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Integrity in public life

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The philosopher Bacon, although speaking of Judges, may well have been addressing all public officials when he opined, “Above all things, integrity is their portion and proper virtue. Curse is he that removeth the landmark.”

The celebrated Nobel Laureate Oscar Arias Sanchez, key note speaker at a Transparency International Conference said, “When the public at large demonstrate far more accountable and decent government in so many countries of the world they are motivated, to no small extent, by anger over corruption; corruption that humiliates the poor who must bribe small officials for minimal services; corruption that bankrupts the honest trader; corruption that empowers the unscrupulous captains of industry and their partners – the dishonest politicians; corruption that spreads like cancer to kill all that is decent in society.”{{more}}

“Not immoral or corrupt,” says Lord Young

Former British Minister of Trade and Industry and former Executive Chairman of Cable & Wireless had the following to say on a BBC programme, “Now when you are talking of kickbacks …. there are parts of the world where it happens …. in many countries of the world the only way that money trickles down is from the all-powerful politicians who own everything. Now that is not immoral or corrupt. It is very different from our practice in the United Kingdom. We must be very careful not to insist that our practices are followed everywhere in the world.” On the same programme former Zambian cabinet minister Rodger Chongwe, who resigned from government in protest over kickbacks, responded, “Corruption is corruption whether it manifests itself in England or in Zambia. It is a drain on the resources of a country.”

No quick fix

It must be admitted that there is no quick fix as unbridled greed is almost like a terminal cancer. Although daunting, the consequences of inaction are nationally destructive. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves by way of prevention may think it important to set up a standing committee to monitor standards in public life. Its broad terms ought to include, among other things, “looking at arrangements relating to financial and commercial activities of all holders of public office and to make recommendations as to any changes in present arrangements which might be required to ensure the highest standards of integrity in public life.”

Social and economic evolution

It hardly needs stating that preserving, protecting and promoting integrity among public officials go hand in hand with social and economic evolution. It, therefore, behooves us all to petition our political bosses, the czars of commerce as well as all who get paid from the public purse, for greater transparency and accountability.

Moral courage

Integrity is the very “soul” of society. Civil society must take charge of this very precious asset. But do we collectively have the moral courage? But then, only we, the people, know the answer – deep down in our hearts,

souls and minds!

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