Opinion: Man in the Mirror

POSTED: 01/9/14 1:57 AM

Where do we draw the line? At cell phones and computers or at pencil cases? Should we maybe make a law that forbids politicians to give away anything to anybody – ever? That would probably close all the loopholes with one big bang.

Right now we are dealing with laws that are clear about vote-buying (and selling, for that matter) but that are unclear about which activities constitute vote-buying. Okay, politicians cannot say: I call my friends at the casino and they’ll give you $300 if you promise me your vote. That this has happened in the past is irrelevant: over-speeding is also not allowed and everybody does it. Outright buying votes is illegal, it is punishable and so far many politicians  in the Caribbean are getting away with it anyway.

We ventured into somewhat murkier water with our question about Frans Richardson showering people who attended his party-launch on December 22 with cell phones, tablets and gift baskets. That was a real tearjerker and it must have made some people laugh as well – in a most cynical way.

Was not Frans Richardson the independent MP who tabled that motion in April in which he called for fair elections of the kind where no votes are bought and no perks are handed out? The same Frans Richardson played Father Christmas in December.

Was that forbidden? Was it illegal? We figure that there are no laws to stop anyone from giving away whatever he or she feels like. Still, Richardson, desperate for sympathy and maybe even more desperate for votes in the upcoming elections, has maneuvered himself in a rather awkward position.

Some people feel that anything that is not specifically forbidden by law is allowed. Richardson falls in this category.

The buzz-word of 2014 is obviously integrity and this is the field where the do’s and don’ts meet. What Richardson did is simply not kosher – at least, not in our book. As we have learned from representatives of Transparency International – and it is fair to point this out as well – is that it takes two to tango. If there are no takers, politicians who want to wow prospective voters and party members with hot presents, will be stuck with their goodies.

In other words, Richardson is not the only one who is not kosher in this respect. All the people who took his presents are cut of the same cloth.

Prime Minister Wescot-Williams is therefore pretty much on the mark with her opinion that all this is a matter of education. Setting a policy that explains what falls within and outside of a particular law might be helpful, but it will not change the nature of the beast.

As long as people fall for presents and as long as they feel it is okay to give their power away to the highest bidder, there is no legislation in the world that will stamp out the practice of political wheeling and dealing. Again, this is not about Good Vibrations; it’s all about the Man in the Mirror.

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