Are politicians working in our best interests?

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Sometimes I want to be apolitical. I try hard to be uninterested and uninvolved in politics but when I see how politicians are ruining our lives I am forced to come out of hibernation. I will however continue to take an unbiased position with regard to political matters.

The fundamental principle that should guide a politician is to commit his/her full efforts to the realisation of the public interest. In this our “sweet” TT, do we see that kind of engagement from our politicians? What I see is politicians who embrace and perpetuate campaigns to misinform and fuel public fears, all in the name of getting power to sit in Whitehall. Greed of one kind or the other is the driving force behind many politicians seeking to govern the country.

Others are driven to hang on to power so as to have access to money or are intoxicated by fame. When politicians say and do things that hurt and harm the people for their personal gain, it is greed of the most grievous kind.

Why would the Opposition Leader describe a group of lawyers as “singing for their supper” or, to be more direct, wanting to “eat ah food?” And why would the Prime Minister berate a journalist who is part of the Fourth Estate, the only remaining effective democratic institution in the country?

Greed for power is harmful. Unrestrained greed in an individual can lead to callousness, arrogance and even megalomania. A person dominated by greed will often ignore the harm their actions can cause others. The time has come for the cleaning of the Augean Stables.

I urge our politicians to take a leaf from Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands. These are the least corrupt nations in the world, ranking consistently high in international financial transparency.

The greed for power on this side of the world is fuelled by political corruption. Politician corruption, otherwise known as government corruption, has been defined by Aristotle as the practice of leaders who rule with a view to their private advantage rather than the pursuit of the public interest. And Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quote states that there are enough resources to meet human needs, but not enough to meet human greed.

In this time of economic hardships, politicians will need to lead from the front. They must set the example by living a simpler lifestyle, taking a salary cut, or sharing some of their wealth by contributing to a project that will benefit the public. They must teach the public to be more content with less. Politicians must now discourage consumerism and excess. Politicians will now need to live simple so that people can simply live.

Being very close to being a septuagenarian I wonder if I would ever see in the remainder of my lifetime a politician in the vein of former president Jose Mujica of Uruguay. Mujica was dubbed the poorest president in the world. He said he didn’t feel poor. He said poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle and always want more and more. Politicians’ lifestyle is far removed from those of their electorate.

Mujica lived on a ramshackle farm and gave away most of his pay. His lifestyle then clearly differed sharply from that of most other world leaders. He shunned the luxurious house that the Uruguayan state provided for its leaders and opted to stay at his wife’s farmhouse, off a dirt road outside the capital. He donated 90 per cent of his monthly salary to charity.

Political corruption is rampant in the world and TT is not spared. It is defined as the use of power by government officials or their network contacts for illegitimate private gain. I am sure you can cite many instances of political corruption here in TT. Political corruption can be attributed to ethnic voting, semi-corrupt police, bribe-offering contractors and an inefficient law enforcement machinery.

The lack of or an ineffective teaching of moral standards by schools and churches constitutes an underlying reason for continuing corruption and I dare say the behaviour and poor example of our politicians have political corruption at exponential levels.

CUTHBERT SANDY

Point Fortin