14 January 2011

Today’s news includes an astonishing reversal of roles.

The new Governor of New York, a state where many politicians have shown their democratic commitment is subordinated to self interest, is being applauded for a call for decorum, professionalism, respect and collegiality from that State’s  politicians. This in a jurisdiction described by the New York Times as a contender for the title of most dysfunctional state, where in the last three years, 2/3rds of the state-wide, elected, officials left office under a cloud.

As one of his  first acts, the Governor has ordered senior members of his administration to undergo ethics training. What is astonishing is that politicians can come to office without being imbued with the ideals explicit in a state with more than 225 years of constitutional democracy. But the pursuit of good government is heartening.

At the other end of the scale, tiny Tuvalu, isolated in mid Pacific from all the troubles of the world, save the erosive effects of rising sea level, has declared a state of emergency. The country’s (only) fisheries patrol boat sits in the Funafuti lagoon adjacent to the homes of the Governor General and the Prime Minister. Police (an unarmed force) are on alert.  There is no military.    This pantomime is the response to a group of voters from a Minister’s constituency placarding the capital and demanding his resignation.

Tuvalu once exemplified the Pacific way – consensus, lawfulness, respectfulness, and Christian values – albeit instilled by an overbearing national church. There is no history of tribal warfare in the nine islands comprising the country, and almost no serious criminal violence since its colonisation.  But now, after almost 33 years of self government, politicians all wanting Ministerial positions and unable to show confidence in an administration formed by others, have created disaffected electorates. The World’s least likely candidate for civil disorder has now banned public meetings of more than ten people.