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Who Have Cocoa in Sun - Integrity in Public Life
Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2006

By Michael De Gale

While it is comforting to believe that man is inherently good, history has repeatedly taught us otherwise. The introduction of the Integrity in Public Life Act therefore, is an attempt to address the indiscretions and unscrupulousness of those with unfettered access to power and influence who have no scruples about raiding the public purse. In this regard, the introduction of integrity legislation is not only necessary but also long overdue and absolutely essential.

Demanding integrity in public life is not unique to T&T, similar legislation is now commonplace in many industrialized countries including Canada, the US, Britain and Australia. While this legislation has not eliminated corruption, statistics indicate that it has a deterrent effect and has uncovered unsavory practices that may otherwise have gone unnoticed. Even if one may convincingly argue against this legislation, the spate of allegations of corruption involving public officials does nothing to inspire public trust and confidence. It is quite instructive therefore, when those who clamor for public office demand exemption from what is essentially a legitimate call for transparency.

In his diatribe ( Trinidad Express 09/01/06) Mr. Farrell raged against the Integrity in Public Life Act and emphatically stated that, "the legislation should be repealed in its entirety and consigned to the dustbin." It is unfortunate, that a past Deputy Governor of the Central Bank should react so violently to this crucial piece of progressive legislation. Indeed, he raised some legitimate issues, but to demand that it be scrapped is certainly cause for concern. Mr. Farrell should be among the first to welcome this legislation, unless he and his cabal believe that they are above the law and should not be subject to public scrutiny even as they literally have their hands in the public purse.

Mr. Farrell was incensed about the "typical Third World "polling by talk show hosts and the absence of the infrastructure to effectively carry out this legislation. If he were genuinely troubled by the "typical Third World" mentality, he would do everything within his power to raise the standard and encourage accountability and transparency. This will necessitate endorsement of this legislation. By calling for the legislation to be consigned to the dustbin rather than make recommendations for its improvement his "Third World" comment could only be interpreted as elitist, condescending and I am sure that I speak for many when I say that it is downright offensive. The real question he wants to ask is "how dare you plebeians question our moral integrity?" By refusing to support this bill, Mr. Farrell and his elk are ensuring that T&T remains a Third World country where no one is accountable and might makes right.

If one is genuinely interest in pursuing the interest of the public, then transparency is essential for the maintenance of integrity. To paraphrase an old saying, if yuh doh have cocoa in sun, yuh doh have to worry. On the other hand, if you insist on the maintenance of privacy then stay out of public life. I am certain that the country will not fall apart simply because some choose privacy over public participation. Contrary to what Mr. Farrell believes, the incomprehensible refusal of capable people to support integrity in public life legislation, is one of the factors that keeps us in a Third World holding pattern.

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