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Politicians and playing footloose with the truth

It is a battle that is being waged around the world, especially in democratic jurisdictions where the people are subjected to conditions they know would be better if greater emphasis was placed on truth during the decision-making process of those in positions of power. This not being a perfect world means that truth very often becomes clouded in a maze of conflicting perceptions when politicians are caught up in protecting an image that could affect their influence in gaining or maintaining support.

The perception that most of us have of democracy is that it still provides the basic right of the people to expect our leaders to hold truth as the highest banner of guidance in dealing with all matters that concern the welfare of the people. Of course, most are fully aware that in reality, if the people along with a free media drop their guard, the door swings open for potential misuse of authority — and the age-old war between truth and what is best for the people becomes muddled.

Usually, when the people feel truth and trust are bypassed in the interest of promoting some political agenda, questions arise from beneath the surface over whether seeking power is held as the supreme element with politicians. Are they more concerned about status than serving the people with transparency and dignity, no matter the cost?

As Bermuda awaits the report of the Commission of Inquiry into allegations of mishandling of the public purse, as highlighted in a special report by a former Auditor-General, everyone should keep an open mind as what to expect. The commission's objectives were aimed at getting at the truth, which is what most people want when any suggestion is made that protecting the public purse may have been breached.

Most Bermudians want truth rather than what looks good or bad for this or that group. That is a tall order when people on either side of a dispute anchor themselves in a position irrespective of what is revealed in the search for truth.

A classic situation in America led last week to the Attorney-General, Jeff Sessions, recusing himself from an investigation into alleged involvement between members of the Donald Trump campaign and the Russians in his run for the presidency. Truth became a delicate issue when Sessions, during a confirmation hearing, failed to disclose meetings that he had with a Russian official before the election. Sessions later admitted that it would have been better had he produced that information when questioned during the hearing.

Once again, what appeared to be an evasive move in handling truth became a political hot potato, with massive calls for his resignation from Republicans and Democrats. The point here is that even if Sessions did not feel his meetings with the Russian official were of any significance, not letting the officials know about it was an avoidance of full disclosure. The White House has had a stormy first month in office and the political waters were kept choppy with rumblings that the newly appointed Attorney-General had stumbled in handling truth.

It was certainly not a winning moment for the Trump Administration, which is still struggling to fill key positions. However, it should be a reminder that no matter what position one holds in government, accountability should never be overlooked.

Bermuda can learn much from that incident as we prepare to move forward in our dealings with the people's business. Those who choose to serve in public life must remember that the people who vote them into office, do so expecting that they will make every effort to be truthful with the utmost transparency.

It is not perfection they expect because we all have weaknesses. However, the people have every right to expect nothing short of total respect for truth.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Photograph by Susan Walsh/AP)

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Published March 08, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated March 08, 2017 at 7:54 am)

Politicians and playing footloose with the truth

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