Opinion: Malversation

POSTED: 07/12/13 1:05 PM

The word malversation became unexpectedly popular this week after Prime Minister Sarah Wescot’s press release about irregularities at the National Security Service VDSM. The press release, issued Monday late in the afternoon spoke of “serious indications of malversations.”

We have not seen a single dictionary that uses the plural form of malversation. That aside, the word has a nice feel. So nice that it is possible many people have no clue what it actually means.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes malversation as “misbehavior and especially corruption in an office, trust or commission.”

The word stems from Middle French: malverser means to be corrupt (mal = bad, verser = to turn or to handle). Verser in turn comes from the Latin versare, a frequentative of vertere – to turn.

Language follows reality. We mean: in 1549 the word computer did not exist and for a good reason: there were no computers. But the French word malversation manifested itself for the first time in 1549.

From this we learn that the practice of corruption has a long history and goes back 464 years. Next year St. Maarten could commemorate the 465th anniversary of the birth of corruption, though we do not think there is a lot of interest in this on the political level.

The American Heritage Dictionary described malversation simply as “misconduct in public office.”

Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary sticks to “improper or corrupt behavior especially in public office” thereby suggesting that malversation also could occur outside the corridors of government.

The Gale Group published five years ago its Ologies and Isms. How malversation fits in these categories we do not know, but this is the definition from that publication: “fraudulent behavior, extortion, or corruption by a person who holds public office or a position of trust.”

Based on the above specification we may well conclude that our Prime Minister – who said on Wednesday that her press release was “necessarily cryptic” – has actually communicated that the VDSM is rife with corruption, or fraudulent behavior, or extortion – or a combination of these options

That the Prime Minister, who is responsible for the National Security Service, has let accountants loose on this sensitive department is the best indication that there is money involved – and that this money has disappeared. How much is anybody’s guess, but we have already offered that the number itself is not all that interesting.

The real problem is that there is corruption in about the last place where anybody would expect it to be. It is also the last place where corruption should be – but we figure that our Prime Minister is probably even more aware of this than anybody else is.

Wescot-Williams said that she “hated” to have to report about the scandal. Still, our PM did the right thing. Now we are awaiting the results of the investigation. The public has a right to know how deep corruption runs and who has been affected by this behavior.

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