Monthly Archives: December 2014

2014 Political Trinidad & Tobago Naughty & Nice List

the NL

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.

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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.