9 May 2013

Hogs gone wild

For some unfathomable reason, like Jack Warner was, the Board of Caribbean Airlines appear to be untouchable when it comes to accounting to the people for monies spent/received. I don’t know if, as rumours have it, this is because one George Nicholas III, Chairman, is deeply involved and closely connected to the PM and her family. But in another belly-griping twist, another Board member is using the airline as his own private travel agency, ferrying friends and family to foreign climes, as if he was driving them to Maracas beach.

Mohan Jaikaran, is the Vice-Chairman, and like one Pundit Sharma (you may remember him from the $300K jaunt to India), has been unexplainably free with the airline’s purse, which is of course, connected to the Treasury.

Vice-chairman of Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) Mohan Jaikaran is proving the state enterprise is not cash-strapped, as he has requested 19 complimentary airline tickets for a Mother’s Day concert scheduled for New York City and Toronto this weekend, of which he is a co-promoter. The directive caused raised eyebrows among management, as two weeks ago there were reports that the national carrier had once again turned to the Government for funding, to the tune of $100 million.

Jaikaran, however, denied the airline was facing money woes and instead insisted it was “heading in the right direction.” T&T Guardian learned that last week, Jaikaran, who is also the chairman of WIN Communications Ltd (WINTV), gave instructions via e-mail for the tickets to be booked free of charge. The T&T Guardian learned loss of revenue for the tickets was estimated at approximately US$20,000. Only taxes were paid on the tickets.

Checks at the airline yesterday revealed that a ticket from Piarco International Airport to John F Kennedy International Airport during the month of May costs US$725.80, and a flight to Toronto’s Lester B Pearson International costs US$345.20 for the same period. The concert, which is being advertised on the Web site of the television station, takes place on Saturday at Double Tree by Hilton Hotel near the Toronto Airport and on Sunday (Mother’s Day) at Jamaica Avenue, Richmond Hill, New York.

Performers include Raymond & Dil-E-Nadan, Ravi B & Karma, and KI & 3Veni Band. Jaikaran is listed as a co-promoter of the event. Attempts to get a comment from Jaikaran yesterday were unsuccessful, as telephone calls and text messages went unanswered. Up to yesterday, nine of the 19 tickets had been confirmed and the other ten were awaiting flights and times before being confirmed.

CAL officials said yesterday this was not the first time such a directive had been issued by a high-ranking CAL official, adding that the company was being denied thousands of dollars in revenue at the same time it was depending on the Government for help. “Proper procedures are not being followed,” a top management official told the T&T Guardian. “Directives are just being given. The relevant parties are being bypassed and this is not how it is supposed to be.

“What we are having are upgrades free of charge and people receiving free tickets to travel around the world. People are being upgraded from economy to first class by a telephone call.”

The official added that sponsorship deals to WINTV were also being queried by employees. The deals were said to be more than $200,000 for last year alone. As a result of the recent developments, senior CAL staff have expressed frustration over the present management style and may protest today, when the board is scheduled to meet.

Sources said yesterday that acting CAL CEO Robert Corbie, who had butted heads with some executives over recent decisions, had gone on seven days’ leave. Staff are now calling on line minister Chandresh Sharma to investigate the operations of CAL. In response to a text message sent by T&T Guardian to Sharma yesterday, asking if he was aware of the request for the complimentary tickets, the minister said, “No.”

Telephone calls to CAL chairman Rabindra Moonan were also unsuccessful as he did not return calls or messages left. While the airline struggles to stay afloat, T&T Guardian investigations showed a 50 per cent discount was approved on 25 airline tickets to Toronto. The ticket request was for the 2012 WINTV Chutney in the Park at the Caribana festival. The T&T Guardian also obtained copies of invoices showing that for 2012, the airline also contributed to:

    • WINTV pageant—$2,500
    • WIN Radio spots closing and opening credits—$48,000
    • WIN Communications package for NCIC Indian Arrival Day celebrations—$28,750
    • WIN Web site banner—$51,117.50
    • WINTV T20 Games held in Fort Lauderdale (four confirmed economy tickets)—$50,000
    • WINTV Chutney in the Park Caribana (50 per cent of 25 tickets)—$48,000
    • WINTV Divali Queen show —$50,000
    • Maracas New York City Liberty Avenue Divali 2012 (two tickets to a Caribbean destination as a door prize)—$8,694
    • WIN Radio Wet Fete (January 13, 2013 and Green Event February 3, 2013)—$30,000
    • WIN Radio live link-up from New York 10.30 am to 11.30 am (January 20-December 31)-$72,000

[http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2013-05-08/us20000-trip-19-%E2%80%98friends%E2%80%99]

One wonders why these instances of corruption, and make no joke about it, corruption it is, are thrown in the faces of the people. I reckon it may well be because of the arrogance of those involved but also because the people are displaying symptoms of ‘learned helplessness’ [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness]. The attitude of “wha’ we go do?”. It becomes someone else’s problem [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somebody_Else%27s_Problem].

As my Russian friend says, he is a nice boy, he has learnt the time honoured tradition of ‘making the budget disappear’. Making the budget disappear is an honorary quest for many people in Third World countries. In Trinidad there is a teeth-grinding phrase called ‘eating ah food’ to describe the same type of chicanery.

Now, I can quote many instances of corruption in this (and previous) governments. What is always, but ought not to be, is the surprise I feel at the two-fisted approach to thievery. It isn’t merely sly divergence of monies such as what happened in the O’Halloran days… no, now it is open feeding frenzy at the trough like hogs gone wild. Nobody even cares how they are viewed for this open glomming. Shame, “the consciousness or awareness in any situation of embarrassment, dishonour, disgrace, inadequacy, humiliation, or chagrin” is completely absent. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shame].

I’ve said many a time that to track a society progress and descent, look to America. America has progressed and regressed rapidly compared to the rest of the world, indeed as it was forced to. In a matter of some 400 years, we can see the development of society from a literal wilderness to a First World status and now is rapidly decaying. What the rest of the world has done in millennia, America has done in centuries.

The reason I mention America is because we can track this loss of shame within a relatively short space of time. Take for example, a man doing business in ‘old’ America. With illiteracy being high, lack of lawyers, long distances and months/weeks to accomplish business, deals were done by the word (promise) of a man and a handshake. Broken deals left a man shameful, and with a reputation as a scoundrel, so no one will do business with him any more, thus effectively leaving him a ‘broken’ man. But with the changing times, men hid behind the faces of corporations and companies, behind contracts and impersonal undertakings so that sense of personal shame was lost…

So too in Trinidad, we have people like Warner and Jaikaran (the next Jack Warner?) who hide behind entities that take away this sense of shame and leave them with the notion that they are untouchable. In Trinidad and Tobago, they are; so ingrained it is now part of the culture of Monkey Island. As I mentioned before, hogs gone wild.

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