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Political integrity can’t be bought off the shelf

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“No, no, Minister! It could never be government policy. That is unthinkable! Only government practice.”

Remember this line from the satirical series, ‘Yes, Minister’?

It would not be aired in Cyprus today, probably because of pressure from political party leaders, senior government officials or even civil service trade unions, as it would have devastating implications on what the general public thinks of them.

And especially not six months away from the next parliamentary elections where the survival of the political establishment hangs in the balance.

Votes, no matter how few, are crucial to a politician’s career and influence, as evidenced from this week’s presidential election in the U.S.

Votes, real or potential, are also a form of exerting pressure, that in ordinary speak translates to corruption, in Cyprus’ case, political corruption.

Corruption and transparency have become so deeply entrenched in our daily lives that it is difficult to get rid of the stench that has permeated beneath our skin.

Excuses about not having the right legal framework, ethical culture, or a free voice to rid society of corruption are simply excuses.

We do have a voice, our vote, but don’t know how to use it.

Blurting absolute stupidity on social media, and then gloating about it to your friends is not a measure of mature democratic thinking.

Nor is it the proper use of your democratic right (or privilege) to vote, to be at ease with your conscience.

That having voted, regardless of who gets elected, you also have the right to express yourself freely about that politician, party, or even politically appointed official.

Social media should be used fairly, seriously, and maturely.

Just because you know how to text does not mean that this is ‘freedom of expression’.

On the other hand, when a senior public official comes down on a social activist, because of an offending tweet, it is also a measure of how immature our democratic thinking is.

It just shows that some people will never think outside of their safety zone of being a lawyer, accountant, doctor, teacher, or plumber.

This is not the way to project political maturity, equality, or a sense of justice for the public good.

Because the ‘hoi polloi’ do not have the luxury of connections or financial clout to hire big-shot lawyers to silence anyone who has a different view.

This is what happens in Turkey, where a dictator controls the media, denies free-thinking and has affectively abolished equality – vital organs in a body called democracy, which he has transformed into a limbless torso.

Ethics in Cyprus is an adventure that still needs to be explored and discovered someday, as was the case of the opposition party being blasted for resorting to the furlough scheme at the start of the pandemic.

The argument was that political parties benefit from an annual state grant and thus, should not be eligible to further public aid.

The ruling party, equally clueless about ethics, claimed that it did the right thing.

In fact, it was probably nudged not to apply for financial support for fear of public repercussions.

Integrity must be taught in schools because there is no other way to inform a disenfranchised youth that they have a say in everything and that the “go out and play, while the adults talk” is a Dickensian concept.

Ethics does exist in the media. But their work is not unhindered, which is why ethical reporting needs to cultivating, as well as investigative journalism to get to the truth, no matter who it may hurt.

It is those in power who have set down the ground rules, which are often distorted by public servants.

And the unwritten rule simply says, “do not assist the media, unless it is to your interest.”

If somebody makes a critical remark, it is brushed off as ‘evil’ or a conspiracy to harm the good name of the country.

Politicians have already done a great job at that.