Can we trust you?”
This was the question posed by President Paula-Mae Weekes at the ceremonial opening of Parliament, reminding members of the responsibility they have to citizens.
This would have lead to members having some introspection.
It would have struck different chords in each of us.
Of course, most of us would want to be trusted. It us part of human nature to want people to like, trust and accept us but we need to have an inner conscience, moral and spiritual values for this to resonate within us.
In March 2011, the British newspaper, the Guardian, conducted a survey of 5,000 voters from five European countries and asked the question: “To what extent do you trust all national politicians, whether in government or opposition, to act with honesty and integrity?” Only nine per cent of respondents answered “a great deal” or “a fair amount”. An overwhelming 89 per cent said “not very much” or “not at all”.
This perception of parliamentarians came on the heels of a 2011 scandal in which the European Parliament itself was confronted by an undercover investigation done by the Sunday Times, which indicated some members were willing to alter legislation in exchange for bribes from journalists, posing as lobbyists.
In the late 1990’s the United Kingdom Parliament had the “cash-for-questions affair” where two Members of Parliament were bribed to ask parliamentary questions on behalf of the Egyptian owner of Harrods store.
Some parliamentarians are driven by power, money and position They use their office to satisfy their needs.
So how can we trust an MP?
Muriel Schrikkem a director of high-performance leadership program has an interesting formula for trust. Trust = credibility + reliability/ego.
Do people believe you, find you honest and sincere? Credibility increases by showing your vulnerability and having dealings as transparent as possible.
This comes down to honouring commitments and delivering on promises.
This is allowing your personal opinion to be balanced with the collective interest.
Democracy is built on trust which voters place in fellow citizens whom they elect to represent their interests ,concerns and prosperity, to exercise power on their behalf, a trust that cannot and must not be abused.
NBC’s journalist, Sahil Kapur’s report on August 29, examined the reliability of President Trump’s promises kept? Not entirely. Here are five pocketbook pledges Trump broke.
“On promises of universal health care, tax hikes for the rich, infrastructure spending and six weeks paid leave for all moms, President Trump hasn’t delivered. Trump made good on promises like deregulation, picking conservative judges, renegotiating NAFTA and moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But Trump made other promises that he broke—and in some cases, he did the opposite of what he’d vowed”.
We are not far behind in our country.
Throughout the years political manifestos and national budgets have all had broken promises. We can even judge some of our leaders.
One hid from the public and had a secret wedding, encouraged corrupt persons to be around him and had an ego that not a “damn dog bark” when he spoke.
For another “money eh no problem” while the IMF was knocking on our doors.
Another had an ego which prevented him from mediating with his partnership leaders.
One was said to have an emperor mentality and supported udecott mismanagement. Even having the sitting President, Chief Justice and others spied upon by our security forces.
One jailed for integrity issues and even had a green paper prepared to muzzle the press.
One was accused of putting a neophyte to head our secret services when crime was spiralling out of control. Having major corruption allegations within her ministries.
Another purchased ships before the procurement body could be fully functional and showed a failure to act decisively on Ministers who were in sexual harassment and NGO corruption issues.
What is needed is a culture in which integrity, transparency and accountability are highly valued within each of us. Could a man who cheats on his wife or taxes be expected to be a trusting parliamentarian?
If trust is not forthcoming, then it is up to voters, civic society and the media to hold us accountable.
It is up to us to give more teeth to the Integrity Commission, operationalise the procurement body, get better oversight from the Joint Select Committees, bring party financing legislation on the table.
The USA motto has got it right “in God we trust”, but in these challenging economic and covidian times we also need leaders we can trust to shepherd us through these difficulties.