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"Tell Me Who to Kill?"

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
September 26, 2008

It's the kind of story that would get a cat vex or make a donkey want to commit murder. Imagine a young, imaginative entrepreneur, someone who does not possess a "gimme-gimme" mentality, comes into town and tells the world that he will build an empire that would make anything Sat Maharaj ever dreamed of doing look like a doll's house. He starts a credit union and offers interest rates unlike anything the nation has ever heard; at least, not since the days of International Trust when my mother got burned because of her greed. People began to invest in this credit union and before you could say Pan-Dey it was the hottest thing in town.

Then one quiet morning as the warmth of the sun began to swallow up the overnight dew trouble hit the camp. A credit union member who deposited 75,000 of the best T&T dollars strolled into one of the credit union's offices to redeem his shares only to get a check that bounced so hard it ended up on top of Cerro del Aripo. Other members tried to redeem their shares but their checks bounced even higher. They almost touched the sky. It is only then it dawned on them that this young entrepreneur was not Robin Hood nor Mother Teresa who worked her heart out in the Calcutta ghettoes.

As things deteriorated the Director of Co-operatives intervened to save these depositors from their greed. They could not believe the young entrepreneur had taken their hard earned cash and used it for purposes for which they were not intended. Like all believers who put faith before reason they could not understand how their financial guru could deceive them so. But, we must give him credit. He deceived his followers so thoroughly that when the Commissioner of Co-operatives went to deliver the bad news about the state their union's financial affairs they almost nailed him to the cross-sorry, to the Order of Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

The Commissioner may have been mad or brazen but he had the temerity to venture into the believers' territory to tell them that their credit union had $390,131,614 in assets while its liabilities were $876,537,695; that is, a net shortfall of $486.5 million. Another report showed that the young entrepreneur received three loans totaling $1,800,000 between 2006 and 2008. Instead of streaming out of the compound in which they had gathered and look for the young entrepreneur who had squandered their assets they jumped on the Commissioner. An old man shouted in frenzied agony, "O God, Tell Me, Who to Kill."

His cry reminded of Frank, the major protagonist in Naipaul's short story "Tell Me Who To Kill" in which Dayo, his younger brother, squandered the money Frank had saved up for Dayo's education and then married a white woman. On Dayo's wedding day Frank laments: "They take my money, they spoil my life, they separate us. But you can't kill them. O God, show me the enemy. Once you find out who the enemy is, you can kill him." If only the believers could find the enemy.

Kofi Doo Little, a big time lawyer, and Richard Mahabir, the head of Credit Union Limited that was formed to represent the aggrieved members, jumped on the Commissioner. Mahabir said he was "behaving like a colonial imperialist." Doo Little demanded that government pay off the depositors.

There is a way in which reason departs when people's money is concerned and dey 'fraid to call a crapaud a crapaud. The Commissioner was not responsible for the malfeasance that took place in their union nor was he responsible for the union's lousy bookkeeping. There was no fixed asset register except for the property holdings and no comprehensive list of assets which anyone could verify. Somebody say they run the union wos' than a roti shop.

One would have thought that the depositors would have chastised the young entrepreneur for squandering their money but that was too easy. Although he drained the union for everything it had the depositors are yet to put the blame where it belongs. They are intent on demanding that government shell out a half a billion dollars to appease the greed of those who set out to make a killing but were killed instead by their knight in shinning armour.

As the depositors and their allies seek to make the taxpayers pay for their greed I would like to remind the government that my mother, God Bless Her Soul, paid for her greed the hard way. She never received a cent from International Trust nor did it ever occur to her that government had an obligation to save her from her folly.

The government cannot continue to act one way towards one group of citizens and another way towards another group because some of us listened to our hearts rather than our heads when we voted for them.

Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice; shame on me. Fool me three times; who should I blame?

One day we may just listen to our heads rather than our hearts.

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