Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A battle for integrity, transparency

The issues surrounding Dr Wayne Kublalsingh's hunger strike are now no longer confined to the issues of the re-route movement but have engaged this society in a battle for its soul.

I believe that whatever the merits of the highway may be, we are now confronting the issue of how we as a people deal with persons who challenge the status quo, who buck the system with a passion and commitment that few of us possess or for which we are prepared to die.

The tragedy is magnified when we do not even recognise the drama that is unfolding before our eyes. It attains incomprehensible proportions when ministers can make the arrogant, callous, obscene and vulgar comments about this struggle (which are not forthrightly condemned by the Government) and thereby actually express Government policy on the matter.

Dr Kublalsingh's struggle must be seen as a battle for accountability, integrity, transparency and honesty in government. That we live in a society in which there is a Dr Kublalsingh who still has to mount an individual protest of this magnitude is a source of pain and shame to me. I am 55 years old and am of a generation which saw the ills of the past and had a brighter vision for the future. We came through the 1970 Black Power Revolution, the attempted coup, saw various experiments in government, hoped for a brighter future. We had the best education and were given the wealth and knowledge to do better but have squandered (and continue to) those opportunities. When a nation loses its soul we create the situation where someone has to remind us about ourselves. If we do not heed this call, we will catapult over the cliff of righteousness which is our only salvation for preserving our society from crime, poverty, inequity and injustice. Our shame, in the words of Ella Andall, is that we are "a nation that still rejects its greatness and its mission".

Dr Kublalsingh also represents those of us who aspire to hold an independent view or seek to improve our environment, society and even the organisations in which we work. We are often targeted, vilified and ridiculed when those views call for change and challenge the status quo. If Dr Kublalsingh's stand has been met with this kind of arrogant, obscene, vulgar response by the Government in the public forum, imagine what others are suffering who attempt to make a similar stand in their respective ministries, state agencies or state companies!

I close with a reminder to our nation about the price of silence in the face of injustice and oppression:

"First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me." Martin Niemöller.

Michael Theodore

Council of Legal Education