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Losing the script and credibility

Sunday, April 15, 2018

If MP Smith were the only one on the ship, then he will be the only one to sink with it. But he isn’t. It is carrying over 1.3 million passengers who rely on the captain and crew to keep her steady like the keel that runs along the centre from bow to stern. The passengers expect the crew to be focussed, disciplined, and competent otherwise they are likely to become sick and puke all over the deck when the crew behaves irresponsibly and rock the ship precariously.

Some passengers may get angry enough to throw the captain and crew overboard.

Where are we now? Alas, some would say there are many challenges facing us so why should we give another thought and waste time over the alleged sordid behaviour of a crew member. That is a valid position to take if the matter is not another compelling indication of what is wrong in our society, and governance. A sense of duty of care and personal accountability doesn’t seem to be on the radar of some crew members.

The privilege to serve is a licence for arrogance and waste aided by the patronage of the tribe—a sycophancy that supports a member’s non-acceptance of responsibility even when the member knows that he behaved inappropriately or was negligent in performance.

Apparently, there isn’t a sense of urgency to be proactive and pre-empt the tide of public condemnation when there are allegations of impropriety against members of the Government. The consequences are the erosion of public trust and confidence. Accordingly, reactionary tactics and strategies are not likely to help the country move forward but often make matters worse. Perhaps the captain and crew feel that what the public thinks is fiction and mere perceptions not grounded in facts or circumstantial evidence, and therefore not important; that they jump on bandwagons pushed by the media, the Opposition, and anti-government activists.

If that’s the belief then they have lost the script of their manifesto titled Let’s Do This Together.

Allegations may be mere assertions and anyone with a sense of fairness and justice would agree that office bearers should not lose their jobs without due process.

However, when there are apparent patterns of bad behaviour and historical trends in poor performance then it’s prudent to send the ministers below deck, perhaps in the bilge or more comfortable, the poop deck found just below the waterline, until due process is completed and there are facts to exonerate the officials or dismiss them. There is a delicate balance to strike when trying to maintain confidence in public offices and ensuring fairness to incumbents when there are allegations of wrongdoing against them. The late prime minister Patrick Manning blamed public outrage against him on the media, the Opposition, and his long-standing colleague. Perhaps, he thought that confidence in the then chairman of Udecott Mr Calder Hart was more important.

To his credit, he called an election but was thrown overboard.

Sure, the Opposition will call for ministers’ heads and even ferment negative public sentiment against the incumbent party. That is what opposition parties do. But the taxpayers do not need anyone’s advice to know when to call for the resignation of government officials, not when the officials are doing foolishness that would sink the ship.

The alleged “sexual harassment” and “Dominica” issues call into question the gaps in personal accountability or more appropriately, integrity. “Honourable” Ministers should take responsibility for what happens in their ministries and at least, offer to resign. Why? Because honourable people subordinate themselves to the good of the whole.

Lack of accountability is a significant flaw in our political culture.

A similar flaw is the tradition of political leaders holding on to the leadership of the party when they lose an election. Why not bow out graciously and open up the party to new talent, different perspectives, and opportunities.

There is a level of narcissism among the politically privileged that is pathological and causes regression. We want to progress.

Where’s the script?


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