Politics and ethics only rhyme

By Raffique Shah
September 07, 2014

Raffique ShahArchbishop Joseph Harris strikes me as being a “rootsy Trini”—a prelate who commands respect beyond his flock even as he exudes a tremendous sense of humour.

What I could not discern from a distance (I’ve never met the good Father) is that he is also a humorist who can put veterans such as Paul Keens-Douglas and “Sprangalang” to pale on any stage at any time.

Last week, Fr Harris invited leaders and senior officials of all political parties to Archbishop’s House in Port of Spain to sign a concord that bears the oxymoronic title, “Code of Ethical Political Conduct”.

Amidst much laughter and more “skin teeth”, officials from the UNC, PNM, COP, ILP and MSJ appended their signatures to the document which, while I have not yet read it, is reported to contain guidelines for politicians’ behaviour, their conduct during elections campaigns and when they hold office.

What amused me first was the sight of these politicians, most of whom could hardly tolerate each other, back-slapping, grinning and chatting in Father’s mansion where there are many rooms, although I doubt that there is any for the Devil. But I saw many devils, sheathed knives concealed in their underwear, itching to stab each other in the pursuit of power, and by extension, capture of the Treasury.

Little wonder Fr Harris laughed heartily throughout the proceedings, knowing he had foisted a Shakespearean tragic-comedy on the population. The good Father must know the words “politics” and “ethics”, while they rhyme, they are in fact antonyms, not synonyms.

An ethical politician anywhere in the world, but most of all in Trinidad and Tobago, is an invisible entity. He or she simply does not exist, so by making much out of a code (or codes) by which none of the signatories will abide, is taking a joke too far.

Skulduggery is the creed by which our politicians survive, and gutter-fighting is as natural to them as breathing or lying. No code of conduct, or for that matter, laws on campaign financing or procurement or integrity, will temper their thieving ways.

Qualities such as honesty, kindness, generosity, humaneness, and, I argue, ethics and morals, are inculcated in an individual from early in his or her life, in the home, by parents, teachers and other adults who interact with, and guide them. If one does not possess them and abide by them by the time one is a young adult, forget it.

This is why, for all the free tertiary education we boast of, we have a corresponding number of dishonest, unethical, immoral people, many of whom enter politics or business. It is why these young graduates see corruption as par for the political course, and either condone or actively participate in the pillage of the Treasury.

Fr Harris, no code of conduct will save us from the damnation of corruption, from politicians exploiting race, from their abandonment of the wretched of society who are condemned to live in squalor and purgatory, government come, government go.

I hear people clamouring for campaign financing legislation, as if that would somehow stop political parties from amassing tens, hundreds of millions of dollars in their war chests, mostly from business interests that seek to secure influence (contracts) in whatever regime emerges winner.

Again, no laws will stop the madness of parties purchasing power.

I’ll relate a story to illustrate why I argue that if the leadership of political parties have the will to self-regulate campaign financing, they can do it without any law hanging over their heads.

The only party I ever joined (I was a co-founder) was the original ULF, meaning the 1975 model, not the later incarnation. Coming out of labour, with four unions forming the core (All Trinidad, OWTU, TIWU and ICFTU), and ordinary workers and farmers its base, the party was poor—and that is putting it mildly.

The incumbent PNM, wallowing in the country’s first oil boom, had no such problem. Indeed, it was during the 1976 elections campaign that Dr Eric Williams uttered the words, “Money is no problem.”

We had to raise funds, mostly small money coming from large numbers of supporters. But we needed more.

George Weekes and Basdeo Panday cosigned for a $10,000 loan from a bank that we all agreed to repay, chipping in whatever small sums we could afford—which we did, post-elections. Even so, we needed more. But the executive, which included principled men such as Lennox Pierre, Allan Alexander and George Sammy, placed strict limits on individual and corporate contributions.

We would accept no more than $500 from individuals and $2,000 from corporations. One evening, at an executive meeting, candidate Richard Jacobs proudly displayed a cheque for $5,000 from business house Kirpalani’s. Jacobs was ordered to return the cheque with thanks, but to let Kirpalani’s know that our limit was $2,000.

We heard nothing more from Jacobs or the donor. Hans Hanoomansingh, who was then a senior manager with Kirpalani’s, can corroborate what I have written here. That was a case of self-regulation. We held firmly to our principles even though we needed the money. Such conduct requires no code, just decent, honourable men and women.

22 Responses to “Politics and ethics only rhyme”


  • Interesting! Shah is known a a rebel, politician and now a journalist. All three occupations often indulge in prostituting oneself.

    • TMan, dig deep into your intellect and let us have some substance by which we can ponder and use as a mark of excellence!

  • Another good one Raff but I guess Kamla and friends don’t want to hear about this one because there are certain words that do not fit into the vocabulary of Kamla and friends. Words such as Integrity, morality, justice, peace, ethics and respect are not in their political vocabulary and even though other politicians would make it appear as though they understand and respect them, Kamla’s intolerance of those key words are reasons why she cannot be trusted. Politicians must show that they stand for something. The Archbishop, acting in a statesman-like fashion invited all of the leaders to present themselves and sign (face to face), a code by which they all can campaign by but our good friends Kamla and Prakash said that they were too busy to attend. If Sat had asked for such a meeting she would be available but the christianity of those watch words were not what she would like to subscribe to because it dealt with behavior that do not fit her political mode. Her super rich donors will not allow that either because their money can flow like water during election time and of course she would be the beneficiary of all that benevolence. Campaign financing can work if the built in checks and accompanying agencies were to be employed to monitor with the necessary fines and scheduled reporting facilities in place. We need to revamp and re-constitute the judiciary also. It is one of the laziest institution in the functioning of government. In many cases it is very predictable and many of the judges and magistrates mediocre in their performance. We need more than one institution to monitor and overseer the judiciary. We need judicial institutions that can monitor judicial performance, one that can watch and report on judicial rulings, taking into account constitutionality vs activism. We definitely need one that monitors ethics with a strong hand to discipline the practitioners of law and enforcement.

  • How ethical was it for Rowley to move a vote of non confidence in the PM based on fake emails, demanding the resignation of the PM and the AG and using fabricated emails as evidence. Rowley went even further, accusing members of government of plotting the murder of a member of the media.
    In most civilized countries , Rowley would have to resign!

  • TMan your reasoning is cagy at worst and suspicious at best. Where is your authority to call emailgate fake? No!no! don’t tell me, Ramlogan report right? How many times in this government have we seen Ramlogan investigating himself and come up with the answer that he is not guilty? If it were really so, why can’t he trust anyone but himself to investigate him so that he would be free of any allegations? Is it any wonder that the pagan tribe only trusts itself? Do you call that civilization? In civilized countries Ramlogan would not be investigating himself and the masses accepting it the way you do.

    • The other investigations by other parties are continuing. So far Ramlogan has been proven to be accurate in his lawsuits against Rowley, who just recently apologized after losing in court. There is no doubt that Ramlogan has the evidence to win his latest Rowleygate email fabrication lawsuit against Rowley. Stay tuned.The days of quietly accepting the verbal abuse and derogatory put downs from people who believe that they have the divine right to rule T&T are over. And even in 2014 you continue with your “pagan” references. Pity!Religious and racial bigotry!

  • Get your distorted versions of facts correct TMan, for in most civilize democracies across the globe , your Annie Kamla, and her corrupt, self serving political goons, would be doing time for the destruction they have unleashed on this unsuspecting nation since grabbing power.
    As a matter of fact, morally repugnant, PP neo tribal apologists ,& enablers like yourself ,should be happy this ain’t Fiji, Uganda,or better yet Sri Lanka, ll.
    There the folks are less tolerant to repeated political faux pas, blatant abuse of power, tribal driven policies, and budget bribes , that are geared to securing future votes.
    Long live de Republic of T&T.May those of us with the gravitas, do whatever is necessary, to keep these social barbarians, their cronies, and minions from overrunning the Trinidad Pearly Gates, eeeeh?

    • “Corruption” has become the buzz word in T&T so overused by the PNM that it has lost its meaning.
      As the PM herself said, “bring the evidence” and another Minister will bite the dust…..20 already did.Corruption accusations have become an election propaganda strategy. Rowley is poised to become the next PM, but he keeps putting his foot into his mouth.

  • The difference between this PP government and the PNM is that the PNM under successive prime ministers tried to cover up corruption for some 50 years…from Mahabir to Prevatt to O’Halloran to…..etc.This PP prime minister has a record of 20 firings to demonstrate her rejection of corrupt practices.

    • TMan, the difference between your political intake and my reasoning of things is that you have stake in hoping what you write catches a would-be voter. Mine comes from the heart without any political master or servant to account to. So, what you get from me is the way I see it. You have a way of confirming my observations without even recognizing that you are doing that. Your quote “This PP prime minister has a record of 20 firings to demonstrate her rejection of corrupt practices.” My charge is that she is unable to assess and analyze talent. There will always be bad apples in any pool of talent, but the abundance of her ministers with substandard performance and qualifications is just too high for anyone who calls herself a prime minister. The scandals are so public that she does n opt have a choice but top fire them. And by the way she only rejects them when there is a public outcry about their performance. You know that and is hypocritical about her demonstration of assertiveness. If she is so assertive, why wait until there is a public outcry to get rid of them?

      • First comes he public outcry, then comes the complete investigation, next comes the proof , finally the firing.
        Unlike the former PNM administrations she does not harbor incompetents and corrupt politicians within her cabinet in perpetuity.

        • http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/UNEASE-ON-SOLDIERS–CALLOUT-275079111.html?m=y&smobile=y

          Come on Uncle Rowley.You know de deal. When Mrs Carmona, and his benefactor Kamla, says jump, your grateful Pez would ask, how high.
          Let me guess, you too believe he was selected , simply for his good looks, huh?
          These political bums hate the CCJ, but somehow adore their Appeal Court judge, turn President.Yet some wonder why.
          We miss you Professor Richard, for you would have flipped de bird to these Cabal dominant , UNC bastards, and told ddM, this stupid stunt won’t work so close to an election.
          We miss you President AND Robinson, for you would have told this political neophyte from Siparia, to take a flying leap, just like you told her mentor Papa Baz.
          We miss you Sir Ellis, for you would have told Auntie K in de Queens perfect, accented English, to go back to law school, and to quit trying to destroy our democracy.
          So now we know ,why that Tin pan soldier turn National Security big wig , is running around the country with a stupid grin on his mug, like a constipated Hyena ,just because tax payers dollars were siphoned off to purchase his expensive tank / toys , to allegedly hunt down criminals, all the while , as crimes skyrocket.
          I luv dis land, Y tu?

  • Manning is now Rowley’s hero. Here are some of Rowley’s words not too long ago:

    In a scathing attack on his political leader and Prime Minister Patrick Manning, Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley yesterday said the affairs of controversial State-owned Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott) “smells to the high heavens.” He said the PNM was being put on trial because of the support its political leader Manning was giving to the controversial Udecott. In an animated hour-long presentation in the House of Representatives yesterday afternoon, Rowley supported the legislation to validate and protect the work of the Commission of Enquiry set up to investigate Udecott and the local construction sector. He expressed strong disapproval against actions of Udecott to condone practices that were against its own tender procedures. “The tail is not to wag the dog. The dog is to carry the tail and keep its tail behind it,” Rowley said. He also became enraged after discussing legal action by Udecott to obtain a stay on the operations of the commission.

    He said: “There are those of us in the PNM, for the PNM, who support the PNM, who want no part of this. “The PNM has fundamental principles about morality and public affairs. Those principles are coming under attack and I am putting you under notice. The next election would be the Udecott election said. “(John) O’Halloran (a PNM minister who was found guilty of corruption) has receded into the background. There are other names to be called.” Rowley reminded his other PNM MPs about the stigma from the O’Halloran scandal that affected the PNM’s ability to campaign for elections in the 1980s. He said: “This country has to understand that sometimes you have to break the mould to make a new shape and I am breaking it on behalf of all of the PNM people who, in 1986, when we went to campaign in my area… they (were) slamming doors in your face in Westmoorings, in Glencoe, in Bayshore and all they (are) telling you about is O’Halloran.”

    He said the Udecott fiasco looked at least ten times worse than the alleged corruption in the construction of the Piarco International Airport.

  • Guys you have to understand that for the Aryan cultured Kamla sycophant TMAN, politics and ethnics is the rhyme that means the most. Thousands of years of inherited prejudices cannot be wiped away by less than a few centuries of transplantation in this Geography where those damned Africans refuse to acknowledge his birth right to supremacy. Think about David Duke when you read his outpourings, and it will lessen any cognitive dissonance that occurs from a narrative we tend to think has its home in those bastions of European racist expressions.

    For the years I have been reading comments and participating in this blog, I have never been surprised over what I read from TMAN. That is because I have experienced it before, albeit from different sources and of different national membership. It has become a predictable mantra, and no amount of literal disguise can obscure the mentality in which his thoughts are incubated. The terminological inexactitudes upon which he forms his conclusions are so odious that one can literally smell them as son as one signs on to the blog. He is what is, a sorry little prejudiced Aryan product, cast upon us by the former slave masters who were astute in choosing their future replacements.

    • We are now used to these types of accusations and attacks. We view these outpourings with understanding and humor. We realize that since we are no longer content to be considered “a recalcitrant”, mostly rural and backward community,this is making many prominent PNMites very uncomfortable. So, they literally concoct a variety of accusations and theories which are not only irrelevant in our Caribbean community but totally erroneous.They are disgruntled that we are attempting to take our rightful place as the largest minority group in the nation of T&T. While people like Paton focuses his energies on theorizing on Indians, he is missing an opportunity to provide solutions to many of the social and economic problems which his fellow Africans are facing in societies today all over the universe.

      • TMan, I took a look at the logs and it is obvious to me that you believe more logs are better than less blogs. There is no doubt in my mind that you can count and you have shown that in many ways, but just as you are not sensitive to words such as equity, ethics, protocol, history, objectivity, nationalism, Trinidadian, integrity and justice you are equally not sensitive to truth and facts. History and literature can affirm and confirm what Rodwell has said. On the other hand you have labelled these realities as ‘theory’ or to be more exact ‘theorizing’. In order for you to maintain the ‘superiority’ in which you placed yourself and tribe you must, by necessity ignore the realities of truth. Just as your PP government is on record as wanting to give us ‘more democracy’ by encouraging ‘majority’ elections and governance but in actuality producing minority rule, where seventy percent of its ministers belong to a minority religion. Yes, you heard me, religion! It is exactly what is governing this country a religious minority whose numbers account for eighteen percent of the population but whose ideology is used to subvert every aspect of national life. The heavy indoctrination of that 18% is evident is the daily discourse. It is evident in our everyday transaction and it is being pushed to transform what we now consider ‘Trinidadian’ to something else, and not akin to our experience in living in this island. Just as Carnival is now being used to being transformed into a Chutney show. These things are evident, meaning that they are real which you would prefer to call by another name. Dr. Eric Williams used the term ‘recalcitrant’ one, and has give the Indian much, much, much, much more yet he is denigrated for the use of the word. Dr. Williams have a million times more than he has taken away, yet – the only thing you have in your mains for him is – contempt. That is the stuff you guys are made of and from my perspective it reeks of the same behavior practiced in the East call paganism. It is not something you learn, it is something so ingrained in your dna that without it you are not yourself. If you are wondering why jot is being used so much to describe you, then you should look no further than what you write. It represent the epitome of paganism so why would you want it to be described any other way?

        • It is completely and totally possible to enhance, improve and support one’s group without casting aspersions on another group.The success and improvement of one group does not have to be at the expense of another.It is quite possible to progress side by side without conflict and most importantly without depriving others of opportunities.Political power is not the solution for economic, educational or social success. This is one of the long held misconceptions of those who gravitate towards the PNM. Political power is a career choice for most of them. On the contrary, losing government would have no negative economic impact on most of the members of the present government.
          If I thought that the PP was pushing a Hindu agenda, as Kian suggests, I would be the first to abandon support for the government, since I am not a Hindu.I do agree however that Chutney is a poor imitation of calypso and most of the chutney being produced is aesthetically very unpleasant.Nothing can replace calypso and carnival and any government which tries to tamper with these cultural landmarks will not last.
          This DNA ingrained theory proposed by Kian and Rodwell seems to be coming from an American viewpoint which has no comprehension of what it means to be a national of T&T.

          • TMan you made complete sense when you said “It is quite possible to progress side by side without conflict and most importantly without depriving others of opportunities” but then you went into your political mode to confuse such sensible and rational expression you were wrong. Let me warn you that the world is in turmoil today all across the globe and do you know what is the nature of the grievances they seek? – Religion, especially islam. You are intelligent enough to know that. Because Rowley does not come out and say so, doesn’t mean it isn’t so, because Jack Warner does not come out and say so, doesn’t mean it isn’t so, because Archie does not come out and say so doesn’t mean it isn’t so, because Ramesh does not say so, doesn’t mean it isn’t so, because chief provocateur Sat doesn’t say so, doesnt mean it isn’t so. It is so, because those with the power to do so, are doing it, it is so because those with the identity to do so are doing it, it is so because those who have the means to do that are doing it. They are pushing a hindu head and transformation to hindu practices. Not because others are not as explicit as I AM, MEAN THAT they don’t understand it, people are fed up of those practices and Kamla is the force behind it. The chutney thing is just one example. Jack Warner has lost his natural appeal to the general public not because he is less wealthy or less influential as a spokesman, he lost it because he crossed the line in trying to appease those whom he courted (the UNC) to gain political favor. His biggest crime? he converted from catholicism to hinduism. Did he really mean it? NO! Did most people detect that? Yes! Sugar Aloes lost his appeal and standings in the calypso world, you know why? Because he degraded himself to serenade Kamla, by calling her his “Queen” and turning his back on those who were responsible for his development. Yes, I agree we can develop side by side without rancor and animosity but you err when your discourse turn political because in the present administration, to be political is to be religious and racial. That is where the issues are going. So, trying to convince me or anyone else politically is in effect futile. Take a look at what is happening to Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, I do not agree with her politically but she displays ethics that is the envy of the political world around her. She is solid, ethical and displays her christian upbringing with confidence, poise, maturity and resolve. When she was put down by Prakash and Kamla she did not go around looking for revenge, she did not go around bad-talking them, she did not go around looking to avenge the ill-treatment Kamla and Prakash tried to bestow upon her. She simply withdrew herself and tried to reset her political life in a direction that she knows that she would feel comfortable in. Not like Kamla and your friend RAMLOGAN who want to avenge Kublalsingh by using the name of the chief solicitor to appear as the originator of a false campaign. TMan, you might try to put a spin to this kind of shenanigans but no amount of spin can erase the nastiness behind that kind of campaign. It is false, dictatorial, nasty and morally corrupt. If you want to support that kind of behavior, it is your right, but don’t ever try to convince anyone that that kind of behavior is acceptable.

          • “Political power is not the solution for economic, educational or social success. This is one of the long held misconceptions of those who gravitate towards the PNM.”TMan

            Interesting, for it was the acquisition of political power by the PNM, which ensured that the Dominant majority within this PP regime , and ardent supporters ,obtain economic power, eeehhh, TMan?
            Tell you what ,Indo Trini voters ,knew fully well, how their bread would be buttered, via self serving , delusional,neo appeasement , Afro Trinis elites , and so the PNM, won 98 out of 100 elections , since White Massa gave us our independence.
            Sorry TMan, but the only person you can deceive on this here Information Highway, might be Cuz Kian, since most of us ain’t buying, especially those leaders in control of your tribe.
            If political power weren’t as important as you claimed, then pray explain why your Auntie Kamla , and her worried handlers , are doing everything possible -short of having another bogus State of Emergency-in efforts to postpone the scheduled 2015 elections, and so, hold on to their tenuous power ,including illegally tinkering with our once sacred Constitution?
            I’ve said it once , twice , three times my lady, but it’s worth repeating Otra vez,’de person who can make me hate dis land , ain’t born yet!’
            Stay vigilant folks , but more important,Let’s ensure that these ‘country hating barbarians, that includes the likes of our resident, unpatriotic -Euro- wannabe -Canadian Trini amigo,TMan, don’t overrun the T&T, economic , Pearly Gates , hmmmmm?

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