I wish to indicate my appreciation for the contributions by Mr. Robert Le Hunte, Moving from Spectators to Citizens, in the Guardian, 30th and 31st August, 2020. He recognized that the nation had lapsed in its adoption of the core values that were anticipated at independence, some 58 years ago. Drawing examples from his banking experiences in Ghana, Le Hunte advised the introduction of institutions, rewards and sanctions that could engrain these core values or watch words into society. These values are Discipline, Production and Tolerance.
I wish to commend Le Hunte for his timely and keen analysis of the root problem that confronts this nation, but I wished that he had given more attention to the impact of leadership on the behavior of people, particularly with respect to government and political leadership. I am convinced that venal, corrupt and mercenary intents have marred the important role that our political leaders could have played in bringing about a more disciplined, productive, and tolerant society, and unless this is addressed, large sections of the population will remain uncivilized.
I consider discipline to mean voluntary compliance with rules, moral codes and legal requirements. Occasionally, our post-independent political leaders have bent the rules to use their position of power to acquire property and improve their prospects. One former leader explained that ‘Politics has a morality of its own’. The existence of a secret scholarship scheme that largely favoured members of the ruling party was another case in point. Is it disciplined behavior to bring reports of patently bogus emails to parliament that impugned the character of house members, without proof, and without any form of apology? I can also refer to the ‘Church in Guanapo’, but I am awaiting the official report.
Production infers productivity, that is, the effectiveness of the productive effort, giving consideration to a fair return of output, when compared to input. Politicians have used ‘make work’ schemes having very little rehabilitative or development content, in order to gain popular support. As a former teacher, I was aghast to learn that some students were absent because they were on ‘ten days’ employment. Furthermore, quite often party hacks have been inserted into top positions for which they were not qualified, jeopardizing the national effort for development. Is there productivity when vanity projects are foisted on the people without improving their lives? Many people complain today that T&T workers have become lazy, I agree, but I blame successive governments for cultivating laziness.
The third watchword given to us at independence was Tolerance. This implies an acceptance of the practices, beliefs and values of other persons that conflict with one’s own. We have had skits at political rallies that ridiculed particular cultures. A political leader in Tobago publicly warned against the landing of a Calcutta ship. Recently, the word ‘Black’ was being used in a derogatory manner. We must also consider the hostile language used by political leaders when they seek to demonise their political opponents, whether in parliament, on the platform or on social media.
Mr Le Hunte may find comfort in the recurring promise to reform the school curriculum. Let us hope that these watchwords will be addressed there. However, my message is that we cannot expect the people to change when their leaders persist with unacceptable behavioiurs. Le Hunte and others must take the ‘Bull by the horns’ and demand more sophisticated conduct from all our political leaders.
David Subran PhD