Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Letter of the Day | Give greater power to Integrity Commission

Published:Tuesday | June 7, 2016 | 12:00 AM


While it was indeed a very noble thing that one sitting member of parliament did in telling the public how he came by his assets, this call by some for all politicians to be mandated to disclose their assets - and how they got them - to the public is not only wrong, it is foolish.

It is true that, based on the present state of the country, an argument can be made that many of our politicians have much to be desired. However, like the rest of us, these politicians are people who do have a right to privacy. I really don't think, therefore, that what is their private business should automatically be the business of the rest of the public - for several reasons.

When politicians tell the public everything about what they have and how they got them, they can be setting up themselves for all sorts of problems. Many unscrupulous persons may take advantage of knowing what they have and where they have it to attempt to extort money from them, for example.

Also, this call by some for politicians to tell the public what they have is very short-sighted. How can we know that these politicians will disclose everything they have anyway? Do you really think a corrupt politician is going to be dumb enough to tell the public that what he has was obtained illegally?

Our politicians are already required to declare their assets to an integrity commission. I know that, as it is now, that commission, doesn't really have much teeth. As such, I think it would be a better idea for those who are calling for to the public to be able to pry into the private affairs of our politicians to instead calling for that commission to be given much greater powers.




We all know that nothing substantive happens when our politicians ignore this commission. Why not call for automatic prosecution of politicians who miss deadlines set by the commission? Why not call for the commission to be strengthened to the point where it can really act and investigate - and independently? Why not call for this commission to automatically name and shame politicians who see it as a joke by ignoring it?

Indeed, the only way that I would support the private business of politicians to be made public is if this commission has a good reason to suspect that it smells a rat. Then it would be obligated to go public with what it knows. Otherwise, if these politicians have earned what they have legitimately, that should really be none of my business.

We must remember that politicians are people, too - with rights. One of the most cherished rights of anyone, including a politician, is the right to privacy.