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Let the court be the final arbiter

March 13, 2012

Now, the guns must all fall silent and let the court decide the innocence or guilt of the accused.

At long last a minister has decided to bring the curtain down on herself and quit her ministerial post in the wake of the damning “Cowgate” scandal. She did the right thing. It has become increasingly evident that her position had become untenable in the face of the unsavoury reports featuring her family members. She may not be involved in the messy business affair, but she was inevitably drawn into the morass willy-nilly. Her boss said she stepped down although there was no proof she had committed an offence. She packed her bag only when the writing was on the wall. Many in her party sang her praise and hoped that the dust will finally settle. All believe the muck will be buried for good.

But the story has not ended. She will still be in the limelight by virtue of her powerful position in her political party. She has not given up her reins as the women’s chief. She will continue to hog the stage, especially with the country on the brink of an electoral battle. As long as she remains in the public eye, the country will not see the last of her. As long as she stays in the public mind, the controversy will also not go away: it will hang like the sword of Damocles over her. It is impossible that she can isolate herself from the gathering “storm” and stay an oasis of calm. She could have chosen to throw away her political mantle, but she preferred to keep it – and made herself fair game for harsh attacks when she is out on the hustings.

It is strange that her sacrifice was done in the interest of the party. The script does not seem right. She still holds a high post in the party and how is it possible to do good for your party with controversy shadowing her? But she will not vanish into political oblivion. By retaining a foothold in politics, she is assured of playing a visible role in the political life of the country. She may even stage a comeback if she scores excellent marks for her political work. Perhaps, a deal has been struck to ensure her “sacrifice” will be rewarded later. In politics, nothing is impossible. But a political party must not carry “dirty baggage” when it aspires to govern the country. Its image must be clean so that people will have trust and confidence in its ability to steer the state and its citizens to a better future.

All ministers must know when to take the bow if their ministerial responsibilities have been compromised by scandals of their own making or through the actions of their kin. They must never dig their heels in and fight back public opinion which has turned sour against them. It is difficult to put on a convincing act of political courage when the tide is against them. There is simply no protection for indefensible behaviour. Sooner or later, they will come to grief. It is better to come clean at an early stage than to let matters drag on until the whole situation blows up to nobody’s benefit. In the court of public opinion, ministers accused of impropieties are always placed at a disadvantage. They become a liability to themselves and the country.

The “Cowgate” episode has not ended with the resignation of the minister. A man at the centre of the controversy will be facing trial and the country awaits for the real story to unfold. For many months, one side has been relentlessly uncovering the dirt on the cattle-breeding project while the guns on the other side have also kept up their barrage of riposte. Both camps were engaged in a “war of attrition” as they tried to sway public opinion. At times, it appears that those making the allegations were going overboard while those defending themselves looked credible in their rebuttal. While the “trench warfare” continued, the public were kept “entertained”. Now, the guns must all fall silent. Let the court be the final arbiter.


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