Saturday, October 31, 2015

Questions for Roodal...

If one were to use Roodal Moonilal's logic as stated at the announcement of the throwing of his hat into the ring for political leader of the United National Congress, then would have to assume that all who had a part to play in the UNC's last five years should be taking responsibility for that party's (mis)fortunes and all should be vacating their positions and avoiding making themselves available for promotion or election as well.

Not so?

Without question the People's Partnership was at once the best and the worst government this country has ever had, and while it can be said without fear of contradiction that no government has done more to develop this nation in five years, it can also equally be said that no government has damaged the institutional framework of this country as badly as the UNC led People's Partnership has in such a short space of time and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise. From the misuse of state funds to deify their leader to misusing the state communication machinery to engage in naked politicking for almost their entire term in office, nothing was spared.

I have scoured the news over the past five years searching for examples of Roodal's objection to the more glaring issues that the public had with the UNC and could find none. Rather, I found him a staunch defender of others that have brought shame and eventual defeat to the party, so how is Kamla the only one to blame? Did Roodal stand against Life Sport? Or against Anil Roberts when eventually exposed? What about the Section 34 fiasco that removed civil society's support for the government, what was Roodal's position on that? Did he call for investigations? Commissions of Enquiry? For those who conspired to pervert the administration of justice to be brought themselves before the courts and charged? History does not show that, and Roodal needs to defend that. Then there was the Run Off amendment proposal that looked to all like a government attempting to bend the Constitution to achieve a hegemony they could not otherwise at the polls, what did Roodal have to say about that? In the face of widespread public condemnation, did he side with the public? Or did he defend his government's position? What was Roodal's position on the firing of the government's most successful and popular Minister to shield the removal of publicly tried and condemned Attorney General? Did Roodal call for an investigation into Anand's activities? What was his take on Gary Griffith being fired for refusing to engage in a cover up? Did he publicly condemn it and call for a rethink of that decision? Did he call for a firing of Communications Minister Vasant Bharath for using the mechanism of a government release to propagate a lie? I cannot find evidence to suggest that, nor can I find evidence of Roodal condemning Vernella Alleyne Toppin's moment of ignobility, so to what does Roodal refer when he infers that Kamla is alone to blame? Did he take a public position against the nonsense being propagated by Rodney Charles in the foolish 'No Rowley' campaign that backfired so badly former supporters of the PPG ended up cheering for the same Rowley?

I think I have made my point, and I look forward to Roodal's responses to all of the above, but truth be told the United National Congress and People's Partnership's fall from grace was not accidental, it was deliberate and occurred through conspiracy over time. This country may never recover from what was attempted through Section 34, and the fact that a few Ministers are not cooling their heels at the President's pleasure because of it is an indictment against our ability to govern ourselves, but that is grist for another issue. In this one I hoped to make the point that thinking people need to do just that, think.

Stop being spoon fed nonsense regurgitated by a lazy media, ask of those who would seek your support for positions of power to defend their track records. Many in the know and even those with the most cursory of knowledge of how the PP was run would tell you that Roodal Moonilal was more than second in command and heir apparent but was in fact making the calls and pulling the strings.

I suggest to the contrary of his statement that Roodal is being selective in his memory and telling of events. If Kamla needs to step down for her decisions and directions that led the the failure of the government then others must as well, for collusion in and execution of those dictates.

So on that one point I agree with you Roodal, that Kamla needs to step down, but so do you.

Phillip Edward Alexander

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Convincing Untruths and Bold Faced Lies....

Well known novelist and story teller Stephen King once said "the trust of the innocent is the liar's most useful tool.'

In his witty ditty 'King Liar,' calypsonian wordsmith Lord Nelson referred to a man who was the best liar in the lying kingdom, able to best everyone in the annual lying competition. In the song he remarks of one well known challenger who told of a tailor who was capable of making clothes for people without measuring, and who claimed 'just show him a man standing on a corner, and he could make a suit and don't even measure,' which of course brought the crowd to its feet thinking with a lie like that surely King Liar would be losing the crown. But in trademark fashion the King Liar zinged how his tailor was far more qualified and did not even need to see the man before taunting – 'Don't show him the man my tailor is class, just show him the corner where the fella pass, and he could make a suit, that is tailor, yuh hear lie? King Liar?'

That exchange came to mind listening to the spin being put on the remnants of the emailgate hoax by Keith Rowley and his trusted sidekick Faris al Rawi, and when the Prime Minister held up a glass of water in the Parliament to describe the fuzzy logic being applied to the request for continuing an investigation where no substance exists, when she asked, if the glass was no more, what would hold the water it finally made sense, Yet Keith Rowley is asking you to ignore the absence of any glass and focus on the water, but how can you? What would give it shape, form and mobility? How can a bus filled with children drive off a cliff if there is no bus? Yet Keith and Faris wants you to name the children and contact their families. How can a rocket deposit astronauts on the surface of the moon if the rocket does not exist? But to Rowley and al Rawi that does not matter, let's put moon rocks on sale. How much more can I belabor this analogy to make the point, that it is impossible to make a suit for someone based only on the information that he walked down a street?

But I have been toying with the idea of the conspiracy behind the emailgate hoax now out of morbid curiosity simply because this was not done by small children with idle time, but by grown up professionals of high stature seeking to commit the most heinous of crimes, to snatch power via subterfuge and trick. The question is not so much 'who did it?' The investigators at crime scenes usually ask, as the first question, who stands to benefit most for this crime to identify the most likely suspects. No, we have a fair idea as to who did it, the real question is not who, it is WHO?

Which human beings sat down together and drew this up? I want to know that information just out of dark respect for minds so devious.

WHO in this country has that type of talent, and why are they not writing scripts for Hollywood Blockbusters?

When the Integrity Commission took it upon itself to return the matter to the complainants out of a lack of evidence the complainants refused to accept that and instead are insisting on drawing the Integrity Commission INTO their conspiracy. They are not saying 'here is something, investigate it,' they are saying 'here is nothing, help us prove it,' to which the Integrity Commission is saying we are having none of that. But is that why His Excellency the former President refused to even look at it much less comment? Is it why the Judiciary is staying far away from it? Out of an abundance of caution so as not to be drawn into political machinations as unwilling pawns in someone else's conspiracy?

Which begged the biggest question of all. Did Keith Rowley as complainant in chief refuse to take the matter to the police out of fear that he could be and would be charged with wasting police time?

I find the desperation in the antics of Rowley and al Rawi laughably pathetic now. Every talk show host that gives them a hearing is actually demonstrating a willingness to discuss that clothes can be made for people based on where they might have stood, and this I find most dismaying. At some point the media is going to have to take a real and subjective look at what it is reporting, what it is being drawn into and ask, is this really worth it? Is this what my carer has been reduced to? Passing on someone else's lies?

Keith Rowley and Faris al Rawi are coming dangerously close to bringing the Integrity Commission into odium by their grandstanding and they are charging up their minions to go the whole hog. I would like to caution them both if for no other reason out of respect for the stability of our nation. The Integrity Commission has not adjudicated but has said there is not enough substance upon which to mount an investigation. Regardless of how they might feel about that the responsibility is not on anyone else to help them construct their fantasies and they need to stop it now.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Moving on... (Closing Email Gate)

It appears that, for the first time in our independent history, a political organization has been able to best the People's National Movement at its own games and the people behind the People's National Movement seem to have no clue as to what to do about it.

So now they attack who disagrees with them and quote who agrees, whining to everyone if things don't go their way when all they are trying to do is topple the democratically elected government or, failing that, attempting to smear the names and reputations of its members so badly that, despite and in spite of how much good work they may have done while in office, to the electorate, because of the tsunami of scandal and shaming allegations being mounted against them, the voters would have no choice but to vote for the PNM.

Problem is, it doesn't seem to be working. Worse, it seems to be backfiring, and instead of people losing taste for the People's Partnership and turning to the PNM, the public is turning away from the whole damned thing, disgusted by the shenanigans and fed up of it in its entirety. The most common cry to be heard is, can't we do better? Can't we find something else?

Now the rug has been pulled out from under them in the form of two lines from the Integrity Commission they swore would be the resolution they were seeking, and now that the top has rubbished what the bottom had already rubbished two years earlier, the whining has begun in ernest. Now PNM talking head Faris al Rawi is burning up the airwaves skating dangerously close to maligning the Commissioners of and the entire Integrity Commission as a whole, creating a new dimension to the scenario, and emphasizing that, if the PNM does not get their way, they are prepared to tear the whole thing down.

I think the public is fed up of that. Aligned media workers and journalists, tired of being ignored by a public fed up of biased journalism are inching their own way back to the center, leaving the few obviously biased and beholding practitioners isolated and glaring and answering unasked questions as to what the voters/consumers can really do.

The same PNM led by the same Keith Rowley sanitized and publicly baptized by the same St. Faris of al Rawi that had no problem with Keith Rowley as Leader of the Opposition and prosecutor-in-chief meeting surreptitiously and clandestinely with the then Chairman of the Integrity Commission Ken Gordon cast in the role of Judge in this scenario as laid out by and called for on the behest of the PNM, is daring to question the means by which the same Integrity Commission might have arrived at the conclusion that there simply isn't anything in the allegations to investigate?

It appears that what the PNM wants is not so much investigation as validation for their position and seem unprepared to accept anything less regardless from whom it comes or what they have to do to get their way. In a world where he who alleges must first prove Keith Rowley got away with the complete opposite, 'chaining up' an entire country and all of its high institutions on a fool's errand turned wild goose chase (if the emails don't work, investigate the contents still), causing at least one high office holder to step outside her crease.

Today though, the sun rose on a nation where emailgate is behind us, save and except for the whining.

Many are expressing relief, glad to have this sordid chapter closed as am I, and the entire country should be tired of the nonsense, the double speak and the sleight of hand politicking we have been witnessing from Balisier House ever since PNM supporters tossed their former leader aside ignobly and crowned his slayer their new leader.

This king slayer though, has quickly developed the reputation of being all hat and no cowboy, of having plenty noise and odor but no substance, and has caused the country to say enough.

No amount of grandstanding and belly aching is going to prevent the coming investigation into the origins of emailgate, and I suspect chapter two is going to be far more revealing and possibly career ending than chapter one ever was.

Before we get to there I do hope for all of our sake the entire country is fed up of Faris al Rawi and his whining.

I know I am.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

House of Thrones... (Because Game of Cards was already taken)

The Leader of the Opposition has accused the Prime Minister and senior members of her government of having conspired, among other things, to murder a journalist to kill a story. In response, the government, through one of its members, accused the Leader of the Opposition of being a rapist and of being himself the product of a violent rape. All of this done in the sanctity of the highest space in the land, the seat of Parliament, and broadcast to the world at no risk to either side of slander, libel or defamation. The government through its spokespeople have accused the Opposition Leader of being corrupt and of hiding pertinent information from the Integrity Commission, the entity that is supposed to keep public officials corruption free. In response the Opposition Leader has accused the Minister of Finance of insider trading when he was the head of the nation's third largest bank. Two former Attorneys General from two former administrations have accused the former Attorney General of the current administration of serious abuses of Office amounting to billings totaling almost a half billion dollars, in response to which the current Food Production Minister has responded by asking the Integrity Commission to look into a list of suspicious actions of both accusers while they were in Office.

My mother just got back from a long trip to Canada, and told me that her friends want to know why I don't write anymore. As a creative writer of fiction, tell me, after reading that opening paragraph, short of introducing an attack on the Parliament by zombies or revealing that the Prime Minister may in fact be pregnant with the Opposition Leader's love child, how do I top that? Even the news stories these days are sometimes so impossible to believe that they require taking with a pinch of salt. Take for example the chair that the Chairman of the country's electricity commission sits on, rumored to have cost the country almost thirty thousand dollars, and while the Chairman has never admitted or denied sitting in the chair, she has distanced herself from its purchase. It gets worse. The leader of another political organization who now fancies himself a corruption buster has offered to purchase the very chair, ostensibly for political purposes, but this same leader was fired from this same government for corruption on an international scale, and who cannot answer for authorizing the retrieval of a crashed fire truck at more than five times the replacement cost of the truck. The chairman named in the chair scandal is married to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, which many claim is the reason why the chair story is a story in the first place, while others are of the view that purchasing outrageously expensive furniture for the use of state officials with state funds is the issue in and of itself.

Where was I? Oh yes, my mother. I had to explain to her that my weekly commentary was hired by a weekly newspaper under a former editor (who is now a candidate in the upcoming election on the same team as the Opposition Leader), and that up until recently, my weekly contributions went there primarily. A few weeks ago after the Opposition Leader was accused in the Parliament of being a rapist and that he himself was a child of violent rape, the new Editor of that old weekly announced that henceforth, nothing that showed the Opposition Leader in a bad light was going to be published, and because I found it almost impossible to write something good about the now made over, newly gentle, formerly garrulous and bitter combatant, I resigned. Funny thing though, that same Editor of that same weekly did not seem to have that same integrity when it came to others or those she and he (her leader) might consider political adversaries, because while she had a serious problem with articles referring to the Leader of the Opposition as an alleged rapist, she had none whatsoever publishing a full page fully nude image of a deceased politician on the front page of that same newspaper with a headline that alluded that he died while on a sex romp.

How do I contribute to that mom? How do I write knowing that the allegations made against the Prime Minister that she was a willing and conspiring murderess came in the form of a series of email exchanges that were never verified before they were put scandalously into the public domain but which have since taken years in the digital age to determine if they were in fact real? Or the fact that the Commissioner of Police is rumored to have received correspondence from the largest Internet Company on earth weeks ago but still cannot reveal their contents, while the Prime Minister insists that she too received the same information that exonerates her in any murderous enterprise, leading to the Opposition Leader's chief spokesperson saying straight faced to the public, ignore whether the emails were in fact authentic or not, pay attention to what the (fake?) emails contained. And while you are wrapping your head around that, wrap it around this as well. That same spokesperson is currently courting the former Minister of National Security of the current government to join their team despite they having accused him of being a willing coconspirator in the same murderous conspiracy, his name called in the same Parliament by the same Opposition Leader now courting him.

Isn't this all too bizarre?

And doesn't all of this suggest that either the Opposition Leader's spokesperson knew full and well that the emails and all they contained were rubbish when they were read in the Parliament? Or is it that everything is fair game in this House of Thrones and he is willing to play fast and loose with his own personal safety, consorting with an alleged murder conspirator for political reasons?

And (believe it or not) it gets even more interesting.

In response to and in defense of the allegations that the Opposition leader was a rapist, the same spokesperson for the Opposition Leader 'produced' a video that he said that they had in their possession since last year in anticipation of such an 'attack,' a video starring the very woman that the Opposition Leader is alleged to have raped when she was still a minor and the child of that rape, now a full grown thirty nine or forty year old man (they were having difficulty in the video deciding which), despite the fact that the purpose of the video was to debunk the allegations. But ignore that for a bit. To hear her tell they the story they were in love, drunk with puppy love, and that the child of that union was conceived in love.

Isn't that just too romantic and cute for words?

And while I am even willing to accept that, what I found remarkably interesting about that video is, while the Opposition Leader's spokesperson claims that it was produced since the year before (2014), and that they have had it in their possession for over a year, no one has been able to explain how is it that is comes to refer  to events that only took place in 2015, trumping my zombie plot with a possible time machine and perhaps a working crystal ball.

Mom, the real reason I am not writing anymore is that, while I am a veritable virtuoso in creative writing and fiction, seriously, how do I top that?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Matter of Trust...

Before he was 'outed' in the Parliament Keith Rowley refused to acknowledge and in fact actively conspired with others to deny the existence of one of his children. And while you're thinking about that, and while those employed to distract and misdirect from this issue attempt to spin it as a simple omission, understand this also, that a lie by omission is a lie where one neglects to include important information; an outright lie is a lie where the truth is deliberately skewed so as to mislead. This was an outright lie.  How we deal with other facts surrounding the outing that may or may not have been true is for other conversations, but this needs to be put on the table naked and exposed and seen for exactly what it is, that over the course of forty three years of his first child's existence and at least twenty five years of his own political career, Keith Rowley set out to deliberately mislead and deceive the public by telling a lie.

The question then begs to be asked, how does one trust someone who is capable of this grand a lie on this epic a scale? How does one trust with public office someone capable of this sinister a conspiracy over almost half a century and who has as of this writing still has not personally acknowledged his lie and given an accounting of his actions?

In all of his biographies including his Parliamentary bio where he swore that the information he gave was the truth to the best of his knowledge, the Leader of the Opposition with forethought and planning lied to the public by claiming two of his three children. What else then has he lied about over the course of that time?

The Collins English Dictionary defines character as - “the combination of traits and qualities distinguishing the individual nature of a person or thing,” and in this regard and for this purpose we are now knowledgeable of at least one defining trait in his character, that for whatever else he might be, Keith Rowley is a liar and a teller of untruths. That he is willing and able to conspire with others to deceive, that he is capable of misleading an entire nation and would skew facts to distort reality as long as they served his needs or ambitions.

Are those Prime Ministerial qualities or the traits of a person that we want to trust with high office?

According to Section 84 of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago - "A Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary shall not enter upon the duties of his office unless he has taken and subscribed the oath of allegiance and oath for the due execution of his office." The last hurdle before receiving the instruments of office, can a convicted teller of untruths be trusted to be guided by an oath?

The People's National Movement for their part owe an explanation to the country regarding their choice of political leader and an accounting of what steps if any are going to be taken to deal with this. For a little while at least they have ownership of the matter even though it should also be one for the public domain. We the people of Trinidad & Tobago have been worn down over the years and our standards have been eroded to the point where many do not seem to have a clear understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Political expediency should never be the filter through which one makes important assessments that could govern one's future or, put another way, it is unwise to apply temporary solutions to a permanent problem.

It comes down to trust. Can Keith Rowley be trusted now that we know he has demonstrated that he is capable of lying and of conspiring to deceive?

In times of strife and other national concern what holds power to the Office to which Keith Rowley aspires is the faith the public has that their leader can be trusted to do the right thing. Now that trust is broken, can the aspirant be considered fit for the position? How we answer that question ultimately reflects our own character in how we view issues such as right and wrong.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Roti Chronicles...

There is a hidden malaise in this country, a quiet struggle being played out at every level of society that needs to be addressed and ventilated once and for all.

Few things impact the lives of so many people as positively as roti, and this must be taken into account whether choosing either a life partner, embarking on a new relationship, or deciding who to vote for at election time. 

Many people make choices based on things other than love of roti, and these decisions are doomed to fail. It makes no sense to hide it, and my greatest pity is reserved for those who have to hide to eat their roti and deny that the love exists in the first place. What type of existence is that? I suggest being open and honest from the beginning, and see if your new partner shares your feelings for roti; you may be pleasantly surprised.

In his book "Seeing is Believing," Harvey Glasses remarked - "ahhh, curry mango, are you sweet friend or spicy foe?" to which i respond "neither, my good man!" This confusion is systemic of a devious group dedicated to the undoing of the roti movement, and their most notable triumph to date has been the removal of roti from Religious, National and State functions, with the introduction of knives and forks to the consternation of many.

We must not let this prevail.

I have written to the head of most churches and religions on this issue, strongly suggesting the word roti, or better yet roti itself be included in the actual marriage ceremony as the unifying symbol of love it is, but to no avail. 

The closest I have come to success in this is in a thinly veiled attack on my love of roti by the Archbishop's Office in a letter that ended with the confusing "for the love of God, Jesus and Mary, Please stop writing to us."

As I am not sure what they are trying to say I will keep writing to them until they make themselves clear.

On the political scene, at least two ex-Prime Ministers publicly displayed their affection for roti on the campaign trail, only to distance themselves once in Office. I am not saying anything and people are invited to draw whatever conclusions they choose, but maybe that is why they are 'ex' Prime Ministers today. 

We live in enlightened times, and the High Courts of the land intervened on behalf of those who felt slighted by the highest national award, and it has been replaced by the 'Order of Trinidad'. With no apologies I say to the Government 'not good enough!' We need an award that exemplifies love of all things Trinidadian, and I humbly suggest the creation of the 'Order of Roti', to be given in recognition of people who have reached the highest level of national contribution while openly admitting to their own roti love affair. (Please note the 'Order of Roti' should not be confused with 'ordering' a roti, because then everybody will want an award).

In closing, and I do not believe for one minute that this is the end of this very contentious issue, I would like to encourage all citizens to wear green (and a kinda pale biege with brown spots) in solidarity with roti lovers throughout this land as we call for a national Roti Day holiday to recognize the importance of roti once and for all.

The significance of this movement will grow to be seen for what it is, and if the Government refuses to lead from in front, we may have to have a roti march every Friday, around lunchtime, from your closest roti shop.

In the immortal words of Dr. I. P. Freelie - "Never underestimate the power of the people to change the world, and never eat buss up shut in long sleeves".

Stand strong, brothers and sisters, we struggle on....

The Color of a Gun...

How long is a perfect day
How much does a bullet weigh
What is the color of a loaded gun
How fast can a dying or a dead man run

How many jumps does it take to touch the sky
How many tears does a broken heart cry
What does it cost in copper and lead
How many dying, how many dead

Tears of the children washing away
The one that kills, how much does it weigh.
Blood in the moonlight, blood in the sun
Tell me my friend, what is the color of a gun...

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Tale of Two Indecencies...

It started off as a vote of no confidence in the Opposition Leader but by the time Vernella Alleyne Toppin took to her feet it became more, much more. In her contribution allegations were made regarding a school teacher in Tobago, a guest at someone's house, an underaged child with whom sexual relations resulted in a pregnancy, rumors of which have been making the rounds for years and for which the existence of the child of the union has now been confirmed.

In 2013 when the pictures of Keith Rowley's alleged son Garth first broke it was met with the most vehement of denials that it was not in fact so. In a conversation on my social media wall Diego Martin North East Member of Parliament Colm Imbert told a PNM supporter named Dane Wilson who appeared willing to agree and dismiss the fact that there could be further Rowley progeny that he was talking utter nonsense. That the allegations were baseless and without merit and fabricated to add life to a story that was untrue. Colm Imbert said then categorically that he has known Keith Rowley for many, many years, and that if he did in fact have another child outside of his two daughters he (Imbert) would know about it.

Fast forward to now, and as of this writing Colm Imbert has said nothing on the subject to either qualify or clarify his previous statement. Perhaps he will at the next sitting, one can only hope, that is, if he does not lead another walk out of the house in protest of matters the People's National movement's members do not seem to want to have discussed but which a large proportion of the country seems to want and which some say must be had before a general election. How unthinkable to have a candidate for the highest office in the country face the electorate with allegations of rape and that he may have molested an underaged girl swirling around him? What if, in a worst case scenario he were to be elected and then the allegations proven true? Would we have then been faced with the scandal of a sitting Prime Minister being arrested for forty something year old crimes? Like it or not, Vernella Alleyne Toppin did the nation a favor by at least forcing this matter to be ventilated as the confusion surrounding the entire affair was being used politically as wanted as was demonstrated by the Chaguanas West Member of Parliament's Jack Warner's flip flopping on the matter.

Aggrieved and insulted at the level of the discussion, he castigated the house before he too made his exit, demanding that this not be the level of the discussion or that it served no useful purpose. Yet the same Jack Warner said on this matter in the very same House of Representatives in April 2013 directed at the same Keith Rowley that “some of us had a lot in our private lives to answer for.”

Inferring the same rumors and allegations surrounding the Opposition Leader, according to the Trinidad Express of April 26th 2013 Warner went on to say “I heard from the last speaker, something about paedophile... and if a paedophile ends up in the classroom... Did I hear correctly about a paedophile? A classroom? A teacher? What classroom? What age? What teacher? How old is the child? What year? Because yuh see it have a lot of investigative journalists here, you know. And they must investigate. So when I heard about paedophile and classroom, it jolted me, as if of course the member (Rowley) tried to refresh his memory.”

Warner said there were 43-year-old allegations. “Eh, Vernella (Alleyne-Toppin)? You can’t be selective in allegations. He (Rowley) said fraud is not statute-barred, but so is rape,” Warner declared.

See why I said Vernella did us a favor? And while much of what she inferred was hard to hear it had to be said if only to clear the air, and to hear some of those who themselves have said worse to and about others pontificating as to Ms. Toppin's future is downright amusing. The same Martin Daly who is calling for Vernella to be fired is the same Martin Daly who hit then witness in the CLICO Commission of Enquiry a broad side as to his (Assam's) sexuality, causing the Commissioner to intervene and caution him. Is it a case of one standard for PNM and another for the PPG? The media does themselves no good service by playing arbiter of the discussion and guiding its outcome. That is not the role of media and they ought to know it. I know for a fact that many letters have been written asking for clarification on the matter but they are not being published, while letters demonizing the Member for her contribution are getting center stage. Faris al Rawi's scandalous behavior that the nation has been scandalized is a joke when compared to the PNM's track record over the course of the last five years. Ms Toppins' tale of rape and molestation is no worse than the PNM's allegations in the same house under the same privilege that the Prime Minister, her Attorney General and members of her government conspired to murder a journalist among other things without the remotest shred of evidence. At least for her part Ms. Toppin was able to provide a picture of a house. All the Leader of the Opposition brought to support his accusations during his rape of decency when he attacked to malign and injure reputations was the flimsiest of pieces of paper. What contempt for the foundation rule of justice that he who alleges must first prove. What is instructive then and should be to all is the media's handling of both situations. While giving 'emailgate' prominence and top story billing, the only treatment that 'Rapegate' is getting seems to be the burying of the story and the killing of the messenger, the twisting of the facts to suit reality, and a politicizing of an issue that still needs clarification and open discussion.

To be continued....

Sunday, March 22, 2015

An Assault on Decency...

It is Sunday morning and I have just spoken with Vernon De Lima who gave me a chilling account of the trauma he and his wife both endured in the wee hours of the morning at the hands of gun toting criminals who invaded their home and terrorised both he and his wife, beat them brutally and mercilessly and left at least one of them for dead. Emotionally i am torn, livid with anger that two such decent people could be put through this at their age, sad for them and their loved ones to have to go through such an ordeal, frustrated for my country.

Immediately after speaking with him the next call i placed was to former Minister of National Security Gary Griffith who is himself incensed over the matter and upset over the whole thing, frustrated that so much good work that was having such a serious impact on the crime situation is now thwarted by cheap politics.

I do not want to politicise this but how can you escape it?

This is a country that routinely boasts of its wealth, yet has produced an 'underclass' of citizens so out of touch and disconnected from the main they exist in a violent and lawless dimension of their own, and it is only when the decent and the law abiding come into savage contact with these beasts do we remember again, having forgotten only hours earlier, that something is badly broken in Trinidad & Tobago.

I was in the process of writing my weekly column for the TNT Mirror when i got the news, and Vernon's decision to go public with the matter redirected my attention and focused it here.

How are we to fix this?

The 'average' Trinidadian and Tobagonian are different people depending on which side of the 'divide' you were born, but why should there be such a divide in the first place? Why such a disproportionate allocation of the national wealth that some people are allowed to succeed while others fail so badly they see the first others as targets and prey? We are a nation of one point three million people. A dot in the scheme of real world politics, why for so much government and governance for such a small place we do such a piss poor job? Why would we not have been able yet to take control of the growing hot spots from inside out, enact by law mandatory literacy, create zero tolerance models against all manner of violent crime and successfully enforced it? Why haven't we been able to secure our six hundred and forty combined square kilometers of coast line to prevent drugs and guns coming in unchecked from the South American mainland, while Cuba's three thousand eight hundred kilometers have been closed shut for fifty plus years, with nothing being allowed in or out unless searched and approved on either side?

What's the difference, political will? Are we in fact a narco-state and there is truth to the rumors that the drug barons prevent us from enforcing our laws? I put to you that crime as a political issue is a non issue and of benefit to no one, but crime as a national issue remains the most important issue after the distribution of this nation's wealth and a conversation we need to have outside of politics.

Nothing shows the lie of the illusion of the socio-economic harmony of T&T that the advertisers try to sell us as the contrast of the serene and manicured Westmoorings community when compared to and contrasted with the indignity of ghetto life one mile away in Cocorite among the residents of Waterhole and Harding place, who live cheek by jowl in board huts with mud floors, trekking up and down steps carved out of the bare earth in unregulated communities not served by any real government save and except for gang control enforced through violence.

How do we tolerate and accept this, knowing full and well we have more than enough money to do better? Do I demonize those who choose the violent way? Routinely and as a matter of course, but to do so without recognizing that they only exist in that squalor because of the hidden will and unspoken agreement of us all is to myself be telling a lie.

Vernon De Lima is a dear friend of mine, he, his wife and children are beautiful, caring and decent people and this should not have been allowed to happen to them. Like every other victim of crime they did not deserve this in any way and we need to own and account for that.

At some point we are going to have to stop playing political games and grow up to our responsibility to each other. At some point we as a people have to put personal selfish wants aside and deal with the collapse of our nation state. We quote often that the strength of the wolf is the pack, yet we omit to remember that the flip side is also true, that the strength of the pack is the wolf. This is not about lock up and lock down as much as sometimes I wish it could be. This is about removing guns from hands that have been hardened by rage and poor choices. We need to invade these ghettos and fight to redevelop them altogether. There will be those who cannot be commanded by laws and for these we have courts and jails and they should be made to pay for their own decisions. For the countless many others who only want a better life and to access what the national anthem offers we owe them as arbiters of power, simply by us being higher up on the social ladder we are obligated to create a space and bring them up higher. It is in our own best interest as it is theirs, and again I say again and again, this is the conversation that we need to have.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Tale of Two Diego Martins...

It was Abraham Lincoln who said "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

It's is time someone asked of the Chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation Mr. Darryl Smith, what is behind the uneven application of the power of his office since he was appointed? Eyebrow raising and questionable, some who commit minor infractions are made to pay for their sins dearly, while others who openly flout the law are allowed to continue on with impunity.

For the purposes of these discussions I raise two examples of the disproportionate decision making by the Diego Martin Regional Corporation as exemplified clearly by these two cases.

Case one involves a structure on one of the busiest corners in all of Diego Martin - Morne Coco Road and Crystal Stream in Petit Valley to be precise, and on that corner a bar has first broken the law by building out over the parking spaces that are a requirement for their liquor license to be granted, and have broken the law further by extending their structure out over the sidewalk space and into the actual roadway, creating a virtual blind spot for motorists who now have to strain to see around the corner before they can go forward safely. A dangerous obstruction, its existence forces  pedestrians to negotiate between vehicles on the busy street to get to where they are going, in full view of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation whose offices are located within meters of this offending structure, begging the question of the DMRC's Chairman, why is this allowed to continue?

The second case involves the embattled Arbor School at Long Circular road who have been refused permissions to operate by the same DMRC going on seven months now despite meeting and overcoming every regulatory and legal obstacle put in their way, and who have now found themselves ironically to be the most 'approved' school by all state organizations and regulatory bodies if not in all of Trinidad and Tobago then certainly in Diego Martin region and yet they are barred from opening.

Why the unevenness in the rulings? As if to beg more questions as to what is behind some of the decisions, Freedom of Information requests have turned up further surprising results that not all schools are treated the same way. Up the very street from the Arbor's location is the prestigious St. Andrew's school which is allowed to operate despite not having approvals from the  same Diego Martin Regional Corporation, causing parents of the Arbor children to lament as to how can this be fair in a just world? Further compounded by the results of these investigations that point to others who have benefitted from this sliding scale of enforcement include the well heeled and posh International School at Westmoorings, which also does not have DMRC approvals to operate as a school and yet are allowed to, despite existing in a dead end cul-de-sac in an already heavily congested residential area within meters of one of the largest shopping malls in the country.

So what is going on here? Is it a case of one rule for some and another rule for others? And if so, why? I have been told of 'random' appearances of 'inspectors' from the DMRC to certain businesses who are made to get their houses in spic and span order, yet the same inspectors routinely miss glaring abuses such as the steel structure that houses a business that occupies almost an entire lane of the roadway on the corner of Mercer Road and the Diego Martin main Road.

Are these the results of incompetence? Selective vision? Corruption? Surely there must be an explanation as to why some are treated one way and others are treated another, and the person to whom the question must be posed is the Chairman himself and again I ask Mr. Darryl Smith, can you give an explanation to these double standards? Are we waiting for a pedestrian to be seriously injured or even killed due to the DMRC's negligence where Daybreak Cafe is concerned before action is taken? Are we comfortable to live in a country where a sliding scale of enforcement exists where some benefit while others punished in similar circumstances? I put to the Chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation Mr. Darryl Smith that ultimately the consequences of all these decisions are his and his alone. Not everyone is cut out for public office and perhaps the solution here lies not only in a changing of some of these decisions, but also in a changing of some of the decision makers themselves.

Something to think about...

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Party Done?

Two things happened this past week that were instructive to the direction of the politics, and while they did not make the earth shake, future history should come back to this place to find where the ground shifted.

First off was the first in a proposed and promised series of meetings planned by the Congress of the People to demonstrate to all and sundry that they are, in fact, not dead, and this more than anything was the subtext of the speech by that party's political leader. Citing that others had written death certificates for that party before, the leader brushed past surmising as to why this might be a new national past time he instead accelerated his desire that the conversation be changed to show a vibrant and alive COP. But something gave the ruse away. TV6 reporter Kejan Haynes 'tweeted' (sent a post to Twitter on social media) that no media covered the event. That there was not even a highlight being shared anywhere. That for all intents and purposes, outside of the group of people enthusiastically waving flags on cue, no one else in the country seemed to care. Strange for the launch of a national party's political campaign, especially a party that is already IN government, stranger still was that no one at the event was sharing their excitement with anyone else. Not a post or a picture on Facebook not Instagram, not a comment on the commentary, not a shot of the excited crowds, no 'selfies' or even group shots, nothing, begging the question as to whether the crowd in the photos sold to us as having been there were there of their own free will, as there was not even an indication that something was taking place on the Congress of the People's very own and enthusiastically administrated social media group. Isn't that strange?.

Contrast and compare that to the reaction to Saturday evening's news of rumors of possible launch of a new party built simply on the gathering of people at a home in Maraval. No media were invited, no press releases sent out, yet this became the top and in depth stories on both leading evening news shows and set off a firestorm of activity on social media, long conversations as to the changing political wind, attacks by party stalwarts and defences by people who had nothing yet to defend other than their right to choose something different than the established status quo, just on a bunch of people getting together to chat.

Perhaps, and I admit to presuming as I do not know what is going on in the Congress of the People now, but perhaps those left behind at the COP's after party are coming to realize that political support cannot be manipulated, that much of the 'flow' that created that party is now ebbing and that the changing tides (to belabor the metaphor) are heralding the people's desire for something new. Make no mistake, it is easy to form a political party. All one needs are a name and a symbol and for a small fee down at the Elections & Boundaries Commission Office, one can be set up in business so to speak. But support is a different matter. More than parties, politics requires people. It is is why entire organizations have been set up to create the impression of support at election time to hopefully fool fence sitters and invite them to join the crowd. But that can only go so far. As someone said to me only yesterday, having the machinery to effectively and efficiently disseminate information is one thing, to have content worthy of disseminating is something else, and therein lies the rub. To most of the former members of the Congress of the People, there is nothing that its leader has to say that they want or need to hear. That for all his pontificating his actions make lies of his own much touted positions on intangibles such as integrity and principle, and having appeared to have sold out the party one fateful Monday evening in exchange for his own political preservation, the people on whom the Congress of the People are built are no longer interested.

That is the dynamics of politics, it is what makes democracy still the best vehicle available for harnessing the will of the people, that disenchantment on one hand can be reflected by enthusiasm on the other. The public appears to have no more interest in the Congress of the People and 'bussed in' crowds and staged events will not change that. They have moved on, and if the leadership of the COP had any remaining dignity and self respect they would accept that and move on as well.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Where it All Went Wrong for the COP...

The reason for the collapse of the Congress of the People is that Prakash Ramadhar has never been able to explain his position regarding the People's Partnership to the membership of the COP, long fed up of the abuse met out to them by the lead party in the partnership, the United National Congress. And were it not for the selfish, me first, eat ah food culture so easily exemplified by the UNC and its members, if the Partnership were for a moment the all inclusive love fest it is portrayed to be, none of these problems that are dogging them now and that may well cost them the election would be happening.

Why? Because believe it or not, the same UNC that can pull twenty, thirty, forty thousand in Brazil, Oropouche and even Chaguanas West would have the hardest of times pulling one tenth of that number in Tunapuna, and St. Augustine, and one hundredth of it in any of the three Diego Martins. The fact is the UNC has never been able to travel well, and needed the COP to pull it along outside of its sixteen traditional seats. And now, like the scorpion who is drowning because he stung the frog that was giving him a ride across the river due to his innate nature, the UNC has killed the golden goose that could have given them a second term in office.

So what now? Well, nothing really. I mean, our politics is nothing if not devious and two faced and the voting public have long been proponents of the maxim 'yesterday was yesterday, today is today' even if they didn't know it before Jack Warner told them, but the fact of the matter is that if Keith Rowley were to cross the floor tomorrow and express his love for Kamla, the yellow shirt wearing, kool aid drinking, sycophantic front lines of the UNC would embrace him lovingly as a lost son coming home, the same Keith Rowley they are demonizing today. And vice versa. That the same Jack Warner was greeted like a comrade in arms by the same PNM that marched repeatedly against him personally, who declared his presence in the Parliament an affront to ethics and good governance, is nothing but more evidence of this, and should Anand Ramlogan and Anil Roberts resurface in red shirts tomorrow waving a balisier, the PNM rank and file would claim them as their own.

No the problem is of course the broken systems that make conspirators and pilferers of us all. We are to blame, but not solely and on our own. This is what we inherited, and without real motivation to change the ease with which crime is committed and excused in this country, this is who we have accepted ourselves as being. This is who we will be until Kingdom come, and the disenchantment in the COP was not so much about what the UNC was getting away with, but that they weren't sharing. All of the walking in the rain without getting wet nonsense was just theatre, was just play acting to the voters to give us a bligh, and had the UNC the sense they rode in to government on they would have easily played 'one for you and one for me' with the COP and lived in office forever, or at least as long as it took the PNM to realize that their leader was what was keeping them from being elected.

The last of the Mohicans Keith Rowley, he who occupies the same mental space as Jack Warner and Anand Ramlogan in the minds of the voters, he is now left like the cheese standing alone, and in full glare and without the counterbalance of the rest of the trio of 'despicability' he is left to take the brunt of public revulsion all alone.

No Prakash Ramadhar has failed to secure his place in history simply because he mistook his greed for power, spotlight and perks as his afflictions alone. Had he dared to look back among the ranks of the party of integrity and saw the salivating at the promise of political power he would have negotiated better with his UNC handlers and shared the wealth. As it is, he and they have failed to keep the few COP die hards who might have pulled the floating voters along for the ride one more time happy and well fed, and this, more than anything else is why the COP and by extension the People's Partnership is dying today. Greed. And the inability to share the spoils of office.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Apologies to All...

On Tuesday morning of this week I had cause to encounter the leader of the opposition Dr. Keith Rowley at a funeral for a dear and departed friend, and the look with which Dr. Rowley looked at me could only be described as dismay. It seems that my constant harping on the fact that as a Prime Ministerial hopeful if for no other reason common sense should have prevailed upon him over the Carnival season and, before throwing caution to the wind and demonstrating his wining skills for all to see, he should have instead chosen dignity and restraint. I realize now that I was out of place to give the good doctor such advice and I apologize. Loyal supporters of his have said to me repeatedly that if his wife did not mind if he looked obscene putting all of his sixty plus years on the back of this unfortunate seventeen year old girl why should I, and in truth, why indeed? No, I accept that my standards are not their standards and public office holder or not, if the culture allows for jammette behavior, what better example then should he give of being a true true Trini than being a bigger jammette than everyone else? Dr. Keith Rowley, for raining on your parade, I wholeheartedly apologize.

And while i'm at I might as well apologize to the Prime Minister of the Republic, for taking her at her word that what she wanted was to lead a government of principle that demonstrated morality in all affairs regardless of cost to self. Foolish me, taking that chain up as the young people say, I really should have known better and I apologize. My position that if an Attorney General is accused of using his Office to peddle his influence in exchange for favors no matter how perverse to law, justice and decency, we who might know or be able to bear witness to his indecency need to shut to hell up and not offer to help promote the same morality, not when it brings embarrassment to the same Prime Minister who was now forced to choose between partners in, uh, enterprise over her own espoused positions. Madame Prime Minister, I apologize sincerely for not encouraging the Minister of National Security to be quiet and let sleeping dogs lie. Foresight not having the benefit of hindsight's twenty twenty vision, I led my own self astray.

There is a liberation one gets when one apologizes, it frees one of the burden of one's own mistakes and passes it onto the law of forgiveness. I must confess to those same selfish motives as I save my last apology for the political leader of the Congress of the People, Prakash Ramadhar. Honorable leader, I apologize for not understanding that new politics is old politics with straighter hair. I apologize for thinking that we in the Congress of the People really meant what we said when we said we were here to change the politics, I understand now what we meant was were here here to change the 'beneficiaries' of the politics. Now fully ensconced in the enemy's camp, to us should go the spoils, not any nonsense notion of walking in the rain without getting wet, it was 'we time now' and foolishly I failed to understand that what we were supposed to do was dance in the rain. I take from your example and will never forget, arriving first at the scene of an accident one has a responsibility to go through the victim's pockets for whatever available valuables one could claim for oneself, especially now that they can have no further use for them. Your ability to use every stumble of the People's Partnership to advance your own career while diminishing the party you lead takes a level of skill I do not yet possess, and while I may never have the talents you have for moving on up, for not understanding your motives and intentions and holding you to standards to which you do not hold yourself, I apologize. And to all others who may have been part and parcel to the looting who took umbrage at my holding COP values as a guide for COP actions, I sincerely and wholeheartedly apologize to all.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Party Done, Bacchanal Start...

Now that the party truly done it is time to get back down to the serious business of rescuing Trinidad & Tobago from the political quagmire it finds itself in. First off, the question MUST be asked, how is that in a country where the disenchantment with the two 'traditional' parities vying for support has eclipsed sixty percent and still we cannot find a real alternative to the ethnically based People's National movement and United National Congress? And when I say real alternative I mean something new, populated by new faces and not cast offs and rejects from those two dispensations, not another vehicle for recycled politicians but a real option that can capture the hearts and minds of the majority of citizens fed up of the change exchange? We have among our population some amazing thinkers, people of vibrant vision and principle who have demonstrated thus far their reluctance to trade spirit and craft for corruption and graft, so what is keeping those forces from entering into synchronous orbit?

Perhaps it is the same force that keeps a three ton elephant bound to a chain that it could break without effort, yet it never makes the effort. Like the picture of the horse tied to a Rubbermaid plastic chair, perhaps the memory of the rope is stronger than what the rope is tied to, rendering thinking beyond the reality of the rope futile? Or the long held belief from infancy that the chain could not be broken then so why would it break now? Well, we are neither infants, elephants nor horses and have within us the stuff to push past boundaries and break long held beliefs. This is a nation of people who have fled the poverty of nineteenth century Europe, the violence of the war torn Middle East and have conquered slavery, indentureship and colonialism. We are a people who have faced within our relatively young half century of existence two revulsions if not revolutions, both pregnant with enough violence to rip the nation and any semblance of plurality apart, yet here we still stand, together, so why not this?

Perhaps it is misplaced loyalty to parents and ancestors, we a people long tied to tradition more than anything else and many of whom would rather die than to upset our forebears, perhaps what we are tethered to is a loyalty to systems and circumstances that may have served needs generations and decades ago, but which really need to be confronted, exposed and discarded if we are to advance past the polarity of these two tribal forces.

The truth is the sugar belt no longer exists, and people of East Indian origin are no longer the recalcitrant minority they were once accused of being. Further, they have triumphed past every obstacle, so to have an indo-based party professing strength based on racial togetherness no longer serves any real purpose to that community. Similarly, the grand children of Africa to whom the People's National Movement was held out as a home have been so betrayed by that organization that even the most cursory glance at the circumstances of the majority of the die hards that hold that party's existence in their hands is to witness a tale of deceit and 'mamaguism' so complete it is almost heart rending. For a country that has boastfully earned and spent a quarter of a trillion dollars in fifty years, who can explain the dismal fortunes of the people of Morvant, Beetham, Laventille, Sea Lots, Richplain, Mercer, Bagatelle, L'anse Mitan and Patna Village, just to name a few?

Everyone knows the story of the frog that gives in to the repeated requests from the scorpion and agrees to transport it across the river only to be stung to death half way across, and to whose dying cries of “why?” is answered by the terse “I'm a scorpion, this is what scorpions do.” Who really expects anything different this time around from a PNM historically rooted in corruption, nepotism and theft? Similarly, putting aside all the deflecting rhetoric that seeks to answer why the UNC uses every opportunity at public office to raid the treasury, why would anyone want to trust that party with power again?

And if all I have just stated is the reason for the overwhelming disenchantment with them both, what is keeping us as a nation so bound to such a despicable choice? The answer is of course, us. We, the people of Trinidad & Tobago who put more effort into every Carnival than the Americans put into putting a man on the moon, we are to blame. Our priorities are so skewed we fail to see that the morality politics has is a reflection of our own. At last count the amount of people wanting nothing to do with either the UNC or the PNM was more than sixty percent. Perhaps the post-Carnival and pre-election conversation should start there, framed with a question, where do we go from here?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Running on Empty...

The Fyzabad Accord that breathed the People's Partnership into being, that amalgamated UNC, COP, MSJ, NJAC, TOP and a few other smaller brands was a hastily arranged marriage in response to the growing public call that the then Prime Minister and his government be removed.

It was never meant as a permanent arrangement as then the need to remain separate entities would have been erased.

Had the signatories to the Accord taken the time to cement the relationship with roles and responsibilities that respected all parties it may have proven beneficial to supporters of all the disparate units. As it were, the UNC used the other member parties only insofar as they proved useful to UNC needs, to give itself something like credibility in the marginals as the UNC brand alone does not travel outside of the Hindu belt and is not sufficiently strong to take on the PNM.

Knowing this and doing nothing to make sure that all member parties and their supporters were equally respected and taken care of shows the greed of the tiny minds behind this version of the UNC, whose ultimate goal seems to have been power and money at all costs.

Now the COP is in tatters and the UNC finds itself needing something else to continue the ruse, ironically after they themselves contributed to the death of the very COP they now need today.

But that shows the shortsightedness of the individuals.

Now a 'Kamla-Mania' that existed only as a counter balance to Patrick Manning is replaced by a distrust for the UNC and an unmasking of the intentions of some of their key inner circle members especially where the continuing saga of Ish & Steve and their fight to evade justice is concerned.

From day one this government appears to have been used to facilitate those ends, from questions surrounding appeals and extradition, the hidden purpose of Section 34, the emailgate scandal and the current imbroglio involving the ex-Attorney General and the Police Complaints Authority Director, that cost the government its most loved and best performing Minister and much credibility outside of the UNC strongholds.

Embattled on all sides it is functioning politically like some mad whirling dervish, giving in a frenzy to anything that could make them look like the caring, delivering government their rhetoric wants thew public to believe they are.

Pan money and church money and hasty Tobago arrangements are no exchange for clearly defined policy and a legislative agenda, and the lack of real development plans and government by voop is going to deliver some interesting headlines in the next few months.

Yes people are going to be happy for the roads and bridges and thankful for the water, but not many are going to be unhappy to see this government of scandal and intrigue finally remit office.

If Patrick Manning was a dictator, then Kamla and crew are ultimately deceivers, using people pleasing populous measures to distract from the fact that for the duration of their term in office we have been running on momentum, accelerating into a five year long skid in a very destabilised society.

Contractor friends are rumoured to have gone from board house lodging to buying exotic cars by the dozen, lawyers with the ink still wet on their permissions to practice have become overnight millionaires, those shrewd businessmen who are party to the inner circle who came in as millionaires are leaving as billionaires, with the fall out from much of this slipshod governance expected to haunt the people of this country for a long time after they are gone, exemplified by the massive development taking pace in Chaguaramas to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars designed to attract visitors in the tens of thousands, accessible still and only via a two lane roadway that cannot handle the traffic that already exists. Contractors have been given contracts to build box drains literally on top of box drains, firetruck rescues and sinkholes repairs done without estimate, Lifesport, WASA and GISL sharing sole select contracts and treasury money as if it were their own to share.

The MSJ is gone, the TOP is no more, and if the Congress of the People had a shred of dignity left it would pull completely out of this grand lie before it does any more damage, to show the majority of voters that it still has principle and is worthy of consideration and their vote come election time.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Escalating our Commitment to Mediocrity...

To the master-thinkers behind the United National Congress, victory is measured in terms of being able to defeat the People's National Movement in an election, so whatever happens next, as long as the polls gives them the edge in the numbers we can rest assured, at least where the art of governance and the science of politics goes, we are on track for something absolutely mediocre in the coming months. And to the equal and opposite numbers behind the People's National Movement the concerns are pretty much the same, enunciated so well in my oft quoted line from then columnist turned politician Clarence Rambharath, who predicted so truthfully that the next election will be fought on a campaign of who is less worse between them.

Not that there wont be fireworks, of course there will, all the fireworks that money can buy I imagine, but nothing that really means anything to anyone, especially the voters to whom real leadership seems to have abandoned a long time ago. The nagging issues of illiteracy and the breakdown of the family unit in the growing at risk communities seems to pale in order of importance when held up against the purchase and construction of new jails. Ever reactive, we do nothing to stop the poisoned tree from growing, but spend an inordinate amount of time and treasure dealing with its fruit, creating a country of well preserved ruins and undereducated, under-actualized human beings colliding continuously with each other.

Again, that is not to say that we don't have our fair share and more of deep thinkers and concerned citizens rattling and humming for the type of meaningful change that could reinvent our society, but then the science of our politics would be interrupted, and who wants to go to all the trouble of educating a populace properly trained to vote race and hand outs? The PNM's culture of the CEPEP and URP gangs that the UNC supporters rail so noisily against is the mirror opposite of the UNC's culture of 'box drain contracts,' doing much the same thing as the aforementioned programs, putting undeserved monies in the hands of party operatives and loyal supporters to continuously buy their vote.

All of this country's development has come at a financially draining political cost, all of it. From the never built Caroni Racing Complex to the never should have been built Brian Lara Cricket Academy. The Piarco Airport expansion that gave us an air-conditioned cow shed (as one well known commentator described it) was inflated well past hundreds of times the value, so repugnant and obscene the feeding frenzy it became, hardened and long serving prosecutors have a difficult time looking directly at it. Even the art community was rewarded with the 'copulating slugs' as internationally acclaimed mas man Peter Minshal so aptly christened the NAPA complex that cost many times more than for what it was budgeted, and in the sloppy work that money bought us, will continue costing well into the future. Do we need a ground water treatment plant in the Beetham more than we need literacy programs that bring hope to the despairing of the estimated fifty thousand functional illiterates who live there? Of course not, but then, how will the government park campaign money with contractor friends if it did not build pork projects? The return on investment brought by teaching the sufferer class to read and become employable is not as instant as a French, Canadian or Chinese contractor kickbacks and not as rewarding as drinking in the VIP with their local counterparts so who is to bother? Certainly not the UNC who sees 'those people' as the PNM's problem, and the PNM only seem to care about their dispossessed die hards when they are in opposition so it's up to God and Singing Sandra to listen to voices from the ghetto.

2015 promises hundreds of millions of dollars in election advertising over nothing, expect an eye gouging hair, pulling fest in the extreme, with who drunk and who horning trumping and surpassing food prices and a sensible mass transit plan in anticipation of the coming gridlock. Someone in the Ministry of Works Highway Division told me that, on a day in our not too distant future, the last car that can be accommodated on these roads will roll off and join the traffic, bringing everything to a permanent standstill. He was joking I am sure, but how far off is he? All we ever hear of mass transit and transport programs is the five hundred million dollars the PNM reputedly spent on a study, and since then cheap politics and mind numbing traffic remains the order of the day.

Yes we will have elections in 2015 and much will be said, but don't count on any of it being of any real value to the citizens of this country. We will get politics, all the politics money can buy, but regardless of who wins we will not get improved government, those languishing in our over crowded jails will continue with no intervention into our justice system, courts will remained backed up for decades, food prices will soar, the rich will get richer and the poor will get Carnival and Phagwa, until the people realize that the whole is actually greater than the sum of its parts, and until we become one nation, one people under one flag, well versed and heavily financed opportunists will continue politicking to us while picking our pockets and cutting our throats.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Post Turtles & Other Distractions...

While stitching a cut on the hand of a 75 year old farmer whose hand was caught in his gate while working, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man.
Eventually the topic got around to politicians and their role as our leaders.
The farmer said, "Well, as I see it, most politicians are 'Post Turtles'.''
Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a 'post turtle' was.
The old farmer said, "When you're driving down a road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a post turtle."
The old farmer saw the puzzled look on the doctor's face so he continued to explain. "You know he didn't get up there by himself, he doesn't belong up there, he doesn't know what to do while he's up there, he's elevated beyond his ability to function, and you just wonder what kind of dumb fool put him up there to begin with."

On Monday evening of last week Kamla Persad Bissessar attempted to hoodwink the nation by reshuffling her Cabinet, when all that was expected of her under the circumstances was a firing of an Attorney General alleged to have engaged in the most reprehensible behavior, bringing the office he held and the government by extension into wild disrepute. That's it. A simple announcement - “Ladies and gentlemen, by now most of you would be aware of some serious accusations eating away at the heart of my administration centered in the person of the Attorney General, and in the interest of justice and good governance I have asked him to step aside and allow a speedy investigation into these allegations to clear his good name. Good night and best wishes to all of you, God bless Trinidad & Tobago.” That's it. Punto finale as we like to say.

That was all that was required of her and, done exactly as I outlined, would have given her an instant bump in the polls. But that is not what she did. 

And by dragging everyone else along for the ride she inadvertently admitted that her government was already off the rails and became something of a co-conspirator after the fact in everything that flows from here. Reckless in the extreme from a leadership point of view, she used the opportunity as an attempt to shield more than address the accusations, and and in attempting to palm the dirt off onto others, smeared everyone simply by association. See how that works?

But this government, painfully bad at communicating and known to be veritable kings of unforced errors, took it one step further and actually set out to solve one problem by making it ten times worse.  Now the blowback of that gamble is creeping past the barricades, and the distractions that she and others mounted to keep the government from falling ironically might themselves be the cause of the collapse.

At this point of the reading, if you are shaking your head, no one would blame you, because now, above and beyond the allegations that the Attorney General attempted to pervert the course of justice through bribery, certain Ministers abandoned prudence and sensibility in the headlong rush to play arbiter and decider, and in their arrogance perverted the course of justice themselves. Are you seeing that?

This is where the science of communication gives way to the art of it. Knowing a tomato is a fruit is one thing, not using it in a fruit salad is something else. With much of her Cabinet tainted and her Communication Minister alleged to have engaged in an attempted strong-arming of a witness, another of her close circle in the person of her preferred advertiser is caught being creative with the truth. Shot in both feet and tottering, she yanks from her side and discards her best performing Minister for not coming to her with the allegations of misbehaviour by one of her Ministers, while almost in the same breath punished another who did. And if that were not enough, from among the pantheon of internationally acclaimed jurists we have in this country she chose a legal lightweight as Attorney General, leaving most to assume that competence in office and independent thought were not deciding factors on his being hired for the job. The rest of the appointees fail to pass muster for the roles thrust upon them (no disrespect intended to any), and the fact that they find themselves in positions simply due to political machinations should have been reason enough for them to decline the posts, rather than allow themselves to be hoisted upon them like turtles.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hiding in Plain Sight...

I remember once when I was a boy my father jokingly told us that he wanted to plant marijuana as a hedge in front of the house, and that he planned to keep it properly pruned and shaped so that law enforcement would think twice simply because of the audacity of the idea. I mean, who would think that anyone would be so bold as to grow weed in the front of their house? I remember thinking then what a fantastic idea, and I was reminded of that story on Monday evening, listening to the Prime Minister as she sought to sell us whatever she came to sell, thinking isn't that exactly what she just did?

Asking the question early o'clock, was Anand Ramlogan really removed form the Office of the Attorney General? I mean, on the surface of it yes, of course, if what the Prime Minister read to the nation is to be believed, but in a country of world renowned and stellar jurists of extremely high calibre, how does one configure a Garvin Nicholas as his replacement? Not exactly a high flying firework by any stretch of the imagination, what talent does he bring to the appointment, other than an obvious pliability and a willingness to do his handlers' bidding without question or noise? Is he now a face? A puppet placed in the chair while the real master pulls his strings and operates the Office by remote control? To many, the answer is a resounding yes and evidenced by the same 'nothing' speech punctuated by well placed and clever sounding sound bytes designed to distract while doing nothing of any real substance. Can anyone really and convincingly see the 'new' Attorney General in this role? Of course not, that is a weed hedge if ever there was one.

Why do I say that?

Because for all the huffing and puffing and pious pontificating of the Prime Minister's address to the nation, what was most noticeably absent after all was said and done was any real tongue lashing for the individual who set the entire night's events in motion. Did you notice that? If to the Prime Minister the Police Complaints Authority Director deserved special mention for being approached with a bribe in exchange for his position, where was the public admonition for the individual alleged to have made the bribe? And further, if to her mind the Minister of National Security needed to be berated for all to see for his not reporting that an indecent request was asked of him and that he might be a witness to a very serious crime, why did she fail to take the person who is accused of making the bribe similarly to task? Does that add up?

Something isn't, and one wonders if all of the smoke and mirrors of Monday night's public statement was not in fact to hide the fact that the Attorney General of Trinidad & Tobago still remains Anand Ramlogan, even if someone else draws the salary.

And if the Prime Minister is to be held in the future to the standards she laid out as justification for Monday evening's actions, what of Vasant Bharath? When the investigation is inevitably expanded to include the role he is rumored to have played in trying to suppress the Minister of National Security and dissuading him from doing what he believed was his duty, would the Prime Minister be dismissing him from his numerous Ministries as well? And if other senior Cabinet Ministers are proven to have been present for the rumored strong arming and should the police probe their roles in the thing, what of their security of tenure?

See what a tangled web we weave when we first conspire to deceive? This is a government made up of persons who have been accused of far more serious infractions and who are still the subject of all manner of police and other investigations, yet none have been made to step aside in the way that the Minister of National Security was, with the most ludicrous thing being that all Gary Griffith can be guilty of to date is knowing that one person made an indecent proposal to another, and was willing to step forward and tell the truth. In a government devoid of principle, that was sufficient to get him fired. All the fancy words aside, what was the real message here Prime Minister?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Hand so Badly Played...

According to Kenny Rogers in 'The Gambler' - “You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run.” For all he did wrong this was clearly something that Anil Roberts understood that Anand Ramlogan doest not seem to. That there comes a time in the play when you realize the game is over, and you take your winnings and walk. Instead, embattled in the position and losing ground by the minute, the outgoing Attorney General is holding on with all his might, attempting to discredit and damage anyone who he perceives as the enemy, and he and his minions have taken to social media to discredit both the Minister of Legal Affairs and the Minister of National Security for standing on the principle that, ironically, had he had, we would not be where we are right now.

In all of this the one thing I find inescapable is, as allegations go, this one is so lightweight it should never have been able to pull such an accomplished Attorney General low, so how did it? How did such a 'your word against mine' accusation become fact so fast and galvanize a population so completely that all they want to see is the back of you? What did you do? Well if one were to look at the actions of the few Anand loyalists still under his direction, you might get an understanding as to why this man has become so universally hated if not despised. The message seems to be scorch the earth in a bid to save their leader, without stopping to realize that, without a government to belong to, the efforts would be for nought.

In what could only be described as the Opposition's wildest dream coming true, Anand Ramlogan is doing or attempting to do what they never could, and that is destroy the United National Congress and the People's Partnership Government from within.

And much like the situation she faced when she was left with no choice but to fire Jack Warner, the Prime Minister has to be aware that her Attorney General is now tearing her government apart and she needs to take action.

Did he do it? At this point the only people who know for sure are David West the accuser, and Anand Ramlogan the accused. Not even National Security Minister Gary Griffith, duped by the AG to carry a message of enquiry into a matter whose contents he was unaware and can only verify that the AG was asking 'something' of David West knows for sure, and yet the public is not interested in any further evidence to arrive at their decision. They want nothing to do with this Attorney General and will rout this government and fire all to rid themselves of him.

To Anand Ramlogan every hand seems to be an 'all in' bet and every disagreement a disrespect and the Prime Minister may not be able to rely on him to do the right and honorable thing in these circumstances.

She may be left with no choice. Even if he (Anand) were to successfully survive being removed from office at this juncture the government may end up unelectable come elections time. The momentum against him could well end up collapsing everything so many hard working people have worked so hard to build as the determined electorate insists on having its democratic say.

Yes the opposition PNM has this government in its sights as that is their one role in our Westminster system of government, but they themselves are too weak and mistrusted to have galvanized this much support. This was all Anand, ultimately it is his own hubris that brought him here, and like David Abdulah and his fledgling MSJ and the one man party Fixin' T&T, they are all trying to ride the crest of the wave claiming a victory in which they had no part, testing the analogy that the crowing rooster causes the sun to rise.

The only person with a stronger hand in this particular gamble is the Prime Minister of the Republic, and she must know by now that every minute that she appears indecisive over this she risks costing herself the respect of the very people she is going to have to turn to in a few short months to put her back in office.

Or to again quote Kenny - “Every gambler knows that the secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep”

Madame Prime Minister, your play...