I start by defusing the battle-cry of the feminists, or those who may view the heading as sexist by saying it as we say in the law, that when we use such expressions, “the male embraces the female,” so the title also includes looking for a few good women. During the past few weeks, I have looked on in mild amusement as the nation has wrapped and tied itself into knots over the search for a few good men—and supposedly men of integrity—to be the integrity commissioners. Now, from my observations and analysis of the situation, it seems the whole problem stems from the word “integrity.”
The New Webster’s Dictionary defines integrity as “moral soundness, probity, wholeness, completeness,” and this is where we run into difficulties. It is not that we cannot find people of integrity and upright character and rectitude in Trinidad and Tobago, and it is not that all such people are reluctant to serve. The problem with it is that when you introduce into the realm of secular society, the concept of moral and spiritual values and then seek to use this as a yardstick to judge who should or shouldn’t serve, it is a recipe for unending chaos. The fundamental underpinnings of what we believe is right or wrong, good or bad, morally correct, or immoral, all come from our religious and social beliefs, values and upbringing, and can run the whole gamut of what is acceptable or not acceptable—one man’s meat is another man’s poison. There will be no shortage of protagonists and antagonists to micro-analyse and scrutinise every minute detail of a person’s life or past.
As we have seen, it is quite possible that with the searing and searching scrutiny that the society will subject and possibly inflict upon all possible candidates for the job, the tiniest skeleton, secret or smallest infraction in one’s past will be dragged, kicking and screaming, out of the closet and paraded publicly and beaten in Woodford Square like a Good Friday bobolee for all the world to see that you are not fit to serve. We have to ask: who, then, is without sin and can cast the first stone? Who will be fit to serve? You see, we need to remove this whole idea and notion of integrity from the scenario, and this is not as shocking a proposal as it seems, because you see the whole nation has been running blindly down the road wrapped up with the word “integrity.” Let us look at the integrity in public life legislation; let us look at the purpose and intent of the legislation, and let us look at the mischief it was intended to cure.
The whole concept and thinking behind the legislation is really to try to prevent corruption in public life. So for a start, we probably need to look at changing the name of the legislation, ab initio, to something that more properly reflects its true intent and purpose, and call it the “Prevention of Corruption in Public Life Act”. This immediately removes the minute character examination under a microscope on a petri dish, of the lives and times of the people called upon to serve, because the focus would now be on “corruption” and not “integrity.”
It is a whole lot easier to screen and pre-screen people from the point of view of whether they are people who are guilty of corruption, as opposed to whether they are in some way or in some minute way shown to be lacking in “integrity.” The fact is that we can legislate to prevent corruption, and can easily define the parameters of what is or is not corrupt behaviour in public life, but we can never legislate for integrity. Because the whole concept of integrity is tied up with moral and spiritual values and runs the whole panoply of faiths, creeds, doctrines, dogmas, beliefs, believers, non-believers, atheists, agnostics and the like, one can never come to agreement or consensus with all people or groups in the society as to legislating integrity.
Thus, the integrity in public life legislation appears to have been fundamentally and fatally flawed from inception, starting with its very name. You’re entering a minefield of diverse opinions, thoughts and beliefs from which no one will ever escape unscathed. We need to re-think immediately the whole legislation, change the name to the “Prevention of Corruption in Public Life Act,” and instead of an Integrity Commission, set up under the act, a Corruption Prevention Commission and then just find a few good men to serve thereon and move on with the real purpose and intent of the legislation, which is the prevention of corruption in public life.
Extracted From: The Trinidad Guardian Newspaper