We shall not be bought!
This is the emphatic message from Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson, who today emphasized the ruling Barbados Labour Party’s position that it would not accept any gifts, whether in cash or other inducement, to grant favours to businesses or anyone.
On the day before former Minister of International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss is to appear in court in the United States charged with laundering the proceeds of bribes received here, Hinkson, the Member of Parliament for St James North, told journalists the Mia Mottley led administration was serious about governing with clean hands.
In fact, he said, the process of transparency has begun with parliamentarians and their spouses declaring their assets even before the introduction of integrity legislation.
“Members of Parliament have lodged a declaration of all assets, liabilities and those of our spouses, those of us who have spouses,” the Minister said during a tour of Parliament by students of the Gordon Greenidge Primary School.
“What those persons who serve in public life at the political level [and] statutory boards must understand is that we have no place for bribery in this country. We cannot afford it, it is immoral, it sends up the cost of doing business. It sends up the cost of doing business, period,” he stressed.
Hinkson made no mention of Inniss, who United States prosecutors said accepted bribes from an insurance company which was not named in the indictment, but later revealed to be the Insurance Corporation of Barbados, in return for using his office to cause the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC), a state-owned enterprise under his ministerial portfolio, to renew insurance contracts with the local insurance company.
However, the BLP, throughout its general election campaign, had repeatedly accused the then Freundel Stuart administration of corruption, prompting Stuart to demand that the proof be taken to the Royal Barbados Police Force.
Without making a direct reference, Hinkson today insisted that no member of the BLP Government would suffer Inniss’ fate.
“This Government . . . has made it plain that we are not tolerating that as we are governing with transparency and accountability in the best interest of the law,” he said.
“We are in the process of bringing in Integrity in Public Life legislation as you know. I believe the select committee would have met in terms of preparation of the hearing next week Monday,” Hinkson said.
It was on Sunday at a meeting of the St Michael South East constituency that Mottley hinted at attempts by some in the private sector to obtain favours from her administration through corrupt means.
However, she made it clear that the days of corruption were over and her Government was adamant that “we are going to hold people accountable. We are going to do things in a transparent way”.
“I want to repeat it because there are private sector people in this country who believe the Government has not changed and I want them to understand that that behaviour will not be accepted by my Government,” Mottley said, while stressing that the country would “not get corrupted or infected anymore”.
Inniss, 52, a US legal permanent resident, was charged in an indictment with one count of conspiracy to launder money and two counts of money laundering. The indictment was returned under seal by a federal grand jury sitting in Brooklyn, New York, on March 15, more than two months before his Democratic Labour Party was swept out of office, losing all 30 seats at stake to the BLP.
He was arrested in Florida on August 3, and is to make his first appearance in a Brooklyn, New York court tomorrow.