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This wind is no ill wind – we can all benefit from it

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It is that when election campaigning begins the proverbial gloves are off where politicians are concerned. In St Vincent and the Grenadines though, such is the intensity of the political rivalry between the two major parties that one may say more accurately that the gloves have been off for a long time now and the onset of the election season has seen brass knuckles being put on instead.{{more}}

It is in that context that one can view the attacks by current Member of Parliament for North Leeward on his Unity Labour Party challenger. That challenger has been accused by the incumbent of being a “criminal” based on a past conviction.

The details of this particular case aside, it cannot be a bad thing to bring under public scrutiny, the character of those who are desirous of holding public office. We dare to suggest that were such scrutiny to be more rigorously employed, it is doubtful that many would survive intact.

The particular case of the North Leeward challenger has however provided the opportunity for a much wider public discourse and for public enlightenment. It has brought into focus the existence of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, 2009. Like many pieces of legislation, this one was passed without much public comment. We tend to focus only on legislation of a controversial nature. How many of us are even aware of the existence of this particular piece of legislation?

Now that it has come to public attention, there is greater awareness of the Act itself and its application to young offenders.

Moreover, it is important to note that the Act gives young offenders the opportunity to move on after rehabilitation and rather than being smeared for life because of youthful indiscretions, provides the opportunity for the slate to be wiped clean and for them to become upstanding citizens in our society.

This is not meant to provide excuses for young people, or indeed any offenders to break the law with impunity, secure in the knowledge that in a few years’ time, their record will be wiped clean, thereby removing at least one major disincentive to lawbreaking. That cannot be the intention nor the spirit of the law.

What it does is offer the chance for restitution, for contrition and for atonement. How many of us may have committed youthful indiscretions for which we were lucky not to have been prosecuted by the law, but which are now a distant past in our lives?

It is said that “it is an ill-wind which blows nobody any good”. The political accusations against the ULP candidate are therefore very much unlike that ill wind. It has brought to the fore the existence of this 2009 law and its relevance to our society. But above all, we must not lose sight of the space provided for greater scrutiny of the character of those who aspire to public office. We should grasp that opportunity and make the best use of it.

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