DS Rajah’s references to the political rot manifesting itself in several countries (The Mercury, August 5) highlight the extent to which political parties and their adherents think they are insulated from the laws that apply to society and have contempt for the very essence of democracy – vox populi.
As Rajah points out, the stench of that rot is very evident in South Africa and has “escalated, unchecked over time.” Sadly, however, it is a contagion that is rooted in the most established democracy, the USA, in the form of the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995.
Most of the Act applies to standard labour laws regarding employment rights and benefits. But it also provides a blanket of protection to conceal from the public the misdeeds for which congressional representatives should be dismissed and/or criminally indicted. Washington conservative activist, Mychal Massie, claims at least $17 million in taxpayer money has been used to settle some 260 sexual misconduct cases in recent years. Much of that hush money went to pay for abortions and to buy off plaintiffs.
In 2018 the American Civil Liberties Union cited the cases of several junior female staff members who were the victims of harassment. One even claimed she had been subjected to a death threat if she did not keep quiet. Last year the attempt to reform the Act became stalled over the requirement that settlement claims should come from the pockets of those accused of misconduct.
Political corruption, like prostitution, is as old as history itself. While the temptations of patronage and perks will always beckon, the best way to reduce corruption would be to place strict term limits on public representation so that those elected do not make a career out of holding public office.