Friday, March 4, 2016
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has done what he does best: attack. He has criticized First Citizens Bank fiercely for their apparent breach of confidentiality involving the deposit of some $93,000 in cash by his Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis into her account. On the face of it, Dr. Rowley's criticisms seem justified. After all, there are few things more personal than one's financial affairs, and banks are supposed to keep the details of an individual's banking transactions confidential. Exposing Mrs. Robinson-Regis like this certainly appears to be a breach of confidentiality by somebody in First Citizens Bank.
So far so good! In other words, on the face of it Dr. Rowley appears to be right when he says that the bank had breached its confidentiality obligations to it's customer, Mrs. Robinson-Regis, when somebody (obviously in the bank) leaked details of a transaction in which some $93,000 of unexplained cash (not cheques) was deposited in her account. The Prime Minister is always at his best when he is in attack mode, and he was scathing in his criticisms of the bank's apparent breach.
But hold on a minute. Several questions arise. The first and most obvious one is that isn't this cash transaction of Mrs. Robinson-Regis suspicious of itself on the face of it? Frankly, for a politician ... any politician ... holding a Ministerial position to deposit the rather hefty sum of $93,000 in cash into her account gives rise to most unnecessary and very ugly suspicions that the money is "dirty". It may very well not be, but the explanation given by the erstwhile Minister that she had closed an account of her husband's at another bank, withdrawn the cash and then re-deposited it into her bank quite frankly defies the belief of all but the most gullible. Why didn't she withdraw the money in the form of a Manager's Cheque? It doesn't make sense. I have said it often, but it bears repeating: when somebody tells you something that doesn't make sense 99 percent of the time he doesn't want you to understand what he is saying. The remaining one percent of the time it is because he doesn't understand what he is saying. So, why hasn't the Prime Minister also dealt with this cash transaction? Is it that Mrs. Robinson-Regis, a perceived Keith Rowley loyalist, is untouchable?
No. Mrs. Robinson-Regis is going to have to ... or put another way ... ought to explain very, very clearly exactly where this money came from, and prove it!! Why? Because if she doesn't most right thinking members of society will continue to harbor those dark and ugly suspicions that I referred to above ... and it is simply not in the best interests of society to have these suspicions floating around. If there is substance to them (i.e., if they are true) then the miscreant ought to be dealt with. Obviously! If they are not true then leaving them to linger effectively destabilizes the society as some persons who believe them to be true will say that what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander and will believe that it is acceptable to indulge in an illegal act. Either way, good governance demands that this matter be 'put to bed' conclusively.
Then, the next question that arises is why didn't the Prime Minister in the next breath after he attacked First Citizens Bank so fiercely not turn and demand a full and complete explanation from his Minister? Maybe he did, but if he did, why didn't he say so? It doesn't take much of an imagination to conjour up images of Opposition Leader Keith Rowley in and out of Parliament frothing at the mouth if instead of a PNM Minister who had been so grievously exposed it had been a UNC Minister who had given the exact same explanation. Just think about what he would have said in that case and you've got the picture clearly. A Prime Minister can't be a Prime Minister of only one section of the society. He is the Prime Minister of all of us. He must not only be even handed in his dealings especially when it comes to the integrity of his Ministers but ought to be seen as being even handed. And in this case, he regrettably falls short ... at least, so far.
Thirdly, the PNM made a lot of noise about whistleblower legislation, or rather the lack of it and how necessary it was ... and rightly so. Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Stuart Young says that this legislation is being drafted now. So, the question arises: is this affair something that will be covered by the whistleblower legislation when it eventually comes to pass? Because, make no mistake, it is very clear that somebody in the bank was sufficiently upset by this transaction to spill the beans. Okay. There is no legislation in place right now, so legally the bank appears on the face of it to be liable for this egregious breach of confidentiality. But if the coming legislation is going to be designed to cover such events as this, then something is wrong with the picture of two politicians (the P.M. and his Minister) complaining about something that they are planning to be allowed in the future. And it is not acceptable to say in effect 'well, that's not the law right now'. And if it is not going to be covered by the coming legislation then the obvious question is why not? This is exactly the sort of thing that the pending legislation ought to cover!
No. Two or even three wrongs can never make a right. As it stands, the bank certainly appears to be wrong. But, without a full and proper explanation (and so far there hasn't been one), so does the Minister. The Prime Minister cannot and ought not to be allowed to blame one without looking carefully at the actions of the other, and if she is found wanting, dealing with her severely.
Posted by Robin Montano at 1:42 PM