The guilty must pay, of course, but it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Trinidad and Tobago is a land of selective justice.
Witness, for example, the still-raw stench of the flopped $3 billion World Gas-to-Liquids (WGTL) Petrotrin plant, in which no one has yet taken responsibility for withdrawing civil litigation.
Malcolm Jones, energy czar of successive PNM regimes, escaped a court’s verdict on charges of a breach of fiduciary duties involving the largest single misspending of taxpayers’ dollars.
As Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley has blasted that Jones was victim of opposition “persecution.”
But exactly a decade before, following his summary dismissal as a government minister, Rowley told Parliament: “Petrotrin would bankrupt Trinidad and Tobago.”
He listed the other contemporary Petrotrin scandals – gas optimisation and ultra-low diesel plants upgrades, abandoned corporate headquarters et al – which set back taxpayers by an astounding $9 billion.
Then there were the multiple UDECOTT projects under the watch of corruption poster boy Calder Hart, which led to the setting up of the 2009 Uff Commission of Enquiry.
Professor John Uff concluded: “It is accepted that corruption is a problem of serious proportions in Trinidad and Tobago … to which the construction industry is particularly prone.”
The prober also noted that “UDECOTT’s application of its own rules discloses a worrying lack of transparency, as well as inconsistency…”
Uff criticised the procurement procedure, presented 90 recommendations and also called for criminal investigations.
Hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars took flight under Calder Hart, to the point where Rowley, in 2009, told Parliament that corruption at the latter agency was “10 times worst than what happened at Piarco Airport.”
He predicted that “the next election will be the UDECOTT election.”
It was. Hart was portrayed as the biggest bobol kingpin since Johnny O’Halloran of an earlier generation, and the PNM fell to a landslide defeat.
Like O’Halloran and Jones, Hart has never been brought to justice.
For his part, Rowley is familiar with the impact on his political party of Johnny O’s sleaze.
In 2009 he stated that during the 1986 general election campaign, “you going door to door and they slamming doors in your face … and all they telling you about is O’Halloran.”
It is also obvious that there would be no prosecution in the estimated $100 million fake oil fraud, or in any other recent bobol involving the public’s purse.
The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is still to determine the way forward on a 17-year-old investigation into corruption and wastage, estimated at $435 million, at La Brea Industrial Development Company (LABIDCO).
And there are innumerable similar cases, dating back to the Gas Station Racket, exposed in 1965 before a commission of enquiry by fearless activist Gene Miles.
For her civic consciousness, Miles was hounded, and died in 1972, a street dweller and plagued with mental health issues.
From the moral outrage over the past three years, it is manifest that a current high-profile matter is aimed largely for – spoiler alert! – 2020 electoral benefit.
There have been much politically-flavoured finger wagging, and dark threats in and out of Parliament.
The ruling regime, presiding over a country in decline, is aiming for an ethical and principled high ground, hence the corruption cherry-picking.
The partisanship short changes T&T, where the procurement regimen still does not have teeth and multi-million-dollar vessels are bought on the say-so of top political figures.
It is also a country where wrongdoing is so endemic that a then-government minister conceded that “all ah we t’ief.”
Corruption-fighting should be a fiercely independent pursuit, involving scrupulous and clinical investigators, prosecutors and jurists.
Like Caesar’s wife, they must all be above reproach.
But as long as bobol-busting remains a vehicle for mudslinging and political ascendancy, there would be selective justice.
And, as always, tortured taxpayers would be the big losers.