“They tend to be civil servants, often diplomats drawn from the Foreign Office, who may be very pleasant, intelligent people, but once they get inside the Palace they’re riveted to the status quo and they lose track of public opinion in the real world.” – Anthony Holden.
It is informative that while we sometimes abhor the words and actions of Americans we are loathed to learn from them in one way or another. John Quincy Adams once said: “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” Moreover, the English writer Anthony Holden provides us with the type of consideration that can guide how we proceed as a nation, and how we treat to the real problem that has had a negative impact on Antigua and Barbuda, even if only temporary.
Caribbean Times is contending that Antigua and Barbuda stands at the threshold of progress and can gain rather than stooping to accept the lows of public life and service as inevitable or unmanageable. Indeed, it was very illuminating to hear the Honourable Gaston Browne – Prime Minister of this Antigua and Barbuda nation – on Sunday assert that: “The people of Antigua and Barbuda have done no wrong, nor has my government that you democratically elected 15 months ago. … As a nation we have an obligation to ourselves to press forward with clarity and conviction” As a people living in a democratic country, we stand on the cusp of reshaping the trajectory and reputation of this Antigua and Barbuda.
To this contention, Caribbean Times is confident that as PM Browne moves to implement reforms in our foreign service and among our diplomats, the greater focus would be on what we the people, through our democratic institutions and held principles, can do to invoke a stronger sense of duty, commitment, and responsibility from those whom we directly elect or indirectly charge to see after the nation’s affairs. It is short-sighted to paint everyone with the same brush, just as it is too far-fetched to imagine that the corruptible does not reside within our doors.
The John Ashe saga, even at this early stage when no wrong doing has been proven but which is beset with implications for local politics and politicians, indicate that we have to sober in our thought processes while being surgical in the removal of any lingering cancer. As was being heard on the radio for the last week, we cannot be so mischievous to ourselves as to brandish the sword of Damocles over the heads of every politician whom we elected, and to suggest that they are all in practice corrupt. That is self-defacing and does no good to those who can stand to scrutiny, and those whose input is not for personal gain, but for national good.
While some forces may be quick to call for injunction, or quick to suggest that there is nothing wrong with transactions appearing to be nefarious before the sight of most, Caribbean times is contending that we must hold fast as a nation and understand that the inherited political systems and cultures that we have are borne directly out of the British and more recently impacted by the good and bad of America. It is therefore important, that we make reforms where necessary; not to safeguard graft, but to bring transparency and accountability to the fore.
It is idle talk for official communicators within our party system, knowing the influence possessed over loyal membership, to hide behind the façade of precedence despite the contexts and times may vastly differ. It is ignoble for leaders and former shepherds of the flock to now use the sheep to safeguard leaders’ self-interest when confession and institutional change happens to be the principled way forward. We look back to our own disdain, and we accept wrongs as normal at our nation’s peril.
Caribbean Times will only at this time redirect Antigua and Barbuda to look into our backyard, because there you will find another lesson. It was during the budgetary debate of 2007 that the then Leader of the Opposition in Barbados – David Thompson – revealed that Owen Arthur, the then Prime Minister of Barbados and political leader of the Barbados Labour Party had received and deposited to his personal account a cheque intended for the political party.
As usual, and forced on the back-foot, the excuses and explanations took a route not dissimilar to the tactics being used at this time in the John Ashe saga by a former prime minister and once leader of the United Progressive Party. What is certain is that by January 2008 after elections were called prematurely in Barbados, the weakened credibility of Barbados’ longest serving prime minister was not sufficient to return him to the coveted position of leader of the country.
On principle, Antigua and Barbuda must stand; the political parties must also stand. Anything else means that what was bad in the past will be left in the rubble whenever the people exercise their power through democratic vote. A word to the wise is sufficient, and to be forewarned is to be forearmed.