By CK Fergus
Department of History, UWI
The current debate on the validity of Basdeo Panday's assertion that politics had a morality of its own is so misplaced that I feel compelled to put the statement in its right perspective, if only for the historical record. Some statements are immortalised by a community because they capture a certain essence that is almost ontological, or as the French would say "Les mots justes".
Some of the local gems of this genre are Desmond Cartey's "All ah we thief" and Eric Williams's "Money is no problem," and "The recalcitrant minority." Panday has had his own unenviable collection, but none more axiomatic than this one.
Amazingly, political pundits such as John LaGuerre and Kirk Meighoo are all making the same error. The statement was reportedly made in the wake of the fall out with Gillian Lucky. It was definitely not the first occasion that Panday made that remark. Indeed, it was on a political platform during the 2002 general elections that he first expressed what I thought at the time to be the most graphic expression by a Trinbagonian of Machiavellianism. The exact words of the Opposition Leader were "Politics has its own morality." The media are consistently reporting the recent version as an indirect quote. I find it hard to believe that such an exact repetition of such a fundamental principle more than two years later would have been repeated only once, but I will stick to revealed fact.
At the time of the original statement, the UNC had their back against the wall with allegations of corruption flying left, right and centre. I immediately recognised the expression as a signature statement, and actually wrote it down. The fact that Panday repeated it recently vindicates my interpretation.
I find it most interesting that Lucky was one of the speakers on that 2002 platform. Also, Mr Yetming has wisely distanced himself from the latest outburst, recognising that silence is as damning as defence of it, or even of the leader's right to express it. However, he ought to explain to the public whether he took objection to Panday's previous endorsement of Machiavelli's The Prince in 2002. If the outburst had passed without touching a raw nerve, then one is left to ponder indeed, whether politics does not really have its own morality.
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