Dec. 8, 2005 — The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has declared Friday, Dec. 9, International Anti-Corruption Day. The U.N. Web site states:
"Every year, over $1 trillion is paid in bribes around the world, enriching the corrupt and robbing generations of a future. Each act of corruption contributes to global poverty, obstructs development and drives away investment.
"But corruption cannot only be measured in economic terms. Where corruption is present, society at large suffers. It debilitates the judicial and political systems that should be working for the public good by weakening the rule of law and silencing the voice of the people. As a result, citizens' trust in government officials and national institutions dwindles."
That is true in the Virgin Islands as it is elsewhere.
The crime of corruption has leeched our economy and demoralized our society.
The electorate does not trust the very people it put in office, but cynically feels there are no alternatives.
Many investors turn away from the Virgin Islands in disgust after experiencing the way business gets done here, often with a handshake and a greased palm.
And the ample revenues get eaten up by sweetheart deals that cost the community dearly in terms of substandard public schools, deteriorating roads and buildings, grossly inadequate public services and a disintegrating infrastructure.
Prevention and prosecution are two paths to a corruption-free community prevention in the form of transparency in government, and prosecution in the form of an attorney general and a U.S. attorney who will aggressively go after even the most sacred of cows in the public and private sectors. But change will not come until this community stops accepting corruption as a way of life here.
There should be no misunderstanding: Corruption is a crime. Each of us needs to send a clear message by not engaging in it and not condoning it.
If you have evidence of corrupt deals or practices, have the courage and conviction to take it to the Inspector General's Office to be investigated.
As for our public servants charged with prosecuting corruption do it!
Corruption is robbing Virgin Islanders of their rights to public services and their children and grandchildren of a prosperous future.
Editors note:We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to [email protected].