Corruption was red hot on Sunday

Dear Editor,

Corruption kills.  It also wounds and burns and menaces.  Those who disagree can ask the families of those now pained by the loss of their own and from injuries inflicted in Sunday’s prison conflagration.  The objectors can also check with the grieving family of Alicea Foster who was mowed down, and that of Levoy Taljit who just disappeared because he represented something honourable.  Corruption is embedded in this nation’s soul, and the flames from Sunday’s inferno presented citizens with the fireworks of its scorching heat and powerful reach.

An uprising it is called; well, it was that and then some more.  Those who see corruption as immersed in the innocence of white collar activities and reduced to the nonchalance of a ‘lil frek’ or a ‘raise’ do well to look at what was razed to the ground.  There are so many stories, all ugly, that reside in those embers.  Unless this corruption beast prowling in the midst is recognized for what it truly is, then more will have to be paid.  And that is by everyone, including those who never looked at a dirty dime.

The prison fire/uprising offers a lesson in commonsense and of justice and corrections practices too.  Someone is hauled before the courts on a charge, a narcotics charge.  There is the now telltale silence of a single word: guilty.  Then there follows the ritual as encompassed by all of two words: four years.  It is four years for two kilos, and the same four years for two hundred.  Money talks in the thunder of that silence, eerie, far-reaching, ominous, and all so knowing.  It talks all the way into the prison system, and not just for the narcotics convicted, but to any who can afford the fare.  Business is brisk.

The convicted and now sentenced is well taken care of while in the prison system.  Money is the lubricant; on Sunday at Camp Street, it transformed into an accelerant.  This business of paid passage and traffic in the prison starts with simple contraband: weed and WhatsApp (cellphones); soon and somewhere in that not-so-innocent commercial mix come weapons.  Agents of the state were not the only ones firing during the uprising.

Again, corruption is not merely white-collar; it is red as in bloodshed, and on Sunday it was red hot.  I know of families that had to evacuate themselves; blood pressure rising, heart racing, and asthma suffocating.  The clinical might call it collateral damage, but at the end of the trail, the afflictions originated with those so-called respectable citizens, increasingly so and increasingly camouflaged, who are behind the paying.  These are the people who paid for that silence in court, and continue to pay to cushion stays in jail, if there are any stays at all, so as to ensure continued adherence to the code of silence.  Omerta in action and Guyanese style.

The paying citizens are those with a lot of easy cash.  They could very well be the ones socialized with, partnered with, or defended and given cover.  There may not be a formal structure and organization in the local corruption context; but there is undeniably one vast sprawling network (perhaps more than one) of facilitators on the inside (think the Republic Bank incident), intermediaries in lots of places (observe tainted members of the police and rural police in action in that same robbery), and treasurers (assorted venture or vulture capitalists engaged in some business pretence), and which are now embedded in almost every sector of this society.

It is why I say as spotlights are rightfully shone on constitutional reform (vital) and soon-to-be prison reform (necessary), it would be well for the conscientious and law abiding citizens, especially the well-intentioned, to discern that all of the constructive things on the table will only be meaningful and successful if there is character reform.  There has to be national character reform before any semblance of substantive progress can be attained.  Otherwise, exercises are reduced to a heap of talking and also rather regrettably a few more Sundays (in whatever form) like this now fateful one.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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