In the court of public opinion an explanation is required
When the letter from Mr Bush to Mr Thomas was discovered two years ago it started two processes, and should have started a third. First, it started a legal process. As in any case of suspected crime, the process began with an investigation, which may lead on to prosecution, trial, conviction and sentencing. The question in this process is whether Mr Bush should go to jail. It also raised an important question for the court of public opinion.
The public has no power to send Mr Bush to jail, but it does have the right to vote at general elections, the ability (we hope) to influence its elected representatives, and the right to honest government. The question here is whether Mr Bush is fit to be an elected representative and our Premier. To many of us this question is just as important as whether he goes to jail.
Those who suggest that the public should not consider that question until the legal process has reached its conclusion remind me of Governor Jack announcing the suspension of our senior policemen, without explanation but telling the public not to gossip or speculate. Completely unrealistic and completely wrong. The public plays an essential part in any democracy. It is important that the public should consider very important, very worrying developments such as the discovery of the Bush/Thomas letter. We cannot and should not pretend that nothing has happened.
Of course it would have been unfair and premature for the public to jump to the conclusion that Mr Bush had engaged in large-scale corruption. But the public certainly could expect Mr Bush’s explanation. Did he send the letter? What was the transaction under which he demanded payment from Mr Thomas?
This is one of the differences between the two processes. In the legal process the person under suspicion is not compelled to give an explanation. He does not have to help the police or the prosecutor. He can stay silent. But in the court of public opinion we can and should expect an explanation. And if no explanation is given, we can and should recognize the significance of that.
If there is a lawful explanation for the Bush/Thomas letter, Mr Bush could and should clear his name by giving it. The truth would free Mr Bush. It would also free the country. The suspicion that the Premier of the Cayman Islands is a crook is damaging.
But two years have passed and Mr Bush has still not given an explanation. He has acknowledged that he sent the letter, he has said it was a legitimate transaction, but he has not described the transaction. He has not tried to clear his name. Instead he says we should trust him – blindly.
What does he expect people to think? What can people think – except that he is unable to clear his name because the truth would put him in jail? If the truth would free him, it is in his interests and ours to tell it, and put an end to the suspicion and the investigation. I would like to hear what could possibly be his reason for not telling it. We would all like to hear.
It is not an answer for Mr Bush to say that his lawyer advised him not to clear his name. That makes no sense at all. If the transaction was legitimate, it is obvious that the best course for Mr Bush – in the legal process and in the court of public opinion – would be to disclose it. The legal process does not prevent him from doing so. Mr Bush does not need a lawyer to tell him that. He cannot use the police investigation as an excuse for not answering the court of public opinion.
The third process that should have started when the Bush/Thomas letter came to light was consideration by Mr Bush’s colleagues in the LA whether to continue their support for Mr Bush. The MLAs have the power to replace the Premier immediately, without waiting for the next election. They must have given thought to that, in the interests of the country, and in their own interests.
They must have asked Mr Bush about the Thomas transaction. They must have asked him for an explanation. If the truth would set him free, what possible reason might there be for not insisting that he tell it to the police and the public? If they concluded that their leader cannot clear his name, why do they keep him in power?
So now Mr Bush’s silence and the continuing support of his colleagues puts them too under grave suspicion in the court of public opinion – of something almost as bad as their leader.
If the truth will not set Mr Bush free, he has few options, none of them good, but his colleagues have a better choice; they can defend themselves in the court of public opinion by withdrawing their support for Mr Bush. It is late in the day for that but the public might forgive a repenting sinner who does his best to make amends.
What else can they do if truth is not on their side? Give up politics? Hope to delude or confuse public opinion? And how can they hope to do that?
Will Mr Bush’s colleagues suggest that large-scale corruption at the very top of our government does not matter? Do they think the public cannot see that, if it is allowed, it can only get worse? More and more government decisions will be made for corrupt reasons. Everyone will be vulnerable to extortion. The economy will take a nosedive. And we can look forward to the same fate as the T&C Islands.
Or will Mr Bush’s colleagues join him in claiming that this is all a conspiracy by their political opponents, or by the UK, or by the press, to frame their leader? Surely no one will swallow that? Who wrote the letter to Stan Thomas?
Or will they shout the famous line that a man is presumed innocent until proved guilty? But in the court of public opinion explanations are required from an elected representative suspected of gross misconduct. Now that we have all seen the letter from Mr Bush to Mr Thomas and we have spent two years waiting in vain for Mr Bush to explain, what else can we think but that the truth would incriminate him?
The bottom line is that Mr Bush and his colleagues must give the public a real explanation, unless they want the public to conclude that the suspicions of corruption, and supporting corruption, are well-founded and threaten the future of this country.
Mr Bush and his colleagues stand before the court of public opinion. We, the people, are the judges of whether their conduct makes them unfit to hold elected office. They are under suspicion of things that would make them all totally unfit to hold any public office. If they continue to stand together, refusing to give the simple explanation that would set them free, only one verdict is possible.
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