Holding on at all costs
In a recent press release, the WPA called for the resignation of two government ministers following three maternity related deaths. The party’s thinking and standard are at the right level; however, it is at the wrong time, in the wrong place, and talking to the wrong group of politicians.
It is the wrong time, because there is a new standard of conduct demonstrated by those comfortably ensconced in the grip of public office. The standard only grows more vulgar as the years in office lengthen. What was once perceived to be unpalatable and unacceptable, and certain passport for dismissal, has become the entrenched norm; the opportunity and perch from which to lobby shamelessly for retaining power by any means possible. In recent times, this has been true in both the local political landscape, as well as international horizons. Let us look at the foreigners first.
There was a minister in Trinidad who participated in a sudden, and unusual personal financial transaction – the premature withdrawal of funds – from an entity that teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. The minister readily paid the monetary penalty (a small price relative to the timely rescue of distressed funds), and then proceeded to tender patently false testimony before parliament as part of cover-up action. The protestations of the then opposition exposed a convincing case of highly questionable conduct involving acting on material, non-public information, and also of deceiving parliament. The minister doggedly refused to step down, and the prime minister was unyielding in support of his comrade. It proved to be the party’s undoing.
A little further up the sea, a leader in Kingston vacillated and twisted around a narcotics development of national significance and widening collateral damage. Although the cries mounted from many corners, he insisted on holding out, and on refusing to relinquish his hold on power at all costs. He did so before all that was humiliating and obvious and destructive. The hold on power, the attractions of office were all that mattered; they transcended everything else.
Now it is time to travel some more and identify heroes of the day in the US. Ex-Senator Delay, Congressman Rangel, and ex-Governor Blagojevich are among the defiant warriors who come readily to mind. Like Reagan and Clinton, they all shook, rattled, and rolled as they spun themselves out of very tight corners, involving egregious misconduct. Observe them all, as they engaged in the now pro forma rituals and the obligatory media spectacle of “I am innocent,” when the circumstances and evidence indicated betrayal of trust, violation of standing rules, and clear breaking of the law. Yet they refused to vacate office, to step down quietly, to just go. The point is that personal failures – be they through incompetence, irresponsibility or misconduct – are rendered doubly obscene through posturing and pandering, and endless waffling. No one falls on his sword any more; there is no honour, no contrition, and no retreat. Indeed, the WPA will recognize that it is a different time.
If this has happened – and continues to happen – in open and mature democracies, what has been the situation in this political frontier called Guyana? Here a handful of peerless fellows immediately come to mind. Take the one who succumbed to an attack of domestic spirits and clogged metabolism, lost equilibrium of mind and feet, and sought to rectify matters through the inconvenient crutch of a gun barrel. When exposed to be “in the cups” that stout character resorted to crude belligerence and the menace of suit. Neither was found intimidating. However, this person is still around and once harboured ideas on the endangerment of public health. The same is to be said of two parliamentarians caught in a web of intrigue and deception who tried to brazen, and then blast their way out from a tight corner first through vitriolic language, and then litigious threats. They are still around. So, too, are brethren allegedly involved in fishy business, and the avoidance of duty obligations, among other matters. By any yardstick, they should have been gone – either through resigning, or sacking. At least, a Bar Association censure and parliamentary reprimands should have been handed down. But there has been nothing but pungent continuity and business as usual. Without question, the WPA is in the wrong place.
The place is Guyana, and the people need them; there are no substitutes. They are all irreplaceable, and committed to service. But on whose behalf? The milk from the public udder is too sweet, too rich.
Once upon a time, real men lived by a different code: Arthurian, shades of the samurai, and a Pauline austerity. But that was long ago, and men of a different breed, when personal honour and rectitude mattered above all; when the dignity of a job done well was what counted; when a whiff of taint – sometimes unfairly – prompted decent men to step aside. But that was then and this is now. Today is the age of men and women who exhibit no inclination towards letting their yeah be yeah and nay be nay, keeping their palms clean, and resigning when serious scandal surfaces. Men have serious difficulty distinguishing right from blatant wrong, and exhaust pursuers while living lies. This is the new upside down world of diminished standard, and of dingy politicos, where the hold on power is all that matters.
Such is the temper of the times, the degradation of this realm, and the crassness of this group of holy bulls (and sacred cows), that the WPA ought to have saved its breath.
Whereas sexual dalliance, out of wedlock offspring, unacceptable speech, and unsavoury alliances have floored powerful politicians elsewhere, here in Guyana there is only baleful resistance on marriage, assault, intoxication, and shady practices. The combined record of the two ruling parties will reveal that hardly a minister has ever resigned, or was forced to resign, for unacceptable conduct. Not even when the stench reached the heavens. Why should things be any different today? What standing do these three women have when holding on to power at all costs is all that matters?