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Searching for accountability

By Keith Subero

TEN years after the invasion of Iraq, Americans are trying to determine the real costs of that war.So far, the tally is 4,500 soldiers killed, 30,000 wounded, a mounting bill of US$2 trillion, spent on operations and reconstruction, and an estimated 100,000 Iraqis killed.

The New York Times, noting the unmatched human and economic costs, last week lamented that neither President George W Bush, nor Paul Wolfowitz, the war’s chief architect, had been made to account for “the worst blunder in American foreign policy”.

Initially using faulty intelligence, the Bush administration later contrived English king. Its revolution of 1776 held up laudable ideals, inter alia, liberty, equality and self-government - a belief that its people are the ultimate governing authority and the legitimate purpose of any government was a people’s welfare.

But today, Bush is seen as standing beyond the law; he almost enjoys immunity equalling the 18th century notion that “the king cado no wrong”.But winds of political change are blowing through the rest of the world, carrying strong this means that political leaders must be made to account for the wrongs they commit during their time in office.

We saw former British prime minister Tony Blair being publicly ridiculed and censured for his complicity in Bush’s Iraqi war, and thegovernment of his successor, Gordon Brown, also suffering as a consequence.

Winds of political change have swept through Spain, Denmark, Greece, Ireland and Finland. In some cases, such as those involving Fujimori and Pinochet in Latin America, the penalties have been severe,worse for Mubarak and fatal for Gadaffi in Libya, with ongoing effects in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen.

Of note is the case in the Ukraine, where Yulia Tymoshenko, twice the prime minister, has been serving a seven-year sentence for personally brokering a natural gas deal with Russia during her time in office.time in office.

Before becoming her country’s first female prime minister, she had a successful academic and business career. In 2005 Forbes listed her as number three on its list of the 100 most powerful women in the world.

The winds carry demands that leaders be answerable to the constituents for those responsibilities conferred upon them. The use of public resources, supposedly on the people’s behalf, demands that there be both an account given, and an outline of results achieved, during a leader’s time in office.

Some researchers have prepared a Global Leadership Responsibilities Index that gives citizens some yardstick to assess corruption; others have suggested a citizens’ audit process that would allow them to cut away the vagueness, spin and claims of accomplishments that politicians present daily.

How does T&T start with such advocacy? Immediately my thoughts go to Dr Wayne Kublalsingh and his Highway Reroute Movement, but they do not stay there. They shift to the health system where the Medical Professionals Association (MPATT) last year called on Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan to conduct a comprehensive investigation into corruption in the medical sector.

MPATT president Dr Shehenaz Mohammed called for investigations into the remuneration of persons employed in the public sector who work simultaneously in the private sector.

My thoughts move to the Attorney General’s claim last October that T&T had paid out what he described as “a gold rush” in fees, totalling some $500 million to foreign and local lawyers.Yet the “rush” continues, with payments to a legal team which includes two English QCs whose services the AG’s office secured to represent the State in the legal battle with Ish and Steve over Section 34 — at a reported cost of over $12 million.

My thoughts shift to the $1.8 billion loan the Government secured last week from China to construct the Prime Minister’s legacy project, a children’s hospital in Couva, three sport facilities, also in Couva, and three others in unidentified parts of the country.

My thoughts keep shifting, as I recall the dilapidated condition of the POS General Hospital…. then the unfinished Brian Lara stadium. My thoughts are on public accountability.

• Keith Subero, a former Express news editor, has since followed a career in communication and management.

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