The Responsibility Of Cabinet Ministers
What too many of us as Bahamians do not understand about the responsibility of Cabinet Ministers in our Westminster System of government is this – it does not matter whether a Minister is aware or not of breaches that happen under his or her Portfolio. Once the matter happens, the Minister is duty bound by our system of government to accept responsibility and resign.
The system is clear – ignorance of a fact is no defense. The same exists with misleading Parliament. It does not matter whether a Minister meant to do it, planned to do it or knew he or she was doing it – once it has been done (meaning, once a Minister communicates something to Parliament that is proven to be untrue) he or she must accept full responsibility and resign. That is how heavy the weight of Ministerial Responsibility is in our system of government. That weight is there so that Ministers are weighted to do all that is lawfully necessary to ensure that the work of the people is done – else that Minister must take the fall above all.
So all our feelings about who is a nice person in a duly constituted Cabinet, and who we believe means well, and who we believe would not do certain things, and what we feel is fair or not fair do not matter in this regard – a Minister in our system is responsible for all matters that occur under his or her Portfolio, whether he or she is personally aware of the matters or not. That is our system. If more people understood how heavy such a weight is, and if governments acted appropriately as per that weight in our system and Constitution, people may not be as eager to be Cabinet Ministers as so many currently are. And we might stand a chance at getting more people in Cabinet who will actually take seriously the gravity of that weight, and honor the honor of the responsibilities bestowed upon a Cabinet Minister.
There is a saying: we judge ourselves by our intentions, but judge others by their actions. That’s life. In the Westminster System, it does not matter what your intentions were – whether good or bad – it is the action of a matter that you must take responsibility for.
You may be the mastermind behind the action or you may have never wanted the action to happen, but once it happens – the responsibility is yours. That does not mean that others subordinate to you would not also be subject to whatever disciplinary action applies to them in law – but the cutting starts with the Minister. That is our system. We only like the system when it involves politicians we don’t like or don’t support. But when our favorite politician is involved, we want to pretend that the system does not apply. Because there is no honor anymore in our culture, the system that bestows that title of “honorable” is paid little to no respect anymore.