THE EDITOR: Any right-minded citizen who cares for this country as a continuing democracy should be in favour of any form of legislation that seeks to find a remedy for “unexplained wealth.” For any true democracy should be a meritocracy in which the average citizen is expected to reap the rewards proportionate to the level of education/skills/moral grounding he may have acquired in preparation for his chosen calling, whatever that may be.
So that the unskilled labourer should manifest returns in keeping with his status, so too the middle-class professional and the average/corporate business man, likewise. Any show of wealth beyond such expectations should be accounted for through appropriate governmental agencies to ensure legitimacy.
This, of course, is the ideal, and the logistics of implementing processes to ensure legitimate acquisition of wealth are indeed formidable, but the idea is commendable as a way of ensuring equity, as deserving per level, in this critical area of national development.
In this country, however, the biggest impediment to the successful functioning of such systems is the element of patronage and privilege inherent in our race-based electoral system where very often reward/wealth is not based on legitimate status but on party loyalty.
So that it is not uncommon to find so many square pegs in round holes on both sides of the divide with little thought of appropriate competencies, or to see party loyalists receiving huge contracts or plum jobs on a similar basis. The net result is acquired wealth that is hardly consistent with the legitimate means to such.
Shouldn’t this be corrected in the national interest, one may ask? Not in a political culture such as ours where the “you scratch my back and I yours” syndrome is its life blood, for politicians in this country seek to hold on to power, prestige and wealth from the unquestioning loyalty of its supporters which in turn has to be bought by the “mess of pottage” that is accorded to them in return.
The issue of equity and justice in wealth acquisition can never really apply to our race-based politics so one wonders at the Government’s attempt to legislate on the problem, as it is so much a part of it.
Which is why the concerns of some are not entirely unfounded for it is a natural scepticism to wonder whether the Government will target some of its own who are currently under scrutiny in this regard, or the criminal element with which there has been cumulative evidence of alliances of one kind or another, or will it be selective in its application of the law, targeting its political enemies and overlooking its own, inter alia.
There must be scepticism too over the outcry against this legislation from the other side for it will fall squarely in the laps of those who will have benefitted from the politics of power and patronage when in power and the cry about the legislation being draconian and against the small man, evident as that may be, is perhaps just another way of throwing cold water on legislation which can be problematic for those who may be in possession of wealth acquired by means less than legitimate.
Legislation such as this is good in its stated intention of calling on those with “unexplained wealth” to give account, but one wonders at its successful implementation since those wielding the sword of justice seem as culpable as those on the receiving end.
Only time will tell!
DR ERROL N BENJAMIN