The People’s National Movement (PNM) boasts that in its institution of party politics on the body politic, among its founding principles was to “subscribe to the highest standards of morality in the conduct of its public and private affairs” as stated by then leader Patrick Manning on the party’s 50th anniversary.
Note – highest standards in the conduct of its affairs
Recent developments in which a sitting minister is now charged for less-than-the-highest standards of morality in public affairs follow the current PNM leader’s boast that his administration is squeaky clean
Not even the fact that following-the-money has revealed that the alleged fraudulent and laundering activity continued well into the term of his administration allows reality to dawn on him
This situation has also spawned another as the damage control exercise has once again brought into focus the prerogative, almost royal, of the political leader and PM to appoint officeholders at the monarch’s pleasure
Revelations, resignations and repeating of appointment exercises have followed
The leader of the other aspect of the PNM-UNC political monopoly, sensing opportunity, does not recognise her own duplicity as she keeps another public official charged with less-than-the-highest standards at local government level. These developments have generated the question: Do politicians and public officeholders get to choose which office to respect?
A senator is satisfied to sit in the legislature – the Senate. But when he is to put in the executive—the Government, as a minister, and his past of less-than-highest standards is disclosed, he declines and then resigns as a senator
Perhaps he felt comfortable just being in the Senate because another colleague of his with the same record is allowed to or continues to sit there even after his resignation
Or perhaps, the legislature is seen as lesser than the executive
A senator with a conviction is not allowed to hold office of minister, but a minister who is charged is fired for the third time. There must be one rule for all!
Politicians and public officeholders cannot pick and choose which office to respect and which to not respect. They must respect every office which they hold on behalf of the people of this nation
In the 1960s, the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago—professionals, intellectuals and ordinary folk —charted their own nation-building plan under a non-governmental and non-party organisation called Pegasus. That organisation was founded in the year our independence by one Geddes Granger (later Makandal Daaga) as a people’s initiative to give direction to nation-building
It is fortuitous that these unsavoury developments are taking place at the time of the anniversaries of Daaga’s passing and birth (August 8 and 13)
That nation-building plan under the caption Politics said this:
(a) “that there should be a high degree of morality in public affairs, and that citizens in positions of authority and responsibility be an example in their public and private life, and moreso, those in public life who should be scrupulous as to their conduct, for their actions may be interpreted and accepted as the norm by the general society;
(b) that lest confidence in political authority be undermined there be close scrutiny of candidates elected to office, and that records of their liabilities and assets and sources of investment be made public.”
What is needed is a clear code of ethics and disciplinary processes based on broad consultations involving citizens to decide what the standard of conduct for political and public officeholders is and what the consequences of breach must be. This is not a matter of what any individual or any political leader thinks. It is a matter of what we, as a society, set as the norms we establish
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SUBSCRIBE/ LOG IN The question is: How are we, as a society, going to set the standards when the PNM-UNC monopoly continues to deprive us, the majority of the body politic, of our right to be involved in decision-making in matters that affect us and the nation and to exercise control over elected representatives?
The politicians have usurped the authority to select candidates as parties decide through a process they call screening who are to be candidates
We are reminded by these recent developments of how poor their judgement and their processes have proven to be on too many occasions
We, the people, must no longer be subject to the privileged position of political parties and their leaders which our electoral and political processes have entrenched
As part of empowering the people:
Electors must have the right to select and elect candidates!
Electors must have the right to recall failing or errant elected representatives!
Democratic renewal of the electoral and political processes – the system of governance – must put power in the hands of the majority – the people
It is time that the citizens take the initiative once more to chart the course of our nation-building project and vest the sovereignty of this nation in themselves