The Socialist 23 April 2008
The rich get richer... and we foot the bill!
The socialist interview
Jersey - Growing anger against elite of secrets
GARY MATTHEWS, who was a Jersey Left Green MP from 1993-96, spoke to Jon Dale. Now living in Derbyshire, Gary is still active in the Time for Change group on the island, which has a founding conference on 27 April.
John Dale: What is the background to the cover-up at Haut de la Garenne children's home that has come to light recently?
Gary Matthews: It stems from Jersey's occupation during the Second World War. There was a lot of collaboration with the Nazis by the establishment. The Bailiff signed deportation papers for Jews. The local newspaper that now criticises the left was a Nazi mouthpiece.
There was also a resistance movement that hid escaped Russian and Spanish slave workers.
After the war, the Labour government promised a whitewash. There was no discussion of the occupation, which is where the culture of secrecy comes from.
What is the significance of the child abuse scandal?
There are allegations of child abuse dating back to the 1940s and 1950s. There's been a 50-year cover-up. Some of the worst abuse was in the 1960s.
The Jersey elite that runs the island covered up for their friends and the very top are systematically involved in the scandal. A newspaper claimed that the late Senator Krichefski, a key establishment figure in the '60s, had raped a child.
What has been the reaction in Jersey?
SiX HUNDRED witnesses have now come forward and there are 40 suspects. There is outrage in the community. Some survivors joined with a few progressives to call a rally. Within a week of the scandal breaking 400 took part, with placards calling for political change.
This led to the Time for Change group being set up that plans to stand candidates in the coming election. There is anger at the poverty, homelessness and semi-feudal political system that continues in Jersey.
There must be an independent inquiry into Haut de la Garenne. There won't be a fair inquiry or trial by the establishment.
Jersey is known as a tax haven. What does this mean for the island?
The tax haven business is booming. Jersey sells itself around the world on the confidentiality of its banks and its political stability. Dictators, drug barons and money launderers can keep their money there with impunity.
£500 billion is deposited in the island in finance houses and 51 banks. There are 30,000 companies registered, in an island of 90,000 people. GDP per head is the third highest in the world at $57,000.
But at the same time 25% of the population live below the EU poverty line, including 45% of single pensioners and 64% of single mothers and their children. There are 5,000 families in poverty. Many of the poor are Portuguese, who get the worst jobs and have no anti-racist laws to protect them.
Banks and finance houses pay virtually no tax. But the Jersey government is bringing in a Goods and Services Tax that will increase the price of everything by 3%, including food and housing. That will hit pensioners and workers hardest. 19,000 signed a petition against it last year.
Does the child abuse scandal threaten the finance business?
It's the political establishment who make money out of the tax haven. Serving politicians get bank directorships and favourable mortgages. Six of the ten ministers are multimillionaires. They don't want Jersey in the news.
Already there have been phone calls from their clients around the world to find out what's happening. To keep political stability it's essential for the elite to crush any opposition. They have always used personal smears, bullying and victimisation against anyone who stands against them.
How does this affect the rest of us?
Labour and Tories are fighting over who can be nastiest to people on incapacity benefits. But £100 billion is stolen from the Exchequer and deposited in Jersey banks. This money could be spent on public services. Worldwide, $255 billion a year disappears into tax havens. That could halve world poverty within a decade.
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The Socialist Interview
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