Opinion: Absolute power

POSTED: 03/13/16 7:43 PM

Politicians are falling fast and hard these days. While St. Maarten is closely following the misadventures of independent MP Silvio Matser, the Court in First Instance in Curacao dealt a severe blow to former Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte and his girlfriend Cicely van der Dijs.

The court sentenced Schotte to 3 years of imprisonment and took away his passive voting rights for five years. Van der Dijs, his accomplice, received a sentence of 18 months, with 9 months suspended.

Schotte and Van der Dijs are not going to prison any time soon because there is no doubt that they will appeal the verdicts. If they lose that round too, they will go to the Supreme Court; not because they think they will be able to get a more favorable verdict, but because this way they postpone the inevitable incarceration.

And by the way, nobody is able to guarantee that an appeal will result in a lower sentence; it could also be higher, so appealing comes with a risk that is not exactly attractive, especially if you know beforehand what the lower court used as evidence against you.

One would think that, with all these politicians being dragged into court, that their fellow-politicians would change their ways. Forget it: these things will happen over and over again, every time with other names, but always with power and greed at the center of things.

Lord Acton knew this already, and this gentleman passed away in 1902, more than a century ago. “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men,” is his most famous statement that still holds true today.

During his reign as prime minister, Schotte most certainly created the impression that he felt himself to be in a position of absolute power. Go figure.

Lord Acton’s observation ought to inspire those who put country above self to find ways to prevent anyone from grabbing absolute power. As long as people have a little bit of power though, the tendency to corruption is quite often right around the corner. Beware.

The Schotte-ruling revealed an interesting little detail: it mentions casino owner Francesco Corallo as a co-suspect. We don’t know what happened there, but in spite of this qualification, Corallo did not stand trial together with Schotte and Van der Dijs, though the ruling makes clear that the bribes Schotte took came from that source.

The prosecutor’s office said yesterday that it has not taken a decision about prosecuting Corallo yet and that he will first be prosecuted in Italy.

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