Monday, April 28, 2014

Faris in Wonderland...

Just how low does this rabbit hole go? The only thing that seems to be protecting Senator Faris al Rawi from being prosecuted for his crimes against the state at this moment is hubris and the momentum it is providing. For some reason some powerful people in this country seem bent on sending the wrong message to society in what still amounts to a blatant act of theft, a conspiracy to deceive, the use of highly sensitive and classified material to destabilize an elected government, the abandonment of the ethics of the legal profession, the shaming of the courts by an officer  of the court and the bringing of the nation's Senate into disrepute.

A mouthful by any stretch, the media's hands off handling of the matter again conspires to confound natural justice through the manipulation of public perception as to what exactly took place and it is evidence of how badly broken and compromised much of the machinery of Trinidad & Tobago really is.

Who stole the document? How does the head of the Police Complaints Authority say one thing today and another tomorrow regarding the nature of the document in question? If it was not confidential why did it have to be stolen and leaked into mailboxes, dustbins and other of the erstwhile Senator's orifices?

But are we missing the real crux of the thing here? Regardless of any and all attempts to sanitize what was done after the fact, do we have anyone anyone with the authority and fortitude to say - 'You sir, Faris al Rawi, by your actions, have brought both the legal fraternity and the Senate into odium and should be defrocked and removed from both?'

There is much I can and will say about Ms Lucky's role and involvement since and I plan to, but I don't want to be sidetracked as to 'content' over crime as others appear to want to. When the Director of Public Prosecutions said unequivocally that he knows with a certainty that it was not his office that leaked the documents, isn't he saying that it could ONLY be the Police Complaints Authority? So why not investigate the PCA? Why not have Gillian Lucky stand down for her inability to protect the custody of the information of an investigation in an organization whose charter demands that all in its purview and control be kept confidential. So much so that it goes on to proffer onerous and serious consequences of a five year jail term and a fifty thousand dollar fine to all who might leak any such material?

My position is simple. We have two of the known conspirators, begin by charging them first. The Express journalist and Senator Faris al Rawi both ought to have known what they were playing with here, and the impact of their combined political mischief may have rendered all of the work in the said investigation moot simply based on the notion of pre-trial publicity creating an unfair environment for any defendants.

The responsibility first and foremost for all who have any involvement in any follow on investigation is to clear the air as to the trustworthiness of the Police Complaints Authority, and the ONLY way that can be done is to unmask all who were responsible. Without that who is to say what in the future could be equally leaked putting lives in danger in situations where rogue officers are being investigated on the the evidence put forward by informants believing their information to be safe?

The matter of the content of the document is now for another time, another argument in another place, the only issue facing the population at large is under what circumstances and how exactly did Faris al Rawi and the Express come to have this document. Custody of evidence is a serious responsibility, and unless she is running a shoddy and slipshod operation even Gillian Lucky herself must want to know who exactly was responsible for this breach.

And further bringing the legal fraternity into disrepute we are hearing murmurs of a yet unnamed Senior Counsel who may also have had possession of the document, and if so, why? And has the gentleman been approached by anyone to tell his side as to whether he was the one guilty under section 47 of the PCA Act and should also be duly charged under article (h)?

Don't lose the plot here. The issue remains. Someone stole a highly sensitive document pertaining to an investigation of possible misbehavior at the highest levels of National Security, and if we cannot police and protect that then we would have no choice but to admit that all bets are off.

Senator Faris al Rawi and the Express Newspaper both have questions to answer. Deal with that.

Media Matters....

There's an old saying that goes 'No one raindrop ever thinks of itself as having caused the flood,' and in this instance it's message could not be more clear.

When gold digger extraordinaire Sacha Singh told the nation via the media that all women send naked pictures of themselves to men that they're interested in she was speaking to that twelve year old girl too, and seemingly without understanding their power to do harm, when no one handling that story took it upon themselves to challenge the notion they gave it their tacit approval and a media stamp of agreement.

So now that that same twelve year old girl has had the 'bejesus' beaten out of her for it for all the world to see, she and the rest of the nation knows now it's untrue, but who gets to teach Judy Raymond of the Guardian and Sampson Nanton of CNC3 about journalistic integrity and media responsibility?

I have been reliably informed that Denyse Renne set off on a personal vendetta with attorney Gerald Ramdeen to 'make him pay' and that the prisons beating story is a means to an end, but what of the damage being done to the Judiciary, the Magistracy, the Prisons Administration, the medical fraternity and the legal profession by what is being inferred along the way? And while many may have been tempted to think that this is a straight up battle in the continuing war between the Trinidad Express and the Attorney General, information making its way into the public domain suggests otherwise, that what it really is is another example of a journalist understanding the real power of media, and using that power for full effect.

Similar to Asha Javeed's own war with the Chairman of National Quarries whose rapid fire six or seven exposes misled all and sundry to believe that this was journalism at work in the public interest, only to be confounded later by rumors that she was in fact using her position as a journalist to compel the signing of a multi-million dollar contract with her boyfriend and the same National Quarries. When that story broke Senior Editor Lennox Grant had cause to recommend to Editor in Chief Omatie Lyder that Javeed be taken offline and investigated, to which she (Lyder) surprisingly flatly refused, despite further allegations of similar impropriety being raised against the journalist, including one raised by the then Mayor of Arima who accused the same Javeed of attempting to use her position against him for personal gain.

To date there has been no investigation by anyone. Not her superiors, not the Media Association, not even the Trinidad & Tobago Police Service, so business as usual continues in the Express newsroom.

When TV6 ran the 'nipple-gate' story as their top story, did journalist Mark Bassant know then that the accuser was a known extortionist assisting in enquiries with other similar matters? Did he care to investigate his source? Or was he too using his privilege to smear reputations without regard to the fall out or any other damage that might be caused? And now that he knows like the rest of the nation knows that the entire story is a made of fabrication designed to strong arm a sitting Minister, would he do the right and honorable thing and investigate the accuser and bring that as a top story that apologizes to the Minister in equal time?

When the framers of the Constitution enshrined a free press in the list of rights of the citizens I am sure they never envisaged a time when attacks against the press would come from within, or that the threat to the people would come from the media itself. Now the questions have to be asked, what is there to protect the public from a media gone rogue? What avenue of redress for an attack by a poisoned pen?

Where is the Media Association on the above mentioned abuses and others? Is it really as many suggest hopelessly compromised and beholding to political interests? Having sat in on at least two MATT meetings I have had reason to enquire as to where the 'rest' of the journalists were, only to be told off the record that only sympathizers of a known political party bother to join and MATT itself is referred to as (political party named) party group number five. If that is so, where then is the integrity?

Where is the Telecommunications Authority on what takes place on the Islamic Broadcasting Network that is at one time bringing both religion and the press into disrepute?

By his actions, owner and show host Inshan Ishmael is doing more to set racial and religious harmony back decades by his vitriolic rants, and to me it is not enough to say that his audience is minuscule, his reach negligible therefore his act harmless. If any raindrop can contribute to the flood, seditious rantings in a multi-ethnic plural society should never be tolerated and TATT needs to decide what its role really is.

The reality is that traditional media is itself in serious trouble and the threat from Social Media cannot be ignored. Words like 'Viral' and 'Breaking News' have new meaning in an environment of instant information and it may only be a matter of time before newspapers go the way of the phone book. Perhaps that is what is behind the mad rush to dash journalistic principles in favor of bacchanal, to compete for sales in an ever shrinking market, or as Fazeer Mohammed told me during an interview on TV6's Morning Edition, no one wants to hear about Prime Ministers opening hospitals and law schools, not when bacchanal sells papers.

Conceivably that may well be why what is being passed off as journalism these days is coming at such a heavily marked down price.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

On the 'licks' video...

There is a viral video making the rounds on social media of a mother beating her twelve year old with a belt for almost six minutes, and i have been resisting commenting on it because of the emotional response to most on seeing it.

My question is to all who would join the debate here, in these times when parenting and discipline have become almost impossible, when popular culture such as Disney and Nickleodeon portray parents as idiots and people to be ignored, what is a parent supposed to do?

This woman looked like she was at her wit's end, but tell me, what in the society in which she is raising that girl child supports her and assists her in bringing her up to adulthood safe, secure, educated and ready to be launched into her life without a STD, a child, the vicious cycle of the baby daddy syndrome?

I remember reading somewhere that social media and digital cameras have reduced young girls to vagina delivery devices, so tell me, in a world where that young girl had to pose half naked to fit in and feel appreciated by society, what was that mother to do?

Do i condone violence against children?

Not at all.

But the conversation cannot end there.

This generation has been referred to as the 'Generation of Me.'

Where what they want is all that matters.

Short of putting that child out of the house and delivering her to the wolves that are awaiting to eat her young flesh up, what was that mother to do to get the message across?

I ask without offering my opinion, although i personally believe that somewhere along the way many people have abandoned their responsibility to their children to install proper values and to society by raising children aware of the rules and consequences of breaking those rules, what was this mother to do?

Sit her down and chat with her? So that her friends and the big men her mother referred to who are chatting up this child could tell her ignore that nonsense?

Between the responsibility of keeping that child and raising her, and protecting her from her own decisions, tell me, in a world where crime and punishment is a real thing to that child and any children that SHE might have out of time, what does society want that mother to do?

How does it empower and assist her, this national village, in protecting that child?

Six minutes of licks could have saved her and the onlookers from a life of pure desperation and suffering; six minutes of licks could have made her pack her things and go live with the 'maxi-man' who waiting to 'bite that up' for the next couple of months.

Looking at it in the context of where they live and what the future holds for that young girl if she were to get pregnant out of time, tell me, what was that mother supposed to do?

Is six minutes of licks and hard talk too much? It seems so. But what if it saves her life?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Political Clarity...

With the failure of the Jack Warner 'one man/con man show' the ILP, the voters need to be quite clear that they are not hoodwinked.
The PNM, desperate to hide its sins and those of its leader are working around the clock to bring the government into disrepute.
Not able to challenge the government on the delivery of services they have used corrupt elements in the media to smear reputations and pull down Ministers.
To quote comedia Robin Williams who was asked to comment on Bill Clinton's alleged affair with Monica Lwewinsky and others - "I don't care if he's screwing chickens, we elected him to do a job, if he's doing that job well, that's all i care about."
And i agree with that position.
The PNM were no bastions of celibacy while in office, the Hyatt was at one time considered a multi storied orgy, the fact of the matter is that they did a woefully miserable job of running the country and were fired.
Basdeo Panday is toting feelings ever since he was humiliated, defeated and fired. He needs to accept that he can NEVER win an election again in this country, and all of his work can only benefit the PNM.
The public needs to ignore Basdeo Panday.
David Abdulah is a has been wanna be who ended up in the Partnership having signed on to Winston Dookeran's anti-Panday alliance and stayed for the ride. He was never comfortable and spent his entire career in the PP causing strife and trying to break it from within. Now he is back to working hard to pull a government down, similar to what he did to the NAR in the days and months leading up to the attempted coup. His involvement in SOPO has never been adequately explained, but SOPO's involvement with the Jamaat al Muslimeen has been.
To vote anything but People's Partnership in the next election is to return to chaos. Ignore the corrupted few in the media whose agenda has been exposed. The Editor in Chief who is sleeping with a political leader. The other who is living large on questionable funds. The journalist whose attempts at extorting a state company for her boyfriend to get a 20 million dollar contract. The two who were fired from one media house only to land on their feet in another newsroom with the same agenda. The head of the Media Association of Trinidad & Tobago whose name was called as a beneficiary of a secret PNM scholarship fund.
The facts of the matter are simple.
The country is being run and run well. Every day thousands more are added to the list of people receiving water 24/7, some receiving water for the first time. Crime is down to its lowest level, and for those still foolish enough to commit crime, arrest is almost a sure thing. Want to shoot at officers or flee while being pursued? First buy your flowers. The country is being run and run well. Four years of steady economic growth, four quarters of unprecedented growth, the country is being run and run well. Unemployment at the lowest in our history, opportunities for trade certification at no cost, nursing and vocational academies that pay you while you learn, the country is being run and run well. The health sector, that lumbering colossus of corruption is being turned around. Pre-natal deaths at an all time low. Corrupt doctors being investigated, charged, fired and removed from the system. Now health facilities are working like private sector Companies, and while it may not be perfect as yet, it is a thousand times better than pre-May 2010.
Look, don't be conned by Jack and his sexcapades. Don't be fooled by Panday and his crocodile tears. Don't be misled by the Fixin' T&T that said nothing while a thousand billion dollars was stolen at Tarouba, or the eight hundred million misappropriated in Scarborough trying to 'arrive alive,' he didn't know what corrupt enrichment was then?
I keep posting so you learn, what is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.
Let me tell you why:
The PNM and it cabal of rogue elements and suspicious characters wants the country to return to 'normal,' but what is normal to them? No services for 'country.' No scholarships for east indian sounding last names. Close down Caroni Limited 'for cositng us money' while pumping more money into URP part two, better known as CEPEP. Terrorising anyone who could be considered financiers of the 'indian' party. Consorting with 'community leaders' so that a certain race of people could be scared away from the country through kidnapping and violent crime.
What is normal for the PNM is chaos for everyone else.
To listen to Panday is to put PNM back in power.
To listen to Ramesh is the same. To pay any attention to the one man con man show that is Jack Warner's ILP is to put the PNM back in power.
To do anything but focus on voting the People's Partneship back into office is to take us back to those dark days of PNM hegemony and dictatorship.
Are there things that need fixing and some team members who have to go?
Absolutely. But THIS Prime Minister has demonstrated time and again that she will take action. Not like a certain rottweiler who sat in a Cabinet for six years and ate and drank his fill while complaining that it was the most corrupt in history.
Don't be fooled by barking dogs. Don't be conned. On May 23rd a political terrorist named Inshan is having a march, go see who is leading that march. The same Inshan that called Jack a crook, the same Jack that called Inshan a fraud, together again in common interest, befriended by the Keith Rowley who says one thing yesterday and something else today. Go look at the amalgamation of evil that wants your vote. A lawyer who represents terrorists and drug lords today and state tomorrow, back to terrorists and drug lords where he is most comfortable. Forget the spin, see for yourself what you are up against, the coming chaos of that crew and reject them all.
The People's Partnership may not be perfect, but they are the best government this country has ever had. You have freedoms and protections you diid not even know you needed, this country is working and working well.
Don't be fooled.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


While the sand would become the stone
Which begat the spark
Turned to living bone
Holy, holy
Sanctus, sanctus...

Crucifixion inflicted possibly the most agonizing way to die ever contemplated on a human being by other human beings, but death in and of itself was not its primary purpose. 

Deconstructing how crucifixion was really done, scientist have learnt that unlike the images we see in painting and prints of the crucified Christ, the condemned was first impaled to a cross beam through his writs with large iron spikes that had broad heads to prevent 'ripping' while his feet were nailed through the ankle bones separately on either side of the upright beam or trunk that held it aloft.

This had the effect of inflicting the now dying individual with five or six hours of excruciating pain, screaming at the top of his lungs as his body tried to shift weight from unbearable agony in his ankles to unbearable pain in his wrists and back again until, finally exhausted, collapsed and suffocated under the weight of his own torso.

Crucifixions were also done in large groups for amplification of the torturous effect, leading to an entire afternoon of frenzied screams of the dying sending a loud and clear message to all within earshot (and it was usually done on a rise close to city center to allow for maximum sound carry) that the consequences of running afoul of Rome were not for the timid or the weak of heart and all of the citizens of Rome were absolutely clear on the concept. From a sheer shock and awe standpoint it was extremely successful, and over time a weekend crucifixion was all it took to quell all unrest and crime for miles for months to come.

I use this analogy to make a point, and it is this:

Jesus Christ was reported in the Bible to have prayed in agony until he sweated blood begging to not have to endure this, but in the end gave in the will of his Father.

Regardless of your religion or belief, the story of His torture and death is quite moving and should cause us all to pause and reflect on the story of this man who was willing to die for what he believed.

Whether you believe in Him or not is of little value as He remains the best example of sacrifice the world has ever known. 

As we enter Holy Week as observed by Christians the world over I would like to ask my fellow citizens to contemplate the lessons of the cross outside of the whole story, and possibly on the acceptance of pain as a pathway to peace and endurance as a means to glory.

Death to self and sacrifice have within them the answers to most of life's questions, and sometimes it is as simple as that. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fumbling Forward... (A Conspiracy of Indecency)


These are some of the words that have been used to describe People's National Movement Senator Faris al Rawi's decision to utilize a highly sensitive document from an ongoing investigation into high level matters of national security in the nation's Senate, and the Express Newspaper's decision to publish the same information. The idea that this was some noble leak predicated on 'the people's right to know' is rubbish and a sop designed to misdirect as the entire investigation was being conducted in the people's name and on their behalf, the findings of which were reliably expected to be laid in the public domain once complete, so that entire excuse needs to be cast aside.

Dealing with the Senator first, this was nothing but a stunt for political grandstanding and show boating, and from the moment he realized what he had in his possession there was a responsible course of action that should have been taken, but clearly one that al Rawi chose to ignore in his zeal to make the government look bad. But what has he really done? On the face if it the entire process can now be considered void as any and all prosecution that may have flown from it can be considered hopelessly compromised and subject to doubt. Protected by privilege he may be spared the full brunt of the consequences of his actions, but he has demonstrated a manifest lack of professional ethics and may have by extension brought the very Senate of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago into disrepute.

For starters.

And what of the Police Complaints Authority on whose watch this massive breech of security occurred? How is that to be explained to a public already woefully short on trust in that very institution? One that is supposedly built on confidentiality? It may not be a stretch to say that the entire PCA now stands compromised, and at the very least heads need to roll from the top down, but put all that aside for a minute and return to the question of motive. Why do it? Why set aside so many months of work for a stunt? Is it that the momentum to destabilize the democratically elected government ingrained in the anti-government forces prevented them from being reasonable? Rational? Sensible?

The first question that has to be asked is how did al Rawi really come to be in possession of the document in the first place? Clearly his explanation of finding it in his mailbox is more rubbish and he needs to come clean as to how he comes to be in possession of stolen property. Surely he's a lawyer enough to know how complicit he is in that regard.

The next question that has to be asked is what exactly should be done? It is my view that the net of responsibility here must equally ensnare Senator al Rawi as well as the journalist and the Editor in Chief of the Express Newspaper who are both material to the conspiracy and the furtherance of a criminal enterprise that began with the theft of a sensitive document and ended with the receipt and distribution of confidential information.

There has to be a thorough investigation into the entire affair starting with the custody of documents at the Police Complaints Authority to identify who within that organization set these wheels in motion.

From the purely political standpoint what I find supremely ironic is that the standards set by the current Prime Minister where responsibility and consequence of actions are concerned may yet come back to haunt the very opposition that has been ridiculing her for them, and regardless of outcomes or whether or not investigations and prosecutions are undertaken the entire PNM frontline now stands compromised.

And in that regard, like many I await to see what the Leader of the Opposition does next.

Clearly this was a 'cluster-screw-up' of epic proportion and someone or someones are going to have to pay. The head of the Police Complaint Authority Gillian Lucky is regrettably completely compromised due to the breakdown of security on her watch and she may have to be the first to go. For his part and his role in the entire sordid affair Faris al Rawi needs to step down as a Senator or be removed. Perhaps due in no small part to their obsessive dedication to the overthrow of this government the operatives at the Express have crossed the line and both Editor in Chief Omatie Lyder and journalist Anika Gumbs need to be investigated for receiving stolen property, for dissemination of highly classified information and for conspiracy to commit treason.

The message here must be straightforward and clear.

Let the heads roll.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Faris of a Contribution...

While watching the Senate this week the erstwhile Faris al Rawi esquire got to his sanguine and sartorially eloquent feet to regale us once again with his sesquipedalian multi-syllable-ular style of Parliamentary contribution, so armed with a double dose of Webster's and Oxford (and a King James Bible just in case) i settled in to follow the dapper don as he made his usual meandering self gratifying trek up and down the english language with some latin phrases tossed in 'ad hominemly' and for good measure, and away we went.

And as is usually the case when Faris is on his feet, the President appeared to almost hunch over, as if making sure to not miss one of the idiosyncratic asides, the jaunty jousts and the jubilant jabs thrown in as a generous sprinkling of joviality among the more serious accoutrements, and Faris being Faris and not unaware of the theatrical spectacle that is him, seemed almost luminescent and basking in his own glow.

Not one to be parsimonious with his phraseology, the aerobic listening that is his trademark (if not anticipated) contribution was this time focused and picking up speed in a definite direction, leading at least this writer to believe that this week there was going to be more than just odor, this time around there was going to be substance to his offering too, and boy was I right.

With a turn and a twist and almost excogitating through the notes he so ardently committed to memory he hugged the corners, coming dangerously close but never touching the rails and, as the smoke and dust rose up in his wake I heard a word that pricked both my attention and my hearing, causing all as one who were looking and on and listening, grabbed on to something we could recognize, what a rush! With nary a flinch fabulous Faris approached an issue dear to our hearts and one the we could touch, and when he linked the words scandal and corruption he had us all at his mercy.

Wow. By now I was sitting bolt upright, daring to hope that finally Faris was going to deliver on the promise that all five foot how much ever of his standing height could deliver, and having got out pen and paper poised to take notes, lent him, no, gave him my full and undivided attention.


His proficuous use of prose notwithstanding, when Faris touched the issue of scandal and corruption i hoped with every thing within me that he was about to go where no People’s National Movement politician had ever gone before, and that is to come clean. Clean on ALL of the scandals that are still languishing between he rumour and prosecution stage, like the thousand million dollars in cost overruns on the world famous hole in the ground at Tarouba, or the eight hundred extra million spent, agin in cost overruns on the Scarborough Hospital project, or the five hundred million in, yep, cost overruns on the combined NAPA and SAPA projects, but Faris skirted so wide we the followers almost lost traction.

Why Faris, Why?

Why waste the opportunity to add clean hands and pure heart to your resume? Why, despite all of the advantages of the language lie by omission and focus on creating allegations of sin for others without looking at your own sin? You Faris who ended your contribution on a misquote of beams and moats did so karmically, because even your tongue disagreed with you, your mouth realized the farce it was being conscripted into and wanted out. No Faris, before you treat with the speck in your neighbour's eye, make sure to remove the beam, the two by four, the lamppost from your own.

That's what you were grasping for Faris, and funny how despite the fumbling misquote it falls so perfectly back on you?


Because the Senate is not a place for fancy footwork, for floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee but to contribute meaningfully to national development and you had a real chance Faris, not to be the ebullient mannequin that Dr. Keith Rowley hides from the nation behind but to be true to the issue of scandal and yes of corruption and to come clean.

To cry cleansing tears and say to the nation in meaningful sobs that the two million dollars spent on the flag was NOT an error as a previous Prime Minister said, but a theft, and that all who conspired in that theft should be brought to justice, tried before the courts and convicted and sent to jail.

You could have distanced yourself from your leader in simple language, a leader who told the nation that he was a part of a Cabinet involved in massive bid rigging and corruption ten times worse than Piarco (his words in the House) and yet he saw it fit to sit in that same Cabinet for five long years and contribute to all he accused it of. You could have called him out in this election season instead of uphold his bad behavior, because we all know what the Bible says of the upholder's role and blame, but no, fancy footwork, spins, cartwheels galore, no honesty, no coming clean on the issue of scandal and corruption, the CHOGM of issues, the Caroni Racing Complex of Issues, the Lockjoint and Sam P Wallace of issues, but you left them, and went in search of a water treatment plant that that was being built to give poor people water.

I put my pen away Faris, tore up my paper and switched my television off, because I saw through your song and dance routine, its purpose meant to distract and misdirect from the litany of your party's past sins, but judging by the real population's response, you're not fooling anyone at all.

Monday, April 7, 2014

My Maiden Speech (UNC Diego Martin West) April 7th 2014

Good evening Honorable Prime Minister, 
Ministers, MP's, Councillors, 
Party Chairman, members of the National Executive, 
the Ayotalah of Diego Martin himself Mister Don Sylvester, 
distinguished members, family, friends, 
and with all protocols observed, good evening all.

For those of you who may not yet know me, my name is Phillip Alexander. 

Among the many hats i wear, I am the founder and Chairman of the Jericho Project, a humanitarian relief organisation which, besides advocating for the orphans, disabled and homeless in our society, also assists in times of crisis, crises like the two devastating Diego Martin floods. I know firsthand what a Diego Martin flood feels like, I stood in my house while three feet of water swirled about me and washed my possessions out the door. Twice. Clothes, shoes, anything that would float, pretty much anything that was not built to be wet got wet and was lost.

I stood below a bridge with fire officers, local government councillors, WASA workers, the Regional Corporation people, the ODPM, with neighbours, trying to clear the debris even while the water was rushing by, trying to rescue a man who was washed out of his home and trapped under that bridge, a man who died while we were trying to rescue him.

I together with the members of the Jericho Project spent weeks gathering relief supplies and distributing to those who lost everything. 

I know fully well the consequences of years of neglect and poor representation and how it impacts on the lives of everyday people -  people like me, like you, like everyone in Diego Martin West

I have lived most of my life in Diego Martin.
I know these streets and sidewalks intimately, i could tell you where the best roti and the coldest beers are in Diego Martin.
Like most of you here, I am to the very bone a Trinbagonian, but it is Diego Martin that i call home.
I live in the Diego Martin that makes the National Anthem a truth, because in Diego Martin you can find every creed and race, although i am not sure about everyone finding an equal place, at least not under the representation that Diego Martin has known for the past twenty odd years.
In Diego Martin the fabulously wealthy live cheek by jowl with the desperately poor; we use the same roads, drink the same water, breathe the same air; fight the same floods.
But for many that is where the similarity ends.
Because for many in Diego Martin who have suffered under the weight of absentee representation, life is about making do, and hoping for the best.
Despite having MPs in Government blessed with some of the most powerful Ministries, Diego Martin was neglected and marginalised for years.
Under the trio of Balisier overlords Imbert, Rowley and Browne, the three Diego Martins have suffered ruin due to an arrogant disregard for people and place. These men who have promised election after election to deliver so much have delivered nothing but empty promise and heartbreak.
Under the last Administration, the MPs for the three Diego Martins were respectively the Minister of Works, the Minister of Social Development, and the Minister of Planning, yet look around you, tell me, where was the work? Where was the planning? Where was the social development?
Where are the drains, the pavements, the roads? When was the last time Diego Martin was paved before THIS government began the work of paving Diego Martin side streets? 
The residents of Chuma Monka and environs tell of the last time a barber greene was in their community the NAR was in Office. See what being a PNM constituency really means?
We spoke about those two devastating floods, but under the term of THIS Member of Parliament, Dr. Keith Rowley, and despite him having been a senior Cabinet Minister when that party was in power, Diego Martin and Diego Martin West suffered the further ignobility of becoming a crime hot spot, and of having its residents suffer from a frightening crime wave, of blood in the streets, and of gangs and murder.
Crime and abject poverty, squalor and neglect, who would believe that those words refer to Diego Martin?
This, the most fertile of valleys, the home of so many national heroes, the birth place of so much culture and tradition, so many of our most vibrant communities, dashed against the rocks of the PNM. 

Noted columnist and environmentalist Peter O’Connor told me after the last flood that the problem was due mainly to a lack of planning, of unchecked development, of a highway doubled with no increase in drainage, creating a situation where every time the rains fall it is like trying to flush a toilet into a teacup.

But i need to focus on MY constituency, where i live, where i work, Diego Martin West.

Like the other two in this three headed hydra of incompetence of Imbert, Rowley and Browne, the Member of Parliament for Diego Martin West is a promise.

And much like his other two cohorts, he promises to do things for the constituency that he never does.

Where is the Carenage fishing depot? The Diego Martin vendors market? Where are the recreational facilities for the young and the young at heart? Where are the technical and trade schools to harness the energy and talent of our youth?

Where are the medical facilities to rush our loved ones to in case of emergency?


For the estimated sixty thousand people that live in Diego Martin, where is the vision for the holistic development of all the people into communities that work?

The current Member of Parliament for Diego Martin West is a ghost.

Some people claim that they have seen him in real life, others only know what he looks like from the newspapers, or when they see him on TV, playing the role of a Member of Parliament for a constituency that he never visits.

What is funny is that he has found his way all the way to Fyzabad and La Brea to try and con the constituents of those communities with his special brand of - 'leadership,' - while the communities of Richplain, Covigne, Factory Road, Mason Street, Mercer, L'anse Mitan, La Puerta and others never see him.

The people who put him in the very Office from whence his power comes are ignored while he golfs his way around the world.

Like an inside out reverse Moses, the people he already has he leads astray or discards, yet he goes courting others for purposes known only to him.

Tell me, you who live in Diego Martin West, do you think Keith Rowley knows the way to the promise land?

Or are we to continue to wander in the wilderness of absentee representation and visonless leadership for much longer?

I say to you no, i say it is eviction time, and come 2015 we must tell Keith Rowley let my people go.

Some of you are afraid of change, you say change takes time and that is true, but when you look at what has been accomplished under THIS government in four short years 
and compare it to what was NOT done in fifty one years under the last, it is clear to see and i put to you that the change we voted for is already here.

I put to you that It is time for Diego Martin to be put back on the map.

Tonight we sound a wake up call to the opposition, those bent on opposing for opposing sake, the time wasted playing cheap politics is over.

It is time to tell Imbert, Rowley and Browne, YOUR TIME IS UP!

Go tell everyone, the sun is about to rise in Diego Martin once again.

Madame Prime Minister on behalf of all the people of Diego Martin I Welcome you into our home.

Desperately Seeking Bad News.

Reading the newspapers should not require the further effort of sifting fact from fiction, but it seems this is precisely what the reader is being asked to do. There was a time that words like journalistic integrity was so important, one would not dare question what was put in print in the dailies, but with journalistic integrity now fully replaced by economic policy and the need to move 'product,' it seems that the management and editorial staff of all publishing houses are far more concerned with selling papers than they are with accuracy.

There is a complete absence of fairness and honest reporting if one were to just push past the headlines, and i say that without fear of contradiction and in the past month alone the loose relationship the headlines actually had with the meat of the stories they sold bear me out. Or to quote the Gospel of Matthew, by their fruits you shall know them.

One of yesterday’s dailies printed a story so obviously concocted about a now disgraced former government Minister that by seven p.m. he had had to put the matter into the hands of his attorneys and put out a release saying the story was a clear fabrication and he was going to take legal action. This story follows the trend of the following, and i only name these few to make the point, you decide the motive behind the behavior, i have already formed a conclusion of my own:

A story was run on the front page of a paper where former Senator and PNM Minister Fitzgerald Hinds claimed that he had been approached on a walkabout by someone he would not name, who told him of a dinner he attended that was full of former PNM Ministers and financiers but he refused to divulge either time or place, and at that event someone whom he preferred to remain anonymous told him that Dr. Keith Rowley might be too black to be Prime Minister. Now, if you’re reading that and are reminded of the children’s game ‘pass the message’ you would be using critical thinking, so I ask you, why would an editor of an established newspaper not only run that nonsense of a story, but see it fit to make it a front page story complete with headline?

Let's move on.

The story that put the nail in Glenn Ramagharsingh's career was so riddled with inaccuracies and terribly bad reporting that, had he been a Minister that the government wanted to keep, a better effort would have been made to expose the political agenda behind his manufactured fall from grace. Is he arrogant and egotistic? If one were to listen to the accounts over the years of some of his more outlandish behaviors one would have to conclude yes, but is that a reason to remove someone who is also rumored to be, even by his harshest of critics, one of the best performing, hardest working Ministers of Social Development that this country has ever known? You decide.

Contrasted with a time when a high ranking then PNM Minister literally had a plane grounded and the crew leave in disgust over his handling of a flight attendant who refused to sit with him, a Minister who then went to hold higher and higher office in that government you would see the double standard and ask, why would there have to be one?

The story about Chandresh Sharma and his accuser did not compete with journalism, it competed with scandal and bacchanal. Clearly working in tandem with an opposition funded attack on the Minister to dislodge him from office, now that the facts of the matter are flooding into the public domain it is my view that the Editor in Chief of the Sunday Guardian needs to be fired for what amounts to journalistic assault.

Simply reading to understand one has no choice but to conclude that the story as written made no sense and did not add up, and again, if Sharma was a Minister the Government wanted to keep the story as written would have ended up in a court of law, with Guardian Media as defendant in a libel lawsuit. Again, is he a known adulterer and a player with the groupie set? Based solely on his own reputation that he himself has done nothing to deny then sure, but is that a reason to fire him as a Minister?

So what is the reader to do? I don’t know, that is an individual choice. For my part i have stopped buying newspapers altogether as i get my news digitally on social media for many reasons, but most importantly because of the discussion that is sure to follow anything of substance that is shared. If there are any truthful or factual stories in any of the dailies they would be shared there and discussed, if there are any fallacious and obviously contrived or concocted ones, they are ripped to shreds, because on social media, critical thinking and logical deducing are very much alive.

I cannot begin to recall the amount of times i, having read a thing and fully arrived at my own opinion only to end up wondering after a point was raised in the discussion that i had not considered. That is the real value of social media, the freedom from the control of 'groupspeak,' the essence of the herd mentality once so properly controlled through the dissemination of information.

Now the power lies not so much with the ability to own a media house or to publish under a byline, but to think and to enunciate in a way that is easy to understand, and on social media that is instantly rewarded by the amount of people who follow your discussions and pay attention to what you say. That does not mean that you will not be challenged if your position is based on nonsense, but that is the beauty of the thing. It self regulates and sifts out its excesses. You could win an argument today only to have your position thrashed tomorrow as new information comes to hand, and in the constant struggle to be alpha dog in the conversation, rest assured that no one worth their salt are giving in to your position 100%, they are simply ceding the point and buying time, looking for further proof that your premise might be wrong.

But i digress.

To me it seems that whatever the motive, the fight to stay afloat in a time when the generation that relied on newsprint for news is dying out, to compete for the ever shrinking market share, or for other more sinister and agenda driven reasons, what is put to the public as reliable and honest news has been replaced by sensational nonsense and it is my view that the days of daily newspapers as a source of real news are behind us.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Schooling Positively...

Now that we've all had our reactive say regarding the sudden wave of violence and bullying in our nation's schools being recorded and shared, perhaps it might be a good time to go a little further with the conversation if only to arrive at something more than talk.

First off, there seems to be a spike due to 'copycatting' that many others (myself included) believes is spurred on by the videos themselves, and if the recording devices are contributing to the problem, shouldn't we be dealing with that? Like the rash of amateur school girl porn that made the rounds prior, there are many more reasons to ban the more advanced cell phones during school hours than there are any reasons to allow them. First off they put your child in danger from those who would prey on them for the valuable phone. Secondly, any purpose served by a child having a phone in school can be served by a utilitarian 'cheap phone' limited in capabilities to phoning and texting. An outright ban on all camera phones needs to be enacted by edict from the Ministry of Education as am immediate first response to addressing these issues.

But let's go deeper. Addressing the actual violence the questions need to be asked, what is driving it, and what role can the school environment play in ameliorating it. With these two bits of information in hand we could at least begin the work of tackling the problem before it gets worse.

My suggestions?

Make school an environment of learning and development again. Along the way many of our schools seem to have become a teenage baby sitting service, somewhere safe for our young adults to waste their time in a relatively safe environment, and I want to ask, when was that decision made? Clearly this position is not only failing the children but  is failing society as a whole by delivering thousands of functional illiterates into the workforce every year and contributing in no small part to the nightmare that law enforcement has to contend with. Non functional adults who cannot earn become grist for the crime mill, a statistic known worldwide and one that should be spurring us to take a hard look at the function of our schools in the development of the nation.

But back to my point, I have suggested on numerous occasions that the school environment itself needs to be addressed. School maintenance chores should be farmed out among the classes and then among the students as consequence for failing grades or indiscipline. This would have the effect of teaching students to respect the environment if for no other reason than they themselves may end up cleaning it up, and if nothing is will drive the point home that if you fail at school you could end up a janitor, and at least it could give those who opt for that life regardless some janitorial skills so as to assist them in getting a job when they fail out of school. Nothing teaches responsibility like responsibility, and while it may appear to be circular reasoning, remember that it is the avoidance of discomfort that is at the heart of every discipline lesson. Want to bully others? Fine, but you will scrub the toilets they use with your bare hands in exchange, and let's see if critical thinking allows a link to be made and a lesson to be learnt.

Moving on. I have also suggested that the Parent Teachers Association of each and every school be given a larger role in the administration of the school and an active hand in all that contributes to the success of the children, and that it should be mandatory for at least one parent to be a member of the board for the duration of their child's school career for obvious reasons. Involved parents motivate children. It's as simple as that. Parents in the 'know' tend to spur their children's performance and the children, driven as it were to perform, end up succeeding due to refocused energy and effort.

Reward the teachers. Yes teaching is a calling and yes no one is supposed to become a teacher as a pathway to riches, but I am yet to understand why that logic is used as a reason to prevent us using the tried and proven methods for achieving success. Teachers are the front line of our national development, yet we treat them with the scantest of regard and this needs to change. I have again suggested on numerous occasions that teachers' salaries should reflect both the level of their own education and the performance of their students. If all teachers earned the same we would in fact be working against ourselves, basing our reward system on the least success achieved and effort expended. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't our teachers get financial and other bonuses based on the holistic development and performance of their charges? Tied directly to discipline and scholastic achievement, the schools would then become an environment of forward looking healthy competition aimed at the development of the children as an end result. Teachers who further their own skills set should receive compensation commensurate with their knowledge, understanding that it is more important to spur learning in a learning environment than it is to create a one size fits all designed to fail. Long serving teachers need also to be rewarded, and the achievement of Principal status should be treated with as a position of national respect and I would even go so far as to suggest that school principals be awarded the same sort of 'tax free' status that Senators and other public officials enjoy.

No other group has the ability to directly impact and shape society like our teachers do, and if anyone should be seen driving a fancy foreign automobile it should be a teacher, achieved on a lifetime of hard work moulding our nation one person at a time.

Of course this is a condensation of a much larger idea but i hope that the basic point is made, that if we wanted to retool our education system and school environment to produce functional, contributing members of society we could. And based on the alternative i'm not sure why we wouldn't want to.