‘Dislike of an individual is material in politics. Someone with an unlikeable persona may be unelectable in a diverse national contest… by contrast, good governance requires honest treatment of the business issues…’ (Martin Daly, November 2020).
This Daly quote is relevant when considering the recent cabinet reshuffle in the light of Minister Franklin Khan’s passing and the plight of SORT head Mark Hernandez.
As a country, we have come to bury Mr Franklin Khan, the late minister of energy and energy industries, with praises in a dramatic reversal of Shakespeare’s words. Almost 16 years ago, on 27 April 2005, Ministers Khan and Eric Williams were accused in Parliament of accepting bribes from a local seismic survey company.
Mr Khan resigned his cabinet position and waited for his justification without a murmur. It took five years which he described as ‘torture for me and my family’. His original accuser was eventually deemed ‘not the type of witness upon whom one should have relied’, according to the director of public prosecution.
The accusing member of parliament and senator never apologised.
Yet, Mr Khan returned to serve to the end. In September 2020, he and Stuart Young, assisted by an MEEI team, US attorneys and UK technical advisors, signed a licence extension agreement, with top energy sector companies, that earns the country an incremental $250 million to September 2024.
Young, for whom I hold no brief, has suffered almost the same fate as Khan. Three times without proof, it has been alleged that the Young family benefitted from billions in brokered deals.
Why does Minister Young serve this country? Why should any self-respecting successful professional give up their careers for public service?
Minister Young has made some distressing decisions, but he has stepped up to his credit and our benefit. Contrary to the popular narrative, the September announcement shows that there may have been a different dynamic between Ministers Khan and Young at work.
We, as a nation, are answering the age-old question about leadership: we do not wish leaders in the mould of Plato (accomplished, well-educated persons) but desire the Machiavellian type (those who use the resources available to them to boost their position).
We focus on personalities—leadership ‘style’ and ‘marketing’—instead of discussing policies. We cheer those leaders who ride in and weaken our institutions, changing our democratic culture; those who use our money to project ‘strong’ leadership are valued.
This newfound way of assessing leadership has led us to Mark Hernandez. He is a product of this new paradigm. We accept full-page advertisements and social media campaigns to support candidacy for unelected public office. We see nothing amiss with a person representing law and order being represented by another before the high court on corruption charges.
This approach to leadership leaves us scraping the barrel on both sides of the Parliament. Good men now either do not step forward or are rejected by our political leaders. We are undone! (Pyrrhus)
‘Leadership is an essential feature of all government and governance: weak leadership contributes to government failures, and strong leadership is indispensable if the government is to succeed.
‘Wise leadership secures prosperity in the long run: foolhardy leadership may bring about a catastrophe…over-assertive leadership pays little attention to institutional constraints.’ (Masciulli, Molchanor, Knight, 2009)