Letter to the Editor: “Return to the days of Leaders who stand for Principle and Moral Dignity”

By Virgil Sams

I am happy to have entered the conversation as a silent reader and listener of the virtual political dialogues. I have decided to take time from my busy schedule to make use of the pen to strike as a vocal contributon my analytical thoughts and thinking.

I am making this abundantly clear that I am not a politician, neither is this a campaign strategy to tilt the scale towards any particular party.

While I may not be a political analyst with experience in running political campaigns, I have seen quite a lot that has caused me to break my silence.

As a Christian leader, I am quite cognizant of what the Bible warns against judging, it invites us however to analyze, inspect and evaluate leaders whom we the people are responsible to help put in power.

I don’t believe that political silence is holy, that being neutral is saintly or taking a side about the leadership on the political levels is ungodly or incompatible with serving the Lord. By this breaking silence I might have opened the door to a critical sharing space for those of us who were previously hesitant for fear of being accused of inciting disagreements. Or on the other hand, this might be perceived as the old folks used to say with their commonsensical and folkloric wisdom, “cockroach doesn’t have place at fowl cock party.” I’m not naïve of the manner in which my contribution might be viewed. 

I believe in being balanced and objective in discussing issues affecting the society. However, we should not align ourselves with selective morality but always speak truth to power, with courage, firmness and compassion, regardless of the consequences! 

I have done considerable homework, and I have decided to dare to speak unpopular truths. Now, grant that I am a born Statian and desire the best for my country, yet, I will not negate my responsibility to be appropriate , tactful , blunt, caring, forthright, objective, critical, sensitive, moral and teachable in the process. If I fall short, I am willing to acknowledge, change and thrive for Divine Wisdom. 

It is obvious that the political climate on Statia is as active as ever. However, there are many who trust the providence of God to put in place the leaders who can give moral leadership at this time.  I listened to some of the radio programs from the politicians. I must admit that some are quite impressive.  I have also taken the liberty to read some of the comments and queries on social media that are posted from time to time. While there have been constructive and helpful views shared, one cannot miss those that appear to be derogatory and demeaning. 

I do believe in the Biblical truth that “God sets up leaders and takes them down.” Let us keep in mind that God never appointed leaders as avenging angels.  

In the context of freedom of speech, there is a difference between defending turf and defaming others. Harsh criticism is tolerable in our democracy. Defamation is illegal. What should we do with hate speech? It must be flushed out so that it can be fully examined, and nation building, human flourishing and uplifting speech be advanced in its place. 

The height of this dark political corruption is often magnified prior, during, and after election sessions. Sadly, some of our politicians resolve to hate speeches, sometimes to petty vendettas and vengeance instead of making good decisions that will create and support a great Statia. 

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish the difference between a wolf in sheep’s clothing and a sheep with a wolf’s heart. Yet, as change agents we must be clear-eyed.  We cannot deny that sometimes the island seems frozen in the politics of the past, where the top-down model of governance which is liked by many of our leaders, allows for the application of vindictiveness, arrogance, selfishness, dictatorship, ugly insides towards accountability, transparency, suspicious, power-hungry, and political just to mention a few. Whether we like it or not, the change is upon us. We can mend it or end it. Let us not be afraid of the way forward.

The wind of change is gradually sweeping through Statia. A time for political leaders to mend their ways and let the people see the workable and realistic plans they have for the island. To listen to the cry of the people. Power is in the hands of the people.

I’ve read quite a lot of comments regarding the present government whom the people of Statia had no part in electing.  However, it doesn’t seem quite clear as to what extent of power will be given to the elected party when elected, though there is the cry for standardized democracy on the island.

There is also the cry for a more transparent approach of those pursuing positions and power in Statia.  One of the signs of credibility of leaders are leaders who can truthfully acknowledge past mistakes and provide a believable plan of action— including an ethically sound vision, measuring metrics and strategy. These are important tools for the people to hold their leaders accountable both present and in the future if they are convinced that he or she should be given their vote.

I am just observing from the outside, and understandably our politicians are active in the political ring throwing their jabs and uppercuts at each other. Looking from the crystal ball there is seen the power struggle amongst our politicians across the island. The tearing down of  one another this seems to be one of the factors that has crushed the voting spirit of voters where some want to throw in the towel. This seems to be the result of politicians who seem politically focused that they unconsciously divorce themselves from the emotional factor, which results from their own example. Secondly, the removal of power from our local government a couple years ago also seems to have created a plethora of discouragement. There is no doubt that Statia’s path has become a bit foggy in recent times.  Folks are of the notion that their vote might not make a significant difference.  We must not allow this sentiment to run amok in exchange for the comfort of silence. All need to let their voices be heard.  

Again, this is not a campaign strategy for supporting any party whatsoever. It is the democratic right of all Statians to exercise their liberty and elect their leaders, leaders dedicated to success and unifying the island.

It’s also time for some of the old heads to step back and take on advisory consultant roles so that youthful leaders can breathe fresh air into the concept of administration and leadership of Statia. There should be a collaboration of using their experience and wisdom to help lift the standard of leadership on Statia.

The initiative for the empowerment of young people is remarkable. The value that is placed upon the youth is rewarding. May they not be influenced by the bad habits of the past but that their innovative minds would change the paradigm and make a difference for the better.  It should premise on the belief that the next generation shall do greater things than the previous generation.

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” President Barack Obama

Oh, how I wish to see us as Statians unshackle ourselves from such cautious silence and let our voice be heard by choosing the candidates that youfeel are capable, prepared and willing to serve, encouraging unity; nothing is immoral for them to vote their conscience. Just blindly or selfishly voting for a candidate is neither practically prudent.

There are those who maintain the tradition of blindly voting for their party because it has become a family tradition and would not change. Is more information changing the mindsets of Trump’s supporters? No.

I encourage all Statians to make sure that the process for choosing leaders is just, fair and balanced.  Let’s speak truth to power by casting our votes.  Like the Jamaicans, I encourage you to “walk good.”

It is a good thing when constituents have the courage to hold their leaders accountable, reminding them that they are mentors as well as role models. Hence the merit of governance where accountability, transparency, and courage are important markers of an effective leader and leadership in the 21st century. 

An informal poll was conducted with many locals, and the results revealed a general vote of confidence toward a particular party. Many of those contacted pledged their 100% support to the party in question. This party might be on its journey to rebuild its legacy. 

Whichever party wins, this must not be a sigh of relief for for that party, nor mark the adoption of a “we beat them” approach. Rather this requires that you jump into the trenches, roll up your sleeves, and let’s all get into the mud together with with committees to find solutions to the fundamental problems and building of the island.

We should also give more credibility, credence and critical appreciation to those leaders who have stayed on Statia to continue the work of advancing the cause for a better Statia. They often must work with limited resources and on the rough side of politics. They deserve our commendation as much as they require our support. 

Dale Carnegie is right: “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Actions breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” 

My hesitation to break silence was not born from a lack of critical awareness and probing analysis, but rather through my reasoning I came to believe that those whom we put in power would earnestly seek a pragmatic path to holistic transformation. However, I am now persuaded to believe with the help of God that the deafening silence propagated by those who have the administrative power to move Statia out of its circumstance and into its destiny will prevail.

We are all on the same ship navigating stormy weather in a shark infested ocean. We need all hands on deck to steady the ship, rally the troops, be professional and ethical to our marine code, ‘work together, even while we agree to disagree.

I pray that we can return to the days of leaders who can stand for principle and moral dignity who can set the precedent of moral decency, good stewards who can effectively and profitably manage the affairs of our island.

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