Tuesday, November 17, 2015

THE PARIS ATTACKS, ISIS & T&T







It is time now that we focus on possible external threats to our peace and security at home. I am referring to the terrorist group that calls itself ISIS.  (And I don't know, by the way, if anybody has ever noticed the oxymoron in that terrorist group calling itself ISIS: ISIS apparently stands for Islamic State in Syria. The word "Islam" comes from the Arabic "Salam" which means "peace". ISIS definitely cannot be defined as a 'peaceful' organization!) In any case, our newspapers have reported that there are some 89 Trinidadians over in Syria right now fighting with or for ISIS. The problem here is that every single citizen of Trinidad & Tobago has a constitutional right to re-enter the country at any time.


So? Under our laws any or all of these "fighters" can come home at any time that they choose. Of course, you don't have to have a degree in rocket science to see that allowing any or all of them back into this little twin island state carries the very real possibility that they might use the training that they have received in the battleground of Syria to wreak havoc in our society.


But either we are a nation of laws or we are just as bad as those who would seek to overturn our society by violent means. We can't simply ban them from coming home, and yet we simply can't allow them in. There would be a huge and obvious risk to our society if we were to do this.


Perhaps, therefore, one possible solution to this conundrum would be to make it a crime for any citizen to engage in any act of terrorism anywhere in the world and subject to a long term incarceration if he/she does. The obvious problem then would be on agreeing what exactly amounts to an act of terrorism? If I go to a foreign land to fight for freedom can I be classified as a terrorist? One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. You see the problem?


Another possible solution might be to say that ALL citizens who have gone to Syria to fight for ISIS cannot re-enter Trinidad & Tobago for, say, at least five years after the war has ended. Again, there are rather obvious objections to this.


But we need to discuss the problem now and come up with a solution now, rather than have a 'knee jerk' reaction to it when it does finally arrive on our doorstep. and trust me: it will sooner or later. That is why I thought that the Minster of National Security's remarks about ISIS not posing an immediate threat to T&T while being quite possibly true, were only telling half the story. There is a potential threat to us and it is home grown. Even if only, say 15 of the 89 return home that will be 15 battle hardened and well trained soldiers whose ideology is highly likely to pose a serious threat to our collective peace and security.


I don't have a solution. I can see the objections to the two possible solutions set out above so please don't bother hauling me over the coals for them. I simply made them for you to see and consider and come up with your own ideas. My point is that we need to start thinking about the problem now and deciding now how we are going to deal with it. Because we will have to deal with it; sooner or later!!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

LIES, HALF TRUTHS AND INNUENDOES - EMAILGATE RE-VISITED

It was not very surprising to read in the morning newspapers that the emailgate case has apparently reached a dead-end and as a result will be closed for lack of evidence. This was apparent from almost the very beginning when the Police were forced to admit that there was nothing on the computers of the persons who allegedly sent the offending emails  and then Google supplied the data which showed that the offending emails had never been sent from the relevant email accounts.


To make a brief recap: the story began when then Opposition Leader (he is now Prime Minister read out several alleged emails in Parliament the sum total of which alleged that then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, then Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, then National Security Adviser Gary Griffith and others were all conspiring to kill a journalist. You can't get more serious than that!


Naturally, Mrs. Persad-Bissessar et al shouted their innocence from the roof tops. But, of course, if they were guilty that was exactly what you would expect them to do.  The first to hand over his computer was Captain Griffith followed by the others at later dates.


The country divided along rather predictable racial and political lines with many believing one side or the other. There were even allegations that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions was being targeted and illegally bugged!


But after more than two years the Police have admitted that they don't have enough evidence to go forward. They have said though that some of the details in the emails are true and therefore they don't want to say that there is nothing there. To which I reply: poppycock!!


There is nothing more dangerous than a half truth. Let me demonstrate: let's say that I was at your home yesterday afternoon at 2pm and that I can prove that. Let's also say that you too were at your home at 2pm and that I can also prove that. Now let's say that I lie and I say that while I was there I saw you making love to a person who was not your spouse! The two truths do not cancel out my big lie!


And that is the problem here; a good liar will mix up truths with lies in order to make his story credible. So the Police are not doing anybody any favours when they try to protect Dr. Rowley from his most intemperate action. Indeed, the serious question that has not been asked and which seems to have gotten lost is where did Dr. Rowley get those emails from in the first place? Did the Police ever investigate that? If they didn't, then why not? If they did, do they now know who gave the emails to Dr. Rowley? If they don't, they wouldn't that have been an important element in an investigation that has taken more than two years? If it isn't important then can they explain in simple language why with something as serious as an accusation of a plot to kill somebody and to bug the DPP's office it isn't necessary to know who came up with this information in order to assess its credibility? Does it mean therefore that if I decide to make a serious accusation of criminal activity against anyone that a simple anonymous fake email will suffice?


Adolf Hitler's Nazi Minister of Propaganda, Josef Goebbels was right when he said that the bigger the lie and the more often that it is repeated the more people will believe it!!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

FIXING THE EDUCATION SYSTEM (PART II)





In a previous post I had said that I would put forward my own ideas on how to fix our very broken education system. Before I do so, please understand that I don't put forward these ideas as the only way to fix the system, They happen to be my personal ideas. However, others may have completely different ideas that may be better than mine. At the end of the day, I really don't care whose ideas are best; what I care about is that we fix the @#%&*system and fix it now!


Okay, having got that out of the way let's start: I have said it often ... if you want to understand a problem go back to the beginning. The beginning in this case is the teachers. Our teachers are grossly under paid, and by and large under qualified. The starting salary for a T&T teacher is around TT$5,0000 per month. (That's around US$778 per month). Why are we so surprised that we don't get good teachers when we pay them peanuts?


I would have a starting salary for teachers of at least three times that and, of course, with the higher grades being increased proportionately. But (and it is a big "but") no teacher would be able to access this higher salary unless and until he/she meets the following criteria:
(1)  He/she must be fully qualified. In my language this would mean that every teacher must have at least an undergraduate degree from a recognized university, a teaching diploma and have completed at least two years as a trainee teacher. (Teachers who have been teaching for more than two years would be exempted from this last provision) So, in other words, it will not matter if you have been a teacher for more than thirty years and are currently a school principal; if you don't have the academic qualifications you are not qualified. If you want to qualify you will be given help to do so. But no unqualified person can get the new salary.
(2) There will be performance criteria for every teacher in the new system. If a teacher fail his/her performance review (which will be at the end of every school year) two years in a row then he/she will be summarily dismissed. There will be no more security of tenure for incompetent or absentee teachers. And there will be no appeal from such a dismissal.
(3) Every teacher in the new system will have to sign a new contract containing these terms. If a teacher does not or will not agree then there would be no problem. He/she just will not get the new salary. He/she can stay under the old system without penalty. But there will be no new persons hired as teachers under the old system. In other words, the old system will gradually be phased out.


I can hear the objections: TUTTA (the Teachers Union) will never agree to that (you will say)and will insist that all teachers get the new salary under the old system otherwise they will go on strike. My response would be to let them do just that. My proposal does not interfere with present rights. It simply proposes  that we recognize that we are not educating our children to an acceptable first world, twenty-first century standard and that we simply can't afford to let things slide further. And know this: the present salary structure for all teachers/educators (from the primary school teachers to the high school ones) is woefully inadequate. And throwing money at the problem will not fix it. the problem is poor, inadequate teaching. And we get that because since dinosaurs roamed the earth we have not paid our teachers properly and as a result we do not have properly trained teachers because very few bright and competent persons will go into this underpaid and undervalued profession. That is not to say that we don't have ant bright and competent teachers. I'm sure that we do, but they are as scarce as hen's teeth!


Finally, what I have proposed here is a broad outline of how I would fix the system. There are obvious details to be filled in. For example, the annual review process will have to be very carefully set out and thought out if obvious possible injustices are not to occur.


But if we don't start at the beginning and fix the system then don't be surprised if things simply continue to get worse. There is no "bottom" for countries. Haiti has proven that time and again. Things cannot get better by the waving of a magic wand, and guess what? News flash: God is not a Trini! Things will get worse if we don't start to fix them now. And "now" must mean now!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

CRIME, THE POLICE & TRINIDAD & TOBAGO





Okay.Full disclosure: my first cousin, who I loved like a brother, was brutally murdered almost nineteen years ago. The 'hit man' was a policeman. His murder remains officially unsolved although everybody knows who did it.


I say this because it's true and because I want to talk about crime in our little twin island Republic. Although I haven't seen him or spoken with him for more than a decade I counted Richard Wheeler as a friend whom I knew personally as well as professionally. But this post is not about the Wheelers or anybody else who has been the cruel victim of brutal and unsolved crimes. This post is about why those crimes are not being solved.


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the great fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, has his hero say to his sidekick, Dr. Watson in the story The Sign of Four
 "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever   remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"
So, why aren't the T&T Police solving more crimes? I can think of two reasons: the first is that they are totally and utterly incompetent.
The second is that they don't want to solve the crimes.


If there is anybody who can give me any other reasons I would be pleased to hear them. But I have heard the arguments "oh, we don't have the tools or the necessary resources." That argument falls into my first reason.  But it is the second reason that frightens me. Because, I am personally satisfied that it is a deadly combination of the two reasons that has created the crime problem that we have today and personal experience as well as a reasonable knowledge of how things work suggest strongly to me that the Police really do not want to solve the crime problem. As to why they wouldn't want to solve it, I can think of a number of reasons which are not completely relevant to this discussion.


Let's take a look at some facts: (a) The detection rate for murders hovers around the ten percent mark. The conviction rate for murders hovers around the three percent mark. In other words, your chances of literally getting away with murder in this country are statistically excellent. Why? The only murders really being solved are of the domestic 'husband killing wife' type.
(b) There has been a serious spike in the murder rate since the September 7th general elections. Why? There has to be a reason. What is it?
(b) Only one of the recent brutal attacks/murders against elderly white foreigners in Tobago has been 'solved'. Why? There has to be a reason. What is it?
(c) All of the highly publicized brutal attacks/murders in Tobago that have not been solved have been against white foreigners. Is there a sinister pattern here? Is race rearing its ugly head  and that is why the murders/attacks have not been solved/? Or is there something else? Or is it a combination of factors including race? What?
(e) Nobody in the mainstream media is asking the hard questions of the Police. Why? Does the mainstream media know something that we don't? If so, what? And if they don't know why are they not asking the questions?


I read somewhere once that every suggestion of change always means death to some status quo. Now, there are countless 'status quos' in this country and everybody defends his or her own little piece of the pie. But things here will not change until we as a society begin to demand (and receive) answers to the hard questions that confront us. The scoring of political points in the Parliament is all well and good and certainly sells newspapers, but I for one would be much more impressed if a politician would stand up and tell us exactly what he or she was going to do to fix a particular problem.


And for the record, if you don't want to tell us how you are going to fix the Police because of 'national security' reasons, that's all right. But then give us real and tangible bench marks to which we can hold you to so that we can see whether or not you really are serious about fixing the problem (whatever that 'problem' might be).








P.S. I had promised in my last post to put forward my own ideas of how to fix the education system. I will do so soon, but events have rather overtaken and I considered this more important for the moment.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

FIXING THE EDUCATION SYSTEM (Part I)





As oil prices continue their downward trend and the Ryder report comes out saying that we have only twelve years of proven gas reserves left, there is much talk ... almost panicky talk ... about diversifying the economy. Pundits go on radio and television and with much pontification drop their pearls of wisdom about the importance of moving away from our dependency on oil and gas and diversifying (that word again) the economy. Everybody expects that the new Finance Minister will bring in a budget next week that will be tough and that his report will be that our treasury is, if not empty, then close to it.


But nobody has talked about how exactly we are going to achieve this diversification. A former Minister, Mariano Browne, came fairly close last week when he said that we have to think long term and pointed out how India took the decision way back in the late 1940's to put an emphasis on science and mathematics that has resulted in that country's leadership today in information technology.


Education is the single most important factor that shapes the overall distribution of income and influences the probability of poverty. It is no surprise that the countries with poor education systems are at the bottom of the wealth ladder. It is no surprise that the poorest people in the world are the least educated. Conversely, it is no surprise that the countries with the highest educational standards have a citizenry who enjoy the highest standards of living in the world.


Now, look at T&T and the amount of money that has poured through our coffers over the last half century or so. While there are wealthy people living here, the average person certainly cannot be regarded as living at a first world standard and the levels of poverty are ... or ought to be regarded as unacceptable. We shouldn't be as poor as we are.


The problem is not just about money, but a lack of evaluation and meritocracy in schools ... evaluation is an alien concept in T&T's education system. Years ago I was severely criticized for referring to this country's schools as dumps. But the truth is that they were dumps then and remain dumps now. The level of teaching in our schools is often very low with good or competent teachers a rarity rather than the norm; but any attempt at evaluating teachers and structures have been fiercely resisted because teachers do not want to lose their jobs. So teachers often do not have the right training, or if they are trained their knowledge is hardly ever (if ever) updated.


Don't believe me? I live opposite one of Port of Spain's best primary schools. And yet, every single year since dinosaurs roamed the earth the children in that "best" school who are sitting the SAE exams spend their Saturday mornings at the school taking extra lessons. Every single parent who has a child attending a prestige school will tell you that their kid has to take extra lessons in order to pass the school leaving exams that will get them into university. Now, tell me: if the system is so good, why do the kids at every level (primary and high school) have to take extra lessons in order to pass? In the good public schools in first world countries the children are taught in the class room and extra lessons are a rarity, not the norm.


For decades we have let the education system go down and down to the dogs. There is no attempt today by the best schools in the country to reach for the stars. There is no innovative thinking and absolutely no leadership in anything remotely connected with education. Instead, the system seems to be designed to protect the incompetent and unqualified. And we continue to bemoan the constant lowering of standards in every sphere of our lives and throw up our hands in despair. For the last thirty years (probably more) successive governments have simply tinkered with the system. There have been no fresh ideas as to how to improve it and no desire on the part of the politicians of all stripes on both sides of the aisle to take the system into the twenty-first century.


I have often asked the question of educators and those connected with the education system: if this country's education system was blown up this afternoon so that tomorrow morning there was absolutely nothing and you had to start again from scratch, would you put back the exact same system or would you put back something different? The answer has always been 'something different.' So? Why do we continue to tinker with the system? We don't we do something different?


It can be done, and if it is done we will see a huge change for the better in every sphere of our society. In my next post I will put forward one idea as to how we could change things for the better. But please understand, that the idea that I have will not be proposed as the only idea. If anybody has a better idea (or ideas) then for crying out loud, bring it out. But understand this, and understand it well: ain't nothin' gonna change unless and until we fix the education system.

Friday, September 25, 2015

THOSE (PESKY) ELECTION PETITIONS





A lot of people have criticized the UNC and former Prime Minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar for filing those six election petitions. The criticism, in essence, is that it is felt that the UNC shouldn't be a sore loser and should accept the results. The people have spoken, therefore the UNC should put up and shut up. Certain people like former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj have weighed in and said that in his considered legal view the petitions will fail and that the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) had every right to extend the voting hours if it so chose to do.


But then, a High Court Judge gave permission to the UNC to file the petitions showing in effect tat there is at least something there in the argument that ought to be looked at. This has left a lot of people confused. Dos the UNC have a case after all? Is this really just a big waste of judicial time? What exactly is the point of this? And if the UNC is successful what happens next? What will happen in the meantime?


Let's start with the easy questions first: unless and until a Court of law overturns any result declared by the EBC, that result stands. In other words, all six of the persons declared as the winners in the disputed constituencies remain the winners unless and until a Court says otherwise.


Next, assuming (though certainly not admitting) that the Court upholds (agrees with) the UNC's allegations and sets aside the results then by-elections will have to be held in those constituencies in which the results were successfully challenged. Assuming (though again not accepting) that the challenges are successful then while in theory there would only have to be by-elections in those six seats, the Government would probably lose a no confidence motion in the Lower House which would be brought immediately by the Opposition. This would trigger a General Election! As to who would win that ... well, that is a whole other story.


Those who believe that the UNC petitions are frivolous are hanging their hats on sections 70(11) and (12) of the Constitution which say
"(11) The registration and the conduct of elections in every constituency shall be subject to the direction and supervision of the Commission (The EBC).
(12) "In the exercise of its functions under this section the Commission (The EBC) shall not be subject to the direction or control  of any other person or authority."


Seems pretty clear, doesn't it?


But enter the Representation of the People Act (the ROP) which was proclaimed (made law) in 1967. The Constitution came into being in 1976 and although it is the supreme law it is generally recognized that all laws that were valid before the Constitution remained valid after its proclamation. In other words, you have to look at the ROP to determine issues such as these being raised right now.


Now, the ROP says in section 35(1) that
"The proceedings of an election shall be conducted in accordance with the Election Rules."
And sections 27(1) and (2) of the Election Rules say that
"(1)Subject to subrule (2), the taking of the poll at each polling station shall be between six o'clock in the morning and six o'clock in the afternoon of the same day.
"(2) If at the hour of the closing of the poll there are any electors within the polling station who have not cast their votes, the poll shall be kept open a sufficient time to enable them to vote."


And section 34 of the ROP says in essence that if at any time between the issue of the election writ and polling day there is an emergency of any kind then if the President is satisfied that there is an emergency that the President may order a postponement of the polls. In other words, The EBC has no authority to postpone the polls or alter the Election Rules.


But before we all jump on the bandwagon,there is one more piece of law to look at: section 35(3) of the ROP which says
"No election shall be declared invalid by reason of any act by a Returning Officer or any other person in breach of his official duty in connection with the election or otherwise or of the Election Rules if it appears to the Court having cognizance of the question that the act did not materially affect the result of the election." (Emphasis mine.)


So, what do I think? I think that the petitions are serious and ought to be litigated. On the face of it, it certainly appears that the EBC was wrong to extend the opening time of the polls in Trinidad, i.e., that it had no legal authority to do so. And you have only to look at it to see why this is important. Either we are a nation of laws or we are not, and to me, at least the law on this point is clear. Issues like this need to be crystal clear so that our democracy can flourish and move forward.


But the more thorny problem for the UNC is that contained in section 35(3). We'll have to wait and see how the arguments go in court, but speaking only for myself I can't see how the UNC is going to be able to prove that there could have been a different result in the six seats under challenge. And there, as the poet might say, is the rub! 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

STRAWS IN THE WIND?





Let me start by stating the obvious: I am not a member of any political Party and have no interest, financial or otherwise, in the outcome of the general elections other than that of an interested observer. Secondly, I do not have crystal ball nor do I have access to the Oracle of Delphi.


If a person lives in Port of Spain or in the West he could be forgiven if he were asked today who is going to win Monday's poll if he answered the PNM. But a more discerning observer would pay attention to certain 'straws in the wind' that seem to suggest otherwise. For example, the Express newspaper has been virulently anti-Government until about the last two weeks. Why? You couldn't pick up the Express a mere three weeks ago without the first three or four pages carrying stories that were critical of the PP Government. I personally counted at least nine anti-Government stories in the Express about three weeks ago on the first three pages of a particular edition. Then, all of a sudden, the newspaper has adopted a more moderate stance and has been fairly neutral over the last two weeks. Why? What happened?


Further, for the last two Sundays in a row the Express has not published the results of any poll. Why? That newspaper normally employs the Nigel Henry polling firm Solutions by Simulation. So? Why hasn't the newspaper published the poll?


My information is that the Nigel Henry polls (which are generally regarded as the most accurate of all the public polling firms) are showing a PP/UNC victory and that the UNC is ahead with somewhere between 21 seats on the low side to 24 seats on the high side!


Could this be the reason for the apparent move to the centre by the Express? In other words, is the newspaper in possession of information that the PP/UNC is in reality ahead, but doesn't want to admit it but also doesn't want to end up with egg on its face if the PP/UNC does in fact win? If not, then why hasn't the newspaper published any polls for the last two Sundays in a row?


The next 'straw in the wind' was the behavior of Dr. Rowley and the PNM last week when they made a big fuss over some alleged criminal act of the UNC and reported it to the Acting Commissioner of Police. You see, normally, when somebody is winning he/she doesn't whine about some action of his/her opponent. Instead he/she focuses on the finish line and surges ahead. But Dr. Rowley isn't doing that. This, to me, lent credence to a report that I got that at a high level PNM meeting last week Dr. Rowley was complaining angrily that the PNM's internal polls were showing that the PP/UNC was surging ahead of the PNM and he was demanding answers as to how to stop this.


The next 'straw in the wind' is the body language of Mrs. Persad-Bissessar and her lieutenants. The Prime Minister looks tired, but she does not look as though she believes that she is losing. Quite the contrary. She carries herself like a winner.


Now, over the last five years I have observed Mrs. Persad-Bissessar very carefully. When she is under severe pressure (and there have been such moments in the last five years) you can see that she is feeling the strain and that she is not in complete control. But over the last two weeks, she hasn't looked as though she is not in control.


Look: I'll be the first to admit that everything that I have written here is not something to 'bet the farm' on. But over a lifetime in and out of politics I have learned to pay attention to little things ... 'straws in the wind'.  And I also know that both political Parties run internal polls almost on a daily basis during election season and that these internal polls (which are never published) are much more accurate than those which are foisted upon us by the newspapers. Their internal polls have to be deadly accurate. No modern political Party can operate without a first class, reliable pollster. The pollster does not just give the information about who is winning or losing but also on what issues are resonating with the public, where the particular Party is weak and where it is strong. In these circumstances, I look very, very closely at the top 'bananas' on both sides (because only a handful on each side ever gets to see these polls) and see how they are behaving; what their body language is like. It tells a lot. And while I will admit that I am definitely not an expert on body language, as a very amateur student of the art I have found it to be very helpful in a myriad of situations such as this one now.


I am aware of the polls being published in the Guardian. But for reasons that are not relevant to this particular post I tend to discount them. Let me just say that the Guardian has its own reasons for wanting a PNM win, but has learned to be more discreet about it than its rival the Express.


So? What's my prediction for next Monday? PP/UNC by a nose! And I'll bet one dollar to one doughnut on that. (We can decide afterwards who pays the dollar and who pays the doughnut!) Am I certain about my prediction? Not at all! At the time of writing there are still six long days to go and this race is the tightest that I have ever seen in all my years on this planet in this twin island state. Any number can play, but if there are no more great surprises I will stand by what I have said and be absolutely prepared to admit that I was wrong ... if events prove me to be!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

RE-VISITING SECTION 34 (or THE INJUSTICE OF THE JUSTICE SYSTEM)





The recent drama in Port of Spain involving three prisoners on remand who were facing serious charges involving (inter alia) murder and belonging to gangs has inadvertently high-lighted something else: the injustice that is prevalent in the Justice System. It is difficult to understand how a man could be locked up for six (count them: six) long years and not be convicted of a crime! Six years is 2,191 days (if there was only one leap year in the period)! Can you imagine that? Here was a man who was accused of some pretty horrendous crimes and yet after more than two thousand days the Justice System could not try and convict him or set him free!! What kind of justice was this? Answer: it is not justice! And no amount of excuses can make it appear to be excusable!


I personally am prepared to believe that Atwell was probably guilty of all that he was accused of and that he was a most dangerous criminal. But (and it is a huge "but") in a thousand years I cannot agree that justice was served by simply locking him up and effectively throwing away the key without giving him his day in Court. No man (or woman, for that matter) should have to wait for so long without knowing when he will be tried. It is as wrong as wrong can be. And no society that aspires to calling itself civilized and democratic can or should put up with this type of barbarism. For make no mistake: what we did to Atwell was barbaric. And it is no excuse to say 'oh well, the criminals are barbarians too'. Of course they are! But that does not give us the excuse to behave like they do. Two or even three wrongs have never made a right!


Like most people (I suspect) I was up until this last week-end blissfully unaware of the terrible injustices that are being inflicted by us ... the society ... upon those persons who, for one reason or another, have found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Oh! I knew that there were delays ... but not delays of thousands and thousands of days! What we are doing is terribly, terribly wrong. We are effectively creating a self-perpetuating system of breeding criminals. How can we talk about 'justice' with a straight face, when people ... citizens ... are locked up for years without a trial? And apparently Atwell's case is more the norm than the exception!!


Justice cannot be regarded as a convenience ... something that applies only to certain people. It must be meted out fairly to all of our citizens ... even the ones that we think are rotten to the core. And it is simply not right that a man (or woman) can be locked up for thousands of days without a trial. This is indefensible. Full stop!


Which leads me to the infamous Section 34 debacle: essentially, Section 34 was part of an overall Bill which sought to reform the Justice System. The section basically said that anybody who had been charged and whose trial was not yet concluded after ten years could apply to a Judge of the High Court to have his case thrown out. Well, we all know what happened after this section was proclaimed. It is not my intention here to go into the rights or wrongs of that argument, but what I do want to bring your attention to is the fact that Section 34 wasn't such a bad idea after all. Except, I would argue that five years is long enough. No man should have to wait forever and forever to have his case heard.


Put another way, obviously with a general election around the corner and with Section 34 being a big plank in the opposition PNM's political armory, nothing will happen right now. Voices of reason never can be heard above the political war cries inflamed by partisan passions. But when all the hoopla dies down, we should look at Section 34 again. It wasn't such a bad idea after all.



Monday, June 22, 2015

AN OPEN LETTER TO PNM AND UNC


 

 

The Editor,

There is an unprecedented gap between the political machinations that Trinidad & Tobago gets and the democracy it deserves … and those political machinations come from all sides of the political spectrum. And to make matters worse, we now have a three month election season during which everybody and his mother are predicting that things will simply get worse with accusations against everybody being hurled around like confetti. Somehow or the other we need to get back to the centre. But how to do that? The racial polarization is now worse than ever and many politicians do not even pretend to hide their racist feelings. We get racist comments (like the infamous “Calcutta ship”  one) on political platforms and nobody seems to blink an eyelash. Certainly, the perpetrators of these offensive remarks are not brought to book by either their political Parties or their political leaders with immediate and clear condemnatory remarks  and appropriate punishments.

 

Webs of deception are being woven and havoc and distrust are the result. It is now very important to weave a web of inspiration instead, and then let it form the basis of a hopeful vision that can (and will) eventually come to fruition. We all want to be supportive of one another. Don’t we?  We certainly understand the importance of supporting those who, we hope, will show support to us. Yet often, it seems, the way in which we are required to be supportive is to join our forces in attacking whoever or whatever is destabilizing the “other side”( whose members just happen also to be citizens of our country). This, in turn, causes the “other side” to demand yet more support from its supporters in attacking “us” (whoever “us” happens to be). We need to be helpful whilst helping to maintain  a wider understanding of any particular situation.

 

With this in mind, I would like most humbly to suggest the following for the leaders of both political Parties (the PNM and the UNC) as a possible way forward for the benefit of our beloved little country and all of its citizens. So, the following is addressed to them:

 

  1. Do you think that you could come up with a statement of common values and common interests? Because, surely, there must be some things that are to the benefit of Trinidad & Tobago that you do agree on? What are they?
  2. Do you think that you have an ability to actually “construct” over time a bilateral approach to issues like crime or foreign relations?
  3. Is it possible for you not only to co-operate but also as a result of this gradually build a public trust over time?
  4. Would you think about how best to deploy this gradual accumulation of trust over time to better manage, and perhaps reduce, the seemingly intractable area of racial distrust?

 

If I could be allowed I would like to quote President Obama at his second inauguration and adopt his words as if they were my own:

   “I don’t want to see this country fracturing into different camps that understand their country’s history and values very differently … We are all in this together … We cannot afford delay.”

And one last quote from Hilary Clinton who said:

   “Some people think elections are a game, lots of who’s up or who’s down. It’s about our country. It’s about our kids' futures, and it’s really about all of us together.”

 

I am not asking for the impossible. I am not asking that you join forces as one to rule this little country. I am not even asking you to like each other! What I am asking for is that we press the reset button and start to destroy the terrible walls of racial hatred and distrust that both of your Parties have helped to build over the last fifty or so years which have helped to hold us back. Let’s build that “shining city on the hill”. Let’s build our country … together.

 


Friday, May 22, 2015

I JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND





Readers of this blog will have noticed that I haven't written for some time. This has been deliberate on my part as I have watched with not little dismay the political machinations on both sides of the political divide and decided that I really didn't want to get embroiled in the mess that the politicians were making. Better to stay home with my wife and kids and my dogs and pray for the rains to come (the lack of which is ruining my garden).


But this latest confusion with the scandal known as 'emailgate' and the Integrity Commission ('IC') et al, now has me completely baffled! I don't understand what is going on. It just doesn't make sense.


 I've said it a thousand times: if you ever want to understand a problem, go back to the beginning. Well, the beginning was just a little over two years ago when the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Keith Rowley, produced in Parliament a wad of alleged emails, the contents of which were absolutely horrific. According to the emails that Dr. Rowley read out in Parliament The Prime Minister, the Attorney General and several other high ranking Government Ministers and officials were involved in various plots including a plot to kill a woman journalist, a plot to bug the offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions ('DPP'), a plot to undermine the office of the DPP by promoting or making the DPP a Judge, and so on. I can't remember all the details nor all of the allegations, but they were terrible. And if they were true, they should have caused the immediate arrest and prosecution of the Prime Minister and her cohorts. But the operative words in that last sentence are "if they were true."


The problem is that after two long years we, the general public, have now been told that the emails  that Dr. Rowley quoted from are fake. They are forgeries. They are not real. Well, you would be forgiven for thinking that if the emails are not real ... that they are fakes ... that this would be the end of the matter. But, no! It's not! Because Dr. Rowley and his supporters have moved the goal posts slightly and are now saying that while the emails are fake the substance of the allegations contained in them is/are true!! And the police say that they are still investigating the scandal!! It's not over!


Then the IC issues a statement that it is closing its investigation into the scandal because there is no evidence and then  its Deputy Chairman resigns saying in effect that the investigation into the substance of the allegations (there's that word again) has not been concluded. To all of which I say a loud "huh"?


I simply don't understand. How can there be an investigation into allegations made in documents that are known to be false? In all my years as an attorney I have known that if a witness spins a tale that is shown to be false then his credibility is so destroyed that even if he later says something that might be true his entire testimony will be disregarded. The same has to be with a false document. And if there is substance to any or all of the terrible allegations then why hasn't anything been done about it?


Remember: we don't even know the name of the person who gave the fake emails to Dr. Rowley. Do the Police know his/her name? And what is taking so long to bring this thing to closure one way or the other? It doesn't make sense.


Why is there an investigation being made into allegations that are contained in documents that are false? Does this mean that anybody can fake a document and put in scandalous allegations in it and when the document is proven to be a fake that the person can then say that the document may be fake, but you have to look at the substance of the allegation even though the allegation is made on a false document? Is this where we have reached as a society?


Is it that the Police are playing politics with the investigation and don't want to close it down until after the elections due in September? Is this not a reasonable question? If not, why not? What have the Police done in this investigation to make you believe that they are not playing politics? Or is it just a straight case of total and complete incompetence? Either way, the thought of political partisanship or incompetence on the part of the Police is frightening.


And what the heck is going on inside the IC? What is still outstanding in this two year old investigation? Why is whatever it is still outstanding in the investigation still outstanding? Are there elements in the IC and the Police Service who are simply trolling for some sort of evidence and that's why they won't close off the case? Because they hope to find something?


I simply don't understand. I was taught years ago that when a person tells you something that you don't understand, one percent of the time it is because that person simply doesn't understand what he is saying; the remaining ninety-nine percent of the time it is because he doesn't want you to understand! And that's what I feel is happening now. The explanations (or lack thereof) for the delay in closing off this mess simply just don't make sense and I just don't understand!



Monday, March 2, 2015

IS A PNM VICTORY THIS YEAR A SURE THING?





Certainly if you read The Trinidad Express newspaper the answer to the question in the title of this post will be an unequivocal 'yes'. And if you talk to the "intelligentsia" in Port of Spain you will also get the same answer. And don't talk about the many "talk show hosts" (and that last is in inverted commas deliberately, for the drivel that tries to pass for discussion ... not even pretending to be intelligent discussion can make you want to pull your hair out in frustration over the daily stupidity that does not even seem to understand the basic dictionary definition of analysis)! They will point to the many, many scandals that have rocked the People's Partnership Government almost from day one. They will say things like "there has never been a government as corrupt as this one" and they will say that the Government has done just about nothing in the last almost five years. They will point to the apparent instability in the Government in the way that Ministers have been fired and forced out of office and they will also say that support for the PP Government has withered on the vine and that the obvious death of the COP is bad news for the Partnership/UNC.


And there's ... good grief!! ... the possibility of a third force coming out to capture all those disillusioned voters and playing spoiler in the coming showdown.


Well, not so fast.


First of all, despite the views of the Express, its columnists and the radio "talk show hosts" there is still a tremendous amount of support for the Partnership, especially outside of Port of Spain. The Government has been doing a tremendous amount of work outside of the precincts of the capitol city and a lot of people have benefitted and will benefit from the many projects which are as diverse as the Point Fortin highway and the Couva Children's Hospital ... both of which are scheduled to come on stream later this year.


Put another way, outside of Port of Spain people are seeing with their own eyes all of the work that the Government has done.


Further, people tend to say "I feel that the Government will win/lose" as the case may be. But if you look at the actual results of the last elections you will realize that for the UNC to lose Government there will have to be a huge swing against the Government of more than twenty percent nation wide. Now, there is no doubt in my mind that (a) the Government has lost popularity and that (b) it is going to lose some seats. Take a look at the seats that I believe the Government will lose and note the vote difference in the last elections:


Seat                        2010 Winner                     Amount of winning votes          Amount of losing votes    
Arima                     Rodger Samuel (COP)                  7612                                           7241


San Fernando         Carolyn Seepersad-                        9,111                                         7,810
West                        Bachan (COP)


Toco/Sangre            Rupert Griffith (UNC)                  7,491                                          7,285
Grande


Tunapuna                 Winston Dookeran (COP)           10,543                                          8,005


Barataria/                  Fuad Khan (UNC)                                  10,850                                          6,742
San Juan


Lopinot/Bon              Lincoln Douglas (COP)                          9,279                                           8,222
Air  West  


Pointe-A-                   Errol McLeod                                         10,972                                          6,685
Pierre






In other words, there are seven vulnerable UNC/PP seats. Let us for the sake of argument "give" these seven seats to the PNM in the next election. That still leaves the UNC/PP with 21 seats; a bare majority (the 'magic' figure is twenty-one) but a majority nonetheless! (For the sake of argument I have "given" the marginal seat of St. Joseph which was won by the PNM in a recent by-election back to the PNM ... although I would be the first to admit that this is debatable). And this does not take account of the fact that there are several vulnerable PNM seats. For example, I am sure that you will be surprised to learn that Paula Gopee-Scoon won the Point Fortin seat with 8,885 votes to 7,959 ... a bare majority of a little more than 900 votes. Now, if the Point Fortin Highway comes on stream before the elections the serious question arises as to whether or not that will make a difference to the voters in that constituency. Also, did you know that Keith Rowley won his seat by a little over 700 votes the last time around (8,777 to 8,023)?


The last cabinet reshuffle hasn't hurt the PP Government nearly as badly as the opponents of the UNC would like you to believe. For example, Ms. Dyer-Griffith, the former COP Chairman, is upset by (amongst other things) the removal of Timothy Hamel-Smith as President of the Senate. But, (and it is a big "but") his replacement is not just a woman, but a Muslim woman! If that doesn't please the Muslim community it is hard to know what will. In other words, everybody agrees that Mr. Hamel-Smith is a nice guy but in terms of actual votes he would be lucky to bring ten to the table whereas his successor can bring thousands! And that's what politics is all about!!


Finally, the PNM is not without its own problems. Keith Rowley has so far failed to excite non-African voters who still do not understand, for example,  why he did not deal more decisively with Hilton Sandy's terribly racist remark during the 2013 Tobago House of Assembly elections about a "Calcutta ship". There are nasty and lingering suspicions as to why he didn't condemn the remark immediately but took a long three days to came out with what many regarded as a lame and half hearted condemnation of this terrible remark. Dr. Rowley also has other skeletons in the closet ranging from the Landate scandal to the latest "wining" episode at Carnival time.  He also has some discontent in his own Party to contend with. For example, you can bet that the UNC will make a big issue of his cutting Penny Beckles-Robinson's throat (politically speaking, of course) and blocking her candidacy at the PNM's screening for the Arima seat. (And I know that he didn't say a word at the screening ... he didn't have to; others did it for him.)


Look: a lot can happen between now and election day and it is clear that this coming campaign will be nasty and brutish and that racial passions and prejudices will (most unfortunately) be stirred up by those who ought to know better. A week is a long time in politics and any number can play in the many weeks we have to go before "decision day 2015", but if the elections were to be held today, for all the reasons expressed above,  I'ld bet a dollar to your donut that the UNC will win it and form the next Government.


I reserve the right to change my mind, by the way,  as the date gets closer. (And that should not surprise you!)
             

Saturday, February 14, 2015

POBRECITA VENEZUELA





Poor Venezuela. As if its troubles were not enough, saddled with an incompetent dictator who is (not so) slowly running his country into the ground ... a country that is the richest in Latin America in terms of natural resources ... with inflation presently hovering around the 60 percent mark and set to go higher, while supporting the brutal and bloody dictatorship of the Castros at tremendous cost to the people of Venezuela, and blaming everybody but himself for the economic tragedies that have befallen this lovely country. The Trinidad Guardian reported this week that the Venezuelan Government has devalued the bolivar from Bs.6.12 to the US dollar to Bs170 to the US dollar. Can you imagine that?!? The currency has been devalued overnight more than 25 times!!


So what do you think will happen next? Well, as a devaluation takes between three to six months to "bite" I figure that President Maduro and his cronies are figuring that when this massive devaluation does eventually start to be felt that the demonstrations will start again and this time they will be worse than before. So? What should Maduro & Co. do to keep their stranglehold on power?


Now these guys may not have a clue about economics, nor do they have any idea of how to run a country so that it prospers without democracy, but you have to hand it to them: when it comes to retaining power they have their opposition licked. First of all, they understand well the old Mao Tse Tung's dictum that power comes out of the mouth of a gun. They have cemented their hold on the army by getting rid of any and everybody who might remotely oppose them thus ensuring their control of the guns. Then they have locked up the leader of the opposition, Leopoldo Lopez, so that he can't cause them trouble outside. It doesn't matter that just about everybody from Pope Francis to the President of Spain and everybody else in between (Amnesty International, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Barack Obama, etc.) has called for Leopodo's release (he is popularly known by his first name), Maduro has simply ignored them and gone on his merry way as though he has and had nothing to do with Leopoldo's arrest.


But back to today: Maduro has a huge problem coming down the road to meet him in a very short time. This massive devaluation is going to impoverish the country even more at a time of low oil prices, and inflation will hit triple digits before the year is out. And the idiot (and yes, I will not apologize for calling him that ... if he wants to sue me here in Trinidad for defamation I will happily defend myself in Court. Frankly, I would love to cross-examine him and if he sues he will HAVE to go into the witness box) knows all too well that this time the demonstrations will probably topple him.


So? What to do? Reports in Venezuela's social media (which is now the only reliable source of news in that poor country) are saying that Leopoldo has been taken out of his prison cell and tortured. The fact that this story has been allowed to get out suggests that Maduro & Co. wanted it to get out. They want a confrontation with the opposition now as opposed to a few months down the road. If they can get the opposition mad enough then when the demonstrations will start now and they can the arrest all the leaders and head off the looming coup d'├ętat. If they wait, the chances are that the wives of the soldiers will be so angry with their falling standards of living that they may not be able to count on the support of the army anymore.


Macchievalian? Absolutely! And it doesn't matter whether they have tortured Leopoldo or not. It is enough for the story just to get out ... even though it is highly probable that the story is true. The time to strike is now, not later. It's like we say here in good old T&T: take in front before in front takes you. Ma-burro ... sorry, I mean Maduro ... is obviously doing just that!!


P.S. I forgot to mention that Ma-burro ... sorry, I mean Maduro ... I keep calling him that because he really is a donkey .. has taken to locking up shop owners who have long queues outside their shops where people are lining up to try and buy scarce goods. Now, if you were a shop owner who can't get the necessary foreign exchange to buy scarce goods and you were going to be locked up because you only have a very limited supply, would you stay open or would you shut your business down? And you still think the man is not a donkey?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

THE RAMLOGAN/WEST IMBROGLIO







Well, the Prime Minister lives to fight another day! The very serious political questions that had arisen over the last two weeks or so concerning her then Attorney General and whether or not he had tried to pervert the course of justice by trying to inveigle a witness (Police Complaints Authority Director David West) to withdraw a witness statement in a High Court matter are (for now at least) put to rest. Of course, there is still the criminal investigation going on by the police and that will wend its way through the system with either the matter being dropped or an arrest being made. Either way, the Government and the Prime Minister are now out of that very messy imbroglio ... at least, for the time being.


But there is still some mopping up to do: the Prime Minister raised the issue of the behavior of Mr. West, and also that of the Leader of the Opposition in this whole sad affair, and called on Mr. West to resign his directorship of the Police Complaints Authority. It is worth the while of right thinking people in the country to look at this call very seriously, for if it is justified then Mr. West should indeed resign. What are the facts (as published in the newspapers):


- Sometime in or about June, 2014 David West supplied a witness statement to Dr. Rowley's lawyers in a defamation case brought by then Attorney General Anand Ramlogan against Dr. Rowley that related to the infamous section 34 fiasco;
- On or about the 31st October, 2014 the Attorney General placed two telephone calls to Mr. West ... one in the morning and the other around 4 in the afternoon. The allegation is that in the morning phone call the Attorney General (AG) told Mr. West that he (West) was being considered for the very important post of Director of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) and in the second phone call he told Mr. West that if he (West) were to withdraw his witness statement that he (Ramlogan) would make sure that West got the job.
- Mr. West says that the above version is correct. Mr. Ramlogan says that it is not and that he never tried to get Mr. West to withdraw his statement. (For the record, if Mr. West's version is correct then certainly it would appear from those facts that Mr. Ramlogan did indeed commit the crime of seeking to pervert the course of justice.)
- It is also reported that in between the two phone calls that the President's Office called Mr. West and told him that he was going to be the next Director of the PCA. In other words, by the time of the second phone call Mr. West knew that Mr. Ramlogan's support was irrelevant.
- Nothing happens for the next two and a half months except that the witness statement is filed in Court on the 19th December, 2014. Then the Express newspaper publishes the story and says that it had got the telephone records of the AG's office and that it can confirm that the calls were indeed made. The Express also purports to report on the contents of the conversations between the two men.
- Mr. West at first appears to refuse to be drawn in but then confirms that the Express story is true. Mr. Ramlogan denies it.
- All hell breaks loose at a time when the Prime Minister is out of the country.
- Mr. West reports the matter to the police.
- Then the Minister of National Security, Captain Gary Griffith enters the fray by apparently gratuitously disclosing that on or about the 19th December he had been asked by the AG to telephone Mr. West and ask him if he "had withdrawn the document." Captain Griffith says that he was told by Mr. West to "leave that alone" or some such words, which he did and never gave it another thought until this whole thing blew up when he put two and two together.




Now, some rather serious questions arise from these facts. You see, the office of Director of the Police Complaints Authority is a very important non-political office under the Trinidad & Tobago constitution. All complaints against policemen, from the Commissioner of Police down to the newest recruit, are dealt with by this office. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out therefore that the Director of the PCA wields great power and influence. He (or she) is appointed by the President after consultations with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. In other words, both sides of the political divide have to be happy and to feel comfortable with the nominee.


So, the questions are as follows:
- Why did Mr. West take so long to report the matter? Surely, this was a very serious matter that ought to have been reported at once, especially by a person who was about to assume such an important office?
- Did Mr. West disclose to the President that he was a witness in the highly politically charged defamation case between the AG and the Leader of the Opposition? If not, why not? Did he not think that this was important? If he thought that it was unimportant then why did he think that?
- Did Dr. Rowley disclose to the President that Mr. West was a witness for him in the defamation case? If not, why not? Did he not think that it was unacceptable to have as a Director of the PCA a person who was appearing for him as a witness in a politically charged law suit? If not, then would he have happily accepted (or even accept tomorrow) if the shoe was on the other foot and he had a say in vetoing the appointment of somebody who was going to appear in a law suit against him  which person would effectively be challenging his (Rowley's) version of events, would he have acquiesced in such an appointment? Hardly likely!!
- Would the President have appointed Mr. West if he had known about this witness statement and law suit?
- How did the Express get hold of the AG's phone records? Isn't this a crime under the Telecommunications Act? If so, who (i.e., what person) in the Express broke the law and who should be prosecuted?
- The Express reports seemed to say that the newspaper had evidence of the telephone conversations between Messrs. West and Ramlogan. If so, exactly what evidence does the Express have? Tape recordings? If so, who taped it and how did the Express get the tape? If not a tape recording, then what exactly.
- Is Mr. Faris Al-Rawi, the attorney for Dr. Rowley, also the attorney to whom Mr. West gave the witness statement and who Mr. west referred to as his (i.e., West's) lawyer, or did he (West) give it to another lawyer who then gave it to Mr. Al-Rawi?
- Given that Mr. Al-Rawi is not only Dr. Rowley's lawyer, but also the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the opposition PNM is this important in this situation?


There are other questions, but they all point in the same direction. Put another way: this thing ain't over by a long shot. My bet is that the opposition will now file a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister. Such motions rarely have any chance of succeeding in the Parliament, but can cause a certain amount of embarrassment which a savvy opposition can use to its advantage in the country. We shall have to wait and see exactly how the opposition will present the motion, but my best guess at the moment is that it will fail. Put another way, I don't have any confidence that Dr. Rowley and his colleagues have the "political smarts" to pull it off successfully. Mrs. Persad-Bissessar, on the other hand, has shown herself time and again to be as wiley as the best of them and not easily kept in a corner.


So, I end this post by asking the serious question: given all of the facts as exist in the public domain today (and this is important, for new facts coming to light could change every thing), do you think that Mr. West should resign his post or no? Put another way, does the possibility exist that Mr. West is at the very least sympathetic to Dr. Rowley and the PNM? Because if the answer to that last question is 'yes' then according to all the legal authorities on the law of bias, the possibility exists that he is "biased" or partial to Dr. Rowley and the PNM and therefore ought not to be holding such a distinctly non-political office. The mere existence of a possibility of bias sinks him whether he is in fact biased or not!!

Monday, January 26, 2015

THE COMING ELECTIONS IN T&T







Apart from the falling price of oil and gas the subject that is on most people's minds in good old T&T these days is what is going to happen in the coming elections. If you live somewhere in the east/west corridor or in Port of Spain you will be forgiven if you think that PNM will win in a cakewalk. You will be further forgiven for this impression if you read the Express newspaper or watch the TV6 news. (The Express tries very hard to pretend that it is neutral, but the truth is that there is a clear bias in its reporting where it tends to play down stories that are adverse to the PNM and play up stories that are critical of the ruling UNC. Now, there's nothing wrong with that. Frankly, it is part of the guarantee of free speech that is written into the Constitution, and no right thinking person can find fault with that. The problem is that to the undiscerning reader, or a person who does not quite understand the nuances of the skewed reporting, it can create a wrong impression.)


But if you go south of the Caroni River you will find a completely different story. The Government has done a heck of a lot of work in areas of Trinidad that had been ignored for decades and its support in rural communities is stronger than ever. The Ministers have begun to reel off rather impressive statistics of what they have done, which statistics continue to be conveniently ignored by the critics in Port of Spain who want to see an end to the domination of the Indian based/supported Government. Because, let's face it, the voting in Trinidad is by and large race based with the Africans supporting the PNM and the Indians supporting the UNC. The population of the east/west corridor is largely African and south of the Caroni River it is largely Indian. It's hardly surprising, therefore, to find the support for the two Parties splitting the way that it does. Of course, people like to hold themselves out as not being racist and therefore like to pretend that their support of one or the other Party does not depend at all on race but on principle. (Unfortunately, most of the Black intelligentsia supports the PNM and the vice versa is also true of the Indian intelligentsia, thus if not proving the lie to their earnest protestations, certainly would raise questions in the mind of a reasonable visitor from Mars.)


That there are exceptions (on both sides) to this rather sweeping generalization is true, but the exceptions are too few to put the lie to what has been said above.


Which leads us back to square one: the coming general elections. Historically (with the exception of 1986), something like 70 percent of the seats in a Parliamentary election in Trinidad (Tobago with its two seats is a different story) do not change allegiances. What has made the difference in the past and what will make the difference in 2015 will be in the marginals. There are 39 seats in Trinidad up for grabs (plus two in Tobago making a total of 41). PNM will probably win the two Tobago seats  so for the purposes of this post we can leave them out of the equation ... at least for the time being.


If you define a marginal seat as one where the vote difference between winners and losers was not more than 10 percent then you get only eight seats in Trinidad which can be defined as marginal with three of them actually belonging to the PNM!! (They are Diego Martin East, Diego Martin Central and Point Fortin). So, assuming that the PP manages to keep the swing to the PNM below 10 percent it is looking at a one seat majority (21 UNC seats to 20 PNM seats) in the next Parliament.


However, the UNC has been pressing ahead with the highway to Point Fortin despite the best efforts of Dr. Kublalsingh (who has now definitely broken all world records for going on a hunger strike without either food or water for more than something like 170 days) is nearing completion. Most certainly, this highway is going to affect positively the lives of everybody in the area and the Government must be reasonably hoping that this will tip the odds in its favour. (Paula Gopee Scoon won the Point Fortin seat the last time around with 8,885 votes to the UNC candidate's 7,959 ... a bare majority of 926 votes).


There are some seats such as Mayaro which the Express has been trying to promote as marginal, but Winston 'Gypsy' Peters won that particular seat the last time around with 12,846 votes to his PNM challenger's 7,330 (a majority of 5,5516 votes ... a rather comfortable majority).


So, the message here is: continue reading all of the newspapers and pay attention to all of the polls that they publish, but pay attention to the methodology that the polls use and where they are conducted. A poll in San Fernando West (a most marginal seat), for example, will unsurprisingly give the seat to the PNM if the perceived swing to the PNM in Trinidad is accurate. But unless that swing is something in the order of 25 percent or more, put your money (at least for the next week) on the UNC eking out a bare victory. Put another way, the UNC/COP partnership won the last election with 432,086 votes. The PNM garnered 286,165. Do the maths and figure out for yourself what the swing needs to be in order to defeat the Government and install the Opposition PNM. Then check out the marginal seats for yourself.


For better or worse, the numbers don't lie!!




P.S.  For those readers who are interested in the actual figures they are set out below:
           Constituency                    Winner                             Amount of votes of winners and losers
           Arima                                Roger Samuel (COP)        7,612 to 7,241
           D'Abadie/O'Meara            Anil Roberts   (COP)         9,541 to 8,421
           Diego Martin Central        Dr. Amery Browne
                                                                              (PNM)       9,040 to 8,041
           Diego Martin East             Colm Imbert    (PNM)        9,349 to 8,077
           La Horquetta/Talparo        Jairam Seemungal(UNC)    8,712 to 7,633
           Point Fortin                       Paula Gopee Scoon(PNM)   8,885 to 7,959
           Toco/Sangre Grande         Rupert Griffith (UNC)          7,491 to 7,285
            Tunapuna                         Winston Dookeran (COP)     10,513 to 8,005