Sunday, September 28, 2014

Politics, Religion, Sex & Drugs...

Oscar Wilde wrote “Everything is about sex. Except sex. Sex is about power.”

The Prime Minister, in response to a direct question on her government's position on the decriminalization of homosexuality in Trinidad & Tobago stated categorically that the environment for the conversation does not yet exist due to the position being taken by religious bodies on the issue, specifically the Catholic Church, which prompted a scathing response from the same Catholic Church denying that statement but which notably omitted to state, if she was wrong, then what exactly the church's position on the matter is.

Now before we tear in to the matter and have our say it is worthy to note that no other group in society risk prosecution over sexual expression like homosexuals do, despite this being an overtly sexual society described in some quarters as a hyper-sexualized environment. The issue is reduced to how they have sex, as if this is anyone else's business. From there the matter becomes cloudy with inflamed passions over what is right or wrong, moral or immoral or even what is detrimental to the society as a whole, and while I try my best to stay out of bedroom politics, this matter is actually worthy of a discussion if only to prove that we are mature enough to be seeing after our own affairs.

Questions need to be asked and chief among these should be, why should this matter? Without getting into the nitty gritty as to how sex is practiced on all sectors of society, do we really believe that how consenting adults interact sexually can have an impact on the development of society?

And what of the other sacred cows such as marriage and child rearing, do we really believe that the sanctity of heterosexual unions can somehow be undermined by the fact that homosexuals want to also commit to one person for the rest of their lives? Or that unclaimed orphans are much better off languishing in orphanages rather than be given the opportunity to grow in a home environment because we disagree on how those people express themselves sexually?

I for one have been trying to be very mature about this, and while still do not understand a lot of what makes a person homosexual, whether it is in fact nurture, nature or genetics at play, I find that the issue has become one of human rights, and for me to be the social activist I believe myself to be then I am going to have to have to at least weigh in on the human rights aspect of the matter.

The criminalization of homosexuality is wrong on multiples of levels and should be undone. Human beings should be free to express themselves sexually and we as a society need to grow up to that point.

Hoping not to inextricably link the two, I cannot avoid the comparison with this issue and the issues surrounding the decriminalization of marijuana for personal use. Again, this is not a matter 'dear to my heart' as it is another cause for which I am outside the affected group, but here again is another example of legislation failing to keep up with the times. It is a publicly known fact that many, many people smoke marijuana on all levels of society for different reasons. As recreation to get high (as compared to drinking to get drunk), for medicinal purposes (suppression of pain and other negatives associated with chronic disease) or for other reasons, and while we are legally allowed to drink ourselves into a stupor, the use of marijuana has been linked to the opening of the gates of hell and the unleashing of the demon hordes to destroy society.


If you have ever had to engage people who take their marijuana use seriously the first thing you would notice is the almost passionless lack of zeal. It has been scientifically noted that marijuana suppresses urge and perhaps may be a useful thing if harnessed and put to good in our penal institutions, but that is a topic for a whole other discussion. Noteworthy to the discussion, the ill effects of smoking are well known, yet more people die from the avoidable consequences of smoking cigarettes than any other cause and are allowed to do so legally. The facts outstrips the fiction now associated with the drug, and again this is something that requires national dialogue and perhaps a vote from which to make a decision.

Put the democracy to work and let the people decide. Call a referendum on the two issues, giving all sides three months to 'campaign' for their cause, phrasing the ultimate questions as simple yes or no:

Do you think homosexuality should be decriminalized yes or no?

Do you think marijuana for personal use should be decriminalized yes or no?

Guided by the results, laws should be either enacted or repealed to reflect the will of the people. That is the way mature societies should address polarizing issues and in the process create a space for the harmonious enjoyment and celebration of each other's differences in my humble opinion.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Reading Rowley Right...

Translated from Spanish to english, Las Alturas means 'The Heights,' and clearly there were some serious 'heights' (as the young people say) at play in this entire fiasco that is now crumbling down without ever having been used. Adding to the legacy of mistakes that included the purchase of a boat that never float, building homes that could never be used and that had to be torn down is going to be a damning indictment on anything the People's National Movement says from here, but of all the 'heights' that one has to deal with where this latest scandalous fiasco is concerned, I am surprised that so many people missed Dr. Rowley in his defense of his track record, stated that this was just the latest in a series of attacks, that Kamla Persad Bissessar was now 'Baby Uff' to former Prime Minister Patrick Manning's 'Pappa Uff.' What was his message here? Clearly a sotto voce 'play' comparing the two to the Duvalier clan of the Pappa Doc and Baby Doc regimes that were famous for the Tonton Macoute extermination of tens of thousands of Haitians, but forget his hatred for the current Prime Minister, isn't he now calling out his former leader who he just finished lionizing and deifying as the best Prime Minister we have ever had only last week? So which is it? Is Patrick Manning the corrupt thief, guilty of enabling with full knowledge the wholesale looting of the nation's treasury through bid rigging and corruption for six long years under Calder Hart? Or is he, as we were told, such a blessing that a nation is fortunate if it produces one such stalwart in its history, we having been blessed to have spawned a legend whose shoes he admitted he would never fill, so how does he now come to refer to the same man as a brutal dictator and a murderer?

Will the real Keith Rowley please stand up?

And what about his defense of his spin doctor in chief Faris al Rawi, whose stint on the Housing Development Board should be the foil from which we draw comparison for his eager ambition to high office? The same Rowley and al Rawi who insisted that the sins of Lifesport were the responsibility of the line Minister who 'ought' to have overseen the activities of his Ministry and any of its charges and agencies, yet fail to see the irony, the culpability of Faris in his failure of his fiduciary responsibility over the same Las Alturas heights? Shouldn't Keith Rowley be dismissing Faris as we speak so as to walk the talk he walks so heavily? Isn't Faris at the very least materially responsible for the failure and because of such, unfit for public office? Where are the mea culpas? The outpouring of connected responsibilities that the opposition uses to hang the government from?

Again, the almost karmic irony here is almost laugh out loud funny, because, had the PNM been in office right now, this same Las Alturas fiasco would have been enough to pull them down from office if the same standard that they want to hold out to others were applied.

Keith Rowley's immediate replacement at the Housing Ministry Emily Dick-Forde said in her brief statement on the issue that she inherited 'a mess' and was 'appalled at the backward approaches being employed at the Ministry,' again not the most noble or stellar of endorsements for the man who has his heart set on running an entire country.

The cold hard facts that seem to dog Keith Rowley no matter how hard he tries to outrun them through distraction, deflection and misdirection is the abysmal failure of his own track record in office. The fact that not one but two major multi-million dollar projects failed under the People's National Movement over geological issues, Las Alturas and Tarouba despite that administration being led by two supposedly qualified geologists, one of whom was no less a person than the then Prime Minister, the other the focus of this Commission of Enquiry, Keith Christopher Rowley, the man one assumed would be able to read and understand the implications of a geological report on the suitability of a site, who has held the most loftiest standards for others to uphold, seems to have once again catastrophically flubbed his lines.

Will the multiples of millions spent on Las Alturas, like the multiples of millions spent on the 'unfloatable' MV Sue and the unstable, unusable Brian Lara Cricket Academy at Tarouba be also written off as just others in the numerous already written off as the cost of a PNM government? From the Caroni Racing Complex that cost billions without even a foundation to show for it to the latest 'heights,' how much will be enough for the people languishing in squalor and poverty of the shrinking PNM die hard communities, feeding flour pap as milk to their babies, dodging bullets, living hand out to hand out, defending a party long on theft, mismanagement, mistakes and corruption, and woefully and abysmally short on any people centered, country focused policies? How much before they too say enough?

Keith Rowley, you said once that we as a nation should judge you on your track record. Which track record were you referring to?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Diplomacy, Controversy & Recognition...

Awards serve two purposes: they recognize the contributions of the awardee deemed worthy of public acclaim, and they use that recognition to broadcast to the widest audience those qualities that we think admirable and deserving of note so as to impact the society as a whole through emulation.

With that said, this column was almost entitled 'The Theatre of the Absurd.' It is no overstatement to say that this year's national awards ceremony has been dogged by needless controversy and mishandled to the extreme, creating fiascos where none needed to be. Putting aside the human resource responsibility of dismissing those responsible for the cluster faux pas, we need to take urgent and positive steps here to undo the damage to such an important national institution so as to prevent the awards themselves becoming tarnished and devalued.

The fact that no one received the Order of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago this time around seems only to underscore the point being discussed on all levels of our society that, all controversies aside, no one was more deserving of such recognition than Dana Seetahal. To hear her family speak, accolades and awards meant nothing to Dana unless it was something that she was actively striving for through dint of sheer effort and hard work, in which case one would be advised to get out of her way.

The real reality here is that granting her the Order of the Republic does nothing for Dana, in fact it takes more than it gives. She does not need it to complete her or her legacy as a legal and social champion or as a reliably strong voice and clear mind through cloudy times, if anything, as a recipient she now contributes to the value of the thing. Perhaps this is what those charged with the responsibility failed to understand, the organic, almost ephemeral nature of issues such as these. That judged solely on the pantheon of those who have received the award for contribution deserving of the highest of national recognition raises the value of the award itself or, conversely, handing it out too cheaply devalues and diminishes the contribution and even the reputations of those others who have gone before.

It is for this reason that I have said that neither Basdeo Panday or Patrick Manning deserve such a prestigious recognition for simply doing their job. Neither of them were so extraordinary a leader that we are bound to immortalize them, if anything both seemed to suffer from the same feet of clay that grounded them and robbed them both of their individual legacies. That is stuff for another discussion, what we need to do right now is find a way forward that restores the reverence and the lustre of the national awards and puts the wrong things done here right.

The public will not be satisfied with anything less than the Order of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago for their reluctant hero, and the government has the power to agree and acquiesce. The family and custodians of her memory have graciously agreed to accept the award at a future date, so why not use that opportunity to reflect on the life of Dana Seetahal to see if an error was in fact made, one that cannot be put right as a win for everyone?

It is regrettable that the process itself could have been so cheapened by this mishandling of what should have easily been a public relations coup for a government badly in need of a victory where public opinion is concerned, that they could hardly afford another misstep of any kind at this point is itself an understatement, especially one this avoidable. I have said before and am prompted by these events to say again that the Prime Minister seems to be almost a victim of her own advisors as some of these unforced errors seem almost designed to make the good lady look bad.

As no other leader in recent history has so mastered the art of accepting consequence in hindsight and then doing the right thing as this Prime Minister has, we can at least rest easy knowing that the solution, when found, can be said to be in good hands. That her leadership style has become one of sober thought and decisive leadership where and when required is without question, so if anyone can fix this with a decision shared with the public, she can.

In this case Madame Prime Minister, and with an abundance of respect I suggest that you play to your strengths and demonstrate that now trademark quality that promises to define your own legacy. I implore you to reach across the limitations of this mortal plane and bring Dana back to life. Engage this most devoted and giving daughter of the soil and bless us all by awarding her the highest accolade that we all can give, in tribute and recognition of a life so richly lived.