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OPINION: Aspire for and live the noblest ideals for integrity to prevail

By GHK Lall

It seems as if conflicts of interest are a settled, acceptable way of life here. Though I detect the malicious and unfounded on occasion, there are too many other situations that raise issues of character, ethics, and personal standards. Cumulatively, it is more than ignorance, negligence, or lapse in judgment, much more.

I must make one thing clear right from the inception: unless public servants (ministers, parliamentarians, and administrators, to name some) regard the holding of public office as a sacred public trust, then there will only be the same tawdriness and individual obscenities over and over again. This is regardless of which party is in power. I would define public trust as an oath (without the public ceremony of swearing); an extraordinary undertaking (honoring God, family, and taxpayer); and an invitation by government and minister to represent country (to an unchallengeable degree). To do so by making all look good, making all proud, even when there is disagreement and trial.

In those very common circumstances where leaders and ministers across the landscape are plagued by contradictions of character, the trusted principled must still commit to, rise and separate from, and stand out for one thing: immaculacy of conduct. When all is over, there is only one matter of significance left: reputation and honor. The personal bar must be set uncommonly high.

I am aware that unexpected places like the White House or the Vatican can fail, and have failed, at standards and the challenges that are incorporated, and of which I so ferociously advocate. Therefore, it is only reasonable to ask: what about us? What about me? What about all and sundry in an environment torn to shreds by the sleazy and the vulgarly venal? For given the harsh, disfigured quality of thinking and motivations in this society, even the best and cleanest, the most dedicated, run the risk of baseless aspersions and suspicions. The only comfort is that those who dare to so scurrilously advance and accuse will encounter the steeliest of confrontations from the untouched and untainted. They do so at their peril.

For this to be so, political people and professional people must aspire to and occupy office cloaked, if not saturated through and through, with the noblest of ideals in mind: service, servanthood, and stewardship of an unequalled kind. To introduce a real fine point to this standard, Guyanese elected and selected must look upon themselves as washers of feet, through a willingness to lower oneself by putting the interests and welfare of others before. Always before. The elected and selected must see themselves as called and set apart; and no matter how dirty the rest, there is personal commitment to be different, and to not shelter under lawyers, protocols, and other revealing evasions.

If not, it is the same circular pantheon of vagabondage and pillage where matters of money are concerned; the same uncalled for, unlearning, unpersuasive trail of mistakes and misery for themselves and for a people waiting for, and longing for, a way that is authentic and incontestably clean. Then there are neither questions nor concerns nor conflicts—real or manufactured—as to the integrity of intentions, visions, and actions. Whenever public participants succumb to the unthinking, the immoral, or the calculations of ulterior agendas, then it is the same ‘ole’ business of business as usual, for personal benefit. There can be no individual quibbling about ifs and buts, or any of the usual believed sophisticated strategies at parsing and diluting and explaining away apparent or alleged conflicts. Anticipate such developments and address by setting oneself right, and in an applaudable manner from the start.

Now that I have so tabled and asserted, I would hope to God that I live up to the embedded public trusts demanded in the areas in which I am active. This ranges from writer to contributor to partner to member. Now writing and exhorting are easy; the living and delivering is where all truth is enshrined. I believe that if there is genuine resolve, then there will be mastery of self and a demanding environment. The only challenge left would be how to improve further on a baseline that is impeccable before one and all, inclusive of foes.