Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Planned & Determined Attack...

What began with the interception and publicizing of an email correspondence between a senior government Minister and myself by Senator Camille Robinson Regis on the People's National Movement's campaign trail snowballed into Sampson Nanton's two night hack job attack of my personal charity, a barrage of investigative reporters questioning my every involvement in anything under the sun from school to church, and devolved quickly into an unleashing of the most vile attacks and accusations by PNM PRO Faris al Rawi on national television and in the Senate, an almost exclusive focus on me by the slanderous duo of Inshan Ishmael/Wazim Daniel and their agents on the Islamic Network and social media, all of this in such an outpouring it caused people all over the spectrum to take notice, not just of the content, but the ferocity of the attack, and to ask why.

And if that weren't enough, on the heels of all of that I was warned of a slew of pending pre-action protocol letters coming from certain anti-People's Partnership law chambers, whose sole purpose I have been told is to distract me and bog me down defending all manner of accusations alleged to be guided by the hand of none other than the same Faris al Rawi, as well as at least one credible threat against my life that was carried on the evening news.

Why so much?

And believe it or not, it gets worse. On Thursday we received a report from an intelligence source naming a list of fake social media profiles, who the identities were and who they were fronting, and which, when released on Facebook, had the effect of sending social media into a tailspin. The sheer volume of fakes standing cheek by jowl with normal everyday people posting party pics and sharing recipes stunned many, and caused administrators of groups to ground themselves, dizzily mediating between multiples of personalities emanating from singular sources conversing with 'themselves' to distract and deflect, with one very determined fake operating under the name 'Annie Nevarro' defending to the death her/its right to be someone who they clearly weren't, someone who herself is a public personality of sorts in the Spanish speaking world, a bilingual freelance writer and host of the popular page 'Latina Moms & Healthy Living' on the Miami-Verse' website by the name of Veronique de Miguel who, when alerted as to the use of her image and identity to perpetrate a fraud was aghast and thankful as she begins action to protect her own brand. Now the Annie Nevarro personality has threatened legal action and to go to the media over her being 'outed' and exposed, causing many to ask who would be represented in the courts should the matter reach there, the fake identity? Or the person faking it?

But it begs the question, these things cost money. Hit men, lawyers and internet trolls all cost serious money, who would have the resources to put behind an attempt to destroy me, and equally important, why?

Is it because I am seen as a credible threat to the Political leader of the People's National Movement in the battle for the Diego Martin West seat in the upcoming 2015 general elections?

In the very paper where this column is published a former editor in the person of Maxie Cuffie who now plies his trade in another newspaper while he readies the launch of the PNM's propaganda publication the Magnum or Magnus or something along those lines, even he with whom I have had nothing but the most cordial and friendly of professional relationships over the years has been thrown into the anti-Phil fray, sent to baby sit me as it were and answer any claims I make against the PNM, of which he is now a public and frontline spokesperson.

Why such high level attention?

To hear them speak I am a failure, a con man, a fraud, a thief, an abuser, a woman hater, a lousy father and a shady character, I mean, the list is so long it's almost legendary, but more importantly, if all of that were true, why bother with me? Didn't Shakespeare caution through Hamlet against the virtues of protesting too much?

Surely if I have no credibility and could never amount to a serious threat to Rowley's hegemony, why such a ferocious and continuous attack?

Perhaps it has to do with the numbers.

A snap poll recently conducted in Diego Martin West showed me neck and neck with Keith Rowley twelve months before an election is even due, before a campaign is even announced, with my greatest lead being among those who consider themselves non-aligned, who traditionally vote on delivery and issues.

Those people to whom tribalism has no place in politics, who are prepared to place their vote for the candidate most likely to give them the representation they desire and the service that they know they deserve. After twenty five years of under-representation by the incumbent it is already clear in the minds of even many die hard PNM supporters, that they could not possibly do any worse if they tried. The traditional PNM communities within the constituency devolved and went backward during his tenure. Home ownership is down, illiteracy and truancy is up, as are drug use and murder, with the constituency becoming both a flood zone and a crime hot spot despite him having been a senior Cabinet Minister for much of that time. The residents of Shorelands and environs are still livid over what he did to them in the Renaissance Towers impasse, the people of Carenage who have been waiting in vain for their fish market and health center, the people of Bagatelle who have been pleading for lights and facilities for their play-field so that their young men could be better occupied in the pursuit of other more meaningful endeavors, even the middle class who are tired of having their possessions washed away during the annual flood season all because the then Minister of Planning forgot to plan and their representative in the Parliament (ironically one and the same person), refused to insist that he do so.

Clearly and from all indications the campaign for Diego Martin West promises to get worse before it gets better if this is the point from which the other side begins. I am being beseeched to keep my campaign clean and above the ad hominem and personal attacks and my team, although incensed at some of the more flagrant displays and slander, are people who operate on the highest levels of decency and who have built their political and activist careers on integrity and service. My father referred to the behavior of the Rowley camp as the last gasps of a dying animal. I have been advised to observe the movements of the matador as he engages his quarry, how his actions remain poised and above the fray no matter the ferocity of the attack. Be guided, be like water they say, in the end what you would achieve is the taming of the raging bull, something many are eager to see accomplished.

Friday, July 18, 2014

What's in a Name?

Without so much as a 'by your leave' the Port of Spain Mayor erased eighty years of this nation's history and renamed the King George the Fifth park the Nelson Mandela Park for no reason that anyone else can fathom by the stroke of a pen, causing his immediate predecessor to question not only his motives, but his procedure among other things, and prompting me to wonder, if it is so easy to change the names of things, why don't we change the names of some things that really do need changing?

Like Beetham Gardens.

Clearly a victim of a name that keeps that community's representatives away, why not change the name to Balisier Park, so that the political directorate of the Baliser party might feel inclined to stop by for a visit? And why stop there? If we're taking steps to reinvent Beetham then surely Laventille could do with a new 'do' too, and what better name than PNM Heights? Surely if Laventille was known as PNM Heights then the PNM that has had unbroken representation of that area for over fifty years would be motivated to treat Laventille better, not so? I mean, if ever there was a name synonymous with failure, brokeness and squalor it would be Laventille, so why not change it for the betterment of all who live and work there?

And then there's Sea Lots; a place so abandoned to its own misfortunes it took the crushing death of a mother and two children to even turn the national attention to it. Why not rename there too? I mean, there are a lot of good names we could use but off the top off my head I would suggest naming it in honor of former PNM leaders who themselves have made nothing but excuses for the plight of those people, and similar to Churchill-Roosevelt double barreled recognition, why not Williams-Manning Gardens? Now there's a name worthy of such primely located waterfront property, don't you think? And who could deny that no two individuals have more responsibility for the condition those people find themselves in than those two gentlemen? I mean, with a push we could squeeze Chambers in too, but as he had neither of the oil booms that those two had I think it would be unfair to Williams and Manning to share that glory, don't you agree?

And then there's east Port of Spain, a place so desperately in need of a name change and representation, some say it is overdue. Morvant is another historically blighted place that might benefit from a name change, why not change the name of Morvant to Vision 2020? So that the people might be guided to ask, why with all that planning a die hard community as devoted as theirs was so ignored?

See the benefit of this name changing thing? Mayor Tim Kee might be on to something here.

And not forgetting the current political leader of the People's National Disappointment who himself has been credited with some exceptional abandonment of his own, why not name one of the newly minted Diego Martin West hotspots in his honour? I mean, Factory Road, Richplain, Covigne and Mercer did not get where they are on their own (okay well they did but it took some serious and consistent ignoring from the elected representative of the area to allow the devolution to take place in such a short space of time), he is certainly deserving, yes? The flood zone that Diego Matin became on his watch is also worthy of memorializing, and I would suggest changing the name of everything north of Richplain all the way to Patna Village in his honor, reminding the residents that even though they are represented by a ghost, that ghost has a name, and it is Keith Christopher Rowley.

And finally (for this article at least) there's the Labasse. It is my view that nothing should be renamed before that stellar piece of engineering that put the national garbage dump between the capital city and the rest of the country, and as it is regarded as responsible for spawning the squalid desperation of Baliser Park (formerly Beetham Gardens), credit should be given where credit is due. Perhaps a competition that gives everyone an opportunity to weigh in on it, and perhaps we could even get the goodly Mayor of Port of Spain to judge, that way he gets to see democracy and consultation with the population up close, just so he understands what all the fuss is about in the first place.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Thing with the COP... (Politics and Morality)

The difference between both Anil Roberts and Carolyn Seepersad Bachan clinging to Office despite both having become liabilities to the raison d'ĂȘtre  of the organization they owe their political existence to is straight up semantics, but the fact that both can clearly see each other's transgression while failing to recognize their own is classically symptomatic of the immaturity of the Congress of the People still, at this point, almost eight years after being formed and having spent four of those in some semblance of government, and it tells a powerful story of our collective immaturity and dismal failure at self governance all of these fifty two years.

For Anil's part it is tragically sad that he is a member of the COP because, had he been a member of the People's National Movement, not only would the room 201 video never have made it to the public domain, had it, he might have been able to laugh it off, ascribe it to part of a larger conspiracy and be promoted up into the ranks of the organization and possibly have some national institution named in his honor. As a member of the party founded on principles such as integrity and morality in public affairs, however, he, like those others around him, is bound to do more than pay lip service to those ideals if his existence does not sink that very organization, hanging it ironically on its own petard. That's the thing about grandiose statements and gestures, unless you yourself are prepared to be bound by them, to do anything otherwise makes a hypocrite out of you AND the organization, and instead of lifting them, brings integrity and morality in public affairs into further disrepute.

For Carolyn Seepersad Bachan it is worse. She who just recently pronounced on not only Anil's alleged sins but on those of her political opponents, now finds herself facing that very quagmire, how to negotiate around the demands of morality and integrity when they are turned around looking at you. Benefitting from a failure of that party's Constitution, Carolyn was allowed to keep her title as party Chairman and go into battle for the post of political leader which, had she won, would have created the abomination of her occupying the two most senior posts in the very party that is built on the deepening of the democracy and the broadening of democratic principles in Trinidad & Tobago.

See the problem?

Now imagine if you were her enemy, what you would make of the fact that, now that she has failed in that pursuit, continues to cling to the post of Chairman as an almost runner's up prize, failing to see that by so doing she is herself cementing the idea that politics do in fact have a morality of their own, ironically the notion many credit with the fracture in the United National Congress that lead to the formation of the COP in the first place.

But then, we are nothing if not a nation of greedy hypocrites desperate for wealth, status and power, and Carolyn Seepersad Bachan will not be the first to flout the ethics she ascribes for others, and sadder still she won't be the last. That she does not understand that is tragic indeed, but like the so questionable endorsement bequeath to her by that party's founder and Lord High Vader at the veritable death of her campaign for the post, demonstrates for all who have eyes to see that this idea of morality in public affairs was always a sop, a ruse, a gimmick to steal Basdeo Panday's party without doing the work of building one of their own.

What else can one surmise if the architects themselves are found wanting when challenged by their espoused principles?

And enter into all of this Prakash Ramadhar, the embattled heir to Dookeran's words, the person left to do all of the heavy lifting once the party had in fact secured itself within the coalition politics necessary for that party to remain politically viable, a man who has been demonized and castigated from within and without that organization for having the audacity to live up to all that that party claims to represent, a man that is being challenged within his own party by those who never have.

Demonstrating to Winston Dookeran the actions that should always have followed his (Winston's) words, Prakash stood night after night in debate after debate and had his name maligned and the worst character flaws ascribed to him, and like a true gentleman took the blows, defended them as best he could, while refusing to join his challengers in the political gutter, a gutter that those same challengers built the COP to avoid.

See where I am going with this?

There is an election coming in 2015 that the COP needs to prepare for if it is to have any hope of delivering in the seats they are capable of challenging for, and to do that they need to either jettison this notion of being a party of principles or embrace them even more demonstrably and convincingly.

For that to happen, both Carolyn Seepersad Bachan and Anil Roberts have to walk the talk, otherwise both of their presence within that party would make a lie and possibly a joke of those very principles, and by extension the existence of the COP.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Culture & Other Violences Against Women...

I find that I have to keep returning to this growing theme of violence against women rearing its neanderthal head in our political exchange, and I find again that one of the things I am most surprised at is the silence of civil and even feminist groups over a matter that ought not to be ignored due to its potential to upset the order and injure our development as a lawful and civilized society.

In the recent past we have had the ignoble promise by Fitzgerald Hinds to Penelope Beckles, challenger to the position of political leader in the People's National Movement, of 'bois,' licks with a big piece of wood, as in a stick fight in exchange for her troubles, and as disgusting a development as that was, what was even more disgusting then and remains so now was and is the silence of Hinds' leader and political leader of the party, Keith Rowley. And following the trend, Fuad Abu Bakr, the son of unapologetic insurrectionist Yasin Abu Bakr, took to the streets of the capital a couple Fridays ago to mercilessly beat the effigy of this country's female Prime Minister, Kamla Persad Bissessar, again with a long piece of wood, suggesting among other things perhaps also the possibility of sexual frustration and the concomitant manifestation or 'acting out' to these thoughts and acts.

Where are the Powerful Ladies of Trinidad & Tobago (PLOTT) who are supposed to currently be demonstrating against the violent murder of Senior Counsel Dana Seethahal? Is it that they do not see the correlation of that act in actions such as these, and the dangers therefore to letting them by unchallenged? Where is Diana Mahabir Wyatt? If no one else surely she should have an opinion on these developments, shouldn't she? Why the silence? Where is Hazel Browne? A powerful and outspoken activist in her own right, does she not see the potential for trickle down violence if these displays are ignored? Mary King? Hazel Manning? Verna St. Rose-Greaves?

And what of the men? Where is Pastor Dottin? Martin Daly? Senator Rolph Balgobin? Aren't these also self styled champions of decency and moral direction? Why no outrage over these examples of depravity and violence against women? What is David Abdulah's position on violence against women? Faris al Rawi? Kirk Waithe? These three are so verbose and willing to volunteer positions on all manner of concerns, why not this?

In response to the discussion on social media one commentator wrote the following, and I find that I concur enough with the position to share it verbatim and as written:

“You males should never hold public office for your vicious invectives and attacks on female public office holders. What is your intent in office? To shackle women? To relegate them to the kitchen? Seems by your writing and statements that you are tacit abusive and invoking violence on is this so in this 2014 year? I call on you three to issue immediately and written apology to be printed in clear terms in all the major newsprint in Trinidad and Tobago and agree to submit to at least two sessions of gender sensitivity training and counselling. I ask you to put in writing that you strongly condemn any violence against females of any age and any ethnicity and any position in society, be it home maker to public office holder. I especially ask you to arrange a one on one meeting with the Prime Minister to explain your statements and reckless behaviour and at such you apologize to her and allow the PM to accept this for the good of the nation."

In truth this sort of behavior cannot be tolerated if we are serious about becoming a First World Nation. In many of those these statements would have been challenged by the authorities simply because the civilized are only too aware that actions first begin as thought, but also that example and response creates the new normal, and may lead the less-restrained or evolved to act out these otherwise mis-pronounced and mal-concieved fantasies.

It is imperative that there be consequence to this behavior and it must be public.

The offenders MUST apologize to all women and offer to make amends. We are bound by this to undo the culture of hatred and violence against women that permeates our society and a clear and unambiguous message must be sent. In direct response we must insist on taking public steps to cement our women as deserving of both our respect and our protection.

Anything else is foolishness and distraction in my view and ought to be rejected.