Monday, July 5, 2021

"WHEN IT COMES TO PINNING BLAME - PIN THE TAIL ON THE DONKEYS"

 The tile of this post is a quote from the American Senator Mitt Romney. When you think about it, you will realize that this piece of advice is followed to the letter by our local politicians. We have on the one hand, the erstwhile Leader of the Opposition criticizing, for example, the Prime Minister's COVID advisers and on the other hand the Prime Minister dissembling to the point where it is almost impossible to ascertain exactly where the truth with him ends and the lies begin. Often one is left with the impression that he didn't say something earlier that was in direct contradiction to what he might be saying now, when in fact that is exactly what he is doing. And yet, he not only gets away with it, but continues to get away with it. Unbelievable!

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm in a state of despair over the state of affairs in Trinidad & Tobago. On the one hand it is absolutely clear that we haven't been told the truth about this virus from the beginning (and I'm talking about from February last year). On the other side of the coin the Opposition really seems to be totally incompetent and completely incapable of doing anything other than talking to its supporters who will vote for them no matter what. Then on the third side of the coin (and, yes, I know that a coin only has two sides) we find ourselves with persons who are supposed to be independent but clearly aren't - like the Speaker of the House who really is an absolute disgrace and doesn't even seem to try to be even handed any more. (I guess that she has decided that it really doesn't matter and that nobody gives a damn what she says or does so long as she pleases her boss, the Prime Minister. The problem, of course, is that her boss is really the people of T&T, but then they appoint her in a very indirect way and she has decided to pay more attention to the real decision maker - the Prime Minister - and what he wants.) And the sad truth is that she just happens to be one of the more visible examples of the wrong person in the wrong job.

Perhaps in about fifty or so years from now we will break out of this racial voting. Apart from the fact that I can barely hold by breath for fifty seconds let alone fifty years, I certainly don't expect this pattern to break any time soon. Instead I see it continuing for a very, very long time.

But we have a habit of blaming the 'other' side (whoever the 'other' one may be) and completely ignoring the faults on 'our' side. If you support either the PNM or the UNC your answer will usually be something like "well, they (the 'other' side) are worse. They 'tief' more, they don't do what is necessary and we are (or would be) better off with 'our' people in charge." And there you have it, folks! How do you argue with that? My father used to say "a man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still".

But one thing is certain, you will very, very, very rarely get a supporter of one side saying that he/she thinks that the country would be better off with a third party. Instead, he/she will point out the two rather spectacular failures of the two attempts at a third force and will argue that there is all the evidence that you need as to why it won't work. And you know what? They may well be right! Isn't that sad, if they are? In the meantime, at least we have plenty of donkeys to pin tails on!

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

ON THE REAL JOB OF AN OPPOSTION

 

I will readily confess that I have paid little or no attention to what I will call in this post 'the Tobago fracas', so much so that when a good friend asked me whether a special majority was needed I wrongly told him 'no' that it could be passed by an ordinary or simple majority.

I have no intention of going into the 'whys and wherefores' of the proposed legislation. But (like a lot of other people) I am interested in the politics. It seems to me that Dr. Rowley has once again outmaneuvered the erstwhile leader of the Opposition and that he really couldn't care less if the legislation fails or not. If he had been really interested in passing this legislation there would and should have been a lot more consultation. The fact that there wasn't speaks volumes for the game being played.

 If I had been asked (which happens as often as snow falls in Trinidad) I would have had my first speaker make a very short speech in the parliament. He/she would have said  that the Opposition intended to give the Government enough votes to pass the legislation but was requesting that the Government go on the record as to exactly what benefits the COUNTRY would get. In other words, was the legislation narrow in that only Tobago would benefit or was it broad enough so that the entire country would benefit? Then if or when things go wrong we will know who to blame. 

Then my speaker would have sat down and I would have asked no one else on my side to speak.

You see, we suffer a problem in this little country of ours when we refer to the Opposition as 'the opposition'. Everybody assumes that the real job of the Opposition is to oppose anything and everything that the Government of the day brings to the Parliament. That's not the job of the Opposition at all! In fact a better (though more cumbersome) title for the Opposition might be 'the Alternative Government'.  Then we might more clearly understand that their job is to provide another alternative - a better or different way from doing whatever is being proposed. Because at the end of the day "the Opposition will have its ay, and the Government will have its way" (to quote former Speaker Hector Maclean).

Look: it is either we all want a better country for EVERYBODY or we just want a better country for a select few. But I must confess that I have a very sad feeling in the pit of my stomach that there are very few of our present Parliamentarians who I believe are there genuinely to make life better for the people. I would give anything to be wrong on this and if thereis anybody out there who can name  a current Parliamentarian that he/she feels or believes is genuinely thereto make life better for the people then I invite you genuinely to name that person or persons. As for me, well dreamer that I am, I genuinely want a better country for everybody. Doesn't look that we'll get it any time soon though. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

HOW TO CREATE A DICTATORSHIP

 For some time now I have had the most uncomfortable feeling that:

(a) We aren't being told the truth about anything;

(b) The mainstream media is in cahoots with the Government and that it/they will do almost anything to protect the Government;

(c) The Government simply doesn't have a clue how to solve our problems.

Let's start with the second one first: there are most unnecessary and disturbing rumours that certain journalists, namely Urvashi Tewarie-Roopnarine and Adesh Samaroo have beens suspended/ fired/ sidelined from their jobs because they had the temerity to ask the Health Minister certain uncomfortable questions. Also, that the host of TV-6's 'Morning Edition', Fazeer Mohammed, has also been sidelined basically because he was/is too critical of the Government. Is any of  this true? Because if any of it is true this will be of great concern. Essentially it will mean that there are some very dark forces at play and that the so-called "independent" press is deep inside the pockets of the Government. You don't have to be a genius to understand that.

What also is of concern is that all of the journalists allegedly sidelined are Indian. If it is true that they have been sidelined then the very ugly suspicion of racism will come to the fore.

Unfortunately, the longer this goes on the more difficult it will be to deny and the more the perception of race will raise its ugly head. We simply cannot afford things like this to happen. If the journalists have been suspended then this is legitimate news and we ought to be told why. If they haven't, then equally, there has to be some sort of explanation that can put to bed these ugly and unnecessary rumours. We simply cannot afford for rumours like this to take hold. 

As for the first and third points, well I have already written what feels like a million words on the two issues. Readers will know where I stand on them.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

JOURNALISM 101

 To be a good journalist you have not only to ask the questions that politicians (and others) would prefer to ignore, but you also have to show when the person being questioned is dissembling (i.e., lying) and put forward reasonable theories for the lies. You also have to leave your political allegiances at the door and report everything as honestly as you possibly can  As C.P. Scott said in the Manchester Guardian in 1926 "comment is free but facts are sacred".

So here are some questions that either haven't been asked or to which there has been no clear reporting of the answers:

1. When exactly were the candlelight vigils held? Were they at least 14 days before the spike in Covid-19 cases began? Put another way, when was the last candlelight vigil?

2. How long does it take to be tested positive after being exposed to the virus?

3.How many days after the Easter weekend did the current spike begin?

4. How much exactly are we paying China for the Sinopharm vaccines?

5. Countries like Canada are NOT accepting vaccinations from the Sinopharm vaccine. What exactly will this mean for a person who has got the Sinopharm vaccine but needs to go to, e.g., Canada? Will he/she have to get re-vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the other country? What happens if a person is vaccinated by different vaccines?

6.Why does the death rate seem to be still climbing although we have been in lockdown for what feels like forever?

7. Why are citizens still being locked out from their own country? What exactly is the criteria to be allowed to come home? (This question could also be asked another way: what is the criteria used for some people, e.g., the Prime Minister's and Attorney General's children, to be allowed to come home?)

8. Why are public utilities (e.g., T&TEC) still sending out bills and threatening disconnection? 

9.Why exactly has the Prime Minister failed to show up in Parliament to answer questions? Why was he given permission to skip the sitting of Parliament on Wednesday 16th June? 

10. Why was it considered necessary to have an extended curfew for the weekend of 19th and 20th June?

11. Who or what were the Farmers Associations that the Government said that it approached to discuss the extended curfew for 19th/20th June? There are several who are reported as saying that they were never approached.

12. How many people -exactly- are now out of work and have no income coming in?


 There are many other questions. Indeed, they can go on for a lllooonnnnggg time. But hopefully, the point is made. We are simply NOT being served by the mainstream media. And the question is why? Is there a political agenda? If so, shouldn't they say that they are biased?


Friday, June 11, 2021

DISTRIBUTING THE WEALTH

Although the big news this week is the royal screw up with the distribution of vacinnes to the elderly, I think that it can best be summed up by saying that the Minister of Health should either resign or be fired. He can't say that 'it wasn't my fault'. If it had gone well wouldn't he be claiming credit? He can't have it both ways  and it is time that we in this little country of ours start to call a spade a spade and to hold people accountable. It's either we do that or we continue to accept third and fourth world standards  and give up all hopes of a better, fairer society.

But this latest screw-up by the Minister of Health is simply another distraction from the real issue, which in one word is economics.

Labour's share of the nation's income has been falling for a long time now. We see it and we feel it and we see wealth slowly (and not so slowly) increasingly falling into the outstretched hands of a few as opposed to the many. When we talk about economic prosperity, when that prosperity is accruing to -everyone or just an elite few - that should increasingly become a big part of the debate.

What is taking place now is simply a continuation of the Thatcher/Reagan trickle down theory from the eighties, i.e., that if you let rich people get richer some of that wealth will trickle down to the masses.

I disagreed then with that theory and I am sorry to say that subsequent events have events have justified my skepticism. We need to start thinking very seriously about how we want to distribute the wealth that our country generates and exactly how we are going to do it. Because it is clear that the wealth of our country is NOT being distributed in anything approaching an equitable manner.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

THE JOB OF A PRESIDING OFFICER IN PARLIAMENT

 Recently, the Speaker of the House of Representatives has been thrust back into the limelight with her latest ruling  that effectively protected the Attorney General and prevented the country from learning where, to whom and how much money was paid by the State to lawyers hired by the Government  to deal with the myriad legal matters that need to be dealt with every day. In essence, the Attorney General's argument was that some of the information being requested ought not to be divulged because of privacy and other issues.

The only problem here with the arguments raised by the Attorney General and endorsed by the Speaker was that in October 2016 the same Attorney General with the same Speaker in the chair gleefully went to town with details of how much his (UNC) predecessor had spent on lawyers and even went so far as to give complete details of the amount of fees paid to each lawyer. Now that the shoe is on the other foot it seems that the exact same type of information being requested is not to be allowed and the Speaker (who has the final say in these matters) appears to be only too happy to side with the Government.

The other problem is that everybody remembers when at the end of January 2020 a UNC Parliamentarian (Dr. Tim Gopeesingh) tried and failed to have a motion to discuss the looming COVID pandemic heard as a definite matter of urgent public importance. The Speaker said that in her opinion the matter did not qualify; in other words, there was nothing urgent for the Parliament to discuss. Of course, subsequent events have proven how tragically wrong she was! 

Traditionally a Speaker is supposed to be above partisan politics and  is there to guide the deliberations of the House in a fair and equitable manner, She/he is NOT there to protect a Government from any thing that the Government may or may not want to do. But one gets the most unfortunate impression that that is exactly how Mrs. Annisette-George (the current Speaker) sees her role. Certainly, her performance as Speaker has given rise to multiple impressions and accusations of bias.

As the presiding officer the Speaker is the interpreter of the rules and procedures of the House, and has the authority to control and regulate the course of debate and to maintain order.  But when the general population gets the overwhelming impression that the Speaker is a mere puppet and will do anything that the Government wants, our democracy is in trouble. Because when the PNM loses (and it will one of these days) and the UNC put in an obviously biased presiding officer it will not be good enough nor will it be acceptable for them to say to the PNM "well all yuh did it". And that is exactly what they will say.

No. This nonsense must stop, and stop now. Mrs. Annisette-George has debased her position as Speaker and for the sake of our little democracy she ought to be replaced immediately with a more neutral Speaker. Don't do it and see what happens with this little democracy of ours. And this has nothing to do with PNM/UNC politics but everything to do with OUR country. There are many ways to arrive at the door of a dictatorship. One of the ways is to have a biased presiding officer in the House of Representatives - and we simply cannot afford that.



                                                      

Friday, June 4, 2021

TROUBLE IS COMING

 Are we heading for social unrest?  All the signs seem to suggest that we are. People are losing their jobs left, right and centre, and there are (admittedly rather muted) reports that people are going hungry. I have already said that I don't think that we have been told the truth about anything. Certainly, we have been misled about the COVID pandemic and there is a lot that doesn't make sense. For example, why was it such a big deal if somebody had imported some Pfizer vaccines into the country? Was it because the only organization that can give permission to import a vaccine is the Government and it had given no such permission to anybody? Okay. One can see the sense in such an injunction, but assuming that the report was true (it turned out to be fake news) was there any real reason for the rather obvious anger from the authorities about this? Surely, any action that helps defeat this virus ought to be welcomed? Or was there another reason why the authorities were so obviously upset? If so, what is/was the reason?

Put another way, shouldn't any action that can help defeat the virus be welcomed?

And back to social unrest. There is an almost surreal calm in the country right now. Everything seems to be quiet and people are going about their business as best they can. But things are tough. Restaurants are closed and people are out of work. So? Will there be rioting? If so, when? Will there be some sort of trigger that just lights the proverbial match to a very tense situation? If not, then do you expect that things will just gradually deteriorate until the people can't take it any more? But, things are quiet and by and large (except for the gangs) the population is dealing with the current adversities with a rather admirable stoicism. 

But life is not static and the population will not accept many more platitudes. It has been my experience that people will generally accept hard times IF (a) they are given some credible form of hope that their leaders can and will get them out of the trouble that they are in AND (b) the people are told the truth.

I am very, very concerned that we are not being told the truth and that no hope of a better tomorrow is being offered by our leaders. In the circumstances, my advice to you is to watch out. Trouble is coming.

Friday, May 21, 2021

IS IT UNREASONABLE TO ASK FOR COGENT EXPLANATIONS THAT ARE BACKED UP BY PROVABLE FACTS?

 


Perhaps the most hyperbolic narratives we've seen over the last year are the endless portrayals that the Government is doing a good job in handling the COVID crisis. It started with some little known company in England trading on the fact that it was out of Oxford, home to one of the most prestigious and well respected universities in the world, although research showed that it had absolutely no connection whatsoever with the university, saying that we were number one in the world in our handling of the then rapidly burgeoning pandemic. We don't hear anything about this now, do we? Interesting, don't you think? Was this all a publicity stunt?

But the uncritical reporting has continued. Ministerial as well as Prime Ministerial press conferences are held and the hard questions are never asked - or at least, they are never reported on. In a rational world journalists would give at least as much attention to the facts as well as Government pronouncements and not allow seemingly inconvenient facts to just be dropped. For example, why exactly did Delci Rodriguez come here a year ago? Was it really to discuss a joint response to the pandemic? There are very ugly and unsubstantiated rumors that it had to do with sanctions busting. Is there any truth to this?  Would it not be important to put this to bed one way or the other? If it was about a joint response to COVID what was the result? What is the agreed joint response? And why was this not reported?

If the media don't (or won't) report what is going on, should we really be surprised that people resort to flights of alleged fantasy? Is it really unreasonable for people to question how photographs of the unapproved Chinese vaccine SINOVAC being off loaded from a Chinese plane in Toronto were really being transshipped elsewhere when we are not told where? Is it unreasonable to question when there are NO  photographs of the approved Sinopharm vaccines arriving in Trinidad? And if such photos are now made available would it be unreasonable to believe that they were 'photo shopped'? Is it unreasonable to question the Government about this? Is it unreasonable to require an answer to this?

But the media seem unable or unwilling to pick up on this story. Is it unreasonable to ask why? Is there some monstrous conspiracy afoot? No matter how well meaning we fantasize or want the Government and the media to be, what do we really know? I mean REALLY know? Why are seemingly straight forward questions never answered or, if they are, the answers are simply clever (and not so clever) deflections? Is it unreasonable to ask why?

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

THE BIG LIE

 The Big Lie is everything right now and the mainstream print media seems to be doing its level best to continue to metastasize it and to paper over any criticisms that might legitimately arise over the Government's handling of this Covid crisis.

For example, I haven't met a Trinidadian (or Tobagonian for that matter) who believes that Prime Minister Rowley had tested positive for Covid. The absolute dearth of information was palpable. For example, if he did test positive who was the person that administered the test and why? Was it administered because he was due to get the vaccine the next day or was he feeling ill? If he was not feeling ill then did he feel ill at any time? If so, when?

Dr. Rowley is over 70 and has several comorbidities. It would be most unusual for such a person who was tested positive not to have some symptoms at least or to feel ill. So? Did he? If so, when? And who was the attending physician? After all, Dr. Rowley is no ordinary person, but is the Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago. His health and well being is (and ought to be) of vital concern to the country. And yet, we were told nothing more except that he tested positive, was in quarantine and there were 35 other people affected. Who were these 35 other people? Were they all tested and quarantined? If so, when and where?

Then we have the question of the Brazilian variant supposedly brought here by an illegal immigrant. Do we know who this immigrant is/was? If so, when did we find him/her? What did we do about it?

Then we are told that this virus is spiking, but many health professionals are telling their friends that the situation is much worse than is being reported. So/ Why? What are the newspapers doing about it? Instead of simply parroting unquestioningly whatever they are being fed by the authorities, what are they doing to find out the truth? It can't be that hard to find out. And yet, it seems to be. If you want to know what the Government wants you to think or believe simply read the newspapers. If you want to know what is really going on you will have to do a lot of digging.

Look for example at the question of the vaccines coming to the country. Now we are being told that we are getting a huge quantity of the Chinese vaccine which has been approved by the WHO. Well that's great! But is it true that the Chinese vaccine is not as effective as the other vaccines (Astra Zeneca, etc.)? If so, are we buying second or even third best? The question has relevance because one (unfortunately) remembers Dr. Rowley rather angrily dismissing the Indian offer of free vaccines saying that we weren't beggars. (Although nothing stopped him apparently from later asking President Biden for help - but I guess that wasn't begging!)

When the mainstream media so blatantly abdicates its responsibilities to keep the general population properly informed but appears to help the Government in covering up it's missteps then we are in serious trouble. There is more - a lot more! But hopefully the point is made. 

And we should all be aware that history has proven that a country never gets out of trouble when the truth continues to be a victim.


Thursday, April 29, 2021

WE STILL AREN'T BEING TOLD THE TRUTH

 In my last post I said that we weren't being told the truth and I set out my reasoning for coming to that conclusion. Now, I have to ask the same question again. Put another way: are we still being misled? Take a look at what has happened recently. 

It was reported that somebody had been tested positive with the dangerous Brazilian variant for Covid 19. As soon as this report came out social media lit up with two questions: the first was how did this variant get here if the borders were locked down? And the second was who is the patient/victim? Is he/she an illegal immigrant?

Surprisingly, it took the authorities several days to answer these rather simple questions. Eventually we have been told that it came from an illegal Venezuelan immigrant.

Okay. That's believable, but why did it take so long to tell us? 

In the meantime another rumour surfaced on social media that a young (18 years old) Syrian boy in Westmoorings was tested positive for this Brazilian variant about the same time that the initial report about the Brazilian variant was said to be here. Also, the rumour is that this variant is literally ripping through and devastating the Syrian community in the West. Is all this true? I haven't a clue.

But you realize that the delay between announcing that the Brazilian variant is here and identifying that it allegedly came in through an illegal immigrant needs to be properly explained. The erstwhile Minister of Health tried yesterday to avoid giving proper information saying that questions on this should be directed to the Ministry Of National Security. To which I say why? What the heck is really going on? Why is there this apparent spike in Covid cases? Is there under-reporting? Was there under-reporting? Why do so many people simply not believe what we are being told? Why, for example, do so many people believe that the Prime Minister did not have Covid? Did he? I honestly don't know. But I do know that many, many persons simply don't believe that we are being told the truth - about anything!

And don't get me started on those guns which were found last week! Those announcements alone raise all sorts of troubling issues. Is it too much to ask of the Government that when their people talk to us that they tell us the truth?

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

WE AREN'T BEING TOLD THE TRUTH

 

It is difficult to come to any other conclusion other than we have not been told the truth about COVID 19 in T&T by the authorities. Why they should lie to us is, of course, another question. I can think of a few reasons, but they would only be guesses on my part and I wouldn't want to say anything that I couldn't prove. But why do I think that we haven't been told the truth? Consider the following:

First of all, when the whole world was locking down in February last year we held our Carnival. And then after Carnival there were reportedly very few cases  of the virus in the country, but we locked down on March 23rd of last year, about a month after Carnival had come and gone. Then after the lockdown  the rate of infection was supposed to have dropped so precipitously that some (little known) organization in England ranked us as number one in handling the virus. And even though we remained on lockdown we held a general election in August that allegedly did nothing in that there was no significant spike in new cases. But that didn't matter, we were number one in the world in handling the virus! (By the way, have you noticed that this claim is no longer being made? What do you think happened to stop the claim being made? Are we still number one? If not why were we knocked off our perch? And if we are still number one then why are we not being told this?)

But, (and here we go) apparently many of the symptoms of the deadly virus are very close to those of pneumonia. When I looked up how many people were reported to have died from pneumonia in the whole of 2018 it was less than half of the reported pneumonia deaths for March 2020! To which one can only say 'HUH'? That doesn't make sense - unless, of course, we were not told the truth in the first place.

Then we are now being told that there are two new cases of the British variant in the country. Okay. But it begs the question how? I thought that nobody but nobody can enter the country without (a) a negative test taken in the two weeks before arrival and (b) going into quarantine for two weeks after arrival and (c) getting an all clear at the end of the quarantine period.

So? How come this new British variant got into the country? Who screwed up? What has been done to correct the screw up? Do we know who the two victims were in contact with? Do we know who the persons that were in contact with the two victims were in contact with? And if Nobody screwed up what are we doing about finding Nobody or are we going to just give him a free pass -again!??

Then we are now being told that the virus is spreading and there are many new cases being reported every day. How and why is this happening?

Now, the authorities are tightening the restrictions. Okay. That is probably a good thing, but does anybody understand exactly WHY this is happening right now? 

And then there was the issue of the vaccines from India and Africa and the brouhaha with the Indian High Commissioner. It is probably best to leave my opinion and my very ugly and most unnecessary suspicions over that particular episode unexpressed at this time. except to say that it (that episode) has left me with a very bad taste in my mouth.

And finally, we had the news that Dr. Rowley was found to be Covid positive literally just before he was scheduled to get the vaccine. Many people do not believe that Dr. Rowley is indeed ill. Most certainly, the news reports as to how sick he is are conflicting and leave a reasonable observer to question as to what exactly is the truth about this. But it is more than interesting to find that there is a large number of persons who simply do not trust the report that Dr. Rowley is indeed ill.

And so, we come back to the beginning, which is that we have never received a clear and cogent report from the Health authorities as to what exactly happened and is happening. This has resulted in very ugly rumours of favoritism and a bending of the rules depending on who you are. For example, the Prime Minister's daughter and her family can get permission to visit her parents for a Christmas holiday but ordinary citizens remain stranded abroad and not able to come home. Why? No. Things simply don't make sense and when something doesn't make sense 98 percent of the time it is because the person who is telling you about whatever it is doesn't WANT you to understand; two percent of the time it is because HE is a fool and doesn't himself understand what he is saying.

So? Who is the fool, or who is trying to fool us and why?

 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM - FIXING OUR PROBLEMS PART 3

 As previously posted, I firmly believe that the root of all of our problems here in Trinidad & Tobago begins and ends with race. So? How can we solve this seemingly intractable problem?  I think that the answer lies in our British made/copied Constitution. You see, there are 41 seats or constituencies in T&T. Both major parties have a real lock on approximately 18 each with about 5 seats really in play at each general election every 5 years. And because of the demographics in each constituency that ain't gonna change any timesoon. Put another way, there is every incentive to vote race and so prevent "them" (whoever "them" might be) from gaining power.

But what if there was another way? Look: the reason for a 5 year term is fairly simple -it takes about 5 years (more or less) for any government policies to begin to work. Less time than that and a regime will not necessarily be able to do what is the right thing especially where that might entail unpopular policies; more time than that can lead to dictatorship.

But here is where the Americans seem to have got it right. (And, yes, I am aware of all the problems that they are having right now and the history behind those problems). They have a Lower House which is elected every 2 years, an Upper House elected every 6 years with a third of the Upper House facing re-election every 2 years, and a President/Chief Executive elected every 4 years.

What if we did a variant of that here? We could, for example, double the number of seats in our Lower House to 82 and elect them every 2 years. They would be full time parliamentarians with the responsibility in their districts for all that our current local councils have to do (lights, garbage collection, etc.) as well as legislative responsibilities (which would include things like budgets and other legislation). But because they would only be there for 2 years a lot of voters would be tempted to vote for a candidate from the "other side" if "their side's" candidate was simply a party hack and totally inefficient. The electorate then would have more reason to vote for somebody who would and could perform than for a hack. And if truth be known, we've got an awful lot of those on BOTH sides right now. 

Then we could have a full time Upper House of, say, 41 Senators with one third facing re-election every 2 years but with every Senator having a full term of 6 years. This could prevent stupid legislation from getting through. For example, let's say that the Government wants to pass a law that all men must wear green pants. Then the President gets the support of the members of his party in the Lower House along with a few in the Upper House. But at the elections held every 2 years those politicians who supported this absurd 'green pants' law are booted out of office including those Senators who supported it and voted for it. Now, if you were one of those Senators who rather blindly supported your leader in this stupid law, and you were facing the polls in 2 years time, would you quietly drop your support for this stupid law knowing that it will lead to your political demise or will you go down with that sinking ship? Put another way, this system returns power to the people.

Then we could have a Chief Executive whose election and period in office is not linked to his party have a majority in either house. He/she would face the electorate every 4 years and could have a term limit placed on him/her (e.g., 2 terms as is the case in the United States).

I could go on, but hopefully the point is made: that this system would effectively reduce , if not eliminate, the reason to vote race. What do you think? If you don't like it what idea(s) do you have? Because, like it or not, our problems begin and end with race. We need to do whatever we can to make it unprofitable to vote race. If we don't it will only get worse.

P.S. An added bonus would be to reduce the power of those small cliques who control both main parties.


Monday, March 29, 2021

CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM - FIXING OUR PROBLEMS Part 2

 

We inherited our constitutional system from the British. After all, the reasoning was, it had worked for them for the last thousand or so years and had been successfully transplanted around the world from Canada to India and everywhere in-between. It was therefore quite reasonable to assume that it would work for us. Reasonable, but it ignored one crucial element: race!

As I have said before, we are hopelessly divided by race with the African element of our population voting one way and the Indian element voting the other. Both sides ignore issues such as competence and who might actually have better programs until the one in power screws up so badly (or is perceived to screw up badly) that it is voted out. There was an experiment way back in 1986 when a political party, the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), purported to have all the answers and not be race based. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, not the least being the incompetence of its leaders, the NAR failed and in 1981 the country reverted once again to its comfort zone of race based politics.

Today this has so become the norm that it is almost impossible to find  anyone who is not influenced by it. The PNM gets its funding from wealthy "nons" (non-black/non-Indian) and the UNC gets its funding from wealthy Indians. As the newspapers are owned by the nons you will find that generally speaking to a greater or lesser degree they tend to favour the PNM (although, to be fair, the Express more than the other two daily newspapers tends to to a more neutral line). The truth is that the UNC simply does not need the money from the "nons" who generally find that they are simply not needed. The PNM though, needs their cash quite badly.

And, no, I'm not advocating any type of press censorship. My own personal view is that a person ought to have complete freedom of choice in following whatever political path he/she believes to be the best for the country. Of course, this doesn't mean that I have to agree with him/her or say nothing about his/her beliefs. What is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander and while I reserve the right to change my mind on anything, I also reserve the absolute right to hold whatever opinions that I may have, so long as I do so honestly.

But we are talking about constitutional reform and how we might fix our very serious problem caused by the racial divisions in our society. In looking at it I have come to the conclusion that perhaps we ought to start with a blank sheet of paper. For example, we are a nation of some 1.4 million people. And yet, we have Regional Councils, District Councils. Town Councils, City Councils and even a Tobago House of Assembly with its own 'Secretaries' and Chief Secretary. Why? The Mayor of Miami, for crying out loud, presides over a larger population and a larger land area than we have. So? Why are we indulging in the expense of having all these Councils complete with all these 'wannabe' politicians clogging things up.

Perhaps, the first thing that we should do is to ask the simple question: why?

Next week I will set out my proposals for how I think we can solve the problems that we have. These last two posts have really been trying to set the ground for my proposals as well as to encourage my one or two readers to start thinking about how they would solve the problems. Because one thing is crystal clear: by continuing to ignore our problems we will never fix them.



Monday, March 22, 2021

CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM - FIXING OUR PROBLEMS PART 1

 


Probably the biggest problem that we have in T&T today is that we are hopelessly and seemingly helplessly divided by race. We don't like to admit it, but the truth is that we are no where near being a truly "rainbow country". If we can fix this we would be well on our way to fixing everything else. 

 Most Africans blindly support the PNM and most Indians equally blindly support the UNC. The "nons" (non-Black/non-Indian) stuck somewhere in-between tend to go with whoever they think will run the country better, but as they (the "nons") tend mostly to live in areas that are heavily pro one side or the other, their vote (they number about 15 percent of the total electorate) is more often than not so diluted as to be almost meaningless in real terms.

The result is that the leaders of both sides often and not very subtly basically say to their supporters 'vote for us because we can't let them get power'. Who 'us' and 'them' are depends on who is saying it. But the sad truth is that both sides are saying the exact same thing. Sometimes, admittedly, one side is more blatant than the other, but you know what? It really doesn't matter. Because when one side says something like this ('vote for me because ...') the supporters of the other side are equally galvanized. In other words, there is an incentive on the part of the leadership on BOTH sides to play the race card, and they both do - all the time! Although they will both undoubtedly protest that they never do that!

So? How can we fix this?

Perhaps the answer lies in reforming our Constitution in such a way that it makes it ultimately unprofitable to vote race. Can this be done? I think so, but it would mean starting over with a completely blank sheet of paper and thinking completely outside of the box.  To do this, it would also mean changing things so that the Head of Government is not as powerful as he/she now is. (Did you know that a Trinidadian Prime Minister is more powerful in his own country than an American President is in his?)

But I'm getting ahead of myself. This post is intended to be the first part of a series on how to forge a path forward and to get out of the terrible morass that we now find ourselves in. After the zealots on both sides have calmed down a bit over what I have said about both sides being equally guilty of racism, I am hoping that I may have started people thinking about how to fix this. 

And, for the record, I do have an idea on how to fix things. And I do realize that what I will have to say may not be the best solution, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and we need to take the first step by calling a spade a spade.  Because, if you listen to the other side ('other' depending on your perspective) it is always 'their' fault and never 'ours'. 'We' are definitely not racists nor are we racial.

And given that there is only one reason for government; one reason for politics: to make life better for the people - I am putting in my "two cents" here in the hope that we might all consider the problem seriously enough to think about possible solutions.

I will write again soon with my ideas.

Friday, March 5, 2021

ROWLEY AND MABURRO - SANCTIONS ANYONE?

 


Prime Minister Keith Rowley in his capacity as Caricom Chairman has called for an end to the sanctions on Venezuela and for negotiations to bring both the Opposition in Venezuela and the ruling regime to some sort of settlement. With great respect to the Trinidadian Prime Minister he has so badly mixed apples with oranges that it is crystal clear that either has hasn't got a clue as to what he is talking about or (to put it as plainly as possible) he has some sort of interest in helping to perpetuate the illegal Maburro regime  ... which raises suspicions that are as ugly as they ought at this time to be left unexpressed as to why he would choose to do so. Instead of pressure, Dr. Rowley argues, what is needed is that everybody sits down and talks the problems out. 

Take, for example, Dr. Rowley's assertion that the sanctions have caused the Venezuelan economy to collapse. While I hesitate to say that this assertion is an outright lie, it is simply not true. The sanctions were installed in 2016 AFTER the economy had collapsed and after some three million Venezuelans had fled the country. (it is now about 5 million, or 15 percent of the population). And assuming that Dr. Rowley is telling what he perceives to be the truth, the fact is that he is being extremely naive ... Maburro & Co. have absolutely nothing to gain from negotiations with anybody. They have fraudulently destroyed the electoral process and have locked up, tortured and murdered their opponents. Further more, they are in charge of the guns and the probability of their being overthrown in a coup is as remote as the probability that snow will fall in Tobago next week. So? Why should they agree to any sort of compromise with anybody? Oh! It is true that the ordinary Venezuelan is catching his tail BUT (and it is a big "but") THEY (i.e., Maburro & Co.) are not! So why in the name of heaven should The Donkey and his friends agree to anything?

The arguments that Dr. Rowley and his friends seem to be advancing are strangely reminiscent of the arguments of those who opposed sanctions on that ruthless and racist apartheid regime of South Africa almost a generation ago. And yet, all agree that it was the sanctions that eventually helped to bring that terrible regime down.  Sanctions are one of the few tools available to bring that illegal Venezuelan regime down. And the fact that most Western countries have refused to recognize Maburro's regime has prevented The Donkey from getting his hands on Venezuelan assets abroad. Hurray for sanctions! If they weren't there does anybody really believe that the ordinary Venezuelans would have benefitted as opposed to Maburro simply getting fatter? (Have you noticed how much weight he has put on while the average Venezuelan is reported to have lost more than 20lbs in the last year or so?)

It cannot be in the interests of either Caricom or Trinidad & Tobago to have a ruthless, narco fueled State (and yes, the Drug Lords are getting free rein in Venezuela right now) sitting right on our doorsteps. Venezuela is too large and too important to the Region as a whole to be treated with naivety or to be allowed to be ruled by terrible men and women who are simply thugs. And for all the pious bleatings of the Trinidadian Prime Minister that we should talk to The Donkey it is to be noted that apart from some pious platitudes he doesn't ever say what exactly he hopes to achieve by these so-called "talks" other than leaving The Donkey in power. Oh! He will say that he wants to bring to an end the suffering of the Venezuelan people, but  according to him that can best be achieved by leaving Maburro & Co. in untrammeled power. Really? If you buy that rubbish then I still have that bridge in Brooklyn that I have been trying to sell for the longest while! Offers invited!!

And as for "talking" with The Donkey's regime, all I have to say is that there is absolutely no incentive for Maburro to agree to any compromise. But there are plenty of incentives for him to continue just as he is doing now.