WITH SEVERAL elections due, political parties have already begun to make their fevered pitches to the nation, accompanied by the usual campaign rhetoric, razzmatazz and scandal – even before the election bell is formally rung. Unfortunately, as early as things are, allegations of racist behaviour and counter-allegations of race-baiting have arisen.
It is clear that our modern era of politics is one in which no allegation is too scandalous, no revelation too sensitive, no disclosure too damaging. Daily the signs are more disturbing. We are witnessing internecine warfare, engaged in by the major political parties of our nation. As a result, we are left wondering once again what has happened to the so-called Code of Ethical Political Conduct, which was only recently reaffirmed by parties.
Anyone is entitled to make allegations. But when doing so, such allegations must be supported by evidence, and, if appropriate, be referred to the law enforcement authorities. The law also imposes checks and balances, requiring parties to be fair and to not be malicious by wilfully spreading false claims. Where a person is aggrieved, they may go to court to seek redress. However, by that time the damage is already done. A reputation is in ruins.
We are in no position to take one side or the other when it comes to the allegations and counter-allegations that have been made involving the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) and the Office of the Prime Minister. However, we warn that all of these political platform allegations do little in service of the institutions that are supposed to guarantee the rule of law in our country.
A former official of the SSA has alleged discriminatory employment practices there and the Government has strongly questioned that official’s credibility.
As a result, the population is left to choose between two unsettling narratives. Either the State failed in recruiting, vetting and employing this official at the SSA in the first place, or we are to believe the scandalous allegations made. All parties deny wrongdoing and no independent verification of the claims has been made out.
It is a shame these allegations, which isolate the Indo-Trinidadian and Afro-Trinidadian populations in our multicultural land, have arisen on the eve of our commemoration of Independence Day. Either the allegations cover disturbing practices (which is heavily denied) or political parties are willing to engage in race-baiting (which no party admits to).
What is clear in all of this, though, is a disservice is being done to the hard-working women and men of organisations such as the SSA.
Yet again, the secretive SSA, established by an act of Parliament, is at the centre of public scandal, heightening the sense that it is being used as a political football. At a time when the law enforcement authorities have enough on their hands, this damaging distraction is the real tragedy.