Is our political system corrupt, and if so, how can we fix it?
A month ago, I saw a presentation The three sides of corruption by Afra Raymond at TEDxPortofSpain. Having seen it several times, I am beginning to wonder if our political system is corrupt. Mr Raymond defined corruption as “the abuse of a position of trust for the benefit of yourself, your friends, family or your financiers.” I decided then to go to the English Oxford Dictionary to get a better understanding of the meaning of corruption, and here is what I found.
Corruption is defined as “dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.” Dishonest is defined as “behaving or prone to behave in an untrustworthy, deceitful, or insincere way.” Fraudulent is defined as “obtained, done by, or involving deception, especially criminal deception.” A crime is defined as “an action or omission which constitutes an offence and is punishable by law.” And finally bribery is defined as “the giving or offering of a bribe,” where to bribe is defined as “to dishonestly persuade (someone) to act in one’s favour by a gift of money or other inducement, where inducement is “a thing that persuades or leads someone to do something.”
At the end of the presentation, Mr. Raymond presented a formula for corruption which is reproduced here:
So back to my original question, is our political system corrupt? Do our politicians behave or are they prone to behave in untrustworthy, deceitful or insincere ways? Do they engage in behaviour that is obtained, done by, or involving deception? Do they engage in actions or omissions which constitutes an offence and is punishable by law? Do they dishonestly persuade others to act in their favour by a gift of money or other inducements?
Furthermore, is our electoral system trustworthy? Is our constitution, as it now stands, full of loopholes, so that the incumbents, whoever they may be, can abuse their position of trust in public office and with public funds, for the benefit of themselves, and by extension, their party?
For me, the most important question that arise is, if our political system is corrupt, how can our political officials ever be trusted? So here is my formula:
If our system is corrupt, and we need to change it from one in which the modus operandi of our politicians is one of managing distrust, to one of using their position of trust for the benefit of the people they serve, how can we move forward? Since absolute power corrupts absolutely, how can we protect our leaders so that their powers are limited, so that they cannot be manipulated by forces, from within and from without, that do not serve the best interest of the people they serve? And finally, if in a true democracy, we deserve a government of the people, by the people and for the people, and not a government of the few, by the few and for the few, given our present electoral and constitutional system, how can this be achieved?
The answer is readily provided by a son of the soil:
“The natural strength of the people in a large community, in proportion to the artificial strength of the government, is greater than in a small [community], and of course more competent to a struggle with the attempts of the government to establish a tyranny.” — Alexander Hamilton(1)
Thus, we need a government of, by and for a larger community of people, and this can only be achieved by a people that is no longer divided, but one that is truly united as a nation that is born-again and uplifted by a new covenant or social contract ignited by electoral and constitutional reforms buttressed by the requisite anti-corruption legislation. We can only succeed if together we welcome in all earnest the necessarily therapeutic phase of healing and reconciliation to overcome our politically tribalistic tendencies that have stunted our growth and development potentials for much too long. We should always be cognisant of our guiding Motto of putting our “Country above Self”, and meditate daily on the living words of our National Anthem as they uplift our hearts, souls, minds and spirits as we play, learn and work together for the betterment of ALL of our people, not only for the present generation, but moreso, for those to come.
O Land of Beauty!
Our country where peace abounds,
Thy children stand free
On the strength of will and love.
With God in all our struggles,
Saint Kitts and Nevis be
A nation bound together,
With a common destiny.
As stalwarts we stand
For justice and liberty.
With wisdom and truth
We will serve and honour thee.
No sword nor spear can conquer
For God will sure defend.
His blessings shall forever
To posterity extend.