"Renaissance Thinking About the Issues of Our Day"
Feb. 11, Friday column Towery
Whistleblowers: Setting things right
Our country has a whistleblower law that protects anyone reporting illegal or law-breaking in government and corporations and the non-profits. The action of the whistle-blower is correcting wrong and hurtful actions. Setting things right.
It is known as the “Whistleblower Act” and prohibits retaliation against employees who report official wrongdoing. Those exposed cannot terminate the person, or take any adverse action against them.
The most common types of fraud include Medicare and Medicaid, pharmaceutical, defense contractor and cheating (defrauding) on the payment of taxes. We rally around those who uncover such crimes and value the brave men and women with the backbone, fearless guts to go public with the matter.
Far too often the whistleblower is blown out of the water by the powers that be in government or in the business world. We’ve read how hard it was to get tobacco barons to admit they added nicotine and lied about other matters when confronted.
For the last five years, India has such a law. It is called the “Right to Information Act.” Such a step of progress in the laws of India is to be applauded. There is one problem: it is filled with difficulties there just as it is in the United States.
Amit Jethwa of Kodinar, India, knew the Act allows citizens to demand almost any government information. The law helps the people stop petty crime and corruption, having to pay a bribe for almost everything.
Amit Jethwa had just left his lawyer’s office after discussing the lawsuit he filed about an illicit limestone quarry run by local politicians. He was shot dead by men on a motorbike, guns blazing.
Reports say at leas a dozen have been killed since the “Right to Information Act” law was enacted. Jethwa had so much information of 55 illegal quarries which led to a powerful member of Parliament from the Bharatiya Janata Party was involved. Justice is in the process of prevailing. The Parliamentarian is charged with hiring a contract killer to kill Jethwa.
Most of whistleblowers in our country do not often face that fierce an opponent, but they seldom see justice. They are out-gunned with high-pocket lawyers, corrupt officials and all kind of semi-legalized bends in the road in their challenge to bring out the truth and teach the powerful a lesson. In last week’s Orange County Register the question was ask “Which Mystery Senator Killed the Whistleblower Bill?” The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) – a bill that would have strengthened protections for federal employees – was killed by one senator’s decision to place an anonymous hold on the legislation during the last day of the 2010 congressional session.
Lindsay Bigda writes in the newspaper’s report: “The WPEA would have helped federal whistleblowers like Robert MacLean – a former federal air marshal who blew the whistle on a cost-cutting plan to remove marshals from long-haul flights – by giving them access to regular courts.”
The perils of those who believe in the work of the whistleblowers of the world beware. Your work is not going to get easier, especially when a senator, anonymous and a coward, can hinder progress of “setting things straight.”
Britt Towery, free-lance writer and whistleblower. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org