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?