By Vernon Khelawan
Gerry Pemberton, a regular reader of this column, responded to the Morality in Public Affairs matter I wrote about two weeks ago (CN August 25 issue), but he went deeper into the issue. He wrote, “At the time Dr Williams expressed his vision of the future, he knew our needs were beyond our capacity for the time being. He knew that the means available were scarce but could be expanded with education and cooperation.”
Continuing, Pemberton said, “He (Dr Williams) knew we had to organise our human behaviour to suit our conditions to prepare for a bright future. Morality in Public Affairs was a necessity. There was no ‘politics’ in that. Without that doctrine of national discipline and cooperation there would be no lasting progress towards social justice.
“We did not understand the empowering call of his doctrine, so today it is bandied about as a meaningless political slogan……today, the most important topic in economics is reducing inequality. Dr Williams would certainly have put that squarely as the main function and benefit of morality in public affairs.”
Pemberton also pointed out that we should have known since 1956, that corruption is a weapon of mass social destruction. But even worse was when then Cardinal Bergoglio said in 2005 “Corruption closes the soul to transcendence”, so that the worst corruption is the corruption of the best.
Finally, he admitted that we must take the blame for what could result in the eternal damnation of many of us and we can also blame ourselves for the high level of poverty.
We can reduce this with modern, more sensible and realistic economics and with the emphasis on primary education and cooperation. Economics, as a moral science, is essential to our well-being now and for the future. Economists, as moral scientists must exercise their capability and resources to find and express truth in whatever opinions they provide. That also is morality in public affairs.
The other topic I want to speak about is sedition, a word that has been recently weaved into our lexicon, but one that is as old as the hills. Politicians, lawyers, political commentators and the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) have all had much to say on the matter. And it is the belief of all these authorities that something is intrinsically wrong with that piece of colonial legislation.
About three years ago a senior police officer and executive member of the Welfare Association was charged with something resembling sedition. He was eventually freed.
More recently, a threat and two searches were carried out on Radio Jaagriti’s premises in Tunapuna, but charges are yet to be laid against the TV station or its executives. Head of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Sat Maharaj has taken the matter to court. A decision is yet to be made.
Then we had some time ago, the troubling matter of MP Fitzgerald Hinds, in a public speech issuing ‘kill’ threats to his political opponents. He has never been charged.
But, the Head of the Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke, representing Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) workers was charged under the sedition law for a statement he made about workers being prepared to die.
Does the law apply to one and not the other? Does politics have any part to play in this scenario? I believe it does, in a sort of convoluted way. Duke is head of a Tobago-based political party – Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) with two seats in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) in opposition to the PNM dominated Assembly. He is the Minority Leader. He says he is quitting the union scene to get into full–time politics.
In the final act of Carifesta XIV the national anthem was sung by a lady who did her own “operatic” version. This clearly irritated Her Excellency President Paula Mae Weekes, prompting her to take issue with the rendition. Her reasoning is in alignment with mine. The National Anthem was created to be sung one way and artistes have no right to do ‘their own thing’ when delivering it.
Since then there have been many people who think there is nothing wrong with the anthem being sung in several different ways.
Unfortunately, what this showed is our people’s penchant to go against protocol. This is just par for the course which shows we belong to a society which is very short on respectability and discipline