Monday, January 30, 2012


Almost every businessman that you talk to today will tell you privately that he is worried about the country and where we are heading. They will complain that the country is becoming uncompetitive and is falling behind in just about every sphere of business imaginable. They will tell you that there are glaring weaknesses in the schools and in the graduates coming out of the University of the West Indies, that crime is out of control and that clearly nobody has either the will or the capacity to get it under control. They will also complain bitterly about the stagnant economy and the obvious incapacity of the Government to get things moving. Most of all you will hear them complaining about what they perceive to be a lack of leadership and the stagnant economy.

To be fair, most of the complaints about leadership can basically be summed up like this: Rowley ain't cuttin' it. He clearly can't make. Like Manning said, he is like a dog that barks at every passing car in the hope that one day he will catch one. (This leads to the obvious question: what does a dog do when it does eventually catch the car?) But to continue: on the other side a lot of the businessmen say that they still like Kamla but that she has to take control of her Cabinet. They feel that there are some elements in her Cabinet who exercise undue influence on the Lady (the capital "L" is on purpose) and that she is being given poor advice. Further, they point to the rumours of corruption that are swirling around her administration and say that they believe them to be true. Labour is acting up and it is generally felt that trouble will begin after Carnival.

In other words, what is being said by many in the business community privately (and not so privately) is that they are most concerned about the future. They have absolutely no faith in the PNM under Rowley and feel that he (Dr. Rowley) is simply not a credible alternative. On the other side of the coin they feel that Kamla too is failing, though they prefer her to Rowley.

This perception is dangerous in that it creates a feeling of unease in the society that permeates through to all levels. In the past, the PNM was always there as the "default" political party. In other words, we could try ABC party or XYZ but if they didn't work we could always go back to the PNM. The problem is that under Dr. Rowley the PNM is no longer a credible "default" or alternative. The perception is that the PNM has turned sharply to its core African support and really does not care about being multi ethnic or multi cultural. Dr. Rowley didn't help this perception at all with his rather silly criticisms of the Prime Minister's trip to India and her touching the feet of the Indian President ... a gesture that is very acceptable in Hindu culture. Defenders of the Prime Minister have pointed out (quite correctly) that you didn't hear any of these complaints when the Pope visited Trinidad and then President Ellis Clarke ( a sincere and devout Catholic) knelt before him and kissed his ring!

In other words, it was felt/perceived by a sizable portion of the population that these criticisms of the Prime Minister were motivated more by race and ill will than by any honestly held opinion as to her action being an affront to our national identity.

So? What can be done? The present situation is not acceptable and contains within it the possibility of leading to some serious social unrest downstream. The only test of leadership is to lead, and to lead vigorously. The best way for the Prime Minister to get out of this deadly downward spiral that she is now finding herself in is to get the economy moving again. In order to do this she is going to have to deal with her erstwhile Finance Minister and give him the message: lead, follow or get out of the way. There are too many people now who see the nation's glass as being half empty. That perception has to change. We have to be shown that the glass is half full. If she doesn't do that ... and soon ... we will have a very long and dark night to go through.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Two completely separate incidents took place at the end of last week which have brought me out of a self imposed hibernation since Christmas. I had taken a conscious decision not to get involved in any of the (for want of a better word) 'scandals' that might erupt in the new year and to stay out of any 'cat and dog' fights that might result. But these two incidents have so upset me that I feel that I must comment on them, if only for the sake of my own sanity.

The first incident that I am talking about is the storming of the headquarters of the Public Service Association (PSA) on Thursday by a breakaway faction that is opposed to the leadership of the current PSA President, Watson Duke. The matter is now before the High Court and I have absolutely no intention whatsoever of commenting on the rights of either of the parties to that dispute. What concerns (and concerned) me is the behaviour of both sides ... which, quite frankly, was absolutely deplorable.

The second incident took place at the Commission of Enquiry (COE) into the collapse of the CLICO empire on Friday. In that enquiry, a very senior 'Silk' of some 33 years standing, decided that he could gratuitously insult a witness by asking him if he was a bisexual. Mr. Martin Daly was clearly peeved at a response that he had got from Mr. Mervyn Assam and threw the comment/question at him, thus abusing his position as a cross-examining counsel and setting an extremely good example of bad taste and low ethical behaviour.

My point in joining these two incidents together is that they demonstrate clearly that our society has now sunk to new lows that are reminiscent of the wild west where anything went and where might was right. If you were rich and powerful you could (and often did) anything. If you were fast with a gun you could (and often did) anything. And there are plenty of cowboy movies and legends about the ineffective, ineffectual, incompetent and often corrupt sherriff and his deputies. The famous "gunfight at the OK Corral" is one such legend that eventually was made into (I believe) more than one movie. The high and mighty in this society do whatever they want. And the "gunslingers" do the same! Nobody cares or has any respect for anything that is good and decent anymore.

In Trinidad & Tobago standards of good taste have gone through the floor when a so called pillar/exemplar of our society can make the kind of statement in a publicly televised hearing and not be thoroughly pilloried for it. Standards of decency and proper behaviour are now in the cesspit when the leaders of no less an organisation that represents all of the public servants in this country can behave in the disgraceful manner that the country saw on Thursday evening.

I am sorry. If the new rules are that might is right and that we can all say and do anything we want then please tell me so. Perhaps the best way to govern this country is that we disband the police force and allow all citizens to simply strap on a gun in order to defend themselves, blow up all the schools which are clearly not teaching our children anything about proper values and look to see where else we can do away with the trappings of a civilised and progressive State. All the money we are spending on these institutions is clearly going to waste, and you know what they say: if you can't beat 'em ... join 'em! Welcome to the wild, wild west ... Trini style!!!