One of the most outspoken members of Freundel Stuart’s 2008-2018 cabinet stands accused of laundering bribes but his old boss declared today there is “no silver lining” to the news and warned against gloating over his fate.
The outgoing Democratic Labour Party (DLP) president and former Prime Minister warned the party faithful against any gloating over the news of Donville Inniss’s arrest in Florida on criminal charges in his address to the party’s 63rd annual conference at what is undoubtedly the lowest ebb in its storied past.
“We have attracted international attention in the wrong way and on the wrong issues, he said at DLP Headquarters on George Street, 11 weeks after its unprecedented shutout by voters of all 30 seats in the May 24 election.
Stuart did not directly identify “our colleague” – the former Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss – long seen as a rival, but instead cast the ex-minister’s legal jeopardy as a blow to Barbados’ reputation.
“Recent events in the public life of Barbados are not for the comfort of any of us, they reflect on all of us and while we may be inclined from our respective vantage points to gloat over these happenings. In all of this we must have regard to what is happening to the good name of Barbados,” the former prime minister said.
“It is incumbent upon us to wish our colleague well. We must respect the fact that the matter is now sub judice [under judgement] and we should do or say nothing to imperil to his entitlement to a fair trial. He like every other accused person, including the ones here is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
United States prosecutors allege in a three-count indictment against Inniss that in 2015 and 2016 he engaged in bribery to take about $36,000 from three then top executives of the Insurance Corporation of Barbados.
Inniss, 52, concealed the nature of the bribes by receiving them through a dental company and a bank located in Elmont, New York, under the guise of payments for consulting services, prosecutors say.
Stuart warned that as a result of the development, “ life in the public sector and life in the private sector as well will never be the same again.”
He suggested that if there was “some kind of positive” from the development, “ it would have to be that the issue of corruption as we have conceptualized and defined it has now gone beyond national boundaries and has become international.”
“Whoever has a foreign bank account now has to assume that he or she is under observation since, like local accounts, foreign accounts have to be fed, movements of money to foreign accounts have to be a matter of a concern for not only politicians but also the holders of all foreign accounts. The canvas of surveillance is now cast much wider to include the professionals in Barbados, all businesspersons in Barbados and others who have to replenish their foreign accounts from time to time, he said.
Stuart also addressed the broad issue of corruption, saying that it should not be treated as a political football but rather as a criminal justice issue since the offences are punishable after due process.
“It should not be handled politically unless one is interested in being accused of a cover-up, he warned.
He insisted before an audience which included conference chairman and former Education Minister Ronald Jones, former Tourism Minister Richard Sealy, former Health Minister John Boyce and ex-Senator Patrick Todd that anyone who had evidence of any wrongdoing in his administration should take it directly to the police or the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“Once the person was charged that persons would have to cease holding g public office until his or her name was cleared to my satisfaction, “Stuart said.
The former Prime Minister added that corruption was based on secrecy and stealth and quipped that “If a man or woman is going to be corrupt, however you may define that corruption, he or she does not call a press conference to announce it or place advertisements in the newspapers to notify the public”.
He cautioned that the country had to be more alert “to these possibilities,” noting that society had become more materialistic and money-driven.
He urged Barbadians to set high standards and resolve to pursue those standards.
“That is the only guarantee against the many perils and treacheries by which modern life is bedeviled,” Stuart said.