From The Sunshine Isles to the Diaspora: We intend to present a kaleidoscope of sunny perspectives and opinions on the critical issues that affect us today and those that will impact us tomorrow.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Ethical Conduct Among Public Officials
According to a recent report in the Antigua Sun newspaper, Justice Don Mitchell QC said that, “Generations of Antiguans have lost all knowledge of what is the proper way to treat public assets and how to behave with the greatest propriety and what rules there are that should be followed; so that well-meaning people, people who mean best, simply don’t know, simply don’t understand what the correct procedures are.”
Wow! Generations who had lost all knowledge... Generations of well-meaning people who simply don't know and simply don't understand how to behave... what rules there are... what rules should be followed... what correct procedures are?
Justice Mitchell reportedly said that over the years Antigua & Barbuda had become a case study “of the phenomenon where there’s been a decline in the attention to integrity and good governance.”
Over the last quarter century, Antigua and Barbuda had become a 'case study' in poor governance and the decline of integrity. A 'case' for the world to see, wonder and marvel at, evaluate, and... yes... 'study'!
Although he did not reveal the details of his findings, he did indicate that whatever he found during his investigation of public officials, “It was not because they are corrupt, but that they simply don’t know any better.”
The decline of integrity, increases in impropriety, exhibition of poor governance, questions about corruption, not knowing how to treat public assets - these are all symptoms of very low levels of ethical conduct among public officials.
The management of ethics in public office is an essential part of good governance. It is a way to ensure the credibility of any public administration which may suffer from a lack of public respect and which may be criticized for a paucity of honesty, integrity and impartiality. Such seems to have been the case in Antigua and Barbuda during the long tenure of the previous administration.
The United Progressive Party (UPP), in its 2004 Manifesto seem to have recognized the need for ethics in public office in its assertion that “Integrity will be the bedrock of the UPP” if they were elected. Surely, the UPP recognized (as have many other commonwealth governments around the world) that without a Code of Ethics which is vigorously enacted, monitored and faithfully employed, there is the potential for a “weakening of the moral compass of ministers and civil servants, a greater willingness to contemplate actions which are improper, and an unhealthy closeness between ministers and civil servants” to the detriment of the country's citizens.
Many Antiguans and Barbudans would undoubtedly agree that such ‘weakening of the moral compass of ministers and civil servants’ might have been demonstrated in March, 2004 with the reportedly clandestine removal of files from various ministries by public officials - purportedly at the behest of their ministerial superiors.
Furthermore, during the last quarter century, hundreds of allegations were directed against public officials that seem to have indicated that some public servants had an increasingly ‘greater willingness to contemplate actions that were improper’. However, I hasten to add that many of these allegations highlighted in various media presumed not contemplation of improper actions… but assumed that ‘improper actions’ were actually carried out at the ministerial level and at all grades and ranks of public officials.
It has also been suggested that in such situations as existed over the last quarter century here in Antigua and Barbuda, that some government leaders seem to have treated the Civil Service like its ‘fiefdom’. According to one theorist, when a government emanates a strong scent, the Civil Service is likely to pick it up. Some are repelled by it, some attracted to it. As a consequence, the Civil Service becomes highly politicized. This was the case… is the case… in Antigua and Barbuda. It is still the case today because many of the Civil Servants who seemed to have identified themselves with the former administration’s ‘fiefdom’ appear not to have relinquished their identity. They continue to act in ways that question their integrity and impartiality as it relates to the carrying out of their duties as Civil Servants and public officials.
Adding to the confusion on this issue is the tenet that “Civil Servants should fully serve the Government of the day.” While it is clear that Civil Servants should fully carry out the dictates and mandates of the Government of day, it should also be noted that Civil Servants cannot do so in contravention of other legal, ethical or professional precepts or requirements. In other words, Civil Servants have an obligation to give honest and faithful service, to act in a manner consistent with the bond of trust and confidence of the citizenry, to act impartiality and with integrity, and to obey the law.
Even more importantly, ethical behavior applies to Ministers of Government and top public officials. For example, the code of conduct of one commonwealth government, states that, “Ministers have a duty to refrain from asking or instructing civil servants to do things which they should not do.” They also have a duty to ensure that Civil Servants are not asked to engage in activities likely to call in question their 'political impartiality', or to give rise to the criticism that public funds are being used for party or political purposes.”
When one attends to the very loud public discourse in the media, it is clear that issues such as maladministration, corruption, lack of integrity and impropriety in public office are increasingly areas of deep concern to the citizens of Antigua and Barbuda.
With the foregoing in mind, and with full awareness that the UPP Government has made a commitment to increase the levels of integrity, transparency and accountability in public administration, it seems that it is time to place a higher level of focus and sustained attention to improving the ethical and professional behaviors of public officials of all grades and ranks in Antigua and Barbuda.
Antigua and Barbuda cannot continue to be “a case study of the phenomenon where there’s been a decline in the attention to integrity and good governance.” We cannot accept that, “It was not because they are corrupt, but that they simply don’t know any better.” We will not accept it from Ministers of Government and other elected officials, Senators, Consultants, Advisors, Statutory Board Members, Permanent Secretaries or any other public official.
I must address Justice Mitchell's statement that 'it wasn't because they are corrupt', and that these highly place, highly qualified officials 'simply don't know any better.' His assertions stretches my imagination to its very limits... and I still find it hard to accept... that they 'simply don't know any better'. But, we may not ever be able to prove that some officials, in recent or past history, acted and behaved consciously, willingly, purposefuly and with full intent.
So, we must first accept that they can and must do better.
Secondly, we must ensure that future generations of Antiguan and Barbudan public officials regain and then retain the knowledge and practice of propriety, integrity and honesty in the pursuance of their obligations as ‘Civil’ servants!
Thirdly, we must put the mechanisms in place to hold public officials fully accountable for unethical conduct. Such mechanisms must have sanctions as sharp as shark teeth. And those who monitor their behaviors must be vigilant and demonstrate their willingness to apply the sanctions.
Generations of Antiguans and Barbudans will greatly appreciate that our twin island state would have become a 'case study' in excellent governance, with demonstrated high levels of propriety and integrity!
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Conflict of Interest in High Office?
According to the online version of the Antigua Sun (December 7th, 2005), Asot Michael, Member of Parliament for St. Peter, “launched a fiery attack on the Hadeed family, during the debate on the 2006 budget. According to the Antigua Sun, Michael charged that “there is a blatant conflict of interest” for government to elevate a businessman to senior political office "while his business is still doing business with the government.”
That reported charge by Asot Michael gave me great pause. It does not matter what I think of Asot Michael and his political exploits or activities in the past. It does not matter what I think of Asot Michael and his current political woes with his own party. It does not matter what I think of Asot Michael – the man or the politician. His charge that “there is a blatant conflict of interest for government to elevate a businessman to senior political office while his business is still doing business with the government” is at least worthy of some thought.
Over the last quarter century, the former Antigua Labour Party (ALP) Administration, was constantly bombarded with charges of corruption and unethical ‘wheelings and dealings’. (Indeed, Asot Michael himself was at the center of some of these charges.) Over those years, the United Progressive Party (UPP) was front and center along with the media in challenging the ALP Government on each and every questionable deal that came to light. They took a principled and ethical stance against corruption in high office, against wheelings and dealings, and indeed… against any negotiations or agreements that, to them, had the appearance of illegality or impropriety.
Now that the UPP forms the Government, much is expected of them… not the least of which is that they embrace the same principled and ethical stances that they so ardently and passionately represented in their very public criticisms of the then ALP Government. Much is expected of them… to avoid not only wrong doing… but the appearance of illegality and impropriety in their high offices.
I would argue, then, that we look carefully at Asot Michael’s posturing in the House – whether it represented a personal vendetta against the Hadeed family… whether it represented a political vendetta, or whether it represented the ruminations of a man who had finally been touched by Grace. Whatever it represented, that reported statement “there is a blatant conflict of interest for government to elevate a businessman to senior political office while his business is still doing business with the government” needs to be seriously examined.
Questions need to be asked… and answered.
- Does Mr. Hadeed recuse himself from Cabinet discussions on matters that impact the various business sectors in which his companies are involved?
- More to the point… Does Mr. Hadeed recuse himself… or is he asked to recuse himself from discussions having to do with APUA and electricity generation, importation of cars (new or used), import taxes for businesses, etc?
- Within the context of Cabinet decision-making, is Mr. Hadeed allowed to vote on, or discuss, or influence decisions on matters that impact his business interests?
- Does Mr. Hadeed advise the members of Cabinet on matters that impact their decisions on matters pertinent to his business interests?
Please remember, that as a member of Cabinet – and indeed, both the Parliament and the Senate, Mr. Hadeed is imbued with extraordinary influence. His influence, as extraordinary as it is, must serve not his family business interests, but the interests of the Antiguan and Barbudan electorate.
Electorate? There-in and here-in lies the rub… he is not an elected official… he is an appointed official. He was not elevated to high office by the people for the enhancement of their interests. He was elevated by the political directorate of the UPP. Of course, it is my belief that the UPP Directorate felt that they could benefit from his vast business experience. But they ought to have instituted some rules and regulations governing the mechanics of his contributions while in such high office.
What are some of those rules? Here are at least two:
- That he should recuse himself from discussions on matters that impact the business sectors in which his companies are involved – including matters dealing with APUA.
- That, within Cabinet, he should not vote on such matters when decisions were being made. (And indeed, he should take a principled stance not to discuss or vote on such matters in either Parliament or the Senate.)
I am wondering what great benefit might the UPP Directorate have seen or expected in elevating Mr. Hadeed to such high offices? Did they need his advice and wise counsel on matters in which he is an expert? Could they not have offered him a more focused role in an advisory capacity? Or was his elevation due to something else… like rewarding him for his financial, consulting or other contribution during the phases of the last election?
Let me be quick to say, that one need not question, analyze or even try to understand Mr. Hadeed’s motivation to seek or serve in high official positions… that is not the question. Which business person would not seek such influence? Be careful of throwing the first stone. No… we ought not to question his motives for seeking or accepting such appointments.
It is not Mr. Hadeed who we should question. It is his appointers and UPP-lifters whom we must ask questions of.
The question is this: Is Mr. Hadeed being allowed to unduly influence and impact the decisions that are made at the highest levels of Government in our nation… specifically with regard to the decisions that impact the businesses in which he is involved? Here is another question: Does his presence in Cabinet give him an unfair advantage over his business competitors who are not privy to the detailed discussions on business issues which could seriously impact them?
If the answers are yes… then we must bear in mind that such influence can be seen and interpreted, and have the appearance of, and does carry the real possibility of being, according to Asot Michael, “A conflict of interest” for a businessman elevated to “senior political office” while his business is currently “doing business” with the same government that he is an integral part of. Not only does it jaundice his business dealings with the government (of which he is a part), but for it could seriously damage the government’s credibility with both large and small business owners. Furthermore, if it is perceived that he utilizes the advantageous position of his “senior political office”, this could undermine and dampen the willingness of local and foreign entrepreneurs who want to invest in Antigua & Barbuda in those particular areas of business in which his companies participate.
By the way, aren’t issues of impropriety and conflict of interest the crux of the charges that are being brought in court against some individuals who held “senior political office” within the former administration?
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Modern Day Pirates & Privateers in the Caribbean
By Marcus M. Mottley
The modern day pirates and privateers of the Caribbean conduct their operations not from the sea, not from boats (maybe yachts) but from their private jets, continental main offices and local satellite offices.
Like pirates of old, these modern day prototypes of Morgan the Pirate and Blackbeard flaunt their money in grand style. Just like in days of old, they use their spoils to win the allegiance of the locals who live in these territories. They buy and then control the local and regional officialdom. They also use ‘pieces of silver’ to buy their way into the psyche of the people by propping up governments, and extravagantly funding sporting programs, political parties and community projects. They use money like drug pushers use cocaine… getting their victims addicted to the money and then using, abusing and then discarding them.
Like days of old, these modern day swashbuckling buccaneers in the Caribbean find this region such a ‘haven’, that they build their heavily fortified hideouts here. In the past, such hideouts were characterized by moats such that they were difficult to approach. Of course, these days, they build their lairs on small islands, protected by sophisticated underground (and undersea) high tech surveillance early warning systems. They are also protected by highly paid mercenaries who, like the buccaneers of old, are heavily armed, not with swords, knives and gun powder, but with… ‘modern day’ automatic gun power.
Some of these modern day pirates may also lay claim to the name “privateer” as did Morgan the Pirate and his ilk. They consort with the powerbrokers (senators & congress men) from today’s global powers. Indeed, one wonders if some of their activities are not “sanctioned” by these powerbrokers who may turn an official “blind eye” to the highly questionable source of the flaunted wealth of these modern day pirates or privateers in the Caribbean. Recent revelations in the halls of power in at least one of these global powers, indicate that some of these powerbrokers might themselves be quite susceptible to being addicted to the financial ‘fixes’ of the ‘privateering pirates’ in the Caribbean.
Indeed, the term privateer is not far fetched, since our modern day pirates also claim to be “private” international businessmen. One can imagine Sir Francis Drake or Captain Kidd claiming to be private businessmen with ‘financial interests’ in various ‘ports and harbors’ around the world. Another similarity is striking. Today’s pirates, turned privateers, like the buccaneers of days of old, find coves, hidden beaches, and small islands very attractive.
There is one other noteworthy similarity. Pirates and privateers are only attracted to territories that are associated with treasure.
One wonders then… to the extent that we may have such privateers buccaneering in Antiguan waters… what treasures might they know of that we don’t?
Are the sunshine islands of Antigua & Barbuda “Treasure Islands”?
A Brief History of Pirates & Privateers in the Caribbean
By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.
The history of piracy dates back more than 3000 years. Piracy was described in Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey. It appears that the word pirate (peirato) was also used about 140 BC by the Roman historian Polybius. The Greek historian Plutarch, writing in about 100 A.D., gave a clear definition of piracy. He described pirates as those who attack without legal authority, not only ships, but also maritime cities.
In more modern times, particularly in the Caribbean Region, pirates operated with impunity. The names of Morgan the Pirate, Captain Kidd and Edward Teach – more infamously known as Blackbeard, struck terror in the hearts of ships’ crews. In fact many of these pirates claimed a new name: “privateers”. The difference apparently was that a privateer was a pirate who had a commission or letter from a government authorizing him to seize or destroy a vessel of another nation. Global powers such as England, France and Spain commissioned their ‘private pirates’ to prey on each others ships and ‘New World’ territories.
Sir Francis Drake was the first of the well known “privateers”. Historically, he is considered a hero by the British but the Spanish consider him to have been a cruel and bloodthirsty pirate. Morgan the Pirate was also Sir Henry Morgan – having been recognized by the British Government for his exploits. He was later installed as Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica.
It is also noteworthy that privateers not only attacked ships, but also sacked and pillaged harbors, ports and seaside towns.
The exploits of these pirates, privateers or buccaneers as they were also known, is well depicted in the well known classic Treasure Island.
Today, unfortunately, we still have pirates and privateers plying their trade around the Caribbean Region. However, although these ‘modern’ day swashbuckling buccaneers still hunt for other people’s gold and silver, they do so using modern piratical means such as money-trafficking, money cycling and other types of financial crime. Again, quite regrettably, this Region is embraced by some modern day ‘private pirates’ of the Caribbean as a “haven” for their swashbuckling activities.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
The Voice of the People (Part 2)
By Marcus Mottley, Ph.D.
With the coming of popular talk radio to the Antiguan and Barbudan airwaves, everyone could now have a say and expound philosophically on the practical matters that affected their nation, their community, their jobs, their household and their family.
And, no one can doubt that talk radio, specifically Winston Derricks’ “The Voice of the People”, was a ‘monumental’ player in the political developments of March 2004. While people had read Tim Hector’s “Fan the Flame”, they could not respond, interact or ‘have their say’. But with Observer Radio, they called in, they came in, and they emailed in. And when they didn’t do any of those things, the station carried the microphone out into the streets so that all and sundry could have their say on “The Voice of the People”.
So, Antigua and Barbuda has changed. Dramatically so. And it is a good thing.
People are not only reading and listening. Now they are verbally responding. And they now have alternative means (beyond Observer Radio) to let their voices be heard. They are hearing each other and dialoguing together – on all the sides of any issue.
And yes, it is a great thing that has happened. It might even be considered revolutionary. This is an occurrence that politicians in Antigua and Barbuda have taken note of and have started to utilize to serve their various agendas. And that is also a good thing.
This change has brought a measure of sunlight to our shores. Now, very little can be hidden from the people. Underhanded deals will be brought out to light. Corruption will be uncovered in days and weeks, rather the years that it took prior to Observer Radio. Not only will it be uncovered early, it will be discussed by all and sundry before the week is out.
Old and new political leaders, and highly placed government officials no longer have the luxury of the anonymity of their actions. The sad thing is that while the old guard may have gotten the message (many of them are gone)… many of the new guard may have not. Some appear to want to roll back the clock to the days prior to “The Voice of the People” and probably prior to Tim Hector’s “Fan the Flame”.
Some of the new guard, the new elite leaders (elected, appointed & promoted) having benefited from the passionate contributions of the people’s voices, are now wishing for these voices to be silent. Having benefited from the spotlight that was placed on the old guard, some of the new guard now wish to hide in the shadows and even draw the curtains to hide the sunshine.
But that will never happen again. Not in Antigua and Barbuda. The Flames have been Fanned into a Bonfire! They have spread the light across the land. And these flames cannot be dowsed.
Leaders across Antigua and Barbuda are now being held to a high standard – not by people like me with high degrees of education. They are particularly held to a high standard by the people of Antigua and Barbuda who have high degrees of common sense. By the people who now have the tools to articulate their high degrees of common sense.
The “Voices of the People” cannot ever be silenced in Antigua and Barbuda… whether those voices are heard on Observer Radio or any other medium.
As my 91 year old mother likes to say… “A word to the wise ought to be sufficient!”
Antigua and Barbuda has changed.
And, it is a good thing.
The Voice of the People (Part 1)
By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.
A fundamental change has occurred in Antigua and Barbuda. That change began over twenty years ago with the incisive, elegant, powerful and thought provoking writings of Tim Hector. His “Fan the Flame” is arguably the best series of socio/political penmanship ever to grace the pages of a Caribbean newspaper.
It is clear that Mr. Hector’s “Fan the Flame” stirred deep yearnings in the populace for higher levels of ethical behavior, responsiveness and accountability among our leaders. His clear portrayals of corruption, shady dealings, self-serving (and family-serving) decisions by government leaders gave ordinary Antiguans and Barbudans their first glimpse into how public officials used their public office for private and personal gain.
The "Outlet" opened a window and "let us in" to the dark workings of the government. And it continued to do so for decades.
In more recent times, however, for whatever reason, prior to his unfortunate passing, Mr. Hector seemed to have changed his outlook and his newspaper subsequently changed how it looked at the same government. While much of the reasoning for this flip flop is murky… one thing remains crystal clear: The Outlet and Mr. Hector in his “Fan the Flame” provided a monumental service to Antiguans and Barbudans… and provided the impetus for the rise of another monumental contributor to the ‘stirring of the deep yearnings’ of the people of our nation.
Where Mr. Hector’s “Fan the Flame” started the yearnings, the Daily Observer and particularly the Observer Radio “Fanned the Bonfire”.
While the Daily Observer continued the Outlet’s tradition of revealing the hidden dealings of corruption in high places, it was the Observer Radio that allowed ordinary folk to respond and comment on the revelations.
That was new in Antigua and Barbuda.
Before, we had benefited from the precise, powerful and passionate thoughts and ideas of the university educated Tim Hector in his “Fan the Flame”. But now we were hearing en masse, for the first time - the precise, powerful and passionate thoughts, ideas and feelings of the common folk, many of whom had not even gone as far as the seventh standard classes in the old colonial educational system. Many of the callers had waited that long to have a voice and a say in the affairs of their country.
With the advent of talk radio initiated by the Observer Radio, Antigua has changed. Undeniably so.
Now, I am not a historian, and some persons might lay claim that there was this or that talk show radio in Antigua prior to the Observer Radio. And they may be right. But no prior talk show program or its host can lay claim to having been the “Voice of the People.”
The Voice of the People. And it was… and may still be. And yes… there are now other voices… of and from the people. And that is as it should be. And there should be many more programs and hosts… because we need to hear from all of the people – all of the time - no matter their perspectives, persuasions or positions.
So Antigua and Barbuda has changed. The Voice of the People can now be heard in its many forms throughout the land, across the sea, on the internet and from far, far away.
Yes, Antigua and Barbuda has changed. And it is a change for the good.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Leadership Ethics At The Crossroads
According to Warren Bennis and Bert Nanus, “Trust is the emotional glue that binds followers and leaders together.” I propose that this is at the heart of why I think that ‘leadership ethics’ is at a crossroads.
Do we have leaders, in Antigua and Barbuda, who are worthy of our trust, fully committed to our interests and who share our values? Do we have leaders who we can trust will pursue goals that make our current conditions better and lead to a brighter and more solid future for our children? Do we have leaders whose activities are firmly rooted in the election promises they make and the expectations they engender from us?
Whether in Antigua or in America... or elsewhere, the truthful answers to those questions are disquieting. An Iraq war that was supposed to be about freeing the world of terrorism has mired that country in debacle after debacle. And the world has suffered directly! You and I pay at the gas pump… because of the Iraq war. Was it about freedom… or was it about control of oil, control of American interests, or payback for threats to a presidential father? In Antigua… the wanton giving-away of the people’s lands to American and Asian ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’… was it about economic development? Or, was it about personal profit? In Antigua… the debacle called Mount St. John… from which lawyers made millions and, according to popular rumor, politicians (on both sides) seemed to have profited financially – directly and indirectly.
Whether in Antigua, America or elsewhere, as a matter of fact, everywhere – ‘leadership ethics’ is at a crossroads.
Bernard M. Bass and Paul Steidlmeier of the Center for Leadership Studies, School of Management at Binghamton University in New York, contend that “The ethics of leadership rests upon three pillars: (1) the moral character of the leader, (2) the ethical values embedded in the leader’s vision, articulation, and program which followers either embrace or reject, and (3) the morality of the processes of social ethical choices and actions that leaders and followers engage in and collectively pursue.” I would argue that of the three pillars that Bass and Steidlmeier identify, the first pillar, “The moral character of the leader” is the most important. It is like a super-pillar on which all other pillars stand. Why? Because in today’s world, even in our so-called democracies, the ‘leader’ is endowed and invested with enormous authority and huge decision-making powers that can impact the lives (and deaths) of thousands of people.
With the stroke of a pen, any one of today’s private or public sector leaders, can impact billions of people around the globe. From President Bush to President Chavez; from Rex Tillerson, president of ExxonMobil Corporation to G. Richard "Rick" Wagoner Jr. President and CEO of General Motors; from Steve Hills, president and general manager of the Washington Post to Tian Congming, president of Xinhua News Agency (China News Agency): They all have the power to influence billions of people – positively and negatively.
And, very few of them, seemed inclined to make decisions that are unequivocally in the best interests of the vast populations they either serve or impact. They seemed more inclined to make decisions which serve themselves and the special interests of a select few… rather than the broad majority. As in America… a la Enron and Global Crossing… As in Antigua… a la Medical Benefit and the so-called Asian Village Project (and many more).We are at a cross roads of ethical leadership because, while much of the world is apparently moving towards a ‘theoretical’ democracy, we are increasingly dependent on individuals who ascend to the throne of global power and authority. And, if recent events in both the private and public sectors can be seen as yard sticks, ‘followers’ (public shareholders and citizen stakeholders) need to be vigilant, cautious and exercise more independence in decision-making. They also need to be less trusting and demand total transparency to spotlight and bring ‘sunshine’ to the process of public and private sector governance.What can leaders do?According to Bass and Steidlmeier “modern western philosophy tacitly assumes that there is no morally valid leadership without the consent of the led.” Therefore, I think that leaders must remember that one of the central tenets of western philosophy, and indeed, democracy is that all ‘all authority emanates from the governed.’Since the weight ethical leadership rests on the central pillar of the ‘moral character of the leader’, modern leaders must also embrace the Confucian notion of the ‘moral sage’ and ‘superior person’. This is similar to Plato’s idea of the ‘philosopher king’ whose wisdom and purity allows him or her to rise above base idealism and personal faults like the greed, favoritism, lust and licentiousness we see in many of our politcal and religious leaders of this age. (Religious? That’s for another post to this blog!)Leaders must privately uphold the values that they publicly espouse whether these are moral, religious or spiritual traditions and customs. And they must do so by focusing on proper and right conduct and behaviors. The leader who goes to church on Sunday and robs his shareholders on Monday is certainly demonstrating an immoral character – no matter what he says publicly. The leader who argues for a pay raise, in addition to a multiple million dollar salary while he is downsizing his workforce, while his company's profits are down and while shareholders are losing money is definitely demonstrating a greedy character. A leader who preys on the vulnerable within his organization (or country) and coerces or lures them into activities that serve his base interests is demonstrating a character ingrained with lust and depravity.
The moral character of a leader is as important as his visionary ideas, his creative decision-making and his strength in motivating people to embrace a ‘shared future’ together.Finally, the western world has promulgated a philosophy where each person is responsible for himself, and every individual pursues his or her own self interest. Seemingly, based on the constant stream of negative examples, today’s leaders have passionately embraced this individualism to the exclusion of a leaders commitment to and resposnibility to his 'followers'. This needs to change.According to Rawls (1971) the legitimacy of leadership depends on granting the same liberty and opportunity to others that one claims for oneself. The legitimacy of leadership, in America or in Antigua, rests on telling the truth, keeping promises, distributing to each what is due, and employing valid incentives or sanctions. The legitimacy of leadership rests on developing a vision to make life better for the ‘followers’ and employing all resources into activities that fulfill that vision: Activities that serve even the poor, the sick, the unemployed, the under-educated, the young and the old; Activities that particularly serve those who are least able now… and who need a hand up… or a hand-out; Activities that stimulate the most able to help up… and help out the least able; Activities that serve members, followers, critics, and opposers alike!
Leaders who follow these principles recognize not only the pluralism of values and diversity of motivations among their ‘followers’, but also recognize that he or she exists (in their mantle of leadership) solely to serve the interests of their public shareholders or citizen stakeholders… and not their own.
Leadership is an exercise in the highest form of service: To others!
In Antigua… ‘leadership ethics’ is at a crossroads. Will the Sunshine Government turn aside or turn back to the corruption of the past? Or will it hold true and walk through the difficult roads ahead while keeping to the straight and narrow.
Can we trust that this Government will stay the course and demonstrate high moral character? How can we tell? Let’s not forget the “Agenda for Change!” Remember these words? Whistle blower protection! Integrity will be our bedrock! Transparency and accountability will be our watchwords! The Government will be the servants of the people… that is our commitment! The people’s purpose will always come first!
A people centered agenda!
If we keep the sunlight focused on the above commitments, it will be easy to tell whether or not our leadership has turned aside, turned back or is forging ahead. They are at an ethical crossroads of leadership… and for some it seems as though it is hard not to look back… or at least sideways… And they are signs that some are beginning to slip side-ways into the tempting shadows…
Let’s keep them focused… let’s help them to look straight ahead… Let’s keep the spotlight right above them.
Let’s keep the Sunshine Government in the sunshine!
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Under the "Big Tent"
Prior to the election, the United Progressive Party made an offer to supporters, hangers on, cronies, and fence straddlers attached to the then Labor Party Government. The UPP promised to provide a “Big Tent” under which all and sundry could seek shelter.
Since winning the election, they have certainly fulfilled their promise. Everyone in our twin island state can testify that they have kept their promise. No one can question that. Not even the opposition ALP. Particularly not the ALP... since they are, according to all accounts, making political hay while the "sun shines"!
And to the great dismay and ire of many life long stalwarts and supporters of UPP … their leadership has stuck to their campaign promise. Many say that such a commitment will prove to be at least detrimental... and most likely suicidal. Other ‘observers’ indicate that while UPP mainstream supporters are deeply upset over this, ALP supporters and officials are apparently quite happy with the “Tent” arrangement.
What’s happening here?
Well, it seems quite obvious that because the UPP Administration opened its naïve arms to embrace supporters and members of the ALP, it left itself wide open and vulnerable to all kinds of covert and clandestine undermining of its ability to govern. Because of its “Tent” policy, it continues to suffer all kinds of sabotage (overt and covert) at the hands of the supposedly ‘converts’ under the “Tent”.
Of course, it is understood that the UPP’s leadership wanted to demonstrate that it made a campaign promise… and was committed to fulfilling it. But many of their dyed-in-blue supporters are asking… how far are they willing to go to? Will they continue along this road… even to the precipice of self-destruction – at the hands of the surreptitious activities of the so-called “converts to the Tent”?
Our Government in the Sunshine might find the following commentary insightful. It is a single sentence from a passage written by Yagyu Munenori, master Japanese Swordsman, teacher of the Shogun, and an elder contemporary of the legendary swordsman Musashi (author of the Book of Five Rings). Munenori wrote that, “The consideration given to the selection of officials and the security of the nation is also an art of war.” (The Book on Family Traditions in the Art of War.)
An art of war! Are we at war?
Yes… we are at war. At war against corruption. At war against criminal activities in high office. At war against the theft of the people’s resources including our lands. At war against unethical behaviors by elected officials and their cronies… many of whom are living happily smirking under the “Tent”.
Yes… we are at war. At war against the international ‘shame and pain’ caused by the last administration (from the UPP Manifesto). We are at war against ‘an economy in shambles’ (from the UPP Manifesto). We are at war against the ‘private land bankers’ who currently hoard our lands (from the UPP Manifesto). We are at war against the “Pirate of the Caribbean” (I guess that is from my Manifesto)! We are at war against the ‘vast tracts of land that have been sold off in dubious deals, government ministers and family and friends of the ALP elite (from the UPP Manifesto) many of whom are now protected under the Big Tent of the UPP!
We are at war! No one can question that. And no one can question that we are at war against issues, situations, and circumstances that were created by people who are not only protected under the Big UPP Tent, but created by people who are also now part of the small, inner sanctum of the UPP itself… even at some of the highest levels of decision making.
How naïve is it for anyone to think that these scheming and conniving “Tent” usurpers, who had been living parasitically off our people, would change after twenty-eight years of being addicted to 'million dollar' profiteering and free-wheeling, corruptive scamming of the people’s resources? Who in their right minds would think that these conspirators would change their red stripes or switch their allegiances to the 'vultures' who they propped up for over a quarter of a century? Who made the decision to continue to keep the mongoose as guards outside the fowl house? And in many cases, some were even elevated to higher positions (Inside the fowl house!)!
Common sense should tell us that whatever they used to do… they are still doing… and probably more of it. Which ever masters they used to serve… they are still serving! But… they are also now covered and protected under the UPP Big Tent!
Again, Yagyu Munenori’s comment is insightful. “The consideration given to the selection of officials and the security of the nation is also an art of war.”
So in that context, the UPP leadership needs to reconsider its selection of officials many of whom are still ‘dyed in red’ ALP supporters boldly (not even covertly) strutting about under the UPP’s Big Tent.
And, the UPP leadership needs to reconsider its selection of officials, who are ‘supposedly’ former ‘dyed in red’ members of the ALP structure (some quite high), and ‘former’ ALP financial supporters, who are now anointed (elected and appointed) princes of the UPP.
Again according to Yagyu Munenori, what is at stake in this war is nothing less than “the security of the nation.”
If not the nation… then at least, the security of the Government in the Sunshine is at stake.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
In this age of Enron, Global Crossing, Worldcom, the Vioxx debacle at Merck and political leaders who succumb to bribes and vulgar behaviors, a critical and invasive spotlight (and sunshine) is being placed on the ethical practices of leaders in private, public, secular and religious sectors of society.
I think that any honest examination of leadership practices today will assert that ethical conduct among global public and private sector leaders is un-arguably quite deficient. Leadership Ethics, I would argue is at a crossroads. It is at a crossroads on the international front… and it is at a crossroads in Antigua and Barbuda.
Joanne B. Ciulla in Ethics, the Heart of Leadership poses that “Power and authority in today’s world stem not from position or coercion, but from trust, commitment and values shared with those who are led.” Well, whereas I might agree that, power and authority might not stem from ‘coercion’, I propose that they do stem from ‘position’. And, I could possibly be persuaded to also agree that positions of ‘power and authority’ can emerge from the trust and commitment of followers (religious and secular), voters, staff members (in organizations) and share-holders of companies.
But, I would strongly disagree that such ‘power and authority’ stem from any ‘shared-values’ between leaders such as those at Enron, Global Cross, Worldcom, and Merck, and the people who ‘follow them.’
This point is also evidenced in the political atmosphere in Antigua & Barbuda which preceded March 23rd, 2004. For over a quarter century, many of us believed and hoped that our elected leaders represented our yearnings and desires, as well as our goals and objectives. But the truth was that the political leaders of those days represented their own yeranings and desires for money, social status, and the authority to direct others to do their bidding. They wanted these things for themselves - first... and somewhere down the road, at a much later date (if ever) - for the rest of us. Just like the leaders at Merck and Enron, our former political leaders made fabulous promises and commitments – particularly close to elections. After winning their constituences, their commitments receded into the background as they begin wrestle to fulfill their private personal agendas and desires. Year after year, they reneged on their commitments and and betrayed the trust of their constituents.
And year after year, election after election, their constituents - the hopeful, trusting people of Antigua and Barbuda gave them another chance. And another. And another. And another… only to be disappointed, betrayed and fooled year after year. Election after election. While the elected filled their coffers, wielded their power, used and abused the innocent, parlayed public property for priavte gain, and courted international barons, criminal privateers and ‘pirates of the Caribbean’ who camoflaged theselves as neo-nationals.
Never again… should we allow any of our leaders, religious or secular, to betray our trusting people. Never again, should we allow the scroundels of the past to wield control over our domain again. Why… because they will do as they have done. They can do no different. They are who they are… true to themselves.
True to themselves… A story clarifying this point is inorder. A story is told of a meeting between a frog and a scorpion. As the frog was about to swim across a stream, the scorpion approached and asked him for a ride. The frog said, “No! Do you think I am carzy? If I give you a ride on my back… I know what’s going to happen. You are going to ‘sting’ me… and since your sting is posionous… I will die.”
The scorpion replied that the frog was being stupid… because if he stung the from while in the water… then both of them would die since he, the scorpion could not swim. He pleaded with the frog. He begged. He promised (just like a politician would). But the frog would not give him a ride. He got down on his knees. He told the frog that he did not want to die… He made such a powerful and persuasive argument that the frog relented and gave him a ride.
As they were going across… the scorpion stung the frog. As they were both dying… the frog from the poison… and the scorpion from being drowned… the frog asked the scorpion why he had done it. The scorpion replied… “I stung you because that’s what scorpions do. We sting!”
Yep… that’s what some politicians do. They betray trust. They are unethical. They look out for themselves. They are who they are. They cannot change. They will not change. They see no reason to change. They have profited from their illegal profiteering. They form allegiances with international barons, local privateers and "pirates of the Caribbean" to disenfranchise the poor and innocent - and really all of us. They are like scorpions. Their sting is deadly to us. Unlike the scorpion ... they will survive to sting again and again and again... if we let them.
Yes... Those politicians who have stung us already… will sting us again… if we let them.
We won’t. Never again. We will not go back.
Here is a warning to those who have not yet stung us... to those who promise sunshine and transparency. Don’t try 'to sting us'. It won't work. We are watching you closely. You are under the new spotlight. Your own sunshine has enveloped you. Some of you are already close to the edge. You have tasted the power. You have seen the possibilities. You may be tempted. Don’t try it.
The world of politics in Antigua and Barbuda has changed. The sun is shining through. The spotlight has been turned on. And, that light can never be turned off. Our people have slowly awakened. And we are demanding high ethics from your high offices. We are demanding transparency in decision making. We demand that no deals be made in the shadows… not among yourselves… not with any international baron or local privateer… and specifically not with the so-called ‘nationlized’ “pirate of the Caribbean”. Money will not protect international barons, local privateers or pirates from the wrath of those who have been stung... nor from the vengeance of the children of the victims.
Keep the sun shining in. Up with people. Down with laborious party politics of the past!
Never again will we return to the shallow, shadow, vulture-like politics of the past. Never again.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Are these the results of an empowered populace? Are these the results of having a government that promotes openness (sunshine)?
Or are these the results of people and organizations being secretly and clandestinely doing the work of the opposition?
Or are these results an indication that people perceive the Baldwin Spencer Administration to be weak?
Whatever is happening, suddenly Antiguans have suddenly been emboldened to "Strike" and "Protest". Whatever it is Antiguans are protesting in ways that they never did under the ALP administration.
There are some who indicate that they can see the obvious hand of the ALP behind the leaders of the Teachers Union and the Public Service Commission. There are others who think that the "openness" of the Baldwin Spencer is perceived as weakness, indecisiveness, and 'wimpish' leadership.
There are others who think that "openness" and "sunshine" are refreshing elements of the new administration which promote the involvement of the people in the process of governance... something they claim was missing from the previous 28 years of the last administration.
What do you think? Write us with your comments. Write to : Sunshine@speaktrain.com
Monday, July 25, 2005
Welcome to my blog: Sunshine Isles.
Why this title? Well, the new Antiguan Goverment of the United Progressive Party has promised to foster an atmosphere of sunshine, openess and involvement by all Antiguans and Barbudans.
This blog is developed to support this openness and to prevent us from ever going back to the dark ages of the 28 years prior to March 23rd, 2004.