Opinion: Transparency

POSTED: 03/30/15 12:49 PM

Opposition politics is one part criticism and one part coming up with better ideas than the government has to offer. We’re not into politics for dummies, but we do wonder at times about the way our politicians are going about their business.

We’re living in a time where integrity and transparency are on everybody’s mind. For as long as we remember, politicians have opted to speak in veiled terms about any subject they touch – in the former Island Council, in parliament and also during press conferences.

That’s what we’d call old-school politics. It is time for a change, it is time for politicians to say what they mean, without leaving it up to others to guess what they actually want to say.

A case in point is the performance of National Alliance MP Christopher Emmanuel during a press conference his party held at the parliament building yesterday. Two times, the MP stole a line from a story we published on Monday, where UP-leader Theo Heyliger says that he will not be held hostage by anybody.

Emmanuel’s version? “There is one individual holding the country hostage.”

Without further elaboration such a statement obviously triggers the equally obvious question: who was the MP referring to?

At first, Emmanuel evaded the answer, saying that we would be able to guess who he was talking about. Since we are not into guessing what other people want to say, we insisted. After all, it was a simple question that must have a simple answer.

Emmanuel made a second attempt to drown us in an evasive answer until in the end the words came out: “Theo Heyliger.”

We could or course have asked as well in which way Heyliger is holding the country hostage, or why Emmanuel thinks this is so, but within the context of the press conference we let it go.

So while Emmanuel has in the end admitted that he was talking about UP-leader Heyliger, he still has not explained what it is exactly that his political adversary is doing. Wouldn’t citizens want to know what is going on? Hmm, blame us for not posing that follow up question, but it is of course never too late for Emmanuel to provide an explanation. We welcome it.

In general, Emmanuel’s maneuvering is an example of typical political  horseplay. The seed is planted that Heyliger is up to no good (and since we have no evidence to support this or to dismiss this, chances that this is true equal chances that there is nothing to it) though unsuspecting readers will quickly jump to the conclusion that this must be true – even though nobody knows yet what Emmanuel is talking about.

This is politics at its best – or at its worst, depending on which side you’re on. It gives politicians who utter these half-baked accusations the air of importance and at the same time it leaves most people wondering: what is this all about?

The thing we have trouble with is that the impression such remarks make usually stick in people’s mind, even though they are lacking real content. Mind you, we are not here to defend Theo Heyliger – or any politicians for that matter.

What we have at heart is the interest of the people who live in St. Maarten and we feel that they are entitled to proper and complete information. In a time where citizens have truckloads of information (and, unfortunately, also misinformation) at their fingertips, the value of accurate and complete data is becoming exponentially more important.

Of course, politicians the world over prefer to make so-called flexible statements. They will claim today that something is white, while they will say tomorrow that they actually claimed it was black.

In times gone by, it was easy to fool people, but we figure that this is becoming more and more difficult, if not counterproductive.

For this reason, and for the sake of transparency and clarity, we are asking here the question we did not pose to MP Emmanuel: how is UP-leader Heyliger holding the country hostage? What is it that he is doing (or not doing) that inspired you to make this statement?

Our opinion page is at the MPs disposal.

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