Sun | Jun 13, 2021

The immoral Mr Pickersgill

Published:Thursday | June 28, 2012 | 12:00 AM


I refer to a comment made by People's National Party (PNP) chairman Robert Pickersgill on the use of monetary contributions made by Olint, the company which has fleeced millions of dollars from the Jamaican investor by way of a Ponzi scheme, to finance campaign contributions.

I looked at the definition of 'moral authority' and found: 'Basis for a sense of right and wrong according to conscience, and ethical: relating to morals, or morally correct.' So what is immoral, is not ethical, and that which is unethical might be morally incorrect.

The funds were handed over in August 2007, and it is now being reported (that is, June, 2012), almost five years later.

The investment scheme was found guilty of numerous counts including fraud, so guilt has been established in a court of law for some years. There has been more than enough time to declare what was received, and the PNP knew that, in the interim, Olint used fraud to deprive Jamaican people of their money.

Assess the fiduciary responsibilities

We have now to assess the fiduciary responsibilities of those leaders in our political system. It appears they may justify money to finance their campaigns, from whatever source, and as much as possible, without reference to an established law.

But this is not all: In some larger economies the integrity of the politician has assumed disrespect, and everywhere leaders are required to account for funds and benefits under their control. In the United States of America, the Senate Ethics committee is currently investigating five senators for possible conflicts of interest and breaches of ethical behaviour in Government. Yet, the PNP pockets a cool US$1,000,000 from Olint, which is a questionable source (now confirmed as fraudulent), and he says he has no moral obligation to ascertain the source of funds, or to return the funds, having spent it.

The costs of electoral campaigns are exceedingly high, and, in Jamaica, I have heard of J$50 million per political party. The campaign and the election of a specific party can be influenced by special interests with their money.

Campaign finance Laws

Laws governing campaign finance are what we need to effect, so that any quid pro quo proposal is frustrated. A political campaign is supposed to outline the positions of candidates so that voters can make informed decisions about whom they want to elect.

Which brings the question to the citizens of this country, what do we do about this matter? What is the situation with ministerial error, or misbehaviour, in the political process? Is it not a duty of the minister to resign? The honourable minister should be continuously engaged and searching his responsibilities and duties. He is practising the most powerful and most dangerous of the arts, financial infidelity, affecting the quality of life, of his people.

It is seen that the idea of responsibility has several components. In political life, responsibility may be understood in civilised society as a product of life and experience. In examination of whether there is a duty to resign for ministers of Government, party leaders and other political trustees, we have to look at the origins of political duty in the frame of a democracy (in the Westminster model). Apart from the need to ensure public confidence, it is the expectation that those who govern must exercise statesmanship.

Statesmanship has a technical implication: It bears a broader meaning including a quality of moral conduct. This is, in fact, 'the public trust'; those to whom the business of state has been assigned and who will dispense responsibilities in a loyal manner, with respect given to the unwritten and written rules that exist to reinforce integrity of office.

When a recognised authority operates in a larger continuous scheme of relationships, as it must in a free and democratic society, a trust process is engaged that underpins public confidence.