Monthly Archives: May 2014

Celebrating More than Doubles, Curry, and Dhal


On May 30 we celebrate Indian Arrival Day in Trinidad and Tobago. At the Tobago Policy Forum we welcome celebrations like these that reflect on people and their history and the significant contribution made to the Republic.   We would like to extend sincere greetings to the national community as we celebrate Indian Arrival Day 2014.

Coming from one of the greatest civilizations in the world, the children of India arrived as indentured servants in Trinidad and Tobago in 1845. With the ending of slavery a labour gap became evident and the system of indentured servitude sought to fill this gap and East Indians continued to arrive until 1917.   These East Indian labourers brought with them the totality of culture inclusive of religion, food, music, dance, language and the multitude of elements that make up culture.   It is this culture and influence that over descending generations has contributed to our cosmopolitan national Trinbago culture.

In a nation like Trinidad and Tobago that evolved out of the forging of the interest of European nations as they sought to colonize the world, a mass global movement and displacement of people began.   First, was the displacement of the indigenous people of the Americas by powerful European property owning interests who replaced the First Peoples with African slaves as a labour source. While the concept of indentured servitude was not new, it existed before 17th century, the ancestors of those today who claim East Indians heritage were seeking ways and means out of poverty and indentured servitude became an option, many of whom thought they would return, but often never did.

Little did these indentured servants know the impact that their future generations would have on an emerging post-colonial order that also affected India from which they came where independence of many former colonies were granted after World War II.   Nevertheless we do not have to look to far to see the influence and impact that East Indians have in our society without diminishing the impact of other ethnic groups but in recognizing this we see a nation that continues to become integrated while bringing out of the best in every citizen.

At times with a media that appears to be based on sensationalism dominating the national conversation, hovering about our heads is a political culture that simply distracts us from real issues of national development and importance of working together. Indian Arrival Day in 2014 should have a new meaning for all right thinking citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. Yes, it is about celebrating the contributions, but too often for average citizens holidays likes these lose their focus to the big beach or river lime rather than reflecting on the true meaning and how it affects our lives today and our nation tomorrow.

Trinidad and Tobago is on a development trajectory.   More development is expected, but economic development of a nation is not only hinged on its financial, natural resources and building buildings but inclusive of its human resource and capacity. The interaction of people of all ethnic groups and cultures is a natural part of this process.   It is here where holidays and national celebrations like these should taking on a new meaning and focus on educating, informing and engaging.     It is on this level that we can take a step back and find avenue to engage others and get over the hype that our nation is bad and on a path towards destruction and racial division.

Together we must navigate this space where we believe in the principle of an equal place. In light of recent national events of a negative nature, Indian Arrival Day gives us an opportunity to reflect and turn a page.   When we don’t know it is easy to assume and make stereotypes often based on misinformation, but it is our obligation to learn.


Paternity Politics

Scandal will rock every government at some point in time.   The People’s Partnership has had its fair share of scandals many of which have seen individuals being fired from the Cabinet.   The latest scandal with the likes of a government minister on a video has triggered calls for drug test and DNA tests of Sport Minister Anil Roberts and Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley respectively.

As the political script is being written and played out for 2015 General Election, the use of dirty tricks is sadly expected.   Even as Hillary Clinton thinks about a possible presidential run in 2016, there is no doubt that the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal of the late 1990s will be some talking points of political opponents and even as satire but not even this will affect her electability factor.

Given that much of the issues (the future of Trinidad and Tobago) has been sidelined lined by political noise that looks much like a Trinibago version of Scandal and the Maury Show there is some space in the ‘political discourse’ for these issues. If they don’t not add to the developmental, which we know they don’t, these issues can provide an analysis of the overall political culture and inform the nation as a whole on the type of individuals we choose to represent us.   Furthermore, it might serve as a warning and deterrence for those involved in public life about the conduct of their private lives and doing; now and then, and the results of those actions.

The population should not expect a neither a drug test or a paternity test from two individuals in questions.   While allegations can or cannot be addressed, the question is now that allegations are out in the open, how much political mileage is there to gain or loose about the implications of both drug and paternity tests and the pending investigations behind both that we so love to call for in Trinidad and Tobago without results.

However, should we flip the script on the personal issues and put the nation back into focus we know that paternity is about fathering and taking responsibility. President Carmona recently stated that there is a need for male teachers in Trinidad and Tobago’s schools and indeed this is one area where the presence of men will help guide youths and take on greater responsibilities as role models. Nevertheless, when it comes to political responsibility for the ‘fathering’ of the nation’s future direction away from its current challenges, no one wants to take a paternity test.

Who is the father crime in Trinidad and Tobago?   We need a paternity test for that.   Are crime, corruption, and politics siblings? We need a paternity test to find that out. The baby daddy or daddies must come forward.   Who is the father of corruption in Trinidad and Tobago?   We need a paternity test for that. Who is the father of child sex abuse when it unleashes itself on children?   We need a paternity test for that too. Who is the father of the widening political gap between Trinidad and Tobago?   We need a paternity test for that one too because too many daddies want to mine this baby.       Who is father of racism in Trinidad and Tobago – well we should not expect any one to claim responsibility for this, one of the bastard children that should have been aborted before the birth of the nation.


Waking up the Racial Boogeyman

Political mischief and propaganda are features of governmental systems across the world and during election time they are employed as techniques.   When one examines the political propaganda in Trinidad and Tobago much it is based on issues of race and racism.

At the Tobago Policy Forum, we deal extensively with issues of race because it impacts the political culture, which eventually shapes public policy.   We believe that racism has no place in the politics of Trinidad and Tobago. It is only by living up to the true meaning of the words in the national anthem that every creed and race find an equal place that our political culture will evolve and we will all have an opportunity to enjoy life in peace, harmony and prosperity in Trinidad and Tobago.

Since last Friday after the march against the government by the Joint Trade Union Movement, the PNM and other entities for allegations of corruption and mismanagement the most talked about issue were the racist placards that surfaced. Both sides are blaming the other for ‘planting’ the placards and we expect no one to take responsibility for it.   Whether it was an individual making an individual choice, whether it was part political strategy of one of the parties to awaken the racial boogeyman man ahead of 2015, it has woken up and it will not go back to sleep.

When the racial boogeyman wakes up the real issues that elections are supposed to be about are sidelined.   We motivate our bases by using race to polarize the country in an effort to instill fear and get votes.   No political party is absolved from using the race card and after looking back at recent incidents of racialism in the politics, politicians have to be careful about how they distance themselves from and condemn blatant racist remarks or placards.

We must realize that there are no measuring sticks for racism; it is not quantifiable.   However, racism can be qualified.   Qualifying something as racist, whether seen, heard, or experienced must be validated and promptly condemned. It is at this stage that leaders must be careful.

Prompt condemnation is required but past inaction on past platforms when racist statements were made by politicians did not meet with the timely response, not necessarily of a condemnation but a statement that stating that the placards were planted by political opponents.   There is a possibility that they were planted for the sake of political mischief but failure to acknowledge that it had no place in the march given the inflammatory comments, are we now left to believe that Hilton Sandy was an agent of the UNC when he made the Calcutta statements in Tobago in the presence of Dr. Rowley, who failed to immediately condemn now infamous Calcutta remarks?

Hilton Sandy later issued an apology for his remarks; but what was already said was said and Calcutta will get more mileage from now until 2015. The PNM has to do something about the perception problem it has when coming to race.   Its inclusivity must be far reaching and the party must work hard to change the narrative about race.   Even if they were ‘UNC plants,’ the PNM must undertake efforts to educate and inform its members and supporters they about changing the conversation about race to one of greater inclusivity and celebrating diversity and difference.

So, let’s say it was a person of East Indian descent who held up the placards in the march. We will have to consider that the person might not be very literate then consider that he is a self-hating person of East Indian descent.     The fact is self-hating people exists in the all races across the world, but at the same token to point blame that the racist placards were planted by opponent as opposed to outright an outright condemnation is along the same line of logic that black people cannot possibly be racist. No one is willing calls themselves racists but we all have the potential to practice racism and we cannot say that because of past experiences, it is unlikely for any member of my race to practice racism.

Racism does not affect Trinidad and Tobago the same way it does in the United States.   While similar themes may exists, people of color rarely experience hostility from individuals based on political affiliation or encounters blatantly racist individuals on a daily basis that makes ones fearful in the United States.   Those days are gone though unfortunate incidents still take place.   Where racism happens in the United States is in the policies of institutions that are systematically reinforced by people of the dominant culture because of their lack of understanding and their perception, which includes stereotypes of difference.

There is no dominant culture in Trinidad and Tobago; there is a uniquely diverse Trinbago culture that we are still in the process of establishing that does not diminish who we are despite our ethnic backgrounds. Forging a national identity that truly reflects red, white and black leaves no room for racial and polarizing politics. People from Trinidad and Tobago are making their marks all across the globe and the eyes of the world are upon us paying closer attention than ever before at what is taking place.

Let’s us leave race alone and focus on real issues of national development.


Does Kamla Stand a Chance in 2015?

The People’s Partnership did not turn their guns on the PNM during their anniversary celebrations on Saturday, but looking back at it, the PNM internal election might have been one of the biggest political blunders of the year on the part of the PNM. Dr. Keith Rowley will be in the fight for his political life because the strategy that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the PP will use against him was developed over the months of the PNM internal election and everything his own PNM people said about him.

Will Mother Kamla cover the sins of the People’s Partnership Government?   Like Helen Bartlet and many mothers I am sure that she grew frustrated at the behavior of the boys in her cabinet – their philandering ways, their abuse of power, the human errors of their high profile public life, but will the population overlook these mistakes and give her a mandate once again?

The campaign being framed by the People’s Partnership as evident in two videos played during the 4th Anniversary Rally is two-fold.     The first is a play on history and linking the PNM to an era of darkness, murders, kidnappings, with claims of deep connections linking PNM policy to blatant support of underworld criminal elements and gangs.   This is an attempt to put the PNM on the defensive to have them talk about the past.

The second is a campaign against Rowley that people within the PNM has framed against their leader during the internal election and his years under Manning. According the Prime Minister in what she described as a more frightening prospect than the Manning years is a “tendency towards dictatorship,” under Dr. Rowley.   The political imagery painted by “those who know him best,” according to the PM likened Rowley to that of “Stalin, Mugabe and Hitler.”

The first video then used Pharell’s “Because I am Happy,” to change the tone to focus on the future and the campaign of continued National Recovery.   In talking about the future, the People’s Partnership is using the strategy of continuing what they began while linking the PNM and Dr. Rowley to recycling rejected ideas from Vision 2020, now re-branded Vision 2030.   Despite the blunders, being the incumbent government, Kamla will have to fight hard to stay in power, but Dr. Rowley will have to fight harder to win.

“He expects an election sooner rather than later. If you think I foolish like the PNM to call an election before time,” was the response of the PM to calls for early election.     With full knowledge that calls for an early election will fall on deaf ears, the PNM must change its strategy.     Speaking of early elections, the PNM internal elections were never due until next year, but Dr. Keith Rowley decided to move the date.   This was probably to his detriment because his likability factor did not improve especially when he is being is compared to the likes of ruthless, tyrannical, and genocidal dictators by his own members.

The race factor is also being anchored to the ship of the PNM. This should be concerning to the PNM because this ship will run right into a collision course with ‘the Calcutta.’ Calcutta will sail often and its destination over the next eleven months will be Tobago.

Tobago will be a critical factor in the next election. It is no doubt that the two Tobago seats will be in play, literally up for grabs, and while Kamla would not like to see the TOP out of the coalition through elected representatives, all eyes will be on Tobago – a PNM haven, in light of 12-0 Assembly.   Tobago is where the performance and delivery mantra of the PP will shine brighter against the delivery of the London led PNM and the reason being why the fight for the two Tobago seats will in play.   The legacy of ANR Robinson is also up for grabs and this may have given Ashworth Jack some political mileage on the Anniversary stage and perhaps some validation of him staying away from the leaders meetings about internal self-government.

The Tobago House of Assembly has to step up within the next few months.   Their current focus should be on improving their rate of delivery and beginning a conversation about Tobago’s true place in a new national constitutional order that is developmentally oriented. Tobago cannot be the model of PNM success under a free reign PNM that the national PNM is offering the nation if the Tobago House of Assembly does not change its modus operandi.

Both parties have work to do before the 2015 general election.   The campaign is on and while there are many factors that will come into play over the next months and we will provide full analysis of the 2015 general election.   We will listen intently to both campaigns, give our analysis and allow you to decide.



A Distraction or A Diversion: Who and what do you believe?

The TV 6 video showing the likes of a government minister engaging in questionable and potentially illegal activities took the nation by storm on Wednesday night. A part of the culture in Trinidad and Tobago is to make light serious situations and given the highly charged political environment that exists fueled by social media, a heyday was made out of this incident and Anil became the joke.   Despite the elements of satire involved in the recent episode there is an element of seriousness to this story and the authenticity of the video is now being questioned by the government in a recently released press release.

With awareness that the silly season has begun in earnest taking swings to damage political opponents is part of the morality of its own that politics has. We live in a world that is technologically advance and it is possible for videos to be edited, cut and spliced.   It is possible for the very innocent look very guilty and we must consider the possibility that the video was ‘doctored’ in an attempt to distract and divert attention.     The question is by whom?

The government has released a statement claiming that the video was a distraction away from the 4th anniversary celebrations. The release also claimed that Sport Minister Anil Roberts was deliberately targeted because of his recent contribution in Parliament about the Beetham Waste Water Recycling Plant where he linked the personal business interest of the current Opposition Leader to a similar project.      Furthermore, Faris Al Rawi has made claims that the PP government leaked the video to divert attention from claims that the Life Sport Program under the Ministry of Sport is funding “criminal and gang activities in Carapo,” and went on to talking about eliminating ghost gangs.

While there was no timestamp on the video, it is likely that the video was made before March 15th.   Member of Parliament Marlene McDonald contributed on that day and responding to some teasing from Roberts, stated: “I doh need no clap! When I learn Spanish, I’ll go and talk to him, I’ll go to Room 201.” The recent video showed a key marked room 201 of an unknown hotel. Is this the same Spanish who was interviewed in the VICE news report, Corruption, Cocaine and Murder in Trinidad?  

The fact is this is how the media works. The media knows that it can change the conversation nightly at 7pm until a next big story where only your media house has the scoop.     So whether the video was a distraction or a diversion, whether it was Anil or someone bearing the close resemblance of Anil, or a hologram of Anil, it is sad day that politics has reached this stage and continues to descend into deeper levels of filth.

Yes, we know that politics has a morality of its own; but before it gets better, it is going to get worse.   If this was just one ‘mark to buss,’ there will be many more before General Election 2015 that would show up many in a different light. Stories like this get ratings and in culture where we were given government but no philosophy of government and governance political maturity will remain low and people are going to believe what they choose to believe if they are not going to use their critical thinking skills and reason.


Anil Roberts: These Hoes Ain’t Loyal

Disclaimer: Some aspects of this is serious, other part satirical (funny) take what is for you, leave the rest.

Another scandal is rocking the People’s Partnership Government and this time it is Sport Minister Anil Roberts.   An exclusive TV6 story captured the likes of the Sport Minister engaging in activities that are illegal. There is now doubt that this will be the attention of the nation for the next few days and into an epic weekend of political marches and anniversary rally.

In the video, accompanied by several females a joint of marijuana was rolled. The voice of the Sport Minister was recognizable. We are not able to verify if other drugs such as cocaine was also present.   We are also unable to state when the video was shot and by whom.   Regardless, the Sport Minister must now do the right thing and immediately resign from the Cabinet.

The people of Trinidad and Tobago must demand more from their politicians.   There is no doubt that our humanity allows room for making choices, among these some not so wise; however, when one engages public life it is imperative that their public behavior takes the high road.   In our world today technology often creates a fine and blurry line between the private lives and public lives of public officials.

Nevertheless, this issue has to be taken for what it is.   Over the next few days, public opinion will nail Anil Roberts and PP government to a temporary cross until the next baby gets killed; prosecutor gets gunned down, or teenager beaten on Facebook by an obviously frustrated mother.

Several thousands citizens in Trinidad and Tobago smoke weed each day.     That is just a reality.   Likewise, several thousands are sleeping with men or women they are not married to.     That is just life in every society.   We don’t know if the man in the video engaged in sexual activities with the women in the video who are labeled as prostitutes, from the title of the footage circulating but we know how people think and what they are thinking.

Anil Roberts happens to be in public life.   He made a poor choice mostly by allowing himself to be videotaped in an uncompromising position that would bring disrepute to himself and by extension the government.   By all means he was one of the most flamboyant ministers in the Partnership Government.   By all accounts a loud mouth, at times rightfully so but capable of bringing the contributions of others in Parliament up in smoke, probably before a smoke.


Consider this before voting in 2015

The political showdown for the 2015 general election has begun in earnest in what is expected to be the mother of all elections. If the 2013 THA election was a mere sampling of the nasty politics we should all brace ourselves for what is to come by the onslaught of political spending by party financiers. The 2015 General Election will be the first general election after the historic 50th Anniversary.     Like it or not, the course has already been set for Trinidad and Tobago for its second 50 years and the winners of the 2015 election will have an opportunity to affect this course positively or negatively.   While it will be much about the future, the 2015 General Election will also be very much about the past. The political culture of Trinidad and Tobago is one that is hard to define but the characteristics of neocolonialism and limited participation beyond voting are all factors that have shaped the political landscape.   Where we are presently leaves much to be desired from ordinary citizens but the reality is politics affects all our lives whether we are engaged in the political process or not. In many ways Trinidad and Tobago are at crossroads, inclusive of political crossroads.     Below the surface of the political picong that we are used to are some of the defining attributes and qualities that people are searching for when looking for leaders to represent them.     Underneath this surface are guiding principles that parties align themselves to in hopes that voters align themselves behind their platforms. The next government will lead us into 2020 at which time we will be able another decision, but the next five to six years will define the Trinidad and Tobago we will live in for the next 50 years. Here are a few questions that citizens should consider:

  1. What are the expectations we have of our leaders and representatives?
  2. Do political parties delay development?
  3. How can public resources be distributed equitably?
  4. What must happen to end political discrimination and victimization?
  5. What are the connections between crime and politics?
  6. How can every citizen find an equal place?

These are questions that are at the core of our political development and hopefully they can be answered as we move closer and closer to 2015.

We expect our leaders to be against corruption but time and time again they have shown us that they are not above reproach and power inflames their egos.     We expect our representative to have the best interest of their constituencies, but too often they are missing in action focusing only on their friends and their families.    Our political parties must evolve from their tribal past and strive to embrace a diversity of people and ideas beyond their ethnic bases and the ramblings of their sycophants.

Whoever wins will be in control of the national treasury.     The resources of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago belong to the people of Trinidad and Tobago but too often the resources are not distributed equitably and monies are siphoned into the pockets of a few fueling allegations of political discrimination and victimization.   Whether it is a CEPEP contract or the stacking the deck of directors in your favor on State Boards of party loyalists, people are systematically discriminated against and victimized.

Crime is a scourge on the nation if left unchecked Trinidad and Tobago will be well on its way to being a failed state.   The war on drugs will never end neither will the geographic location of Trinidad and Tobago change.   Our proximity to the drug trade as a hub and major transshipment point from South America for narcotics destined to North America, Europe and West Africa leaves us with the unfortunate problems of illegal weapons when the drugs leaves our shores.   There are elements within the state so deeply connected to this trade, which makes them “untouchable” but leaves the body count piling up on streets of urban areas.   The link between crime and politics is visibly invisible.

There must be a desire of the part of our leaders where every citizens must find an equal place.   This equality is based on opportunities provided for all and accessible for all despite the remote areas of the country they occupy.   It is the equality that provides opportunities and equal access for the CEPEP workers to raise their standard of living in Princess Town and Pembroke.       It is the equality that removes stigma and eliminate the prestige markers on all schools so that all children have access to a high quality public education.   Finding a equal place means that merit is rewarded once opportunity was equitably provided.

These are but a few of the factors we encourage citizens to pay attention to when they vote.   The responsibilities of a citizen are more than putting on yellow jersey, a red jersey or a green one.     We are responsible for each other and the direction of our country.