Tuesday, July 23, 2013


My father always used to tell me when I was a teenager, often with a wry grin when I confessed to missing an opportunity to getting a kiss from a girl, "opportunities lost never return". And he was so right (and not just about the girls either)!  A lost opportunity never does return. I suppose that's something similar to the ancient Romans' admonition 'carpe diem' ('sieze the day').

I have been thinking about my father's saying as the by-election date for the Chaguanas West (CW) seat looms (5 days and counting from the date of this post). For the very first time in our modern political history the country has an opportunity to turn away from the traditional racial voting and trying something "new" (and I put that word deliberately in inverted commas). The PNM has always been openly, if not blatantly, racial. If you aren't African do not expect to get very far in that Party... certainly, you will never be the leader. The best that you can hope for is that you can become very attractive "window dressing" to give the illusion of inclusiveness. And if you happen to be non-black but very, very bright, you can only become quite powerful if you allign yourself to the right African and never, ever be a threat to him. (Do you remember Lenny Saith?)

As for the UNC, well under Basdeo Panday it made a serious effort to move to the centre and be "all inclusive". It's predecessor, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) was a right wing Hindu party where only Hindus needed to apply. Panday, to his great credit, was much more secular and pragmatic in his thinking and was able to take the UNC into the corridors of power by being centrist and "all inclusive".

Which brings us down to today. The present leaders of the UNC certainly held themselves out to be "all inclusive" in the Panday mode, although long before the trouble with Jack Warner reared it's head we were hearing stories that the Party had veered to the right and was becoming quite "Hindu-centric". But since the by-election was announced, the gloves have come off and all pretence about being a national and a nationalist political organisation has been dropped. Just about every single person in the top brass of the UNC from Prime Minister Persad Bissessar on down has come out and preached a line that sounds dangerously close to saying to the people 'vote race'. The electorate in CW has been told in so many words that if they were to vote for Jack Warner that will be a vote for the PNM. To which any reasonable observer can only say "huh?" How that could be is not explained. Then you have people like Minister Roodal Moonilal saying things like "they" don't want Indians to drive Range Rovers, BMW's and other fancy cars, but "they" want the Indians to go back to riding in a cart pulled by a bison! Again, the reasonable observer has to ask "what?" Who the heck are "they" that do not want to see Indians getting ahead and driving fancy cars? The innuendo that I got was that "they" were anybody who was not a Hindu Indian. I will freely admit that I could be wrong, but that is what it sounded like to me!

And here is where the opportunity for the country is rearing it's head. If Jack Warner was to win in next Monday's by-election it will send a very loud signal ... an almost earth shattering one ... that the old way of thinking is well and truly dead. No longer can politicians come to us and say 'vote for me because I am African/Indian'. Now they are going to have to come and say 'vote for me because I can and will perform!'

Jack Warner has miles to go before he can sleep soundly. His new born Independent Liberal Party (ILP) still has to be put on a proper footing and be properly organised ... and no doubt the indefatigable Warner will turn his considerable energies and talents to doing just that in the weeks ahead after the election ... but he has to win his seat first. I am on record in this blog as predicting that he will do just that. Having listened carefully to all of the candidates (including those like Ishmael Samad who will lose his deposit) it is clear that only Mr. Warner has approached the electorate with a modern 21st century mindset. Mr. Warner has basically said "look, I am a performer. When I was your MP I performed and delivered those services that you required. Further, when serious allegations were made against me (all of which I deny) I resigned my seat to give you the opportunity to decide whether or not you still wanted me to represent you in the Parliament of our country'. (It is noteworthy that nobody else in our short history has ever done this!) The PNM candidate has been a total waste of time. If he has any ideas on how to make things better for his proposed constituents they haven't been reported and he has done nothing to get those ideas out into the public domain. Certainly, when he went on breakfast television about a week ago all he did was mouth meaningless platitudes. Ms. Khadija Ameen has also been a disappointment. There has been no meaningful debate on the issues facing the constituency, nor has she articulated clearly why she would be a better representative than Mr. Warner other than the fact that she wears the yellow jersey of the UNC. Again, when she has appeared on television her pronouncements have been vacuous and full of meaningless platitudes.

Mr. Warner is changing the politics of this country for what can only be the better. If the electors of CW do not re-elect him and vote tribe instead the message that the whole country will get will be obvious and most detrimental to our long term political good health. It will be an opportunity lost!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


The old saying "plus ca change, c'est la meme chose" (the more things change, the more they stay the same)came to my mind last night. What happened was that I made a call to my 91 year old Uncle Bobby just to have a chat, say hello, and give him the latest political gossip that I had heard over the last few days. To my (not so great) surprise I realised that my phone was being tapped ... again!!

 Some readers will recall that Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar announced in Parliament in or about September 2010 that the Manning regime had systematically and routinely tapped the phones of certain politicians and other prominent persons. My name was one of those read out in Parliament. Now, until that rather surprising confession I had absolutely no justiciable evidence whatsoever that my phones had been tapped. I suspected it strongly and had even indulged myself in a little 'scam' to see whether or not there was substance to my suspicions.

You see, around March 2002, after the December 2001 elections which had produced the 18/18 result when then President Robinson had (wrongly) installed Manning as Prime Minister, both Mr. Manning and Mr. Panday were having meetings in the Hilton hotel to discuss a possible way forward. I personally believed that the meetings were a total waste of time and that Manning had absolutely no intention of making any compromise with anybody. I also believed that my phones were being tapped. Almost everytime I made or received a call I could hear a very slight echo on the line (which is what I heard last night while talking with my uncle). So I devised a scheme with a friend of mine, which, if my phones were NOT being tapped would have been completely harmless, but if they were then it would cause a certain amount of political mischief.

The day before the third scheduled Hilton meeting between Messrs. Panday and Manning, I telephoned my friend as pre-arranged. Our conversation went something like this:

Me (laughing: Boy, you won't believe the trap we have for Manning tomorrow!
Friend: What?
 Me: Well, when Manning continues to block all of our proposals we are going to go to Robinson with a letter that will be signed by 21 MP's (members of Parliament) that says that the 21 MP's all support Rowley as prime Minister.
 Friend: You have 21 MP's?
Me: Yep! Our 18 (UNC) and 3 PNM including Rowley.
 Friend: Wow! But how will that work?
Me: Easy! The Constitution says that the President must appoint as Prime Minister the person who commands a majority of MP's in the Parliament.
Friend: So, how are you doing this?
Me: Well, we take the letter to Robinson and he is constitutionally bound to appoint Rowley as the prime Minister.
Friend: With no general election?
Me: That's right! We have been very careful. We haven't been meeting with Rowley but with his representatives. we don't want Manning to find out. That's why the negotiations are taking so long. everything is now agreed. The only Cabinet post left to agree on is who will be the Attorney General. We'll get agreement on that tonight! And then tomorrow we'll drop the bombshell on Manning!

Now, that conversation was real, but the events that it purported to discuss were entirely fictitious. It had all been pre-arranged. There had never been any meetings with Dr. Rowley nor his representatives nor had there been any kind of deal made with anybody to go to the President. But, my friend and I reasoned, if my phone was indeed tapped then Manning would cancel that last Hilton meeting. And you know what? He did just that! A few hours before the meeting was scheduled to take place a curt notice was put out from the Office of the Prime Minister announcing a postponement. That last meeting never took place! Of course, this was not justiciable evidence ... nothing that you can take to Court. But it makes you think, doesn't it? It certainly made me think!

And so, I realised then that I had to be extremely careful in whatever I said or did on the phone as I believed throughout the ensuing years of the Manning regime that I was being monitored. On the one hand, I knew that I have never ,and would never involve myself in any kind of seditious or illegal activity so that I would never have anything to worry about. On the other hand, it grated badly to know that my privacy was being so ruthlessly, cavalierly and illegally invaded. It really annoyed me. I couldn't even have an argument with my wife without the persons tapping my phones knowing about it!

And it still does. It annoyed the living daylights out of me last night to realsie that this is happening all over again. I am really cross. I can't prove it ... but I know that it is happening.

So, to the security services (who I know will read this) let me say this: I am not and never have been involved in any kind of seditious or illegal activity. I know that you won't do it, but if you really want to know anything about me and my activities,  come and ask and I will answer you truthfully. In the meantime, get off my case. It is really, really annoying. I am vexed about this. Really, really vexed! And if you are doing it to me, who else are you doing it to? Surely, I am not that important?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I read a saying somewhere once that “the slightest suggestion for change always means death to some status quo”. This saying came back to me forcefully this last week as Jack Warner launched his Independent Liberal Party and the predictable reactions emerged from the two main political parties in Trinidad & Tobago. To be fair, the reactions from the PNM leadership have been more muted than those from the UNC, perhaps because the PNM knows full well that it’s young Indian candidate has as much chance of winning the Chaguanas West (CW) seat as a snowball has of surviving in Hell. The PNM’s poor sacrificial lamb of a candidate appears not to understand that he has absolutely no chance of winning the seat, or perhaps believes that throwing in with the PNM now will give him something later on when and if the PNM ever returns to the corridors of power; either way he is as dead politically as the proverbial duck. This fight is between Jack Warner and the UNC … and nobody else! The Prime Minister appears to be panicking as her attacks on Mr. Warner have become more shrill and defensive. Having thrown Mr. Warner “under the bus” a few months ago it is difficult to understand why she didn’t realise that this was a huge mistake on her part. She has made just about every mistake in the book from effectively calling Mr. Warner a crook to appealing to ethnicity and traditional tribal affiliations. But her biggest mistake is probably the same one she made a few short months ago when she entered into the fray in the Tobago House of Assembly elections. Instead of letting those elections be a strictly local or Tobagonian affair, she effectively made it, by her entry into that arena, a referendum on her government. The Tobagonian electorate reacted predictably and punished her by giving the PNM (who really deserved to lose if the campaign had been strictly local) a clean sweep of all twelve seats. Now she is entering into the fray again and attacking Mr. Warner at every chance she gets. Mr. Warner has refused, so far, to get into a slinging match with her. This by-election will be (amongst other things) a referendum on her Government. That's the last thing that she should want, especially as it looks as if she is going to lose ... and lose big time! Up to now, in our society, a deliberate break with the past has not been seen as potentially creative. Innovation is regarded as dangerous and subversive. Our society has always been highly suspicious of mass movements that throw off the restraints of traditions and the various status quos make it their goal to protect their followers from “political quackery”. Threatening of the old and established order is simply not allowed. Politics in Trinidad & Tobago has been, since 1956, a matter of cult and ritual rather than ideas; it is based on emotions not on ideology or consciously adopted theory or philosophy. This is not an unfamiliar attitude in our society; many of the people who support one party or the other are not interested in political philosophy and dislike the idea of change. They find that the traditional loyalties to the two main Parties give them a sense of security. They do not expect brilliant ideas from the leaderships and are disturbed by changes in the political rhetoric. In fact, when the political rhetoric departs from the norm they have great difficulty in knowing how to deal with these changes effectively. (Witness the Prime Minister’s ineffective responses to date to Mr. Warner’s challenge.) The old loyalties give them a sense of identity and a sense of security. And this is what makes Mr. Warner so dangerous. He has gone completely against the established order: a black man running in a predominantly Indian/Hindu constituency and looking like a runaway winner to boot! Never in our political history has this ever happened. Dr. Rowley doesn’t appear to have woken up to the very real threat that Mr. Warner’s ILP poses to the PNM. All he sees is the serious threat to the UNC. Well, he is going to be in for a most unpleasant surprise. After 29th July (the date of the by-election) expect Mr. Warner to train his guns on the East/West corridor and the extremely vulnerable PNM seats there. Mr. Warner will be able to say to the country words to the effect that ‘I am the face of the future. I am a black man who has won in an East Indian seat. The old politics are now dead. I am the new politics that the country has been yearning for’. And you know what? The country will probably buy him. The country is getting tired of the old racial divide and will embrace a new order. Of course, then it will be up to Mr. Warner to deliver. His honeymoon will be very short.

Monday, July 1, 2013


A long time ago at an election meeting in San Fernando Dr. Eric Williams who was then the Prime Minister, said words to the effect that if a crapaud (which for the benefit of my foreign readers is a toad) wore a balisier tie (the balisier is the symbol of the PNM) that he would be elected. Dr. Williams was expressing a certain frustration because he had wanted to get rid of certain PNM candidates (the then MP for Port of Spain South, Brinsley Barrow, was one) and had been forced by the Party Groups of those constituencies to accept them as PNM candidates. He was effectively calling these persons on the PNM slate crapauds. To say that he was annoyed was putting it mildly.

The electorate well understood what he meant and although Mr. Barrow and the others were re-elected their political careers were effectively over and they were all pushed out at the next elections.

The phrase came back to me this morning as I was going to work and listening to the popular talk show duo on the radio, Dale Enoch and Tony Lee, who, in commenting on the up-coming Chaguanas West (CW) by-election,  used the phrase 'crapaud politics'. They were high lighting Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar's exhortation to the CW electorate to vote party and not personality ... an obvious not-so-tacit admission that Jack Warner is a huge problem for the People's Partnership and the UNC in particular. Mr. Warner remains extremely popular in the CW seat and probably beyond. My information (which is usually very accurate) is that all 31 party groups in the constituency nominated Mr. Warner as their candidate. The fact that the UNC Party Leadership decided to ignore the wishes of the party groups and to impose their acting chairman, Khadijah Ameen, as the UNC candidate for the CW seat is going to spell huge trouble for both the Party as well as the Party's Leadership. The voice of the people, it seems, is no longer the voice of God!

People have noticed this obvious dichotomy and they are talking. There is a level of dissatisfaction that is rising now in the country that has to be disturbing to the UNC Leadership ... if they are listening! The problem is that the UNC Leadership appears to be "getting high on their own supply" and attempts to bring them down to earth by well meaning supporters who are worried about the looming crash,  are dismissed with a casualness that borders on arrogance.

Then too, the newspapers don't help by their continued inaccurate reporting. Take, for example, an article in yesterday's Sunday Guardian
that said that the UNC motorcade was met with a warm welcome in Felicity on Saturday. I was surprised by the article and decided to check it out by telephoning someone in that area who has always reported to me faithfully what has been going on down there. Her exact words were "dose newspapers could lie! If it had ten people from Felicity in dat motorcade it had plenty!"  So, why was the Guardian deliberately misleading it's readers? I can think of only two possible reasons: (a) the reporter is incompetent; or (b) the Guardian wants to mislead the UNC Leadership into a false sense of security because the newspaper is really against the Government and wants them to lose. I freely admit that there might be another reason for the inaccuracy, but for the life of me I can't think what it might be.

But that is a digression. The point here is that Jack Warner is going to upset the crapaud politics that has prevailed in this country for more than fifty years. When (and not "if") he wins he will be able to say convincingly that he is the new face of politics in this country. His victory will not only be a terrible blow for the UNC but also for the PNM whose seats the formidable Warner is bound to turn his attention to. The two major Parties in this country cannot be happy over the developing scenario. Both of them have played their respective hands very badly against Mr. Warner who is looking more and more like a winner with each passing day. And people love winners!

P.S.  The return of a triumphant Jack Warner to the House of Representatives is going to spell serious trouble for the Persad-Bissessar regime in more ways than one. One of the things that Mrs. Persad-Bissessar is going to have to pay close attention to is her seemingly invincible majority. At the moment she commands 28 of the 41 seats in Parliament. She will  no longer be able to count on CW when (and not "if") Jack Warner wins. No big thing you say? Well, it could become a big thing. There are several Parliamentarians on the PP side who are likely to go over to Jack, especially as all of their seats are vulnerable and could fall to the PNM in the next elections if they don't. There are 3 UNC seats, the occupants of which look as though they will throw in with Mr. Warner: these are Ortoire/Mayaro (Gypsy), St. Joseph (Volney) and San Juan/Barataria (Fuad Khan). Now Herbert Volney isn't the brightest bulb in the room and he ain't worth "diddley squat" in the polls but he does at present occupy a seat, and therein lies a huge problem for the Prime Minister. In addition, there are COP seats occupied by the likes of Anil Roberts, Lincoln Douglas and Winston DeCoteau that will likely go over to Jack. (If they don't, they will lose to the PNM in the next general election.)That's a total of seven seats including Jack's. The margin starts to get very uncomfortable. The PP will then be dependent on the two Tobago seats to remain in office until 2015. Interesting, eh? And we haven't yet begun to discuss what will happen when the next general election rolls around!!