Remember a long time ago when our Chief Minister and first leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM) at the time, Dr Eric Williams gave this country a mantra ‘Morality in Public Affairs’. What has happened to that? Successive PNM governments and other variously minted parties that held the reins of government have all scuttled that maxim.
We won’t delve into the very many immoralities that have occurred and impacted us along the way. Let us deal with today.
I ask, what is the difference between a driving under the influence (DUI) in southern Florida and Trinidad and Tobago? Can I be enlightened? We have had for months in our Senate two members who have had DUI charges—Garvin Simonette and Lester Henry. One was forced to resign; the other remains firmly ensconced. Is there a morality issue here?
This matter, although obfuscated by the juicier Marlene McDonald affair, to my mind, lies squarely in the domain of morality. I hold no brief for any political party nor do I hold briefs for any of the two gentlemen in question.
Prime Minister Rowley in a recent PNM meeting dubbed ‘Conversations with the Prime Minister’ told his audience his government was working to having a better society. A noble cause indeed, if it comes to pass. But there have been some incidents which fall into the realm of morality that Mr Rowley has to deal with and which has happened during his administration.
They are: his Attorney General’s children shouldering big, powerful guns at a shooting range at an army camp some two years ago; the issue of hush money being paid out of taxpayers’ funds by his former Minister of Sport; the matter concerning a piece of land owned by his Minister of Works now being used during the building of the Curepe Roundabout; the famous deposit in an Arima bank of some $140,000 being unaccounted for and deposited by his Minister of Planning; and the question of who paid for the hospital care, medication, doctors and housing for his MP for Talparo during his long illness.
Then there is a big question mark over the ‘fake oil’ scandal involving the PM’s friend who owns A&V Drilling.
All these are moral issues which the population needs to know at least some of the details. As things stand today, it would seem that accountability is not real—a kind of do as I say but not necessarily as I do. This has to change because it is things like these which lead to corruption in all its various incarnations.
And talking about corruption… Any service you seek, particularly in the public service, is yours for ‘their asking’ (sic) when this is supposed to be free or served by legitimate fees or charges. You can obtain anything you want in this country as long as you are prepared to pay for it corruptly.
Look at the current Private Hire (PH) service. It is unlawful, but it is thriving. The insurance industry is doing nothing about it and it doesn’t seem to bother the authorities.
Getting a plan for a building passed? No problem. Have the right contacts and ‘yuh bizness fix’. Most senior citizens have to wait their turn to get papers fixed so as to receive their pittance, but those who know somebody who knows somebody can get almost immediate attention. If you know high policemen you can get charges against you to go away. I’ll stop there because the list is exhaustingly long and disgusting.
According to the dictionary I use, moral means “conforming to a standard of right behaviour”. I ask you to make a judgement from your own conclusion of morality in public affairs as promised by Dr Williams in 1956 as a guideline for the PNM. We can only hope that it will change.