Sunday, October 19, 2014

Opposing Sensibly...

If the People's Partnership Government were to declare war on cancer tomorrow, Sunity Maharaj would find a way to defend cancer, Keith Rowley and Faris al Rawi would suggest that, by targeting cancer more people are now going to get it, and David Abdulah would say that cancer is good for healthy societies in the long run.

What am i spoofing?

That these people are so consumed by their agendas and zeal for relevance they repeatedly throw the issue out with their biases and oppose for opposing sake time and again.

Not every thing must be politicized, not every policy attacked in the name of opposing for opposing sake. At some point we must be able to be mature enough as a nation to come together to confront the real issues, the negatives that plague us if we are ever to improve to where we want to be.

Take crime as an example. This government through this Minister of National Security is fighting a war against crime on a broad array of fronts never experienced in this country before, and putting statistics and specifics into the national conversation creating by extension an entire generation of armchair criminologists.

We have 'found' the link between state contracts and the organized crime of the ghetto gang culture now that it has been exposed and brought to heel. We 'stumbled upon' the link between the ridiculous number of illegal aliens living among us, people with needs who, unable to get meaningful employment due to their lack of documentation would be left with little choice but to engage in criminal activities, yet when the Minister raises this at a regional level he is accused of 'muddying the waters' of integration. How can defending your nation against unlawful invasion be considered an attack against integration?

Or when the idea of terrorism and zealotry is raised, when links to globally sponsored terrorism are exposed, cheap politics convolutes the thing to the point that when Jamaica deports a notorious son of this soil long linked to radical extremism and who led a bloody assault against this nation's Parliament, politics allows this issue to become anything other than what it is and the individual given mind space to rewrite history and recast himself as some sort of national leader.

How do we grow past this?

Did we take Westminster from the British only to make a joke of it and a laughing stock of ourselves?

Yes the Opposition's job is to oppose, but not for opposing sake but to offer the public real alternatives so that informed choice could determine elections. What we have here is instead is a mockery of that, where opposition forces only have to malign and ridicule, where issues and policies are cast aside and personalities and reputations attacked mercilessly in the name of opposition, leaving the people more confused and less informed, and even more jaded where politics and politicians are concerned.

Surely at some point we must want more. More information. More representation. More service from these elected officials regardless of on which side of the aisle they sit.

If the Minister of Food Production tells us that food inflation is being reversed we should want to know what that means, what are the implications to prices and what should we expect to encounter on the grocery shelves. But by engaging in ad hominem politics that targets the Minister and ignores the issue the information gets lost and the public left exposed to the unscrupulous among us simply because they still have no idea what a peeled back food inflation rate means.

We need to desist choosing wrong for our misconceived right reasons. Wrong can only be wrong. Religious fervor is great until it picks up a gun to shoot you for disagreeing. Political fanaticism is fantastic, until it creates a newspaper built on lies designed to sensationalize character assassination in place of real news. The media itself needs to come up higher. We as a people must avoid becoming ensnared by the desire for more power that we abuse what little power we have. We are all here for a relatively short time, and when given an opportunity to affect public life we must do so with high ideals and a desire to leave this nation better for us having been here. As the old saying goes, when we set out to slay monsters we must make doubly sure that we ourselves do not become monsters along the way. The opposition has a role, but they need to figure out what that means in this context and start contributing to the national development if they want to be even considered as relevant to the equation.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Environmentally Speaking....

When Columbus first landed on these shores there were no roads. Everything that we have done since then has disturbed the environment to some degree, but where would be developmentally without our roads and highways? The good people of Westmoorings, where they live today was mangrove and swamp just thirty years ago. There is a mountain across the road from West Mall that literally bears the scars of being cut in half to reclaim those lands.The Foreshore Freeway also called the Audrey Jeffers Highway that turned the daily commute to the west from hours upon hours to fractions of hours was once beach front property and more mangrove. The Caroni swamp, the same Caroni that thrives and is teeming with wildlife today was cleaved in two many years ago to make way for the north south connector highway that united this island for the first time and paved the way for much of the development that contributes to the quality of life we all enjoy. The Point Lisas Industrial Estate that fuels our industry, what was it built on? All of our homes, didn't nature give way to that? We have altered water courses, reclaimed land, built reservoirs, quarried for aggregate that gave us the roads that gets our children to school, all of this is development, all of this is progress.

Now no one is saying that we are to decimate the environment in the name of development, but if we were to be honest, questions should be asked why so much of our development failed to reach our brothers and sisters in the south and deep south? On whose edict were they cut off and isolated and left to fend for themselves? The Highway that is being built to Point Fortin that passes through Mon Desir, Penal and Siparia ironically will have the least disturbance to nature and the environment than any of the other civil works projects mentioned before. Someone asked and made the point, if it didn't already exist, would we be allowed to cut a road through the rain forest to get to Maracas beach? 
Would our world famous shark and bake exist?

Yes we are maturing as a people and yes we are learning to live in harmony with nature, to preserve our environment and to hand over to future generation better than what we ourselves received. This little country leads the world in such matters. It is why we established an Environmental Management Authority charged with the responsibility of making sure our development does not cost us the earth in the long run. That same Environmental Management Authority was satisfied with all of the plans for this project and gave it the green light to proceed. Why is this not being discussed?

The good people of Diego Martin, who used to spend hours in morning and evening commute, who have now been given those hours back as a gift to spend with their loved ones because of the Diego Martin Highway, the people of Valencia, Toco, Sangre Grande and environs, to whom the Valencia bypass comes like life saving surgery, the people of the far south, cut off from the rest of this country, who have spent years of their lives sitting in traffic, all were and are entitled to relief.

I hold no brief or bad blood for Dr, Wayne Kublalsingh and I respect the passion of the people of the Highway Reroute movement, but I have watched as this environmental protest morphed into a political attack against the government, I looked on as those with political ambitions joined forces to hoodwink the population even as the nation's courts threw out each and every successive claim made against the highway.

There is a place for politics, but it must not be at the expense of the people. It is hypocritical to fix your communities regardless of cost to treasury or environment and then turn around and accuse others who want what you have of being unpatriotic. How unnerving it must be to be a resident of Mon Desir, Penal or Siparia, to be watching this theatre unfold knowing that it could snatch the highway you want so badly away from you, and feeling powerless to stop it. Have those protesting gone there to see how those people feel? I doubt it. Many who overflowed out of their homes and went to give support in St. Clair left homes that destroyed the environment to be built, travelled on roads that trampled it to get there, and then chanted piously, firmly gripping proverbial stones without understanding that the admonishment is let he who is without sin cast it. Let us  demolish Westmoorings and dump it into the sea. Roll back every highway and allow nature to reclaim and replenish itself. Otherwise, to add your voice to a cause that threatens to prevent others from achieving what you yourself already enjoy is nothing more than political bullying and hypocritical in the extreme.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

My Advice to the PM...

I am not an advisor to the Prime Minister, but if i were i would be guiding her towards the grand gesture this last year of her first term, so that her governance would not only be done, but it would be seen to be done, and it would be remembered for having been done. Madame Prime Minister, as the election season begins to heat up, those who are interested in replacing you and your government in office are challenging your track record and I daresay you must respond if you are to win. I have made a few suggestions in the past, I respectfully make a few more now that, if enacted, could well show that yours is a serious government worthy of at least another term.

In no particular order:

- Enact travel restrictions from countries with Ebola. Fast track quarantine facilities at the airport that can accommodate plane loads of people should the need arise.

It is far better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Imagine the situation should an infected person actually get on board an enclosed plane? What do we then do when that plane touches down on Trinbago soil? This one's a no-brainer, and we need to get out in front of this Ebola thing now.

- Cancel the Carnival.

As the previous point intimated, Ebola is not one of the concerns we are going to want to be juggling anytime soon. The national festival is going to present an immediate challenge simply because it is a moving petri dish of cross contamination.

- Hang the next fifteen prisoners duly prosecuted and sentenced to death.

Criminals seem to think that Justice is not only blind, it is dumb and toothless as well. We need them to rethink, and nothing like the threat of execution to cool a murderous climate down.

- Impose a bottle tax on plastic bottles to save the environment and use it to fund a 'reward' to encourage the homeless and the desperately poor to scavenge in exchange for cash.

Plastic bottles do more harm to the environment on a daily basis than just about anything else. As the point suggests, a twenty five cent per container produced tax should be levied and used to reward those who become the plastic bottle scavenging industry, the obvious solution to the problem.

- Bring referendum legislation to the Parliament and pass it into law. Quickly.

We are growing up as a nation and the people want to have their say. Give it to them. Referendums make the democracy work as it brings the big decisions closer to the people. This is a win win as, any government willing to be guided by the wishes of the voters is sure to continue to get their votes.

- Use new referendum legislation to ask the public to weigh in on the Point Fortin Highway, on the decriminalization of homosexuality and the decriminalization of marijuana for personal use.

This nagging and contentious re-route nonsense has been overplayed, yet it continues on like an annoying hum. Forget mediation or confrontation, give the people the opportunity to decide on what is the best way forward, and make sure all parties agree to abide by that result. While we are at it shouldn't we give up the pretense that we are a chaste and sober society and stop penalizing people for their lifestyles and personal choices? Marijuana use seems widespread through all sectors of society, so why not ask society to decide on its fate? The criminalization of homosexuality is another hot coal issue that could be removed from the political directorate and given to the people to decide. Depending on that outcome we could all be guided by how the public at large really feels about the issue.

- Zero tolerance on illegal guns.

My pet peeve. For the life of me I do not understand why it is so difficult to build a dedicated gun court complete with gun jail to deal with gun issues. A dedicated gun court would take the burden off the existing Magistrates Courts and encourage the police to go after illegal guns knowing that the prosecution would be swift. Illegal gun legislation need to be amended to include a maximum three month stay at His Excellency's pleasure for first offense, doubling for the next three offenses and topping off with a fifteen year stay for third strikers.

- Free the prisoners.

Not all, just those who have had cases before the courts for more than ten years. Not to include rape, murder and other blood and white collar crimes of course, but both the Director of Public Prosecutions and his Excellency the President could be approached to vacate the backlog of matters clogging the system, a measure that would free many who have served sentences far in excess of what they could have been awarded had their matters been prosecuted to conclusion. Unclogging the case load and easing the overcrowding at the nation's prisons would go a long way toward paving the way for a far more just society.

- Fix the Courts.

I have suggested for years and I suggest again, we need to create an 'Old Case Court' staffed and manned to handle every matter from today going back into perpetuity. The High Court can then be freed to handle every matter that comes before it from today going forward. This is of course an over-simplification of what is required but it makes the point and has serious merit that is worthy of consideration if what we want is speedy justice in he best interest of all and the nation as a whole.

Of course there are many other ideas and suggestions worthy of implementing and like those I believe that these will have a massive impact on the majority of this beautiful nation. At some point we are going to have to make all the tough calls, rip those bandages off and free this country from the artificial restraints and petty fears that binds it and set it free to bigger more meaningful development. This is as good a place as any to start.