Professor Ramesh Deosaran
Loyalty. While this word, “loyalty,” means “a state of being faithful or steadfast in allegiance” (eg to political party, family, etc), the word “integrity” means “moral uprightness, honesty.” Given political events from 1962 to now, the question before the population is this: Can a person remain loyal to his or her party and still be morally upright and honest if he sees a party member doing something morally wrong or illegal? In advocating party politics, Dr Eric Williams declared at Woodford Square in 1955: “The people are tired of graft and corruption, sick to the death of broken promises.” Two priorities of a party, he added, are honesty and public education.
From 1962, some of the most corrupt, dishonest and immoral acts have come from or because of party politics and protected as such. The population knows much more about this than the courts, making it appear as if what’s good for party not always good for country. It is time we start thinking seriously about repairing the system since it appears that Dr Williams words of 1955 have returned to haunt us.
In showing the extent to which political parties subvert democracy, Robert Mischels stated: “Democracy has encountered obstacles, not merely from without, but spontaneously from within.” That is, from political parties (Political Parties, 1962). Some early philosophers struggled to establish governance systems unblemished by the vices of human nature (eg greed, nepotism, hubris, melagomania, etc). Plato called for stoic, elitist philosopher kings. Hobbes called for an absolute ruler by common will to protect the interests of all, etc. Locke with social contract. The best compromise was democracy (popular will over government) with well-intentioned representative institutions and a flourish of individual freedoms, the latter themselves, being abused, and becoming threats to democracy itself. This is the danger facing the country now.
Which brings us to the recent “Finance Minister Colm Imbert vs the commentators.” Imbert, followed by Planning Minister Camille Regis-Robinson, questioned the credibility of commentators Indera Sagewan-Ali, Roger Hosein, Patrick Watson, Mukesh Basdeo, Dr Bhoe Tewarie all of whom also questioned Imbert’s credibility. Imbert and Robinson are right. So too are the named commentators. Both sides fall within the realm of free speech. The major issue is credibility in an adversarial political arena where expensive propaganda wars and rumours are covered by free speech. (Credible means “believable or worthy of belief.”) The political audience is so sharply divided today that it seems that credibility often lies in the eyes of the beholder.
Former PNM General Secretary Ashton Ford, in retaliation to senator Wade Mark’s favouritism allegations against EBC chief election officer, Fern Narcis-Scope claimed: “PNM did not march up and down when former UNC member Winston Dookeran was named central bank governor, nor when Tewarie was appointed UWI principal under past UNC government. Both men were very active in the political arena… who returned to active politics.”
Ford added: “When these glaring and disgraceful political acts took place, citizens did not hear a murmur from so-called independent commentators…editorial writers, radio and television hosts," (Guardian, May 24). On that same day, Tewarie declared “the entire country is becoming a robber’s paradise,” (Express, May 24).
Political parties are left with too many loose ends. But then they have to be so, to be “democratic,” even tolerating lawlessness for votes. About ten years ago, at a conference on political parties sponsored by the Jamaican Election Commission, strong views were advanced for stricter registration, membership, governance and auditing of political parties. To facilitate improved accountability and integrity, I then recommended that political parties get registered as private companies without sacrificing democratic elements as voting rights, and other attendant freedoms.
Even party leaders know the problem. Seven years ago, Winston Dookeran as Finance Minister said: “Trust in government is the missing link. Every five years we will go through the process of imitating those who were there before with false promises and for the next five years we will do the same,”(Express, January 28, 2011).
A pluralistic democracy can never be perfect, some mistakes or mis-judgements would be made followed by remorseful apologies. We are human beings, some more than others. But we are not talking about that. Last week, Justice Frank Seepersad called on clean cops "to speak out against corrupt cops, (Newsday, May 23)"
Supporting the Law Association’s appeal against Justice Nadia Kangaloo’s ruling, Appeal Court Justice Peter Jamadar, noting the importance of public accountability, said: “True freedom is grounded in responsibility. Freedom to think and freedom to express one’s views as they facilitate the exposure of errors in the governance and administration of justice are thus the lifeblood of democracy.” The written judgements by the Appeal Court Justices - Jamadar, Allan Mendoca and Nolan Bereaux – have inserted more flesh and spirit into the 1936 Privy Council ruling that “Justice is not a cloistered virtue.” What about political parties?