Our Opinion – Witch-hunt a worry

Local body candidates are being asked about their political affiliations as never before – after Voices for Freedom’s widely reported request that candidates connected with them make inroads into positions on boards but deny they support the group’s anti-government and anti-mandate stance.

We will be asking candidates featured in our paper’s Election Feature whether they support groups such as Voices for Freedom, because we think it is reasonable that any political affiliations – whatever they may be – should be declared as part of a candidate’s profile. And there’s no doubt that the groups being asked about are political.

It’s a free country and as long as they are open about it, candidates can belong to any group they please. A diversity of views is always a healthy thing on a representative body.

It’s the deliberate denial of those connections that are a real cause for concern.

If someone wants to be paid out of the public purse, they should be open about what they stand for, and who they are, when seeking votes and if voters want to know that information, it should be freely available to them.

In addition, the organisation’s request to keep those affiliations quiet has put all the candidates in a very difficult position – who do we believe if they deny it? The word seems to be out there that it’s the media’s job to sort the sheep from the goats, but for obvious reasons, simply asking is not enough. Support for groups like that is very difficult to prove – even if a media organisation has sufficient staff to spend their day sifting through people’s social media accounts to identify members (which Hibiscus Matters doesn’t!!). If those claims are published, they must be 100 percent verifiably accurate because if not, a person’s reputation is on the line.

The whole issue seems to have turned things nasty. Behind the scenes, there has reportedly been a fair amount of quite angry interaction, especially on social media, with almost vigilante behaviour on one side and defensiveness on the other.

So far, if Voices for Freedom’s plan was to sow seeds of distrust and division, it is working. But my question would be, what do they expect to happen after the election?

Will their “secret” candidates abstain from voting, not attend meetings – what? There are rules in place once you become a member of a committee or an elected representative that should quickly sort those things out.

In addition, in small communities – including our own – anyone who thinks it’s smart to not pull their weight when elected to do so will quickly be identified and called out for it – especially by media and anyone who cast a vote for that person. In the end, the anti-government and anti-mandate organisations will have a failed publicity stunt on their hands, turning even more people against them and whatever it is they are striving to achieve.

Editor, Hibiscus Matters