Understanding the Law
June 10, 2011
The bombshell disclosures

I did not see Sir James Mitchell on television, but the newspapers were filled with his comments last weekend.{{more}} The former prime minister disclosed that there were cases of bribery at the highest level involving members of Parliament at various periods in our history. He also suggested that there are more cases but that he would not disclose them now. These secrets were not publicly disclosed until now, and some of the major players are now dead. We are made to feel used and abused, because while we cast our votes to secure an effect, there were persons who conducted illegal acts to influence the result. We know now that our votes were not the decisive factor and that other powerful forces were at work. The disclosures tell us that politicians are willing to change the course of history for their own benefit. The disclosures constitute a powerful message to Vincentians.

The Reaction

But the reactions to the comments were confusing. Persons were so stunned that their utterances were conflicting. Some persons lamented at the disclosures, suggesting that the former Prime Minister had damaged his legacy and that he had destroyed the chance of his daughter’s career in politics. Others wondered whether he was just plain self-destructing. We do not have to lament or make excuses for the astute politician regarding self- incrimination, rather assuming this to be the truth; we should see this as an inevitable disclosure. One former Attorney General in his administration said in last week’s newspaper that he would accept the statements as truth. But every one knows that whatever is done in darkness must come to light, and open confession is good for the soul. If we were to accept these as self-evident, then the world would be a better place for all of us. People would be afraid to engage in illegal activities because they know that there would be a judgment day, a day of reckoning. Furthermore, there would be no bribery to change the natural course of history.

The explosive information

We have been informed that in 1966 when there was a 5 to 4 seat in Parliament in favour of the People’s Political Party (PPP), the late Sam Slater was paid $50,000.00 to cross the floor to the St. Vincent Labour Party. There is no need for a fact-finding mission, as we are told definitively that money was paid for a particular reason. In the election of 1967 the Labour Party won the government with Sam Slater on its side. We are also told that there was bribery again when the Joshuas crossed the floor to join the Labour party in 1974, and we are even told who paid the money. Would the goodly gentleman tell us lies for fun? Perhaps he still feels the hurt of being deserted by the Joshuas. But I think that many persons are asking why these disclosures were not made before. These disclosures suggest that we have a tradition of bribery. Bribery is difficult to prove unless there is a whistleblower. From all accounts, there were speculations at the time, but there were no charges or court cases. Everyone was silent. Perhaps the secrets were taken to the graves. This is sad for our country. Let us hope that the disclosures, if true, would help us to be more vigilant in matters of this nature.


Many cultures have differentiated several types of bribery – criminal bribery, business bribery and international bribery. Bribery is where a person accepts something of value – money, land or intangibles in return for some service or with the promise of performing something outside one’s normal duty.

In the 1990 Revised laws of St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Bribery is a crime under the Representation of the People Act. Section 44 gives from “a to g” various forms of bribery that could be prosecuted. A person who engages in bribery directly or indirectly could be punished. Section 44(1) states that a person shall be deemed guilty of bribery within the meaning of the Act, and according to subsection (d), any person who, upon or in consequence of any such gift, loan, offer, promise, procurement or agreement, procures or engages, promises or endeavours to procure, the return of any person as an elected member of the House of Assembly or the vote of any voter at an election.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.

E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com