It was Basdeo Panday, former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, who forced that question onto the national agenda several years ago when he asserted that politics has a morality of its own. It was at that time, too, that the smaller than average politician of East Indian heritage shouted from his political platform that if he got into a fight with a lion, people should feel sorry for the lion.
Today such wild talk is likely to be associated with political loudmouths who should be allowed to consume their Chairman’s Reserve at their own peril. Maurice Bishop loved to say such characters were “Caribbean yard fowls” that had somehow found their way into politics. These poorly socialised individuals seem determined to take a page out of Mr. Panday’s book on political morality. Sadly, our own people appear to have a penchant for copying the worst in others.
But perhaps neither Panday nor Trinidad is to be blamed for our ever-declining political standards. Local politics were not always conducted as now! Once the door to education was thrown open, the poorly socialised deviants crept in, and soon one could not tell the pervert from the pure. To further confuse the situation, a small percentage that made it to University returned home more than ever blemished. A clear danger is posed when rotten characters end up in politics. When such a graduate decides to make a go of politics the people should expect more lies, more obfuscation, more corruption. These are today’s realities. People lie with impunity—mimicking their leaders. They post items on social media that they know to be absolutely false. They are mentally handicapped and depraved. They take great pleasure in bringing others down because their own little lives are desperate and empty. Behind the veils provided by their elevated positions of trust are several vices, some of them criminal. They lack the courage to express a reasoned opinion even on matters of national interest.
When they can summon up some rum-fueled courage, you may be certain that what comes out of their mouth will be their master’s voice. They like nothing better than making to the electorate promises they have no intention to deliver.
Our University graduates should be taught by whatever means necessary that they cannot fool all the people all the time. Unlike Panday—a lawyer—local politicians should be issued a stern warning that there should no special morality for politics.
The matter of morality in politics becomes even scarier for right-thinking conscientious persons when the political leader vows to be transparent and, instead, proceeds to use every device behind which to hide the moment he is elected to office.
Another aspect of the question of morality in politics is the calling of elections. Caribbean prime ministers are notorious for calling elections when least expected. Saint Lucia was given less than twenty days before the last elections.
Lying now resides in the heart of Saint Lucia politics, with serious consequences. The people are daily losing trust in politicians. Even when a government is trying desperately to establish positive policies, the twice-bitten people anticipate the worst. My grandmother used to say, “show me a liar and I’ll show you a thief.” When I think of her, I wonder if she knew how correct and profound was her statement. Proof of its validity is today all around us. It is imperative that church leaders raise their protest voices louder than ever. It should not be left to the publisher of this newspaper and a few other concerned citizens to fight the wrongs that plague our society, the main victims being our young people.
The author served as a minister in both Labour and UWP administrations.