The headlines in one of our local newspaper today highlighted one of my pet peeves: the abuse of position or perceived power.
A former Government minister was fired as a result of alleged abuse of position and power on a different occasion. That time he was accused of inappropriately touching a stewardess as he lunged for her name tag. He admitted to the action but claimed that it was the outcome of fatigue. The threats and aggressive tone would have been attributed to stress and overwork as well.
This time he is being accused of evading Customs on his return from a visit to the nearby island of St Kitts. He was accompanied by his wife and two guests according to the report. The details are given in the newspaper here but the essence of the report is that the former minister and his party left the airport without being cleared at Customs, the man and his wife simply left their passports and declaration forms, then they departed from the airport claiming to be fatigued.
This is, to my mind, an abuse of privilege, if it is indeed true.
Most of the other persons arriving there would have been fatigued. All may have grumbled about having to wait in the long line. People may have grumbled about someone being whisked to the top of the line ahead of them but they would have understood the workings of such benefits of his position.
How difficult would it have been, having already had the advantage of getting to the front of the line, to go through the procedure of checking in at Customs?
Strangely enough, I was just re-gaining some respect for the said gentleman. He had been turning up in cases of compassion lately, even though he no longer held a Ministerial position. I was beginning to attribute it to the nature of the man.
He was present lending support to a family during their time of grief. He was photographed taking part in local sporting events, like an average citizen and he looked contented even though he was no longer in the limelight.
Just before this story broke, there was an article about him competing in a swim meet in St Kitts. I felt happy on reading that article because it indicated to me that there was a greater man behind the facade of a pompous politician.
Then I was greeted by this story in the newspaper.
In trying very hard to be non-judgmental, I examined the situation from different angles. Would I have done the same if I could have? Is there anything wrong with being so tired that you cannot wait a few extra minutes to do what is correct?
I still have a bitter taste in my mouth. Yes, none of us are perfect but as far as is humanly possible we need to stay on the right track. Politicians have a responsibility to lead by example.
Even if they do not care about rules and regulations and believe that they are outside the scope of the law, they need to be concerned about public perception.
They should think about the ripple effect of their actions: what they model for their children to learn, how it affects those within their sphere of influence, how it affects the nation and its image. The long-term effects of the appearance of impropriety, born out of short term thinking could be quite damaging.
We all have actions that can fail the integrity test when put under close scrutiny. This is all the more reason for us to make every effort to pass such tests, especially in seemingly minor matters. Failing such ‘minor’ tests lowers our credibility bar in matters of greater significance.
As it is said, if you can be trusted in small things, then you can be trusted in big things.
What do you think? Should privilege be guarded and cherished or should it be abused? Do you think this is a case of unethical behaviour?