By Lesroy W. Williams Observer Nevis Reporter Our political leaders owe us much more than good roads, better health and educational services, better salaries, more jobs, and a better electricity and water supply. They owe us the truth; the naked and unbridled truth that sets people free. Without this brutal honesty, we are still holding each other in bondage and the emancipation from slavery of which we so proudly speak is still with us in myriads of ways. Gone are the Dark Ages. We are now in an age of information. The saga that has been playing out for the past few weeks about whether or not two Mirrlees engines bought by the Labour Administration in 1998 are prototypes calls forth a much deeper and penetrating question. Can we trust our leaders and what they say? How credible are they? When the elephants fight, the ants get trampled upon. While the People’s Action Movement and the Labor Government are busy playing political football about whether generators are “oranges” or “lemons,” the people of this country, who have suffered for years from power outages, are more concerned about a reliable and steady supply of electricity. They are more concerned about their household appliances that are being damaged or destroyed because of power outages, without compensation. The truth must never be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Those we elect to govern the affairs of our country must be held to high standards of accountability, transparency, and honesty. We must never be given a six for a nine. We must never be fooled about the true state of affairs. If we cannot trust those who govern us then we are in a deep crisis: a crisis of truth and good governance. What must be made very clear is that if taxpayers” money was spent on the purchase of generators, then the truth about those generators must be told. It is still not clear who is telling the truth about those generators. There still is a lot of “bangarang” surrounding those generators. The present administration and the opposition must ensure that their agendas must always be that of letting people know the truth. Any other agenda that seeks to maliciously malign others with lies, innuendos and half-truths must be eradicated. It is a well known truth that once many people in this country are given a house, a job, a piece of land or given some other favor by politicians, they turn a blind eye to everything else. Truth becomes secondary and corruption ignored. These people are so mesmerized by the material that they fail to see beyond their noses that there are higher ideals than that which is material. The recent launching of the Prime Minister’s talk and call in program, “Ask the PM” is a certainly a move in the right direction to be transparent and accountable. But like everything else, although the intention is a good one, this intention can be corrupted and the means of this forum can serve to bamboozle and spread political propaganda. I hope the former, and not the latter, is true. I am a bit concerned however over remarks made recently by the Prime Minister at the Christophe Harbor Golf Course ground-breaking ceremony, in which he called the media irresponsible and unprofessional. If he was speaking of a particular media house and a particular publication, I do not think that he should have used this forum to smear the entire media of this country with the same dirty brush. The independent media is not in operation first and foremost to represent the interests of Christophe Harbour, or the government, or the opposition, or the private sector. The primordial purpose of the media is to represent the interest of the people; the public right to information that is fair, objective and accurate. I am by no means saying that the media should publicize what is defamatory, slanderous and libelous. The media, I agree, should operate professionally and ethically. There certainly is a place for the media to be critical of the government. We live in a democracy, not a totalitarian state. When the media criticizes the government at times, their reaction is unsavory, but then that means the media is only doing its job. The 18th century jurist and philosopher, Jeremy Bentham once said, “Where there is no publicity there is no justice. Publicity is the very soul of justice. It is the very spur to exertion and the surest of all guards against improbity.” There was a case in Australia that underscores my point. The case is the Commonwealth of Australia vs. John Fairfax and Sons Ltd (1980) 147 CLR 39. In this case, a book was to be published, which contained, in part, the content of some cables sent between the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra and the Australian embassy in Jakarta. The Sydney Morning Herald planned to publish extracts from the book. The government sought an injunction to prevent such publication on the grounds that the material was “classified” and “confidential,” its disclosure might harm Australia’s relation with our countries, and the planned publication had not been approved or authorized (Taken from “So You Want To Be A Journalist” by Bruce Grundy). Justice Mason’s judgment in this case is worth remembering when he said in part: “It may be a sufficient detriment to the citizen that disclosure of information relating to his affairs will expose his actions to public discussion and criticism. But it can scarcely be a relevant detriment to the government that publication of material concerning its actions will merely expose it to public discussion and criticism.” “It is unacceptable in our democratic society that there should be restraint on the publication of information relating to government when the only vice of that information is that it enables the public to discuss, review and criticize government action.” When the government is being truthful to the people that they serve, they do not put a tight lid on information or try to censor and control information to win an election. The opposition must not use gutter politics and deceitful tactics to try and get into power. The people of this country must hold their government accountable to telling them the truth. If we cannot have leaders who are credible, then we are digging a hole deeper and deeper into the abyss of darkness and poor governance.” So, are the Mirrlees generators prototypes or what?
Can We Trust Our Political Leaders?
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