Where the good citizens at?

Let the record reflect that NEWSCO, Observer radio, was the first to thank Mary John and George Wehner, two patriotic and vigilant Antiguans, for raising the lid on the unlawful sand-mining off the shore of Maiden Island. We were the first to alert the nation to the unholy goings-on after Mary John sent us footage of the perfidy. As you can imagine, we were quite pleased to hear our Prime Minister, the Honourable Gaston Browne, publicly thank those two great Antiguans. They saw something and they said something. Seems, much like the late great Bob Marley, who sang against corruption, apartheid, injustice, malfeasance and the like, and who declared, “I and I can never hold I peace while wrong is going on,” our Mary and George will not be constrained. We salute them.

Mary John, God bless her, is a tireless advocate for good governance, transparency and accountability. She works selflessly on behalf of runaways, prostitutes and the victims of all forms of abuse. She is a good Samaritan who will not avert her eyes or shirk her responsibility to do right by a fallen brother or sister. Neither will she be silenced in speaking out against corruption and malfeasance in high places. Mary is a national treasure, and we urge her to be not weary in well-doing. In accordance with Nehemiah 6:3: “[She] is doing a great work and cannot come down; why should the work cease whilst she leave it . . .?”

For his part, George Wehner, a former Antigua Grammar School cadet who served honourably in the military, and the caretaker representative for the St. George constituency on the United Progressive Party ticket, is also a dogged fighter for Antigua and Barbuda. He loves this blessed land of ours dearly, and will not be denied in his quest for a betterment for all. We owe him a debt of gratitude.

The thing is that, while we are celebrating those two whistleblowers – we wonder how many other Antiguans and Barbudans are aware of untoward behavior in high places, but are afraid to speak out. You see, Wehner and John are in the private sector, and they are not dependent on government largesse or favours or a pay check from the Treasury. And yes, they are not feeding at the trough. We are not sure if there is a correlation, but it does appear as though the only people who are blowing the whistle and speaking out and taking a stand, are those who are not dependent on the government. Fear of victimisation, anyone? It would appear so. For example, a School Meals person who spoke to Observer media yesterday on condition of anonymity, in response to the dreadful expose of the beleaguered program, said that he/she knew that all was not well, but that he/she was afraid to speak out for fear of victimisation.

And consider, if you will, the good manager of the Bank of Nova Scotia, she who allegedly dared to call it as she saw it. Of course, we all know that our Prime Minister does not really care about the opinions of others. He is of the school that suggests that when he wants someone’s opinion, he gives it to them. How dare that Scotia manager have an opinion on his political spiel and spin? How dare government workers have an opinion, never mind, voice it? How dare government whistle-blowers open their mouths and say something? According to the diktat from on high, they dare not open their mouths to say ‘boo,’ or they will face that which the good PM says the Scotia manager is now facing: “Now I am told that the manager at Scotia Bank apparently told her staff just yesterday that the Prime Minister is a liar, ‘cause I had made similar comments a couple day ago. If that is indeed correct, I would want to say that that is very unfortunate considering that she is a guest in our country, and she is on a work permit that was issued at the discretion of my government, and I just hope that she will use the opportunity, first thing next week, to correct that egregious act; and I got the information from a very reliable source, and again, I don’t want to threaten her, but I just want her to know that if it is that she is being deliberate and she is trying to create mischief, that there will be consequences.” So there! We can all extrapolate from that. Let all those who wouldst lose the care of their brains to blow a whistle or have an opinion be advised that, “IT IS AN EGREGIOUS ACT . . . AND THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES!” Help us Lord!

             Ironically, the President of the United States, he of peevishness and daily temper tantrums, has vilified the whistle-blower who lifted the lid on his call to the Ukrainian leader. He has called him a partisan and a liar. He has called for his unmasking. In fact, he said that those who provided information to the whistle-blower were like spies and that, “The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.” Thank God, in the United States, there are laws to protect whistle-blowers from reprisals from the government. Here in Antigua and Barbuda unfortunately, there are no such laws, and we reiterate the call made more than two years ago, as published in THE DAILY OBSERVER of January 12, 2017: Two lawyers have made a public call for the Parliament to adopt whistleblowing laws to protect those who raise an alarm against corruption and malfeasance in both the public and private sector. Attorney-at-law Ralph Bowen has argued that a whistle blowing statute is “actually integral to the functioning of any democratic society and democratic governance.” We concur.

Remember folks, as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. declared, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Be guided accordingly.