Markers of right and wrong


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Category: Trinidad Politics Date: 22 Jan 06


This week I wasn’t going to write about Eric Williams’ resignation as Energy Minister. I wanted to talk about something frivolous, yet important, like the power of a stunning Oscar-winning, famous actress like Angelina Jolie. How she uses that permanent media spotlight on her to give a voice to the poorest, war-affected and diseased-wrecked people on earth, in Haiti, in Cambodia, in Ethiopia, in Pakistan, in the Dominican Republic. That was to be the original piece. Of this heartening trend in the age of bling bling.


But I feel instead compelled to comment on our public figures and the fact that the former energy minister resigned only when he was forced to, by virtue of a police warrant, and not when he ought to have, in May, when there was a sufficiently strong doubt cast over his integrity.


Even doubt is a reason to resign. Until you are cleared. Resignation is not an admission of guilt. It is an act of integrity in public life, an understanding that it is not good enough to be correct and honourable but to be SEEN as being this way especially as your life is seen as an ideal by so many people. “You reach and you could do that? Well who is we?”


Williams coolly watched his colleague Franklin Khan take the rap when the allegations of bribery came out and instead of doing the right thing, as Khan did, decided to brazen his way out of the imbroglio. He dug his heels with a “move me nah” attitude, stayed on and held on to his Government salary and perks, paid by us, until he got away with it.


Until there was no choice, until the police called to say you are to be arrested on seven fraud charges arising out of allegations of financial bribes from a local government councillor—resign.


Ideals disappear


And after that he did the equivalent of seeking asylum from the laws of the country by hiding in the church and loudly invoking God. How glibly he invoked God! If I were a Christian I would call it a sort of blasphemy. Why only invoke God after you are told you are to be arrested on charges of fraud? Why not invoke Him for help during your very important work of handling the nation’s energy resources, on which average humble people of this country depend on to put food on their table, secure schools and hospitals for their children, provide roads, electricity and water?


Nobody knows whether Khan or Williams are innocent or guilty. We are still talking allegations. But those allegations are disturbing. If there was a shadow of truth in them then they needed to go.There can be no shadow of corruption over governance.


It’s when shadows are blurred that a nation’s soul rots insidiously.


Let’s not be naive. Nobody is talking Sunday School here. If we have enough experience we know that the very successful and those who are scratching to survive have blurred the lines between right and wrong and live in the world of expedience. Whatever works. They/we live in a permanent shadow of a little fiddling of the books here, a bit of laundering there, hovering between political parties, supporting known criminals because they are famous or can get us places, and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays attending mosque, temple and church as usual, with loud evocations of God.


But let us know what we are doing. Even while living in the shadow to survive or succeed let us be aware of the markers pointing to right and wrong. Because when that marker disappears, when all ideals disappear, there can be no room for a humanity that separates us from scavengers and rats.


When Eric Williams’ colleague Franklin Khan resigned last May, I felt my heart for the first time in months, years perhaps, lift into the skies for this country, not because I thought he was guilty but because he came out of the shadows and acknowledged that markers exist for us all.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur