Opinion: Rubygate

POSTED: 01/5/14 10:13 PM

The Italian political dinosaur Silvio Berlusconi has a 7-year jail sentence to his name since June of last year. A court found Berlusconi guilty of paying Ruby el Mahroug for sex, while the girl was still a minor. There is of course more to be said about that case, but we will keep it simple. Berlusconi screamed blue murder like any politician that gets in trouble with the law. Politicians have the tendency to confuse the prosecution of a politician with political persecution.

Berlusconi has announced that he will appeal the verdict that banned him from holding public functions for life. We were unaware that the Italian justice system allows such a long period of time for a decision about an appeal, but apparently this is the case.

Anyway the Italian modus operandi is also popular in the Caribbean. Think Anthony Godett, think Ramonsito Booi, think Gerrit Schotte, think Louie Laveist. The latter went out of his way with appeals against his bribery conviction, but he obviously got nowhere. Still, Laveist maintains he is innocent, which is a bit stiff in our opinion when subsequent courts have ruled against him. Politicians live in their own dream world, so it seems.

WE will hear more about these types of stories in the year that lies ahead of us. Former Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto will go to court sometime in the spring and the prosecution of independent parliamentarian Patrick Illidge just received the green light from the common Court of Justice.

Are these people guilty? Not yet, but the reality is that public figures will have to endure the whole circus in the open. They call on the presumption of innocence but in the court of public opinion they have already been skinned seven ways to Christmas. That comes with the territory and that is also the reason why in most developed countries – with the exception of Italy – politicians quickly step down if there is only the appearance of wrongdoing.

The argument in favor of stepping down is always that remaining in function is “not in the interest of the party,” or “not in the interest of the body politic” whereas the truth is of course that by stepping down politicians take the heat off themselves. When they happen to live in Italy, St. Maarten, Bonaire or Curacao those rules obviously do not apply – and that is a shame.

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