I feel sorry for Dr. Rowley: Making Rudeness Great Again

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I feel sorry Dr. Keith Rowley and please hear me out.

A year and a half ago I could not have imagine him as Prime Minister but with the possibility of Donald Trump becoming President of the United States, I owe my fellow citizens of Trinidad and Tobago a weird sort of apology. The extent to which some political ideologies pander towards a base they pretty much neglect after the votes are counted is equally present in both countries.

When people say they don’t under the rise of Trump, they are simply unaware of the history of the United States.  For some strange reason after the votes were counted on night of September 7th, what I could no longer imagine became the reality.   A sense of ease came over me to prepare me for the real possibility of a Trump Presidency, should it happen.

I hope you are still following me, as I explain how I understand the political realities of both the United States and T&T.

I did not know what “picong” was until a former colleague and even better friend explained it to me in 2013. At the time, I started writing for the paper, covering politics in Tobago and I thought picong was disgusting. In fact, there was a tint of arrogance in my initial attitude and I failed to apply my understanding of culture in the area of journalism and politics as I typically do in the area of education. Several elections later, my attitude has changed and I understand picong. Spending time and participating in the political process of both countries, the comparisons are a daily presence.

With the curtains coming down on the Obama Presidency like it or not, Trinidad and Tobago will have Keith Rowley for the next four years and seven months; that’s 53 months if you are counting that way. In January 2017, when the United States inaugurates a new President, whether Hillary Clinton or Trump should they both win their respective parties nomination later this summer, the comparison will stop but they will continue and this why I know I will be just fine no matter how it swings.

A Clinton Presidency would be historic for the United States.

Where Obama placed a “historic period” to the line of white male presidents, Hillary would place a historic period to that of the presidency only being held by males. Putting history aside, the blatant and overt racism that we know was there all along fully manifested itself in the United States over the last 8 years. History will not be put aside and we know the sexist jumbie is only waiting to wake up (it probably already is) to give us a good dose of sexism that awaits a Clinton Presidency.

Trinidad and Tobago recently ended a period of having a first female Prime Minister. That is a historical period, not a comma. Whether sexism spiked during that period in Trinidad and Tobago will be left for the readers to determine. Unlike the election of Keith Rowley, where his term as Prime Minister fell directly after a “historic period” not a “historic comma” the election of Kamla in 2010 as a “female” leaves her in a category by herself and this becomes the problem for his legacy  and vomit talk. It is precisely why I feel sorry for Dr. Rowley. He keeps making insinuations towards his immediate predecessor that forces a gendered comparison upon himself that is almost self-emasculating. Yes, every time he attacks, he is cutting off a bit of his nuts.

Trump’s campaign is nothing but crass and vulgarity. I do not agree with it, but I understand it. Dr. Eric Williams despised the “crassness and vulgarity” of the American political system but it is this same crassness and vulgarity that he despised that we embrace as picong today but there is something telling, if not racist and sexist about the direction and flow of this picong.

The historic racism of the United States was already solidified in my mind before I gained adult knowledge that racism existed it Tobago. That was only confirmed when I was writing for the paper and got lesson on picong and that was sadly with the now infamous Calcutta Ship talk. Equal space and place was a lie and I was deeply disappointed and I know enough about cutting off nose to spoil face, Tobagonian pride, bad mind and spite some of which I hate to admit I have.

Nevertheless, picong is about rum shop talk and insinuations and rum is key in politics and culture in T&T. Rum is to Trinidad and Tobago as racism is to the US in politics and culture. So, when Trump talks about making the country great again we know what is suggesting and what he is insinuating. And he reminds us that he speaks the language of poorly educated, whom he loves. He is not politically correct and he states it. Trump is insensitive, tactless, stupid, obtuse, insane, ridiculous and gross and people love it.

So when we get vomit talk thrown our way by our Honorable Prime Minster, I take a greater solace that T&T culture allows us to down enough Puncheon, call it picong and forget about it just like how we forget to solve every other national problem while insulting everyone.

Certainly, none of us would expect bad manners, uncouthness, being unrefined, being ill-mannered, roughness, loutish behavior and plain rudeness from the Obamas but it might be unfair to Trinidad and Tobago to expect anything different. Should we?

So here is what. Let us stop the Obama/Rowley comparison. We need position ourselves for more Trump/Rowley comparisons. When he gets the need to do an upgrade on Air-Force One, we will be ok if he says so because it smells like a can of tuna or that Marine One, the helicopter smelled of piss.

On a serous note, it might be helpful if the current Prime Minister engages the nation in constructive conversation and quit the vomit talk. Whatever political capital he currently has would be best spent on trying to carve a path out where he cannot be compared Kamla but when he engages in vomit talk and attempts to use picong in an insinuating manner towards your immediate female predecessor, it is almost a form of self-emasculation and self-opposition and I feel sorry for him and I don’t know why but self-castration must be painful.

We cannot change the fact that he is the Prime Minister. It is for this reason we respect the Office he holds, but he too must be a respecter of that Office. Despite all the sleaziness of politics and the filthy reality of what politics really is, there is a human side we must not forget that makes me feel sorry him. He was so eager for the job, did a very good job at getting the job, but there is little showing for what legacy he is trying to birth as the leader of the country, but he will lose the comparison battle because Trump has trumped him on being crass and he is left being vulgar.

It is a pity.

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Rowley’s Red Book, (for a Nation of Non Readers)

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On election night I listened carefully to Dr. Rowley’s speech about the importance of teaching patriotism in the nation’s schools.  He stated something to the effect of interfering with the national curriculum to ensure that citizens demonstrate greater levels of patriotism towards the country.  The move towards this has begun as a committee was recently established under the mandate of the Prime Minister.

I will admit that I am no expert on the history of Trinidad and Tobago, but I have the skills and training of a historian.  I taught social studies and I currently lecture on education methods and foundations, while completing my doctorate on educational policy and leadership.  This is right up my alley, but more so, in these dire economic times, the policy response of leaders must be evaluated as they respond to challenges of leadership.

While this is not about politics in its conventional sense, the world of education, or at least the world in which I subscribe to about education, everything is political.   This is the world of critical theory.    It is a world that draws upon a significant body of literature that questions the role of schools and the transmission of knowledge in our society.  It is a world that ask us to question the status quo and forces to accept that there are multiple narratives that compete with each other.   It is a world that simply allows us to acknowledge the African proverb: “Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.”

Whose version of history must be we accept?  This is a rather complicated question and though Trinidad and Tobago has relatively short history, this history must be told.   But what is history?   Whose story is it?   It is on this premise that we must be careful with the work of this “seminal history textbook” going forward.    Policy making is a rather intricate process and we must pay close attention to what is being said and what is being done against the backdrop of knowledge society in which we now live.  Competitive nations and economies of the 21st century must fully embrace knowledge and creativity as commodities.   Developing nations such as Trinidad and Tobago can make progressive or regressive steps at this critical juncture as they shape educational policies for a future that will be defined by student acquiring these skills in schools.

While history is much about the past it is also much about the future.   We live in an era of where there will be more information tomorrow than there was yesterday.   Information continues to grow at an exponential rate.  First world countries are leading this development and this can be literally seen in the need to store data and the boom of cloud computing services and technologies. While all of this is geared towards the competitive economies of future and the application of new technologies towards human problems, a prescriptive approach towards the telling of history is a backwards and regressive steps for students, which has the potential to stymie their creative and cognitive abilities.  In essence, they will be thinking inside of the box.   That is a fallacy.

Social Studies have evolved beyond that of fact telling.   History, which is a major component of this extensive but often under looked field in schools, is more than something we commit to memory.   Names and dates while important to know does not measure one’s ability to be evaluative, one’s ability to use their critical thinking skills and certainly one’s ability to create.  Technology, whether from its most primitive in the cave days to its most futuristic, it is a problem solving tool for human beings.   New technologies will not only shape the way we create the future, but it will also shape the way historians have studied the past.   As this data is uncovered it will benefit the analytical and evaluative skills of students, allowing them to decipher fact from fictitious ramblings and this is where politics meets education.

We are still a young nation.   Most of us know people alive who remember when the Queen was still in charge and lived throughout the reign of first Prime Minister and seminal Caribbean Historian, Dr Eric Williams.  While there is something here worthy of examining that Williams was probably a much better historian than he was a politician, the attempts to re-write history at this juncture is a bit suspicious.  In leading this charge one can only wonder how kind will history be to the current Prime Minister given the overall adversarial nature of our politics.

Our politics perpetuates neocolonial values even though we strive to celebrate our multi-ethnic heritage and have done so in an atmosphere that is relatively exemplary around the world, but we should never allow history for whatever it is to be rewritten.   We should allow multiple narratives that tells our diverse stories and allow our better selves to identify with the common values we promote as our national culture.   It is in our diverse history we find our creativity and attempts to interfere with such diversity in the form of prescriptive telling will be a disservice to all citizens.   This is indeed a troubling sign for a democracy.

We must embrace knowledge, we must create knowledge if we are going to be competitive there must be no limitation placed on what we can learn, whether that knowledge is about the past or whether it is about the present.  We are going to need it all in its widest scope if we are going to see our way out of our current economic dilemma and miss the knowledge evolution taking place around the world.  What we should not do with knowledge, is tax it.

2014 Political Trinidad & Tobago Naughty & Nice List

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As 2014 winds down, 2015 will be a major year in the politics of Trinidad and Tobago but before we even get there, it is Christmas.  In the spirit of gift giving we decided to develop a last minute note for Santa Claus as he prepares to make his way across the world for gifts to our political personalities in Trinidad and Tobago.   In Part I, The Naughty List, is based on our analysis of the political happenings over the 2014 calendar year. So here goes

The Naughty List

  1. Keith Rowley – The Opposition Leader tops our naughty list and requires the most gifts from Santa. The first thing Keith Rowley needs is memory.  He often forgets.   He forgets the fact that he a representative of the people of Diego Martin West for more than 20 years and it was his responsibility to get them a fish market after all these years.   He often forgets what he said yesterday and that every word he has ever spoken in the Parliament is recorded in the Hansard.  Due to the fact he has no memory, a natural additive to this gift of memory is a conscience.  Does this man regrets the things he says?  Does he think about the things he says?   Whether it is calling school girls “hyenas in an African jungle” or calling the people of Trinidad and Tobago stupid, we might want to add some blue soap to the list as well because this man has a foul mouth.  A complete bush-bath kit will also do Rowley well before he undertakes his image makeover for a 2015 general election run.   His current image given to him by none other than Patrick Manning, that of a raging bull will need more than one bush-bath.  According to one radio caller during the year, “the man has an eternal light placed on his head,” so directions to Mount St. Benedict and a seer woman up in Laventille should also be given to him, but we knows he only goes up there to play with spent bullet shells.  Last on Santa’s list for Rowley is coordination.   After 4 years, he has failed to effectively coordinate the Opposition Bench to bring alternative policies for the government to consider.   He will also need sight and some glasses, because he has no vision.     Congratulations Dr. Rowley for heading up our naughty list.  You have truly earned all these gifts, well done you deserve it.
  1. Anil Roberts – For starters, Anil was a disappointment this year, though he always said some interesting things when he opened his mouth. If Rowley is the PNM’s raging bull, Anil was the PPG’s chief attack dog and Anil’s naturally loud mouth personality played well with this role and he told it as it is.  The mismanagement of the Life Sport Program and whatever transpired in Room 201 and whatever, (if any) issues the former minster may be dealing with in this personal life, Anil had a tough year.  What is there on Santa’s list for this naughty boy?   To think about it, absolutely nothing.   Nil, nada, zilch.  We will spare Anil the pain and hope next year turns out to be a better year for him.
  1. Marlene McDonald – Marlene is late bloomer to the naughty list but by all means she deserves to be on it. Because of her frequent reprimands from Speaker Wade Mark due to her constant interruptions when government MP’s are speaking, Marlene could do well with some parliamentary behavior in 2015. The traditional role of a Chief Whip as seen in larger democracies where there are hundreds of parliamentarians is to get MPs to tow the party line.   We know towing the party line is never a problem in the PNM.  It is what they do.    Given that this proverbial whip is never used, it must be oiled because it is a bit dry, and the Chief Whip herself deserves a flogging, after which, we will place a tiara on her head, crowing her the Unknown Queen of Calabar, much like Jesus was the “King of the Jews,” unknown to the Jews.  It is interesting how Marlene is being described a “pillar of righteousness,” with in the PNM, much like Jesus.   She may be of humble birth like how Jesus was born in manger and but not knowing her common-law husband was heading up a ghost NGO that got a TTD $375,000 check a few days before the 2010 general election from the Ministry where she was the line minister, flog her again and let her crown be one of thorns.   Marlene feels as though she is being crucified politically – for the striking parallels to Christ and for the seat she holds on the PNM pantheon of political gods, let the political crucifixion take place and let it take place at the polls, perhaps this is wishful thinking.  Port of Spain South will never get the representation it truly deserves, but we know, they like it so.    Marlene is added baggage going into a general election.  May the lady who didn’t know she was the Queen of Calabar, may she lose her kingdom in 2015.   She should consider private practice and utilize that law degree representing people in court, given the fact that she has failed to do so in the parliament.
  1. The Tobago House of Assembly – Spoil child in the politics. Where do I begin with the THA? First, we deal with them as one entity, given the 12 nil situation.   As individuals, the Chief Secretary, Assemblymen and Councillors are nice people.   They all got their little quirks and things we can highlight as individuals for making a naught list, and while most would end up on a nice list somewhere because Tobagonians are genuinely nice people, as a collective group – they are a mess, hence their reason for being on the naughty list.   At the end of the day, the central government is not the Assembly’s biggest problem but the central government always get the blame because it is convenient.    The Assembly may be 34, relatively young, but the reason for being the spoil child is because of the developmental delays in Tobago.  They are now the standard bearers of ANR Robinson’s dream of internal self-government, but for this dream to be turned into reality, there must be a framework for what is next, not just the legalities of ‘internal-self-government.’  That is presently missing. They have now caught on, never had issues with the central government funding before 2010, given that the PNM controlled the central government.  From our vantage point, the present makeup of the Assembly would have been able to accomplish more but because it is connected to the PNM in Trinidad their ability to negotiate with the central government is not as strong because it would undermine Dr. Rowley and the Trinidad based PNM.   So what will Santa get the THA? A dose of reality check and elves as contractors so they can finish the going on 11 years Library project and the Shaw Park Cultural Complex.   While complex things might be complicated to build as Shaw Park has proven, the Assembly must find a developmental project that it delivers on time and under budget.  It is one thing to boast about how Tobagonians are benefiting from the benevolence of the Assembly but there is truly something wrong with this picture when you waiting on quarterly releases from the central government.   A big man would generate its own revenue streams by developing the people and the economy.  So, while the Assembly has the rhetoric, and while we affirm that the resources of Trinidad and Tobago belong to all the people of Trinidad and Tobago, the Assembly must do more to boost productivity on the island, but its largess (employing approximately 75% of the island) is its biggest hindrance and an undisciplined workforce. Lastly, a redirected voice is fitting for the Assembly, because while they have found their voice, they aim it is the wrong direction.  This voice should be redirected to the people of Tobago and appeal to their highest hopes and aspirations.   To do so, the Assembly must change its modus operandi immediately.
  1. Patrick Manning – Rounding off the top 5 on our naughty list is former PM Patrick Manning. While Manning should be commended for his political shrewdness and longevity, the man does not know when to let go and this is the reason why he has made the naught list – he over doing it now.   The Prime Minster gave him the opportunity to be elevated to statesman and effectively secure his legacy when he was nominated for the nation’s highest award, but he rejected it, knowing full well he has scores to settle.  Out of respect for the former Prime Minister, his gifts will not come from Santa, they will come from God.  His first two gifts are health and strength.  We want to see the coming showdown between Patrick and Keith, and we need a healthy and strong Manning to do so, (Praise God for Cuban doctors).  Whatever happens in San Fernando East, Manning has a budding prophetic gifting and he has warned us all about Keith Rowley.   We know what he said he saw, “hate, bitterness, acrimony, and a man completely out of control,” and today we see that for ourselves.   His prophetic gifting might even blossom should he be rejected for San Fernando East, Mr. Manning, may you bloom where you are planted and even if they try to uproot you from Ballizay House, may you have long life, because we know that you are already prosperous.  You have already achieved political godlike status on the PNM pantheon of personalities, may you be a political immortal and keep reminding us about Keith Rowley. Tell us what you had to deal with since 1986, we love a good history lesson.

Stay tuned for Part II, our Nice List of 2014 political personalities in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Murder of the Keil’s: Connecting the dots and Uprooting Xenophobic Attitudes in Tobago

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Tobago has unfortunately placed itself in the international spotlight.    The full-page headlines in many German and European newspapers over the past week that read, “HACKED TO DEATH,” is damaging to the island; there are no “ifs ands or buts” about it.  In fact, it is not the first time that foreigners have been the victims of brutal attacks and the internet is filled with information about the troubles that take place in tiny Tobago.   On their search for expectations of paradise and island living, they unfortunately met their deaths like the Keil’s or the Green’s, a UK couple currently suing the government who was assaulted a few years ago.  We strongly condemn these acts of violence.

When critical events of this nature happens on a small island it requires taking stock of where we are as a people, a society and ultimately a country.  These are not random acts of violence and while we don’t know the individual motives of various crimes because most times we cannot find the perpetrators; there comes a point when the society itself is the perpetrator and should bear some responsibility for these acts violence.  Clearly this collective responsibility is not distributed equally because at the end of the day, power is not distributed equally but as Tobagonians we must bear a cost, whether now or in the future.  In getting to the root causes of why there should be collective responsibility, the society becomes the perpetrator because of the perception and or reality of how foreigners are treated and this includes Trinidadians and even native Tobagonians who left and returned to the island.

Before we get into the heart of this commentary, I should make you aware of any bias.   I am Tobagonian by birth, American by nationality and I myself have received the “you not from here,” from some Tobagonians I have encountered during my times in Tobago.   I cannot say that I have been blatantly discriminated against, perhaps denied some opportunities based on my youthful appearance but the qualifications that accompany me which I don’t boast of is enough to be threat just by the fact I might think or ask a question or two.

Nevertheless, this is not about me but I have heard countless stories of Tobagonians who have lived abroad for many years and faced discrimination upon return.  In fact, I know of one nurse, who returned to England because what she experienced at the hospital.    The simple fact was her capacity, training and professionalism placed in a system where she went against the grain.  These stories are based on the experiences of individuals with direct connection to Tobago about that sense of “you not from here,” so I can only imagine what those without connection to Tobago may experience from some.

While I do not believe the majority of Tobagonians are suspicious of those they deem “outsiders” there is enough rhetoric in the society to suggest it is a problem.   I think it is normal for anyone from anywhere to ask themselves in their heads about the “presence of others” whether in their village, community, island, or country.   The majority of citizens would not plot or conspire to rob or murder others, much less talk out “wha dem ah do ya” or share hostile remarks that suggest “others” are not welcomed.     However, people hear remarks like these at times, and when they do hear them it suggests to them something about the society and the fact that they might be unwelcomed by some.   The majority of Tobagonians continue to be hospitable people, but hospitable people can also stay silent at things they should speak up for and this is the silent suffering in Tobago.  It is such a loud silence that we talk about it, we acknowledge it happens, but we never confront it and though as individuals we might be against it, we collective condone it because we do not collectively confront it.

Xenophobia has many synonyms, some of which includes (racism, nationalism, prejudice, racial intolerance and dislike for foreigners).  I am deliberately changing the rest this commentary to a Q&A format because in an effort to fully conceptualize why this is a serious problem that must be dealt with effectively and immediately the reader should do some inquiry (ask questions)

Q: Is Tobago a racist society?

A: Racism exists in all societies.  It is very difficult for a society to call itself racist, but understanding racism requires an understanding of power structures.   Not liking a person because of the color of their skin is prejudice, but it becomes racist when you are in a position to deny that person an opportunity of some sort. While Tobago is not a blatantly racist society like the apartheid state that existed in South Africa in the past or the United States that practiced legalized segregation, there are elements of racism that exists in Tobago like anywhere else.    It should be noted that Tobago is 95% black.    While race might not be a divisive problem within Tobago; it is a society based on class stratification (income inequality).

Q:  What is nationalism and how does it relate the Tobago?

A: Nationalism is an ideology about nationhood.   There are many forms of nationalism.  For example, patriotism includes displays of national colors, the flag, the feeling of pride one has for their country, and the duty one owes to country, like service in the military.    This is an accepted form of nationalism that people from all countries typically have.    This is what you see normally displayed during soccer matches during the World Cup or independence parades.  Nationalism in an extreme form gave rise to World War I, where these feelings erupted all over Europe and ultimately led to two world wars and the shaping of the modern world was we know it.  It is dangerous and deadly in its extreme form, especially when others factors are at work, such as militarism.  Interestedly, synonyms of nationalism includes (independence, autonomy, self-rule and self-government).    These concepts are important to Tobagonians and the turn on the inflamed political passions of people.

Q:  What is an example of “inflamed political passion” in the Tobago case?

A:  Tobago has an interesting political culture and elections typically arouse these inflamed political passions.   On a larger scope, politics in Trinidad and Tobago is masked in utterances of something locally known as “picong”.  When this is aligned with the political history which has a racial undertone given the historic voter bases of the main parties, some individuals cross the line and acts of racism are perpetuated, sometimes masked in utterances of ‘picong”.  A major example of this was the “Calcutta Ship” statement made by Hilton Sandy during the 2013 THA election. Despite the apology that was issued, this one statement has probably done more damage affecting the progress of what could have been accomplished between the THA and Central Government, despite the election results.  There was a communication breakdown between both entities and this hindered some progress.

Q: Why was the ‘Calcutta Ship’ an example of racial intolerance?   What is the real problem?

A: The Calcutta Ship statement whether it was deliberate or not, whether part of a campaign strategy or whether it just popped into the head of the individual who made the statement on a political platform, it played on the fears of many.  Tobagonians understand the concept of land and wealth, but unfortunately more than 85% of Tobagonians do not have deeds and titles to their lands, despite occupying these “family lands” for many years.   Almost every culture experience the conflict over land that takes places in families, tribes and nations over land and Tobago is no different.   The Calcutta Ship was the easiest way to galvanize support of an “us vs them” (the government – the Calcutta people) strategy to win the election, creating an “enemy” who will “take your land”.  Perhaps it was convenient, but we can only hope inflammatory statements of this nature cease to be a part of political discourse.

Q:  How does all this relate to the Kiel’s, the Greens and “a dislike for foreigners”?

A:  Xenophobia’s is the dislike for foreigners and this happens everywhere.  Tobago is not an isolated case neither is it the exception but the Keil’s were killed in Tobago and the Green’s were assaulted in Tobago, not elsewhere.  We are a tourist destination, domestically and internationally and while we cannot stop bad things from happening there is no need to suffer in collective silence; there is a need to speak up.   Hopefully in speaking up justice will prevail for the Keil’s, the Green’s and all those whose lives were tragically cut short by criminals occupying the Tobago space.    Additionally, in speaking up we should speak loud enough so that the world can hear us. This will require speech, language and discourse that shows we are ready to do business with the rest of the world.   Disliking foreigners and public usage of racist language even if masked in utterances of picong are things that do not belong in a society that seeks to develop itself.

 

 

Isha Wells Ground Support vs Rowley’s Cabal in the Making

With less than a year away from the constitutionally due general election we must turn our attention to the screening process of the People’s National Movement, which has been deemed a farce by many of the local ground support of the party.  In all reality we are not surprised and the current happenings is just the style of elitist leadership embraced by Dr. Rowley and the cabal he is in the process of creating.  The Rowley led PNM is disconnected more than ever from its traditional voter base and should the party continue this trend of alienation, including that of the influential Isha Wells, the PNM is setting the stage for a harder uphill battle in 2015.

This however is not about winning an election; it is about representation and it is an open book for examination of the PNM under Dr. Rowley and his cabal in creation.  Isha Wells has been an instrumental voice for rallying the red army.  As a “political personality” while we consider her a bit militant Ms. Wells is a leader and while we may completely disagree with her politics, if we are going to talk about representation or at least a new concept of representation for the long-standing PNM constituencies that have been denied the highest quality of parliamentary representation under successive PNM governments and the currently in the Opposition, Isha Wells will do more for the people of Port of Span South than their current MP Marlene McDonald.

Dr. Rowley assumed the leadership of the PNM by default and conventional parliamentary practice – Manning’s carrying the party to a general election loss led to the elevation of Dr.  Rowley.  A PNM victory in 2010 would have left Dr. Rowley in a rather tricky position; and let us for the sake of argument assume a PNM 2010 victory won the same amount of seats the People’s Partnership did, Rowley could have been left as a back-bencher for his behavior and without a ministerial portfolio.

He eventually cemented his leadership of the party in the internal-elections, which was not necessary, but he had to give his leadership a frontage of credibility in spite of his uncoordinated and lackluster performance in the parliament because to date he has presented no viable or authentic policy alternative.   Nevertheless, he remains the political leader of the PNM and he will lead them into the general election.

As Dr. Rowley assembles his team for 2015, a number of current PNM MP’s who owed some debt of allegiance to former political leader Patrick Manning will be out.   Among them, Patricia McIntosh, Amery Browne, Paula Gopee-Scoon, NiLeung Hypolite, Alicia Hospedales, and Fitzgerald Jeffery.    These were all Manning’s picks, and for the most part they are all safe seats MPs.  Why is Marlene McDonald not on this list of MP’s that Dr. Rowley will ultimately dismiss?  She has entered Rowley’s cabal, will more than likely keep her safe seat causing Isha Wells to wait.

Closely related is the possibility of these sitting MP’s pulling their support from Dr. Rowley in favor of another Opposition Leader within their ranks, possibly Mr. Manning himself.   Should this happen, it does not change the status of Dr. Rowley as political leader but it no longer cements his leadership and give us further evidence that he has ran away with the leadership but has abandoned the base.

Added to this is Mr. Manning himself, which makes it even is complicated if it isn’t already.   Reports have indicated Manning is considering being screened to run again for San Fernando East.    This is a dilemma for Dr. Rowley and the screening committee.    Do you deny Mr. Manning the right to contest the seat if he chooses and he deems himself in good health?   Do you allow Mr. Manning and keep him around with full knowledge of the rifts present between both men?  If human beings were branded as cows are branded, the brand of ‘wajang and hooligan’ placed on Dr. Rowley by Mr. Manning will never be erased.   Only Mr. Manning was able to challenge the behavior of Dr. Rowley, in fact, he called it out.    None of the current MP’s could have done that nor had the tenacity to steer the leadership of the PNM in a direction of new politics.   The lobbying of members of the government by Opposition MP’s had to be done privately out of sight and sound of the Opposition Leader whose major influences included Faris Al Rawi and Fitzgerald Hinds, neither of whom currently hold elected seats and actually had to represent people in the parliament.   The influence of Al Rawi, Hinds and McDonald on Rowley spells nothing but elitism to the point of turning up their noses on the people of the ground.    This is how they operate.   They are disconnected from the people they want to represent.  They cannot say this about Isha Wells.

Isha is young and has the capacity to provide high quality representation to the people of Port of Spain South.  It would be unfortunate if she is rejected by the screening committee, but it should be a time of reflection for her.  We believe that Isha has a good heart and she cares about her community and her country.     The care for her community she shows, her advocacy, and the work she has done as an activist and a voice that rally the troops is evidence of the representation that she is capable of providing that will break the historical mold of non-representation of the PNM especially in their safe seats.     Isha can connect with the youths of the area many of who are non-participants in the politics because the politics and their politicians cannot or refuse to connect with them.   She is now being rejected by the political organization she has poured time and effort into including her efforts to bring home the 12 nil PNM victory in Tobago.

If rejected, Isha should mount a strong challenge in Port of Spain South against the PNM.   If she truly wants to represent the people of Port of Spain South she should let nothing stop her, not even the PNM machinery that might be against her.   We wish her the best because we are aware of the capacity she has and the people of Port of Spain South deserves no less.

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All in One: A Political cook up, Tobago Style

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As we approach the 2015 General Election Tobago and the Tobago House of Assembly would play a critical role.  There are so many pressing issues relating to Tobago that would highlight the campaign that the nation must play careful attention to.  Recently the Ground Report did several morning programmes in Tobago and many issues came to the forefront, voiced by Tobagonians about the current state of affairs in Tobago under the tenure of the Chief Secretary Orville London since 2001 and the People’s National Movement.    We will begin to examine some of these issues as they relate to Tobago and its development.

These issues affecting Tobago are not disconnected from each other and it is the reason why I can this first commentary, All in One – a popular Tobago Dish, what you have you just throw it in the pot and cook it up.   While reading keeping this concept in mind because everything is in an all in one dish, so while it appears that I might go off in some directions, whatever is in the all in one in essential to understanding the complexity of the dish, therefore one can see the connection of all the issues and how they are interrelated.

We will begin with human capital because it is the most valuable asset in any society.   The foundation of human capital development is education.   Despite the presence of more secondary schools on the island, comparatively there has been less education on the island.   Tobago once prided itself where some of the most outstanding and educated citizens came from Tobago and competed at the highest levels.   That generation is disappearing.

Less than 40% of students leave the secondary schools with more 5 or more subjects.   This is the beginning of the pipeline of dependency that is systematically exploited politically.   There are no sustainable jobs because major industries that once held commercial value are struggling or have been abandoned, respectively tourism and agriculture.

There are an interconnectedness among education, the naturally available industries, and development outcomes.    These are the factors that creates the foundation for strong economic growth but there is more than a disconnect between all and it appears that the Tobago House of Assembly and some people in Trinidad and Tobago cannot connect these for the shaping of effective policies for better and sustained outcomes.

I am going to try to break this down as simple as possible, with the claim that Tobago does not have the capacity to feed itself.  It once did.

While you would never starve in Tobago because of the wide variety of fruits and other things that naturally grow without systematic cultivation, like green bananas and bhagi.  You can catch a yardie, to dig up some provision from a small dasheen patch, lend hand in siene pulling for some greenback and jacks and still don’t have to go to the supermarket.  So while eating this way requires some resourcefulness if one lives alone, getting something to eat is relatively easy especially.   Additionally, in Tobago, some granny, mommy or tanty is almost always around and food is always available.   I write like this to demonstrate what I saw with my own eyes during the time I spent in Tobago of how people live, survive and support each other.  They are the collective experiences of people I know that are repeated in village and after village only with the people changing but in essence the issues are the same.  People generally live well with each other and the spirit of sharing and hospitality remains

Despite the fact you would not starve, a major segment of young people who have left the secondary schools without the necessary qualifications to get long term sustaining jobs and end up on make work programmes such as URP and CEPEP are on the brink of poverty.  These are the individuals who not only depend on the government but also on the generosity and kindness of family even though granny have to spend the old age pension to feed some grandchildren and at times their children.    Mind you, everyone might be working dong a little “morning wuk” but money from that job is not enough for oneself, so where one can get free food all the time one will take advantage of this, instead of contributing money for groceries at home.   That little relief money becomes pocket change to buy credit for phone, alcohol, and cigarettes but it is not nearly enough to do anything substantial.

Tobagonians pay more when they go to the supermarkets compared to Trinidadians.    Tobago’s food import bill is out of control and this is where we must begin to connect the dots with the everyday realities of some people with policy making decisions and outcomes.    The things we are capably of cultivating in Tobago we are importing them.    This was never the case.   The capacity to produce our own food is essential to future development outcomes.

When the earning potential of a wide cross-section of your population is capped (those who cannot find jobs without 5 subjects) what is socially constructed and ultimately reproduced is an underclass, an almost permanent one.  This is why education has the greatest capacity to break and permanently disrupt cycles of poverty.

The high agricultural output of the past is very low.   The Scarborough Market which received a great deal of commentary during the morning programmes by the Ground Report is enough evidence about the state of agriculture.  Markets are the central hubs of commerce and the food culture of a people.  The market in any city or town allows you to encounter real people and tourists flocks for authentic experiences.    I have visited markets in Africa, Europe, Mexico and other Caribbean Islands, and if not for the tourists, for the vendors then the people they prevent from starving deserve a better market in Tobago.   The working conditions for these vendor are deplorable and the market is shameful to look upon.   It is a turnoff for tourists whose cruise ships docks a few yards away on the port but even more repulsive for locals who enter when need dictates.

Our vendors however should be commended because they are vital to keeping us alive.  Despite the added cost most get their products from Trinidad.  So the items once cultivated in Tobago are now commodities coming from Trinidad and elsewhere.    It is possible that the quantity of ground provisions, peas, peppers, and the myriads of things we import that can be grown in Tobago be slashed by 20 to 30 percent.

When a significant workforce such as CEPEP and URP workers are engaged in tasks below their human potential and their real earning capacity is not utilized for self-growth, it shows the lack of innovative and effective policies.   Agriculture and downstream agribusiness have tremendous potential to assist in the awakening of Tobago’s dormant economy.   When money is set aside for relief programmes, less is allocated towards other development needs.   This is not an attempt to pick on the “underprivileged” but it is intended to demonstrate that the poverty and dependency syndrome is created and fueled by failed cyclical policies.

 

 

Lyndira to Jack: Boy, ah hittin’ the road

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The fanfare that came with Jack Warner’s Independent Liberal Party continues to die down from what can be seen as members leave one by one, the latest, Lyndira Oudit.   The exact reasons for Oudit’s departure is unknown and her relations with whatever is left of the ILP going forward are also unknown.  Nevertheless, the ILP has lost political steam and if there was a possibility of coalition with the PNM, it seems highly unlikely, but was it ever possible. Consider the marriage of such bedfellows.

While one can assume there was much disappointment in the loss of Mr. Warner from the People’s Partnership in 2013, as a political event that was a lifetime ago.   Despite the breakup and the eventual break away of Chaguanas West (CW) and some gains in local government elections, with several high profile resignations one must really question whether this party the ILP is quickly become a one-man show.  A man who was considered a hardworking government minister and delivered to the people of CW and to the people of Trinidad and Tobago under the People’s Partnership Government has all but lost his political way.

Now aligned with the PNM Opposition forces, the same PNM Opposition who questioned and pressured the current to get rid of Mr. Warner.   Given the FIFA baggage and an on investigation, one must continue to wonder about the dealings and desperation of the PNM leader Dr. Keith Rowley in his attempt to win the 2015 general elections.     Once again the PNM is caught is an apparent tailspin and so many questions arise about the strength of a coalition if any that could have existed with between the ILP and the PNM.

First, it would have been a coalition built on spite and possibly hate.    Given the on going dismantling of the ILP which began since the end of the Local Government Election in 2013, the actions of Mr. Warner who once held the Chairmanship of the UNC and given what one would call a “safe seat” has been nothing but spiteful efforts to malign the government.   While the extent of Mr. Warner’s issues with the Honourable Prime Minister is unknown, if there is any, his constant talking points of the cabal and whether during Parliamentary contributions, in the Sunshine newspaper or party sponsored radio programmes he has demonstrated his intentions.    This would have been the spite aspect of the coalition.

Second, many who turned away from Partnership and during the CW and St. Joseph by-elections and the local government elections are returning to the fold.   While everything may not be perfect within the Partnership the possibility of a coalition with people who embraced the light of new politics when they voted overwhelmingly in 2010 for the Partnership to consider alignment with the PNM, the reality of such a coalition with PNM is now becoming evident.      The evidence over the last four is present of never before historical people centered delivery and development of the Partnership government against an almost 30 plus record of governance and historical stewardship of the PNM.    The people of CW should note the exodus of high officials from the ILP and consider the drifting of the party towards the right-winged political ideas and ideals of the PNM, some of which includes poor representation, underdeveloped constituencies and the now ignoring if not outright marginalization of their ground troops.

Third, as the PNM continues its screening process there is much speculation that current representative Nileung Hypolite will be booted for Fitzgerald Hind in Laventille West.     How well with this settle with the party stalwarts is left to be seen?    While some of this is left over party infighting since the internal elections, it shows the overall level of alienation the PNM under the leadership of Dr. Rowley has with the ground troops and base of the Red Army.    The ground troops and base have had little input in the line up so far of those selected to compete for the PNM in 2015 and many are disconnected from the ground.     The type of cloudy headed representation historically given to PNM constituencies is bound to continue.

What does the three points above have to do with the ILP and Oudit’s resignation?

Given that a leopard cannot change its spots, if any attempt at coalition between the PNM and ILP were to be the negotiation process would or should have began.   It is expected that the PNM will contest all 41 seats a national party as have always been the case; but a coalition with the ILP the discussions would have already began, but just how would these discussions go.

After the political bashing and pressure unleashed by the PNM on Mr. Warner, those former Partnership supporters are now weighing the hypocrisy should they join forces with PNM against a government with a track record of delivery under responsive and decisive leadership including firing cabinet members when the public trust was breached.     This is what ILP member must consider and not necessarily Dr. Rowley’s statement, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  This is has a striking parallel to a woman playing into the hands of a known abuser and falling in love with man who is going to neglect her and the children he fathers with her.   This is representation PNM style.

On the flip side, there was a falling out between the Partnership and the people of CW.    There were differences of opinions and the people choose to exercise their constitutional right an affiliate themselves with a party of their choosing.   However, it appears that things are not panning out as planned and the people are left with two choices, political homelessness or representational abuse.    The PNM’s track record and historical stewardship compounded by the nature of their behavior, especially that of their disconnected leadership is frightening enough to consider the possibility to such a coalition.

While some have returned we must be mindful that PNM is a threat to the future development of Trinidad and Tobago under the leadership of Dr. Rowley.   The party remains visionless and daily it continues to alienate voters.   A leopard cannot changes it spots and perhaps this is revelation that Lyndira Oudit got that make her decide to call it quits as Political Leader of the dismantling Independent Liberal Party.