by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 11 July 2007)
I thought I would take the good advice so benevolently bestowed on me last week by the Prime Minister and do some hefty lifting in the research department. I dug in deep and came up with some very interesting information that I feel might be helpful for the Prime Minister’s PPP pals.
The good Prime Minister requested in a letter to the editor on July 5, “If facts are to be spun, misunderstood, ignored, let it be for creating greater harmony.” I am fully convinced that upon reading this column, Mr. Hinds will agree that the information contained herein will lead to the greatest national harmony necessary for the good of stabilising various vital sectors in the nation.
My research focused on government, judicial and law enforcement officials accepting bribes and what I discovered was absolutely astonishing. For example, did you know that in the “Republic” by Plato the punishment for bribery was the death penalty?
Further, according to Stovall-law.com, “Greece also applied such punishment [the death penalty] in all instances of bribery. Roman law also addressed the crime, in the Twelve Tables, imposing the death penalty on any judge accepting a bribe.”
I suppose it would be wise to clearly define bribery before this discussion continues any further. The word "bribery" is a term used to refer to corruption. In legislation, the word refers to the act of anyone who exploits the power of her/his position or job. A bribed official is anyone who sells his authority for material reward.
The death penalty for acts of bribery may seem a bit harsh at first glance, but when one understands that such an act undermines democracy at its core each time an official relinquishes her/his authority for a material reward, it is far easier to understand the reasoning behind such strict judgement – to protect the people.
The Koran says, “God curses the briber, the bribed and the intermediary between the two of them.” Islamic law provides several means by which to deal with this criminal act, the least of which include reprimand, fines, jail and whipping, depending upon the enormity of the act attributed to the person convicted of the crime.
My research showed that even in modern society there are still nations that impose the death penalty on corrupt public servants. Last November, according to china.org.cn, “The former chief judge of China's Hunan Higher People's Court was sentenced to death at a trial in Beijing yesterday for accepting millions of yuan worth of bribes.”
I am quite sure the Prime Minister will be proud that I have done so much research to this point, but I’m not done yet. I should get a cookie for being such a good girl. I know the Prime Minister’s buddies in the Jagdeo administration will find this information simply invaluable.
In the United States, punishment for this act is addressed in the Constitution. According to aw.jrank.org, “Bribery, along with treason, is one of two crimes for which the United States Constitution (art. ii, sec. 4) specifically prescribes impeachment for the President, Vice-President, and ‘all civil officers of the United States.’ Two federal judges have been impeached and convicted of corruption; more than a dozen others have resigned in the face of threatened impeachment. Indication of investigation has produced other resignations, most notably of a Justice of the Supreme Court.”
In my whole-hearted attempt to be one of those “professional news people,” I want to make sure the people of Guyana have all the facts to make their own decision when it comes to corrupt officials.
The European Parliament also has measures to prevent corruption in EU Member States. During my research, I stumbled upon a 1998 working paper that highlights the joint efforts being taken to combat corruption through bribery in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
So where does Guyana stand on bribery? Well, there are no death penalties being handed out. In fact, unless I have not done my homework as well as the Prime Minister would like, it seems there were no arrests or prosecutions for this form of corruption in 2006 at all. Now that is a newsworthy piece of information, wouldn’t you agree, Mr. Prime Minister?
Actually, Guyana does have laws against bribery. According to the Government Information Agency [GINA], “the Money Laundering Prevention Act of 2000 criminalizes money laundering related to narcotics trafficking, illicit trafficking of firearms, extortion, corruption, bribery, fraud, counterfeiting and forgery.”
I will just assume this law, or another like it, applies to both private individuals as well as the public sector. Otherwise, if such laws on bribery do not in fact apply to those in public service, what good is it for the nation?
From the information we now have, we can easily deduce that bribery has been considered a crime throughout much of human history. Likewise, if a public official in Guyana – be it a judge, a prosecutor, a police officer or a politician – accepts a bribe, we can and should assume this person will be prosecuted to the fullest extent and removed from the position of authority for betraying the trust of the people.
This is fantastic news and perhaps this would be the best time for everyone who has ever known a member of the government, the judiciary and/or law enforcement to take a bribe to step forward and let the nation know about it. Surely this would be for the greatest good of the nation.
And now back to my friend Samuel Hinds. In my opinion, this is a well-researched column that is chocked full of valuable information for the people of Guyana. Wouldn’t you agree, Mr. Prime Minister?