Monday, January 22, 2018

Getting to the truth of Emailgate


Predictably, the loudest howls in response to the news that the police investigation into the so-called Emailgate affair has found “nothing of substance” is coming from the Opposition United National Congress (UNC). But the person who should be most horrified by the disclosure from Acting Commissioner of Police, Stephen Williams, is Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
 
As the then leader of the opposition, it was Dr Rowley who came to Parliament with the astoundingly damning allegations against then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and senior members of her cabinet. Having unleashed a barrage of political ammunition upon his opponents, Dr Rowley called for a criminal investigation. Now that the investigation has come and gone and found nothing to warrant prosecution, what does Dr Rowley have to say about his actions back then and about his own commitment to parliamentary responsibility?

While, from a prosecutorial perspective, the Director of Public Prosecutions should hasten to bring this seedy matter to closure, it should not be allowed to end there, at least from the perspective of the public interest.
All citizens, especially the Prime Minister, should want to know how something like this could have happened in the first place. If he was an innocent purveyor of mischief, Dr Rowley, above all, should be horrified by his role in it. If, however, he was a willing participant, there should be consequences and serious ones at that.

That being said, it is difficult to sympathise with the UNC which, like the PNM, has used and abused parliamentary privilege in the most scurrilous matter, not only against MPs, but against citizens who do not enjoy the privileges of Parliament. A case in point was the shameful allegation by a UNC parliamentarian that Dr Rowley is a child of rape.

Between them, the PNM and UNC have demonstrated that there is no bottom to their abuse of parliamentary privilege in pursuing their own political interests. They have shown themselves to be strangers to public standards of decency and fairness. In their hands, the parliamentarian’s privilege of being protected from prosecution for slander has become a weapon against truth, the public good and the public interest.

This collapse of even the most basic standards of informational probity is particularly scary in today’s world in which technology has been co-opted in the fabrications of fake news based on fraudulent documents and other impressive-looking “evidence”. We are in an information minefield where truth is often the first casualty. Our predicament lies in not knowing whom to trust and what to believe. No society can go on like this and hope to prosper.

If Dr Rowley is the leader he claims to be, he would seize this moment, not as the end of the police investigation into Emailgate, but as the beginning of a search for truth and understanding about how the highest forum in the land could be used to manipulate the public. If he could deal with this issue he wouldn’t have to expend so much energy declaring himself a victim of parliamentary lies.