When former colleagues fall out
THE fallout between Jack Warner and his erstwhile colleagues in the United National Congress continues to reveal how this administration really functions.
In the budget debate on Monday, Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal, backed up by his Political Leader, accused Warner of nepotism. Mr Warner’s sister, said Dr Moonilal, had been the recipient of one of the first contracts handed out under CEPEP. And his other sister as well, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bisssessar immediately piped up in crosstalk. On Tuesday night at a public meeting of his Independent Liberal Party (ILP) Mr Warner fired back, alleging that Dr Moonilal’s relatives had also benefited from Government contracts.
This is not even a holier-than-thou attitude on the part of these politicians—instead, it is more like a less-corrupt-than-thee defence. In the three years when Mr Warner was the UNC’s frontline figure in Government, none of his Cabinet colleagues expressed any concerns about any lines he may have crossed and, indeed, Prime Minister Perssad-Bissessar several times went out of her way to defend him. Mr Warner, in his turn, had no problem with all the questionable Cabinet decisions which he now vociferously criticises from his ILP pulpit, even making so bold as to beg his audience for forgiveness.
Ironically, even as he was imputing corrupt acts on the part of Mr Warner, Dr Moonilal in the same breath was denying that any corruption was taking place within the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration, on the basis that no one had “been arrested, charged, prosecuted for any act of corruption”. This logic, apart from being applicable to Mr Warner himself, does not prevent UNC spokespersons from accusing the PNM of being corrupt, even though no one from that administration has ever been convicted.
In any case, legality is not the only issue here. Cronyism may not be unlawful per se, but it is usually unethical and it is always bad governance. It is a given that, had Mr Warner not fallen out with the UNC leaders, the public would not have heard anything about these alleged wrong-doings. And citizens may reasonably speculate about what is not being said. After all, the allegations being made relate only to issues which are on the public record, if one knows where to look. But, if Government officials can flout ethical principles so flagrantly, knowing there is a paper trail, what might they be doing under the table? And might not citizens reasonably conclude that everything they have heard so far is small potatoes?
This fallout has therefore demonstrated the magnitude of the problem of political reform. How to rein in politicians, and make them culpable for misfeasance, is the challenge still facing ordinary citizens.