Opinion: More lessons in integrity

POSTED: 03/2/15 11:57 PM

Least said, soonest mended. Detective-writer Agatha Christie often used that phrase in her books. Characters in her mysteries more often than not kept their traps shut rather than doing the obvious: go to the police and tell what they know, or telling off a wayward relative for obnoxious behavior.

The society in which Agatha Christie grew up does not exist anymore. Friendly old ladies with a sharp mind no longer solve horrible murders. And yet this centuries-old mentality of least said, soonest mended lives on in St. Maarten where in particular politicians have made it a tool of their trade.

Here is therefore yet another lesson in integrity. Before we get into that, we suddenly remember that one of our Members of Parliament (it could have been Frans Richardson, we’re not sure) said that the term integrity does not mean anything to people. He preferred the word honesty. There are however differences between the two, and Annemieke Cloosterman defined them on her blog Mind structures better than we could have done it ourselves:

“Like many other words, those two represent a whole world of meaning. They are used all the time and most of the time, people tend to understand what you mean if you use those words.

But sometimes someone uses the word honesty where another would use the word integrity. Or the other way around. Although there seems to be overlap, they are certainly not the same.

My view is that there can be honesty without integrity, but no integrity without honesty. Although integrity needs honesty, it does not mean you always have to be absolutely honest to others. It just means you have to be absolutely honest to yourself.

Being honest to others is many times just giving a personal opinion. And that opinion might just as well have nothing to do with facts. So I do think integrity needs honesty, but honesty as an inner process. Looking at your own values and act upon them with respect for others.”

There you have it in a nutshell: there can be no integrity without honesty. How do our politicians hold up in this respect? To be entirely honest: we do not know for sure.

There are however quite some indications that politicians have a tendency to stretch the truth beyond breaking point – a nice way of saying that they have a tendency to lie when it suits their political agenda – but the problem is that solid evidence for this behavior is hard to come by.

Did UP-leader Theo Heyliger for instance offer former MP Romain Laville a truckload of money to return to the coalition? It’s an old story for which Laville is the only source. Did MP Christopher Emmanuel speak the truth when he claimed last October that he had been offered up to $2 million (reportedly by Toochie Meyers) to go independent? Meyers’ attorney said that he would take the MP to court over that statement, but the story has somehow faded away.

To return to that least said, soonest mended concept: local politicians have a tendency to be unreachable when there is a controversy brewing. They prefer to keep their mouths shut until the storm blows over rather than giving their comment on the situation. It does not matter whether the politician is part of the coalition or of the opposition – they all display the same behavior.

Controversies surrounding Maria Buncamper-Molanus, Louie Laveist and, more recently, Silvio Matser, have all met with the same fate. Silence.

No party has ever taken public action against questionable behavior by one of their own. That this sets the wrong example for others, in particular the youth, is apparently of secondary importance.

Part of integrity should be calling a spade a spade – consequences be damned. Knowing most of the sheep in the local flock, we suspect that it could take some time before this attitude improves.

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