Monthly Archives: November 2014

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.