Politics has a morality of its own.
These were the words of former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday, which have lived on throughout the decades and has been used to describe and, at times, excuse the behaviour and decisions made by politicians.
But nothing could justify the recent conduct of the nation’s representatives in the House of Representatives, Local Government and the Tobago House of Assembly. Even those who are aspiring to such office have been caught in questionable acts, prompting many to ask if they are fit for office.
This week, videos of People’s National Movement candidate for Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside Franka Cordner dancing lewdly emerged and quickly circulated on social media. Cordner was also heard in an audio recording making disparaging remarks about Tobago East MP Ayanna Webster-Roy and Rory Dillon, who contested the same district for the PNM in the January election and lost to the PDP’s Farley Augustine.
Cordner has admitted it was her in the videos and to also making those denigrating comments about her party colleagues and has since apologised profusely for her behaviour and acknowledged she was “very, very wrong.”
But three things stood out in this whole episode.
Firstly, during her salacious dancing, which was clearly being recorded, Cordner never thought for a minute that in an age of viral videos and where nothing dies on the internet, her conduct would come back to haunt her. Nor did she consider that while it is fair game to “bad talk” even her party colleagues, she should not have gone down the road of disrespect.
Secondly, this incident again shows how unscrupulous politics has become in T&T. Although Cordner admitted to being in the wrong for her behaviour, it was also quite deceptive and nasty for people she thought were closest to her to make public something that occurred in the safety of her circle. Of course, she is not the first political candidate in recent time to have fallen victim to this dirty tactic.
Lastly, this incident demonstrates how the reverence which high office holds continues to be on the decline in T&T.
Years ago, those seeking and holding high office were regarded as exemplars, people the youth could look up to and seek counsel from because they had unblemished reputations. However, the behaviour of politicians of recent vintage certainly suggests that ship has long sailed.
After the 2020 General Election, Council for Responsible Political Behaviour chairman Dr Bishnu Ragoonath revealed many political parties and candidates had violated the codes of ethical-political conduct in that campaign. Dr Ragoonath lamented then that many candidates turned their political jabs into personal attacks.
Given this assessment and the many incidents which have played out since then, it is evident the school of politics in this country is moving further away from the ideal of ethical and upstanding politicians.
While to err is human, those seeking high office and those selecting them must ensure they can stand up to scrutiny. So while politics may indeed demand a certain je ne sais quoi, class and integrity are two qualities that never go out of style, whether it be in the field of politics or life.