By Devon Dick
Last week, in an interview on CVM TV, government Senator Wensworth Skeffery stated that Edmund Bartlett, member of parliament for East Central St James and Opposition spokesman on tourism, had no moral authority to speak on the lottery scam. Bartlett claimed in a previous interview that proceeds from the lottery scam funded political campaigns. Skeffery challenged him to give the information to the police and scoffed at Bartlett's claims as seeking media optics. The senator's comment appears to be coming from the playbook of former Information Minister Daryl Vaz, who, in 2010, dismissed the People's National Party (PNP) as having no moral authority because of Trafigura's financial contribution to the PNP. The Dutch-based oil-trading firm did this while conducting business with a PNP government.
It is possible that Bartlett could have information that cannot be elevated to evidence in a court of law, and this needs to be appreciated. Bartlett's comments should be seen as similar to the comment made by Dr Peter Phillips, then minister of national security, who said that the proceeds from drugs was fuelling political candidates. On Tuesday, Warrior King, reggae artiste, in an interview with Paula Ann Porter on FM 94, said that music promoters are now nine-to-five workers and are no longer involved in drugs as in the past. The implication is that there was a time when music promoters were involved in the drug trade. Indeed, word on the ground was that proceeds from the lottery scam entered the political coffers; and it would not be surprising if some lottery scam proceeds entered church collection plates.
Therefore, we should not shoot the messenger, but we need to ascertain the veracity of Bartlett's claims. Everyone who has information, including Bartlett, should pass the information to the security forces.
Lottery scammers are sophisticated, highly trained, organised and ruthless. Therefore, political parties should join forces to tackle this scourge. These scammers target the vulnerable and are persistent, subtle and convincing tricksters who should not be condoned.
Bartlett has moral authority to speak on the subject even if he has ulterior motives or is a hypocrite - that is someone who does not practise what he or she preaches. Therefore, a hypocrite can speak the truth even though he or she is not abiding by those principles. In other words, a doctor might warn a patient about the dangers of smoking cigarettes while he smokes them. The doctor is a hypocrite, but he still speaks the truth. By his training as a medical doctor he has authority to speak on smoking and its effects.
A better place
There are a couple web definitions on moral authority such as, "the capacity to convince others how the world should be". Therefore, the vast majority of us have moral authority as we try to make Jamaica a better place. And by virtue of entering public service with a view to making Jamaica a peaceful and prosperous place, then we have moral authority.
There is another definition of moral authority which points to the quality of being respected for having, good character, an exemplar of proper conduct. This is where we all fall down, since we have sinned and come short of the glory of God. This season of Lent reminds us of Jesus' suffering and death. He died on our behalf so that we can experience forgiveness of sins, thereby enabling us to speak with moral authority on any socio-economic ill, including the lottery scam.
We have the moral authority to speak on the ills of society even as we are not perfect and commit ourselves to ensure that God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And His will is that righteousness should be the hallmark of our nation.
Rev Devon Dick, PhD, is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is also author of The Cross and Machete, and From Rebellion to Riot. Send comments to email@example.com.