Monday, March 5, 2012

Iceland trial is a victory for transparency and democracy

Like the Nyberg Report on Ireland's financial crisis, through a trial of its former Prime Minister, Iceland is exploring the extent of "the collapse of the people's trust in its country's politicians, institutions and financial system."

In her column in the Guardian, Alda Sigmundsdottir describes how this trial lets everyone understand exactly what happened that led up to the financial crisis.

As an Icelander, I found it chilling to watch the trial of my country's ex-prime minister Geir Haarde get under way. Haarde was PM of Iceland during and leading up to its economic meltdown in 2008, and is the first national leader to face charges over the global financial crisis.... 
Yet this trial is necessary. The Icelandic collapse was not just an economic collapse – it was also a moral collapse. It was a collapse of the people's trust in its country's politicians, institutions and financial system. It revealed to the vast majority of us that we'd had no idea of the extent of the political corruption and neglect that had lurked beneath the surface of our society for decades. 
This trial is not about Haarde.... No, this trial is about transparency and democracy. It is about the right of the people to hear from their highest elected representative about what really happened in the months and years leading up to the greatest man-made disaster this country has known.... 
We want to know what happened. A vast amount of information and data has been collected and analysed for this trial. That information contains answers to many of the burning questions that the Icelandic people need the answers to if we are to put the shock and trauma of the economic collapse behind us. 
At the beginning of the year, the current leader of the Independence party introduced a motion in parliament to have the charges against Haarde dismissed. Late last week, lawmakers voted by a narrow margin to press ahead with the trial. Had the vote gone the other way, the information and documents that will presumably surface during the trial might have been closed to the Icelandic people for decades to come. 
Indeed, the Independence party's vehement opposition to the trial did nothing but raise suspicion that there was something in those documents that the power elite wanted to keep hidden. With any luck, that suspicion will be eliminated.
Haarde's trial is a victory for transparency and democracy – those ideological concepts that are sweeping the world on the back of movements like the Arab spring and Occupy. 
His guilt or innocence is not the issue; his trial is a stepping-stone to a more open and just society. As to whether other nations should follow Iceland's example, I can only respond with a resounding yes. Let transparency, justice and truth guide the way to a new world order.

No comments: