The Council for Responsible Political Behaviour, Trinidad and Tobago

"The Council For Responsible Political Behaviour was set up to encourage moral, lawful and responsible conduct during this year’s general election. Last July the country’s main political parties received for consideration a copy of the code which was put together by a committee led by Harris and several civil society groups.

They included the Inter Religious Organisation (IRO), Catholic, Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches, Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, the Anjuman Sunnat ul Jamaat Association (ASJA), T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce, T&T Transparency Institute, Women’s Network of NGOs, the T&T Publishers and Broadcasters Association and the Communication Workers’ Union.

The code was endorsed last September by the United National Congress (UNC), People’s National Movement (PNM), Congress of the People (COP), Independent Liberal Party (ILP) and Movement for Social Justice (MSJ).

The code’s objectives

The code is intended to achieve the following objectives:

• Fostering of democracy through peaceful, free and fair elections, conducted at regular intervals in which voters are permitted to cast their ballots freely, without interference, fear, intimidation or bribery.

• Promotion of respect for human rights, the pursuit of civil and political liberties, the tolerance of divergent opinions, full and active participation of all in the political process.

• Encouraging participation in the electoral process by the People and to uphold their right to make political choices.

• Promoting an election process free from violence." SOURCE

The Text of the Code of Ethical Political Conduct follows:
Code Of Ethical Political Conduct


Whereas pursuant to the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago the People of Trinidad and Tobago

• Have affirmed that the Nation of Trinidad and Tobago is founded upon:

1. principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God,

2. faith in fundamental human rights and freedoms,

3. the centrality of the family in a society of free men and women, and free institutions,

4. the dignity of the human person, and

5. the equal and inalienable rights with which all members of the human family are endowed by their Creator;

• Have affirmed their respect for the principles of social justice and therefore believe that:

1. the operation of the economic system should result in the material resources of the community being so distributed as to subserve the common good,

2. there should be adequate means of livelihood for all,

3. labour should not be exploited or forced by economic necessity to operate in inhumane conditions but that there should be opportunity for advancement on the basis of recognition of merit, ability and integrity;

• Have asserted their belief in a democratic society in which:

1. all persons may, to the extent of their capacity, play some part in the institutions of the national life and thus develop and maintain due respect for lawfully constituted authority;

2. freedom is founded upon respect for moral, ethical and spiritual values and the rule of law; and

3. provision is made for ensuring the protection in Trinidad and Tobago of fundamental human rights and freedoms.

• Have asserted that forgiveness and reconciliation are integral to nation building: Whereas

• The principles and beliefs enshrined in our constitution are best protected through the democratic process underpinned by fairness, the rule of law, freedom to express divergent opinions, equality of access to opportunities and through adherence to constitutional provisions that stipulate the rights and responsibilities of the citizen.

• It is the desire of the Undersigned persons drawn from civil society organizations throughout Trinidad and Tobago including Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), Community Based Organizations (CBO), Media Houses, Trade Unions, Business Organizations and Religious Organizations (collectively the ‘Civil Society Organizations’), to encourage Political Parties to endorse the principles and codes set out in the Code of Political conduct for the common good of the People and in the national interest of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

• The political parties and their candidates who are signatories hereto (respectively the ‘Parties’ and ‘Candidates’) have agreed to pledge themselves to the Code of Ethical Political Conduct contained below

NOW THEREFORE it is hereby agreed and declared by the Parties, Coalitions and their Candidates as follows:

Code of Ethical Political Conduct


This Code of Political conduct (this ‘Code’) is intended to achieve the following objectives:

1. Fostering of democracy through peaceful, free and fair elections conducted at regular intervals in which voters are permitted to cast their ballots freely, without interference, fear, intimidation or bribery.

2. Promotion of respect for human rights, the pursuit of civil and political liberties, the tolerance of divergent opinions, full and active participation of all in the political process.

3. Encouraging participation in the electoral process by the People and to uphold their right to make political choices.

4. Promoting an election process free from violence.

SECTION 1: Commitment

The Parties, Coalitions and their Candidates agree to:

1. Uphold the Constitution and the spirit and letter of the laws relating to the holding of public activities and election campaigns.

2. Maintain the highest moral principles and ethical standards with respect to their conduct during the campaign, the elections and the post-election period.

3. Co-operate with the police in maintaining law and order during election campaigns.

4 Promote and Enforce respect, tolerance, harmony and peace amongst their supporters and the general public during the campaign, the elections and in the post-election period by being positive role models.

5. Nominate a representative who will be responsible for all matters related to this Code and who will liaise with the council for Responsible Political Behaviour as established under this Code of Ethical Political Conduct.

6. Refrain from practices that promote divisiveness in the Society and commit to the removal of any structures (behavioural, cultural, social or organizational) which reinforce divisiveness.

7. Take deliberate steps to publicly disassociate themselves from criminal elements and criminal activity.

8. Confine their criticism of other political parties to the policies and programmes, past record and work.

9. Ensure that meeting organizers seek the assistance of police or other state assigned organizations on duty, to deal with persons disturbing or disrupting a meeting. Organizers should not take action against such persons.

10. Commit, while acknowledging each others past and present errors and prejudices, to supporting one another in a common effort to overcome selfishness and arrogance, hatred and violence; to learn from the past that peace without justice is no true peace; to ensure the peaceful conduct of this and future elections.

11. Make this code known to supporters and uphold its adherence.

12. Uphold the integrity of the electoral process.

13. Ensure that their conduct is above reproach.

SECTION 2: Prohibited Conduct

The Parties, Coalitions and their Candidates agree to:

1. Not Offer any inducement or reward, for example money, groceries or other benefits, to another person to –

a) Join or not to join a party;
b) Attend or not to attend a public meeting, march, demonstration, rally or other public political event;
c) Vote or not to vote, or to vote or not to vote in any particular way; or
d) Refuse a nomination as a candidate or to withdraw as a candidate.

2. Not discriminate on the grounds of race, ethnicity, sex, gender, class, religion or belief, or seek to mobilize support by reference to race, sex, gender, religion or class

3. Not make false or defamatory allegations in print or speech in connection with an election in respect of a party, its candidates, representatives or members;

4. Not use language or act in a way that may –

a) Provoke violence; or
b) Intimidate candidates, members of parties, representatives or supporters of parties or candidates, or voters; or
c) Invite, encourage or foster hatred, resentment or any form of violence;

5. Not seek to assassinate the character of or make defamatory comments about any individual, family, professional group or section of the community;

6. Not deface, or induce anyone to unlawfully remove or destroy, or deface the billboards, placards, posters or any other election materials of a party or candidate;

7. Not unreasonably prevent any other person access to voters for the purpose of voter education, collecting signatures, recruiting members, raising funds or canvassing support for a party or candidates;

8. Not abuse a position of power, privilege or influence, including parental, patriarchal, traditional or employment authority to influence the conduct or outcome of an election;

9. Not engage, recruit, or deploy any individual(s) for the purpose of violence, intimidation or harassment, including intimidation by congregating in groups wearing similar identifiable colours at or near to election stations on election day;

10. Not deface public or private property and structures;

11. Not permit the inappropriate or unauthorized use or abuse of minors or animals in the campaign process;

12. Not plagiarize or disparage the symbols, colours or acronyms of others parties;

13. Not Permit the use and abuse of State resources for political campaigns;

14. Not indulge in negative campaigning or advertising or any action which would bring the political process into disrepute;

15. Not use funds derived from any source, public or private, to improperly influence electoral choices;

16. Not knowingly associate with persons in their pursuit of illegal activities and or any kind of violence but rather actively cooperate with the security forces to bring such persons before the law;

17. Not criticize aspects of the private lives of Candidates, their families, not connected with the public activities of the leaders or candidates of other parties;

18. Not issue advertisements or other marketing material the cost of which is borne out of public funds;

19. Not encourage or permit alcohol or other drugs to be used in public during campaign activities on Election Day;

20. Not threaten or cause any persons to be threatened with loss of their jobs if they support or refuse to support a political party by attending or failing to attend political meetings.

SECTION 3: The Media

The Parties, Coalitions and their Candidates agree to:

1. Respect the right of the media to fairly present balanced reports and information before, during and after an election;

2. Respect the right of all parties and candidates to equity in access to the media.

3. Permit access by members of the media to public political meetings, marches, demonstrations and rallies of which they have control;

4. Take all reasonable steps to ensure that journalists are not subjected to harassment, intimidation, hazard, threat or physical assault by any of their representatives or supporters;

5. Refrain from using State advertising to induce media houses to support or degrade a particular party;

6. Ensure that their parties participate in not less than two (2) live televised and radio public debates organized by a Debates Commission agreed to by the Council as stated in Section 5: at least one of which will be a Leaders debate.

7. Be allowed equity of access to State owned media.

SECTION 4: The Campaign

The Parties, Coalitions and their Candidates agree to:

1. Chairpersons of all political campaign events appeal to supporters and the general public for peaceful behavior;

2. Such steps as the Police may direct are carried out so as to minimize obstruction of roads and inconvenience to the general public whenever political activities are held at roadsides;

3. All private and public property rights are respected;

4. Measures are taken to clean the environs immediately following the holding of political events;

5. Election campaign advertisements are removed within 30 days after the elections;

6. The use of State owned resources to support any Political Parties, Coalitions or any candidate is absolutely prohibited other than as stated in Section 3.7;

7. All donations in cash or kind are accepted based on:

• A “know your donor” principle
• Due diligence measures (similar to the requirement in financial institutions to identify and to report suspicious transactions’) should be undertaken so as to protect against ‘dirty money’ contaminating the process
• It will cause its accounts, including donations, to be audited by a qualified accountant and presented to the Council for Responsible Political conduct established under Section 5 below within 90 days after the holding of each Election

8. Every person is free to go about his/her lawful business without restriction, harassment or intimidation

9. From the time elections are announced; they, i.e. parties, coalitions and candidates shall not permit members or ministers and other governmental authorities or enterprises to use State resources to publish promotional material which identifies any Minister or candidate or adopts the slogan of any party.

10. Recognize and acknowledge the rights of accredited observers and monitors at polling stations for the purpose of observing the conduct of elections

11. International observers who subscribe to the Code of Conduct for International Election Observers are invited to conduct a review of all General Elections

SECTION 5: The Council For Responsible Political Behaviour

A Council for Responsible Political Behaviour (‘Council’) shall be set up to monitor and evaluate adherence to this Code of Ethical Political conduct by the Political Parties and their Candidates who are signatories hereto.

The Council shall be constituted upon signing of this Code. Each Political Party which is a signatory hereto shall appoint one person to the Council (the ‘Political Appointees’). The Organisations who are signatories to the Code of Ethical Political Conduct, other than the Political parties, prior to the [ ] day of [ ] 2014 (the ‘Founding Organisations’) shall collectively appoint such number of persons as is equal to the number of Political appointees plus one (1) who are not aligned to any political party.

The public will be encouraged to report breaches of this code to the Council.

The functions of the Council will be to:

1. Conduct public education around the Code and issues that civil society would like politicians to address on the platform

2. Monitor the election campaign activities and conduct of parties and their candidates

3. Network with bodies involved in monitoring elections in Trinidad and Tobago and with regional and international bodies which place governance as an important objective

4. Actively engage different networks which can bring moral suasion to bear on the conduct of political parties

5. Implement related activities consistent with the spirit of this Code as mandated by the broader body of civil society

6. Report to the broader body of civil society, and through it, to the public

7. Rate the behavior of Political Parties, Coalitions and their Candidates in accordance with the Code and based upon time periods as decided by the Council and made public.

Before proceeding to sanction any Political Party or candidate, if any Political Appointee so request, the council will consult with an international election observer group that has adopted the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct for International Election Observers.










SOURCE: The Website of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce

A Note From The Gull

In the  Trinidad and Tobago Guardian of March 25, 2015, an author [I don't have a subscription so I only had access to the introduction and no info about authorship] expressed the opinion that the political watchdog must have bite because:
"Our politicians do not automatically place limits on their behaviour, and the political culture is not one in which the actors and their parties are held responsible for their indiscretions, or their gross and irresponsible behaviour."
Although I consider it a step in the right direction when any organised attempt to guard the guards is initiated, this author's caveat is justified. Until people no longer require cattle prods or the law to act in an ethical manner, then political watchdogs without teeth will be ignored. Contrary to what our President urged during his inaugural speech in 2013, how many are consistently anxious to "do the right thing because it is the right thing to do," or to not back down when demanding that the right thing be done by others?

So I refer readers again to the blog,  Ethics Alarms written by Jack Marshall, an ethicist, lawyer, and the president of ProEthics, Ltd. and I paste below his unethical rationalizations, numbers four and five of the forty-eight which he has illustrated and discussed in the post Unethical Rationalizations and Misconceptions.

4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical.”
The late D.C. Mayor and lovable rogue Marion Barry earned himself a place in the Ethics Distortion Hall of Fame with his defense of his giving his blatantly unqualified girlfriend a high-paying job with the DC government. Barry declared that since there was no law against using the public payroll as his own private gift service, there was nothing unethical about it. Once the law was passed (because of him), he then agreed that what he did would be wrong the next time he did it.

Ethics is far broader than law, which is a system of behavior enforced by the state with penalties for violations. Ethics is good conduct as determined by the values and customs of society. Professions promulgate codes of ethics precisely because the law cannot proscribe all inappropriate or harmful behavior. Much that is unethical is not illegal. Lying. Betrayal. Nepotism. Many other kinds of behavior as well, but that is just the factual error in the this rationalization.

The greater problem with it is that it omits the concept of ethics at all. Ethical conduct is self-motivated, based on the individual’s values and the internalized desire to do the right thing. Barry’s construct assumes that people only behave ethically if there is a tangible, state-enforced penalty for not doing so, and that not incurring a penalty (that is, not breaking the law) is, by definition, ethical.

Nonsense, of course. It is wrong to intentionally muddle the ethical consciousness of the public, and Barry’s statement simply reinforces a misunderstanding of right and wrong.

Closely related to the Barry Misdirection is……

5. The Compliance Dodge.
Simply put, compliance with rules, including laws, isn’t the same as ethics. Compliance depends on an individual’s desire to avoid punishment. Ethical conduct arises from an individual’s genuine desire to do the right thing. The most unethical person in the world will comply if the punishment is stiff enough. But if he can do something unethical without breaking the rules, watch out!

No set of rules will apply in all situations, and one who is determined to look for loopholes in a set of laws, or rules, or in an ethics code, so that he or she can do something self-serving, dishonest, or dastardly, is likely to find a way. This is one reason why the ubiquitous corporate ethics programs that emphasize “compliance” are largely ineffective. By emphasizing compliance over ethics, such programs encourage the quest for loopholes. Remember that when Enron’s board realized that one of its financial maneuvers violated its Code of Ethics, it made compliance possible by changing the Code.

When an organization or society makes compliance…doing the right thing to avoid unpleasant consequences… the focus of its attempt to promote ethical conduct, it undermines the effort by promoting confusion in the not-infrequent circumstances when doing the right thing hurts. The better approach, and the one promoted by Ethics Alarms, is to teach and encourage good behavior and ethical virtues for their own sake. When the inevitable loophole opens up in the rules, when the opportunity to gain at someone else’s expense is there and nobody will ever know, it is the ethical, not the compliant, who will do the right thing. SOURCE
"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!