Thursday, August 22, 2013
One of the things that I have noticed in these past few weeks since becoming re-engaged in active politics is how completely fed-up people of all races, creeds and classes are with all three mainstream political Parties in Trinidad & Tobago. (And, no, I do not count the TOP as a mainstream national Party ... it is strictly a Tobago affair ... but it seems to me from my Trinidadian perspective that people in Tobago are also as fed-up with the TOP and all the rest, as we are in Trinidad.)
The truth is that all of the mainstream Parties have had their chance at governance and none of them has really cured any of the deep rooted and deep seated problems that exist in our society. Time and again they have all gone to the polls and shouted from the roof tops about how corrupt their opponents are (often with a great deal of justification) but as soon as they get into power, except for the names and a few other changes, nothing changed. I defy anybody to show me the real differences in policies and in governance between any of the last few administrations. Please. Can anybody tell me what are the policy and philosophical differences between, say, the PNM and the UNC? Or the COP and the PNM? or the UNC and the COP? And don't come to me with platitudes like "better government" or "new politics" or some other essentially meaningless and empty phrases. What exactly are the differences? And don't tell me "well, they are corrupt and we aren't", because the perception in the population as a whole is that all of the Parties are corrupt and effectively condone corruption while pretending to be horrified at the corruption of their political "enemies".. Where are the essential policies and philosophies different? In finance? Education? Health? Security? Where?
The truth is that the differences between the three in terms of policies and philosophies aren't worth a snowball's chance of surviving in hell! Since the elections of 1986 that ushered in the NAR there have been no differences worth mentioning between any of the major Parties. Put another way, for the last 26 or so years we have had a series of different administrations whose only discernible differences have been noticeable solely by race. No new ideas have come forward in decades as to how to fix the myriad problems that afflict us. I have asked the following question in many forms: if I blew up the education/health/ police system this afternoon so that tomorrow morning there was absolutely nothing and we had to build a brand new education/health/police system, would you put back the exact same system or something completely different? And the answer always is that we should put back something completely different! So, the next obvious question is why then, in the name of Heaven, do we continue tinkering with the systems instead of putting in systems that will work for the benefit of the people? Why are we so surprised that the country is slowly going down the proverbial tubes when no knew ideas are coming forward?
The population is quite understandably completely burnt out. People are coming up to me all the time and saying that "whatever you (i.e., the ILP) do, please, please, please don't bring back any re-cycled politicians". In other words, they are completely fed-up with those persons who have ruled in their name for so long. It is no secret that Jack Warner's extraordinary appeal to the population of the whole country is the fact that he works extremely hard for the people. The attraction of the ILP at the moment to the population as a whole is that they hope and expect that he will make his team work and perform at such levels that the population will benefit. (Let's face it, there aren't many of us who can put in 19 to 20 hour days for 7 days a week! I certainly can't! But I can work hard!)
Put another way, the people are asking that their elected representatives perform; that they do the work that is necessary. I recently posted on Facebook that I joined the ILP because, to me, it gives the best hope for Trinidad & Tobago. I re-entered the political fray after a seven year hiatus because I saw an opportunity to create a new alignment of the ascendant educated young voters, the educated older voters, the minorities in the society, those persons in the society who, while ethnically are either Indian or African, who might be Christian, Hindu, Muslim or any other creed or religion, but all who think of themselves as Trinbagonians first ... and ... (more importantly) last! I want to create an alignment of persons who demand honesty, not just from their elected representatives, but from the powerful unelected elites; elites like the fourth estate (better known as the Press or Media); elites like the business community. (Who is more guilty: the person taking the bribe or the person giving the bribe?)
In other words, I want to help cure the disease that pervades T&T politics. I want to be part of the movement that finally begins to build that "shining city on the hill". That is why I joined with Jack Warner. That is why I am trying to help build a genuinely new movement whose credo can be summed up in one word: Performance!
Posted by Robin Montano at 2:47 PM
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Sometimes I find it difficult not to scoff at the views of learned and respected commentators who, from the absolute safety of their armchairs, pontificate on matters of State and politics as though the words that they commit to print ought to be treated with almost the same reverence as ordinary mortals give to the Holy Koran, Bible or Bhagvad Gita.
The latest offerings from local (as well as Caribbean) commentators is that the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) is not a bona fide political party because it doesn't have a proper constitution, has only "a few" members, no proper structure, no proper organization and is essentially a 'flash in the pan that will soon fade away. There are probably a few other choice criticisms, but these are the main ones that keep being repeated, probably in the hope that if they obey Josef Goebbell's dicta (remember him? Adolf Hitler's Nazi Minister of Propaganda!) that 'the bigger the lie and the more often it is repeated, the more people will believe it'.
What I find difficult to understand is why these armchair critics believe that the only way to build a political party is from the top down? Part of the success of Jack Warner (apart from the fact that he is an incredibly hard worker) is that he builds from the ground up. He spent the three months between resigning his seat in Parliament and the actual day of the bye-election literally walking every single square inch of his constituency. He literally went to every single house in the whole *&^#@&* constituency! He literally canvassed every single voter! And he literally found out what exactly were/are the problems in every area of his constituency (if he didn't know them already!).
The people of Chaguanas West (most unsurprisingly) responded overwhelmingly by giving him their collective vote. And why shouldn't they have done so? Because of unproven allegations made in a seriously flawed report by a former Barbadian jurist? The people really didn't and don't care about unproven allegations (and more on that later in another post). What the people care about is that the persons who they elect to represent them in Parliament (and elsewhere) actually do the jobs that they were put there to do.
I have said it many times: there is only one reason for politics. There is only one reason for Government. To make life better for the people!! Full stop!!! There is no other reason! What has been taking place over the last fifty or so years is that (except with one or three notable exceptions ... and, yes, I deliberately said 'one or three' because there are more than just one or two) just about every person that we have put into high office has become fat, arrogant and completely divorced from the people. There have been a thousand little things that could have and should have been done over the years to make life better for us ... which have been completely ignored by the politicians who, when they get into office, seem to forget completely the thousand and one little inconveniences that the average person must put up with every day.
The two big political parties ... the PNM and the UNC ... have existed for years on the politics of straight race, which they have barely bothered to hide. If you ain't an African or a Hindu then forget it! Crapaud will smoke your pipe! And as for that completely failed entity the COP, does anybody see after three long years exactly what they meant by "new politics" other than just a catchy slogan that sounded good on the campaign trail? Making life better for the people has been a concept that has been totally alien to our politicians of all ilks.
No. To the armchair critics who are saying that the ILP is just a flash in the pan (with absolutely no evidence whatsoever to back it up other than the certainty that whatever falls from their mouths or pens is absolutely right) I say get off your tails and go into the streets of the country. There you will find that the spark that Jack Warner lit in Chaguanas West has sped like wildfire all across the country (and, yes, Tobago is part of the country) in a way that is almost unimaginable. Sitting at the epicenter of "the storm" I will readily confess that I didn't expect the kind of positive reaction that we have been getting from all over. People are excited about the possibility that at last here is somebody who is putting his money where his mouth is and is really trying to make Trinidad & Tobago a better place for all of us. People want a better T&T!
Our problem is trying to manage the virtual tsunami of support, organize it and channel it into a credible political entity. And that we are doing ... from the ground up. Work is proceeding apace in putting down systems and procedures that will run and control the Party. We are planning to have our first convention by the end of September when the draft constitution of the Party will be presented to the membership for ratification. Coordinating teams (which will later 'morph' into Party Groups) are being formed every day. Plans are well advanced for rules and regulations that will govern and control the Party ranging from the screening of potential candidates to how the Party Groups will function and report back to the Central Executive ... and everything in between!
What is crystal clear to the ILP is that the electorate in 2013 is not the same as the electorate in, say, 1963, or even 1993. Most people are better educated and more sophisticated than they were a bare twenty years ago. And the people do NOT want 'politics as usual'. They want performance ... and that is the Jack Warner brand in one word. So, the Party is not properly organized .... yet! It will be ... and sooner than the armchair critics will find to be comfortable. (I do not mind confessing, by the way, that I thought that I was a hard worker until I started working with the old Jack! Good grief! The (proper) demands that he makes on those who are with him really are enormous! And so they should be! The ILP team is working in a way that I have never seen a team work before!)
The slightest suggestion for change always means death to some status quo. And the ILP is threatening a heck of a lot of 'status quos' in the country right now. They should be very uncomfortable. But you know what? If the armchair critics are right and all the ILP ever achieves is that we force the other political parties to perform then I, for one, will meet my Maker with a smile and say 'we did it! We made the 'so and so's work for the betterment of our country'. And that's what it's all about!!
P.S. The ILP's "few" members as of today, number more than 106,000!! The tsunami is real!
Posted by Robin Montano at 11:02 AM
Friday, August 2, 2013
"Denial," somebody once wrote, is a side effect of cowardice. Consciousness requires courage. When we are afraid to deal with an issue, we try to pretend it doesn't exist. That's particularly convenient when we don't know what to do. It takes real strength to say ' I don't have the answer and I'm worried that even if I can get it, I may not like it, but I am going to keep asking questions anyhow.'" That is why when I saw the Prime Minister's response to the defeat inflicted upon her Party in Monday's bye-election I found it ... well, incredulous, to say the least. Her Party didn't lose because it was still in Government!? What? But when at the end of a long week in the politics of this country, one of the very high profile leaders and a very senior Minister (Dr, Suruj Rambachan) in the PP Government says that he is "saddened" by the fact that the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) is no longer interested in joining the Partnership I had to say a loud 'WHAT?' Nobody from the Partnership Government (other than Winston 'Gypsy' Peters in his private capacity) has called any member of the interim executive of the ILP to say 'let's talk'. What do they expect? Mr. Warner has been publicly rejected ... not once but twice ... in his overtures to join the Partnership. Should he do so again? Why? To be rejected and humiliated again? What do they think that we should do? Come cap in hand when we have won? When we have beaten them? We haven't done yet any kind of scientific survey as to what our membership wants, but we have been recieving hundreds of calls from people who are telling us unequivocally that they do not want us to have anything to do with the Partnership. For every hundred of these calls we might get one or two persons telling us that we should go in with the PP Government. Jack Warner has made it clear that the ILP intends to "lead from behind", i.e., that this Party will put the wishes of its members first, as to whatever direction that the Party should go. He is clear in his thinking that the voice of the people must be listened to at all times. Perhaps, that is why he has been so successful in changing the political face of Trinidad & Tobago in such a short time against seemingly invincible odds. And not to forget that on the other side of the political divide we have had the Political Leader of the PNM saying that Mr. Warner's win will adversely affect the image of Trinidad & Tobago abroad. Again, I have to say a loud 'what'? If Dr. Rowley really believed that, why didn't he make that an issue during the campaign? Because, if he did, he certainly didn't stress it in a way that it could have been reported. And didn't Mrs. Persad-Bissessar also make this an issue during the campaign? And didn't the people consider this when they voted? What are they talking about? The traditional type of leadership that we have got, and are getting, from the two main political Parties has been exactly the same in that when either one of them is faced with (for them) an unpleasant truth or fact they fall back on denial and attacking the messenger. But the ancients had it right: Fortune does favour the bold, and the country is crying out for a bold new beginning. The ILP is going to do it's best to provide just that. In the meantime, when you hear something from politicians that don't quite make sense to you, don't be afraid to say 'what'?
Posted by Robin Montano at 10:55 AM