming a politician.”
To fortify his argument, Jones singled out the Opposition Member of Parliament for the City Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, saying “in this House, there is a colonel, a man for whom I have a high degree of respect, particularly because of his upbringing and his training to be a soldier, and a gentleman, but he does not escape the tar brush”.
Jones also singled out the Opposition representative for St Thomas Cynthia Forde saying, “in this House sits a teacher of great renown, taught children at Sharon [Primary] with an ability that was astounding, many scholars, with values embedded deeply in her soul and then tainted by that sinister brush.
“It cannot be fair for this to continue,” the Minister of Education stressed.
He acknowledged that the corruption allegations have also affected the national housing debate with charges being levelled against one contractor or another.
However, pointing out that the House of Assembly was no longer dominated by the planter class but by descendants of slaves, he said it was unfortunate that “somehow those who made the journey now [are] made to feel that you cannot do any project, any activity in anything without having some level of corruption on you”.