Saturday, December 13, 2014

Yes, Prime Minister...

In the classic fable 'The Emperor's New Clothes' the Emperor is duped by the clever knowing that the 'yes men and women' around him would dare not disagree with him even if they were told that he was not naked in public but was in fact wearing clothes that they just couldn't see. So they ended up lying to agree with him in his confusion and ended up making a royal fool of him. This same plot-line was taken to the extreme and milked of all its comic value in the British hit comedy series 'Yes Minister,' and made the point every week that one ought to be careful whose advice and more importantly, whose interpretation of circumstances one subscribed to.

Take our illustrious Prime Minister, whose brand management and now electoral campaign is being run by an illusion artist capable of convincing her that the growing negative public perception of her that is happening on his watch is nothing for which she should be concerned. So the hit that she took and continues to take while they gave out bribes to media workers in her name and at her event remains, and while it is being touted as a 'help for the needful in times of need,' no explanation was given as to why this 'help' was not given out in the full glare of everyone else or to everyone else invited. But that is nothing. This same charlatan is presiding over her name slowly being made synonymous with bad luck and blight, so that everything that she blesses or attends, if the team she supports loses, it becomes comic fodder after on social media and in traditional 'ole talk' that 'the Prime Minister blight the team.' This was seen in the Brazilian World Cup epic defeat and just recently the Trinbagonian Women's Team's attempt to qualify for the World Cup. But it gets worse still.

In the recently concluded Cabinet retreat held in Tobago to prepare for the upcoming General Elections, the overwhelming majority of Cabinet Ministers polled readily agree that the individual in question appears clueless to the needs of the party and its floundering popularity despite the fact that it and they delivering on an extremely high level. They point to the telegraphed campaign to create a cult of sorts around the Prime Minister where she is adored for the government's successes, and the associated marginalizing of every other Minister that is surely bound to backfire by an opposition who now only have one target to hit. On the upside to this the Ministers with the power to ignore this communications mismanagement who are in fact managing their own brands and preparing to step into the light should the need arise, and one only has to point to the remarkable transformation of the Housing Minister from dour and arrogant to tempered and measured and a joy to listen to even when engaging his and the government's enemies, who now keeps his rapier wit sheathed while focusing his barbs in cleverly designed come backs that make even his detractors laugh, showing an understanding of the national culture and a willingness to bend the show to suit the audience.

The public for their part is also telling the government to hold the public relations and deal with them from a position of fact, to give us the bitter medicine stripped down of all the glitz and glamour and let them decide. Take the fourteen month old Minister of National Security for example, who has demonstrated a willingness to communicate with the public at every step regardless of the perceived popularity of his policy or lack thereof at the time, which has resulted in a public trusting him in a Ministry that, prior to his elevation, was considered a career killer for every previous holder of that office including two Prime Ministers who were all ridiculed for their efforts. This from a Minister who has dismantled the culture of rewarding gang members with state contracts, contrary to the previously widely held belief that the government through the MONS should be accommodating to gang leaders in exchange for peace. Instead he has extracted peace through the enforcement of the law and the threat of further enforcement and the public is lapping it up. Now he does not even have to defend himself or his policies, and Friday's broadcast that a New York based fringe group was taking serious issue with his immigration repatriation policy saw social media rise vociferously to his defense. To the uninitiated that is called winning the battle of hearts and minds.

So what am i saying?

That it is a cheap stunt to attempt to package everything good in the land as the Prime Minister's doing, and everything bad as the work of sinister opposition forces. The public is not that foolish and the push back when it comes will sting. Further, this policy of isolating and shaming those perceived to be opposed to the government in any way is backfiring badly, and our hard working multi talented and willing Attorney General seems to be the first to pay the ultimate price. His ratings are so low outside of the People's Partnership Government and the United National Congress there is a new joke making the rounds, that if Anand were to cure cancer the people would choose cancer over his cure.

Now there are many who would not dare tell the AG that simply because the AG appears unable to process negativity or bad news, but to succeed in public life one must not only develop a thick skin where detractors are concerned, one must almost become Christ-like in one's willingness to forgive. This is something that the high functioning public figures around the world understand, that the people demand their right to an opinion of you as an expression of their own power, and the real job is to manage that impression. It is where Fuad Khan went so wrong over the easily solved ambulance issue, and instead of taking the matter being raised as a personal attack he had a wonderful opportunity to come down on the side of the people, express outrage over the tragic and calamitous state of affairs and pledge to work unceasingly to rectify them regardless of the obstacles that needed to be overcome. His surly and withdrawn response has drawn the ire of the public and now they are monitoring his every step to expose him again, something inevitable in the difficult to run health sector and I daresay, the new career killing Ministry.

My advice to Fuad? Come straight with the public, out yourself and the entire health sector, bombard the people with the failings and their failures, implement new policies in full view of the public, and most importantly, engage your detractors. There is no amount of money available to fool people with PR stunts equivalent to a converted detractor. When those traditionally opposed to you start singing your praises it is then that you would have won the public's trust.

Similarly with the Attorney General, whose personality seems to reflexively lash out at people he considers opposed to him. This is not working for him and neither is the campaign to 'soften' his image now being waged on social media. His is a unique situation as he is supposed to embody his office and should do so with the dignity for which it calls. The only approach of merit for him is to cease the public politicking altogether, to only approach national issues from the position of the Attorney General of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, and to do so with the greatest respect for the office and all that portends.

But why am I giving all of this free advice?

To let Rodney Charles and any cabalists in the government know that I am unfazed by their behind the scenes chicanery to punish me for speaking the truth. The threat of the loss of contracts or the ability to bid for contracts will never work to control me, and, if anything will further embolden me to  expose the heavy handed misuse of state funds to control public opinion.

I also understand that these same individuals have been working behind the scene to prevent me being allowed to contest the Diego Martin West seat as a member of the People's Partnership, but I wonder what they believe would be the outcome of that situation with someone so politically minded and active as myself, who had to sacrifice much of his own support base to support this government? I wonder if Rodney Charles is ready for the push back of myself and others like me come election time, who have zero interest in seeing a PNM government ever come to office but would inadvertently end up working in their favor as we work to punish the political charlatans in our midst?

As Kahlil Gibran said in his world famous work 'The Prophet' – 'You can muffle the drum, and you can loosen the strings of the lyre, but who shall command the skylark not to sing?'

Madame Prime Minister the last polls told you that your communications is not working. That despite you presiding over the best performing government that we have ever had, the people are anxious to rid themselves of your government. This will not get better and accelerating while being stuck only deepens the hole. As of this writing I am prepared to resign any position and surrender any contract in exchange for principle and integrity and to let you know that you are being made a fool. You are a high functioning capable Prime Minister, quite possibly the best that we have ever had. Do not allow the simple minded to dress you up and trot you out like a Barbie Doll. Listen to the ground, they will tell you everything you need to know and to do to retain office in 2015. You might be surprised the benefit to your popularity a tactical firing or two could accomplish right now.

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