Highlights on the Constitutional Amendment Debate

Activist Dr Merle Hodge greets Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley prior to the sitting. Photo courtesy Trinidad Guardian website.

Activist Dr Merle Hodge greets Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley prior to the sitting. Photo courtesy Trinidad Guardian website.

Oh to be a fly on the wall of the PP camp this morning. There has been acrimony for weeks, visible on some of the Facebook groups, as soon as anyone in the Partnership, whether at the leadership or membership levels, appears to have broken ranks for doing simple things like voicing a different opinion.

Never a dull moment in this group...never a logical argument either...

Never a dull moment in this group…never a logical argument either…

Yesterday’s debate in the Lower House had several highlights.

First there was the crowd on the waterfront, some of them paid, some of them voluntary. Some there to ensure they still have a CEPEP job tomorrow. Others there as curious onlookers…and a growing crowd that’s concerned about our system of governance and willing to be present if only to show solidarity and let the PP know how fed up they are. Kamla got blocked and Rowley got hugged.

Then there was Kamla’s raising of the whip. I seriously think Sugar Aloes’ serenading of the PM to “She’s Royal” back in 2012 (?) may have gone to the lady’s head. You, the party of New Politics and Good Governance fame, haven’t been practicing voting by conscience all this time? Are we meant to swoon at your magnanimity? Kamla just too precious.

Thereafter, last night’s session ran like a T-20 game: spurts and lulls, with some collapses in between.

Kamla accused the PNM of being hypocrites. Their party’s constitution promotes run-off elections, she said, waving a Balisier constitution; so, why were they against run-offs for the national election? Oh, Kamsie…tricks are for kids!
1. This country at no point in time expressed dissatisfaction with how it votes. It has expressed dissatisfaction with how MPs and Executives rule…that’s where we want reform, so that we can have true separation of powers!
2. You really think a provision in a PARTY’s constitution should be applied to a COUNTRY? Last I checked, the PNM’s membership is 80,000 and the population is 1.3m. If Dr Hodge was grading your argument for coherence, parallelism and relevance would be in the margins!

But Rowley was no slouch, he came out swinging sixes everywhere. He easily scored the fastest century of the evening.

Wat to know how it is possible to Chair a Committee and then forget everything said in its report? Ask Prakash Ramadhar.

Wat to know how it is possible to Chair a Committee and then forget everything said in its report? Ask Prakash Ramadhar.

Then came the PP’s other opener, Prakash Ramadhar, who showed plainly that not only was he devoid of conscience, he also didn’t read his own Constitutional Reform report. Which led to many debaters on the Opposition side thereafter calling him out on his blatant untruths as regards the report. Chief amongst his untruths was his insistence that the Addendum was originally there.

Ramadhar also attempted a feat of mental gymnastics that would have left even Suriya Bonaly awestruck; and that’s saying something. Ramadhar attempted to show a relationship between Proportional Representation, Run Off Ballot (ROB) and Participatory democracy. He left me wondering how many pulls in room 201, and how many sex workers are needed to create the mindset to fake up such a theory. Anil boy, you was robbed!

The first pleasant surprise of the afternoon for me came from Marlene MacDonald, as third batswoman down on the order Marlene kicked some serious ass. Whereas others might have picked the overall bill to discuss or repeat Proportional Representation as subject, verb and predicate in a sentence; Macdonald choose to dissect the bill. It was the most forensic presentation of the sitting. Clause after clause after clause dissected and discarded, causing one FB friend of mine to comment grimly, “She’s a Woman with a Clause”. Marlene, normally I take a drinks break during your presentations, but yesterday you forced me to sit up and take notice.

Is my logic smelling bad so?

Is my logic smelling bad so?

Somewhere after MacDonald we had the AG. What to say about && without receiving a slew of pre-actions in my protocol, boy? I think Fenton Ramsahoye is a brilliant AG….I also think that his paralegal, &&, needs more practice and to work harder. He spends far too much time on Orc mischief in the Parliament than on meaningful debate.

Some highlights of his less than sterling innings: && kept talking about the prevalence of the use of the ROB system in countries like France, but neglected to mention that ROB is used in the case of determining executive Presidents, not for every MP under them, and that the countries he was citing, operated under entirely different political systems. ROB is yet to be used anywhere in the Commonwealth.

With respect to the right of recall for MPs, Mr && Tricksy Orcses insisted that Williams, in demanding unsigned letters of resignation from his Cabinet, had implemented his own right of recall.
And here is how he is being less than honest with us. No Prime Minister can fire an MP. If the MP pulls a Herbie Volney and switches parties mid-term, that can trigger a by-election, which must involve the electorate. In short, an MP can only be fired by the electorate.

At the same time, no electorate can fire a Minister. All ministers are appointed by the PM. The Bill Amendment doesn’t give us recall of Ministers, only MPs. Williams, fired Ministers…not MPs. But you see, && relies on speaking untruths very fast; so by the time you decipher what he’s said, 15 other “facts” also have to be verified.

For several hours thereafter viewers and listeners would have plodded through unremarkable presentations from both Govt and Opposition. Some presentations were too unfocused and wide ranging, or the style of delivery incredibly lax (eyes on you Deyalsingh, Hospedales and Jeffreys….tighten up!) Whilst others were irrelevant beyond belief. The debate, dear Suruj and Moony, wasn’t about PR…because there is no amendment for Proportional Representation in the Bill. In fact, it appears as if the UNC has all but abandoned PR now as it jumps on the ROB bandwagon.

They feel they know what I coming with...

They feel they know what I coming with…

Then, at around 9:30 pm, came the shitstorm. The minute Dookeran invoked the names of Tajmool Hosein and Ellis Clarke, I sat up. One does not simply invoke Tajmool’s name. Eh eh…not just so. Hosein was present at the Marlborough House convention. Hosein shaped the earliest reforms of our Constitution. When men get up and invoke Tajmool Hosein name, be prepared for fireworks….and boy, did Dookeran deliver. In a 45-minute speech peppered with phrases like “cat-in-bag” and “dangerous” , Dookeran, visibly worked up, rejected the Bill outright, pointing out its potential to destroy the COP, and create more ethnic tensions. My gob was smacked. My ghost was flabbered. The same man who brought us Hafizool Mohammed and atrocious international diplomacy at our embassies capable of this? Listen…Dooks need to come with a label: “Flammable when pushed to the edge!”

The last contribution I heard came on at 12:30 am. And it was worth staying up that late just to hear Colm Imbert, well-researched and ascerbic as ever, call Prakash Ramadhar a Judas Horse.
Honestly, who needs Chick Mansion when there is Parliament Channel?

Protesters held vigil at the Waterfront, well into the wee hours of the morning.

Protesters held vigil at the Waterfront, well into the wee hours of the morning.

The one flaw to the entire debate was the break down of FM radio signal for the Parliament station. I can’t point any fingers, because I’ve no idea if the problem stemmed from Parliament or Cumberland Hill. What I will say is this, the last four years have seen more and more citizens accessing Parliament Channel. If this government has done nothing else, it has made the population more watchful and cautious about the goings-on in Parliament and our Constitution. I expect that that traffic on the website will continue to increase and for folks without internet access, the FM station becomes even more crucial. Keep up the good work, Parliament channel, and take the necessary measures to safeguard this service for us.

And, on a closing note, I want to raise this observation. Proportional Representation was raised often last evening, notably on the side of the Government. MP after MP from the COP and the UNC mouthed the words. They want to bring Propertional Representation to the country, to the electorate etc etc…Has anyone noticed that neither of these parties use Proportional Representation for their internal elections?

The PNM internally implemented One Man One Vote, which fits in better with a First Part the Post System that they advocate at the national level. Yet both the UNC and the COP want PR, and won’t implement at the micro level, so that we can see how it will work for us at the macro level. Isn’t that weird? That they won’t practise first what they are attempting to foist on the community?

The debate moves to the Senate next Tuesday, and there will be a week-long vigil at the Waterfront every evening from around 4pm. A sort of #OccupyDWaterfront Movement as it were. Stop by, lend support, discuss the constitution, watch the ferry come in.

De Vice Cyah Done!

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The Cult of the COP

trojanhorse

 

We all know the myth of the Trojan Horse. The metaphor has been used by many to describe the COP since the party’s presence was used to dress the UNC up for the 2010 elections to make the People’s Partnership more attractive and appear as a gift to the nation. The Partnership that would save our politics.

The UNC, for all its posturing about new leadership under Kamla Persad-Bissessar, still carried strong whiffs of the stench of corruption of its last two terms in office that involved events like: Dhanraj Singh going to jail; a lost shipment of rice attributed to then CEO of NFM Vasant Bharath; ghost URP gangs under Works and Transport Minister Sadiq Baksh; PM Basdeo Panday’s London apartment and the $2m in his wife’s bank account; and, of course, the Piarco airport fiasco that saw roughly $500m disappearing in the building of an airport that allegedly cost around $1.2b to build.

 

The COP became the UNC’s beard. It covered up and distracted (some) from the UNC’s obvious shortcomings. It’s membership featured members who were prominent in noteworthy fields: academia, environmental activism, social activism, gender activism. The list is long, but you get the picture? On paper and at meetings, the COP looked like a party peopled with intellectually and morally sound individuals. People who were capable of distinguishing right from wrong; calling the UNC out on corruption and malfeasance, and generally providing some sort of conscience that seemed sadly lacking in our Parliament…

Read the rest of this analysis of the COP at my Squarespace blog site…

Pantomime Moving to Square Space….

Hi All,

I’ve made the decision to move my blog over to the site Square Space. You can find me at this link.

The blog is going to be expanding its scope a bit, inclusive of my political commentary, we’re also adding new areas such as art, literature, tech and culture. I hope you keep following me there.

 

Regards,

EP.

 

Own Goals and Pension Penalties

 

Marcelo stunned by his own goal...the first goal of WC 2014.

Marcelo stunned by his own goal…the first goal of WC 2014.

Sometimes the beauty of a goal is in its build up, not the scoring.

Last week, on June 14th to be precise, Express journalist Ria Taitt revealed that the Lower House (MPs) had just approved amendments to two bills giving themselves fat new pensions. The story took about 48 hours to really generate interest because it’s the middle of the first round of World Cup 2014 in Brasil. And soccer-mad TnT, caught up with the beautiful game, barely have time for Anil, weed stashes, prostitutes in hotel rooms, or Government programs that are funding criminals, far less to pay attention to debates in their Parliament. Oh, and we had a long holiday weekend. And Laventille and the Police/Army were at war.

The story in front of us is simple. The Parliament – both Government and Opposition – chose to amend two bills: Judges Salaries and Pension Bill and the Retiring Allowances: Legislators. Nothing weird here. Law making, legislation, bill amendments etc are the business of the Parliament, yes? So, it stands to reason that if changes have to be made to a law, it’s our legislators that should get in there and earn a salary, yeah?

Snapshot of what the old and new pensions look like. Infographic courtesy Trinidad Express.

Snapshot of what the old and new pensions look like. Infographic courtesy Trinidad Express.

By Saturday, Ms Taitt’s stories of fat pensions, stopped being simply an issue of “them MPs tiefing from the Treasury again, wha we go do boy? Aye, the match start yet?” and started being likened to Section 34. You remember that fiasco, right? A Bill proclaimed in the dead of night during our 50th Anniversary Independence celebrations? That had both Government and Opposition support in Parliament, but didn’t have Opposition support for the new declaration date?

By Saturday June 21st the swell of dissent had begun. Martin Daly SC and Reginald Dumas, former head of the public service, regular go-to advisors for the Trinidad Express, were out the blocks first. With Daly insisting that it was a breach of the Constitution, and that the integrity of judges – now reliant on MPs for their improved salaries – was in question; and Dumas questioning the adding of allowances to the calculation of pensionable emoluments and stating emphatically that there was no precedent for such.

But the real zinger that day came in the form of a public letter from Jackie Carr-Brown. In the letter Mrs Carr-Brown states:

These bills are unconstitutional. They pertain to the setting of compensation for judges, senators and MPs. The Government is not authorised to determine its own compensation, nor the compensation of the Judiciary.  

Only the independent, autonomous, Salaries Review Commission (SRC) which reports solely to the President, may make recommendations in this regard. In this way, the Constitution protects the country against executive abuse.

No democratic country in the world permits its legislators to determine their own compensation.  

Her statement couldn’t be clearer. Himself was passing Amendments to pay Himself and bypassing the enshrined Constitutional arrangements. The Salary Reviews Commission was being sidelined by the Government, and worse yet, the Opposition was supporting this! For $$$$$$$$$.

Two important details to note here: the SRC weirdly enough is in a position to determine its own salaries according to our Constitution and Jackie Carr-Brown is allegedly married to a member of the Salary Reviews Commission, hence her knowledge.

The Conundrum

Up until Sunday morning (June 22nd) the issues surrounding this latest issue seemed pretty clear cut to me:

1. MPs had bypassed the SRC to give themselves pensions especially since the were displeased with the salaries recommended by the SRC in November 2013.

2. MPs had done the unprecedented thing and added allowances to their pensionable emoluments. The burden of these new fat pensions would cripple the Treasury.

3. In determining the pensions of retired Judges, the Parliament had breached the Constitution by threatening the separation of powers, a pillar on which our democracy (such as it is) stands.

Then by Sunday afternoon, in the midst of my baked fish and callaloo, just as I was prepping for the USA vs Portugal game information starts pouring out of my phone. Damn you Google Search!

1. This issue of the Government amending Judges’ pensions isn’t new. Anand Ramlogan announced he was doing this since June 27th, 2013. Almost a year ago the AG is on record addressing this issue as one of the changes the PPG was bringing on board:

He said the Judges Pensions Act, which was enacted in 1962, and judges pensions have never been revised upward since then.

“The Government is seeking to increase the amount of pension paid to a retired judge from 1/360th to 1/300th. The amendment would also provide for a periodic revision of the pension paid to retired judges of the Supreme Court, as well as a more favourable computation of the pension paid to judges of the Supreme Court,” he said.

Furthermore, the amended bill will propose a recalculation of the pension of judges who have retired for more than ten years. 

If the SRC objected to this announcement by government then, I didn’t stumble upon any articles.

What is also noteworthy is that amending MPs pensions was not on the cards then at all. But somehow after the new salary recommendations made by the SRC November last year, it certainly got tabled quickly.

2. Several senior members of Government and even retired Judge, Zainool Hosein have insisted that the SRC, for at least two decades, has dragged its feet on reviewing salaries and compensation packages and has stated categorically it is not responsible for pensions. In yesterday’s Express retired Justice Zainool Hosein stated: “We are no longer in office. The pension is only payable to past office-holders and therefore the separation of powers is not an issue,” he said.
Hosein said in respect of the retired judges that SRC has consistently taken the position that the pension, of retired judges do not fall within their jurisdiction. “They took the view that that matter must be dealt with by Parliament,” he said. “Now it has been dealt with by Parliament, by both Government and Opposition (which agreed to it), and I am a little surprised that on a matter in which they (SRC) claim no jurisdiction they are reportedly expressing concerns,” he added.

According to Section 141(1) of the Constitution, the SRC, with the Approval of the President, can from time to time, review the salaries and other terms and conditions of services of the offices falling within its purview. I’m not a lawyer or legislator. I can’t even begin to tell you if those words mean pensions are covered. I can’t even say if those words mean that the SRC has jurisdiction over retired judges. What I do know is that apart from the SRC, there are specific Acts that address Judges’ Pensions and Legislator’s Pensions and the only people that can make changes to those acts don’t sit on the SRC….they sit in Parliament. Opposition and Cabinet.

I’d recommend reading the 98th Report of the Salaries Review Commission if only to see what the purpose of the Commission is and what kinds of salaries and allowances are paid to Presidents, Prime Ministers, Commissions and senior Public Servants.

3. The Pension amendment comes from a contributory fund. This means its impact on the Treasury is different. Whereas mid to lower range Public Servants depend entirely on the state to pay their pensions, gratuity and lump sums, Judges and MPs have to contribute a percentage of their salary towards their pension, and the State provides the rest. What I’m still unclear on is what the ratios are and how much it is going to cost the State. I’m also keeping in mind that Judges don’t pay taxes on their salaries at all and watching that reaaaaaaaaaal cockeyed.

4. With respect to the unprecedented nature of adding allowances to pensionable emoluments….it actually isn’t unprecedented. According to the Pensions Act Chapter 23:52: “”pensionable emoluments” in respect of service under the Government of Trinidad and Tobago includes salary, personal allowance, inducement allowance, house allowance or the estimated value of free quarters and any fees paid out of the Treasury by way of salary …”. This is in the Pensions Act of 1934 that has been amended as recently as 2010.

So herein lies the crux of the matter:

1. Does the SRC have oversight of pensions? And if so, why were pensions not covered in their 98th Report delivered in November 2013? Was it an oversight? Because for the sub-category of Pension in their report they simply point to whatever pertains in the relevant Acts of the Constitution.

2. Was the SRC stealthily bypassed by the Cabinet and the Opposition in the aftermath of substandard salary recommendations in 2013? Does this ability to bypass the SRC and instead amend Pensions point to a flaw in our Constitution? Is the SRC still a relevant institution?

3. What financial impact will these pension packages actually have on the Treasury? In short, how much more burden will our tax payers have to bear? Especially in light of 4 massive deficit budgets from Kamla, and the likelihood of a fifth such Budget in September.

4. Has separation of powers been breached and the Constitution subverted? If the judges are retired, does this make a difference? Will sitting Judges feel indebted to MPs now for improved pension plans in years to come and give them a bligh because of that?

5. Is the addition of allowances to pensionable emoluments really unprecedented? And since they aren’t,why do I feel as if the way in which these new pensions were calculated is going to give me indigestion and a tax burden that I can’t stomach?

We are roughly a year away from the 2015 election period. In the last 4 years we have experienced too many instances of the Government brutalizing the Constitution and the Treasury for its own ends. We have been subjected to massive budgets and squander mania from Kamla and her Small Goal Squad. Most recently we found out that through the LifeSport programme the Government is funding criminals, and taking out loans against the treasury to pay these criminals and soon wants another $32m to pay off debts incurred by this same programme that funds criminals. Did I mention this government is funding criminals? Now, in under a week, we learn that both sides of the Parliament, not pleased with the recent salary increases granted to them earlier this year, are now sorting out their retirement.

I can’t say it’s illegal. Not yet. The SRC has to clarify whether Pensions really fall under its purview. The Constitution’s language is too vague for me to say so convincingly. I’m hoping the Senate’s debate today throws light. What I can say is in light of the burden on our treasury and our numerous labour and employment issues this leaves a very bad taste in my mouth…..and I’m giving you, Keith Rowley, a devious cut eye on this one.

De Vice Cyah Done!

** No footballers were hurt, or red cards given, in the writing of this post.

 

 

Performance and Personalities: The Campaign Against Rowley

conspiracy against rowleyEngineering dirt and flinging it into interesting patterns on the public wall aren’t anything remotely new to politics; and certainly not new to ours.

As early as 1961, our electoral process was plagued with ethnic tensions that led to questionable behavior. Rudy Capildeo, then leader of the DLP, overwhelmed by the tensions plaguing the elections, in a fiery call to arms in front of the Governor’s Residence in Port of Spain, announced to his supporters, “You will be called to arms. Wherever the PNM holds a meeting, you will have to break it up.” Throughout that election campaign there was the persistent rumor of a group of black men roaming the country looking for women to rape. Sound familiar? Echoes of Hulsie X?

In the course of the campaign, violence broke out and limited states of emergency had to be declared in St Augustine, Barataria,Caroni East and Chaguanas.

In the post-Williams era there was the infamous gun hoax created by ONR candidates Surujrattan Rambachan (Oropuche) and Unanan Persad (Caroni East). Rambachan and Persad claimed to be driving along Gaston-Johnson Street, Chaguanas, when shots were fired at their vehicle. Rambachan blamed the Panday-led ULF and accused the Prime Minister, George Chambers, of encouraging violence.  Shortly after reporting the incident to the police, and making much of the attack at political meetings in Diego Martin, it was discovered that the shooting was a hoax. Rambachan and Persad had shot bullets into their vehicle themselves and made a false report to the police. Neither was charged for wasting the Police’s time or discharging a fire arm. The Trinidad Guardian of November 3rd, 1981 carries the story. Feel free to check it out.

Between 1981 to the present, there have been numerous attempts at mud slinging, smear campaigns and conspiracies. During the May 2010 election campaign there was an alleged assassination attempt on the life of then Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Since then it seems assassination attempts on the PM, whether by tins of Matouk’s peas, random Muslims or ghosts are the order of the day. These attempts are meant to encourage empathy and sympathy for the Prime Minister. Look at this poor, beleaguered, hard working woman. Everybody wants to kill her, even canned food.

Two nights ago (June 5th, 2014), at a public meeting in San Juan, a rare thing happened: Camille Robinson-Regis revealed the details to a smear campaign by the UNC against Opposition Leader Keith Rowley in the midst of its very failed execution.

The emails revealed a group that comprises government ministers, the Canadian High Commissioner, the former UK ambassador, advisers to the PM, media and public relations specialists and everybody’s favorite Facebook racist:PEAnuts.

In an email dated Friday, May 16, 2014 12:02:25PM, sent from Rodney Charles to approximately 17 people, he says:

“We propose launching a full scale attack on Keith Rowley come the morning of May 19th 2014 ie the morning after his expected landslide victory. We absolutely need to bring down his polling ratings.”

Then on Saturday, May 31 2014 in an email whose subject is, “Make this Happen and everybody wins”, someone by the name of Roodal is enthusiastic and responds to an email sent to him by someone called Phillip Alexander by saying: “This is a great idea.” 

The idea Phillip Alexander has pitched to him is:

Every evening from six to seven on CNMG there could be a one hour show called “Equal Time” hosted by yours truly…”

conspiracy against rowley 2

Apart from the concept of the show, what struck me about the e-mail exchanges are the time stamps.

Phillip Alexander sends his original message at 9:58 am on Sat 31st, May. Roodal responds at 11:23 am. And by 13:18:06, the emails have been sent to someone who has PNM sympathies. Chris Brown was right….these hoes aint loyal. Is this a case of surveillance and interception….or does the UNC ship have some major leaks in its very inner cabal?

If the final message forwarded came from Roodal’s email, who did he forward the messages to?

An election is constitutionally due by September 2015. The UNC/PP Govt has not a chance in hell of winning it, despite Kamla’s sustained popularity. There are simply too many scandals and missteps to sidestep during next year’s campaign.

Usually an incumbent party campaigns on its track record. Boasting about its achievements with regards to new legislation and infrastructure.

This Government has a dismal track record with legislation. From Section 34 to Soldier Bill, to DNA Bill to Dangerous Dogs, no one is happy with how inefficient a Cabinet filled with lawyers are at drafting legislation.  And in terms of infrastructural development, the SNC Lavallin fiasco colors one planned hospital and the Point Fortin and Debe to Mon Desir Highway routes are riddled with protests and accusations of corruption.

We need not even go back to their 7 Pillars of Sustained Development Manifesto to know that every promise made remains unfulfilled.

What is patently obvious is that they are extremely aware of their poor track record, but will stop at nothing to return to power.

Their strategies though, have not improved with time.

They include:

1. Circle the wagons of support around the leader and have the party base lash out in a wild, incoherent frenzy at anyone who dares to criticize her. Go to any of their support pages on FB – True Trinis Discussing Real Issues or even the UNC Group administered by Allan Karim. See what passes for debate and idea exchange there.

2. Raising the race bogey – a topic i intend to touch on in a later blog. Despite the numerous acts of race-baiting by Kamla herself and members of her government, her party has now started a campaign that seeks to paint the Opposition as racist. The hope is that their support base will continue to support them.

3. Target and smear the leader. In 2010 it was Manning. Manning’s Squandermania, Manning and Calder Hart, Manning and Juliana Pena, Manning and Duprey/CLICO, Manning  and the Guanapo Church, Manning’s secret love child, Manning, Manning, Manning. It’s simple really. You need to give the electorate a focus. A symbol of what they hate or resent about their governance. Because the UNC is now the government, the focus will be on Rowley and all of the secret racial tensions and fears will be played upon: a black man in power will mean suffering for Indians; blacks in charge will mean less access to resources, rape, violence; we can’t put back a black Prime Minister. Already the messages are there, subliminally and overtly. And unfortunately, most of our electorate  will make no effort to separate truth from fact and examine issues.

What needs to happen during this campaign year is that the focus must be kept solely on performance and track record. We, the electorate, must rise above the noise and examine the UNC/PPs track record from 2010 to whenever an election date is called; and we must examine the PNM’s track record, specifically Rowley’s achievements and skills, because Manning has been removed from all leadership positions and has stated he won’t be running in the next election.
Compare the track records of the two leaders before us: Keith and Kamla.

Let’s make 2015 about performance, not smear campaigns against personalities.

#DeViceCyahDone!

Banking on Bare Sat

The PM and the PM....

The PM and the PM….

Imagine you playing a high stakes game of politics, winner gets all, and the only card in your hand is Sat Maharaj?

That is pretty much the predicament in which Kamla and her government have found themselves.

Both Labour and Jack Warner have abandoned them: so the popular support and the deep coffers Warner (once) had have both disappeared.

The COP, we all know, is a dead and riderless horse. Its two choices for leadership are Ramadhar and Dookeran. Need I go on?

The numerous other civil society groups that sung Kamla praises and supported her have all but disappeared and several of them now march against her in very public rallies. In short, all of the public good will that Persad-Bissessar had garnered after beating Panday at internal elections has disappeared. Well, except Hazel Brown.

At this point the PP or UNC, whichever name it chooses to go into election 2015 with, is reliant on two groups: the criminal element and die hard UNC supporters.

Even with die-hard supporters Kamla has a hard road to travel. In spite of what the many Facebook UNC walls (all with the same fake profiles of PEA and Allan Karim) attempt to spin and say, even supporters of Kamla have grown fed up of her style of non-governance. Why else would you need to pull out your trump card of Maha Sabha religious leader, on Indian Arrival Day, in a predominantly Indian electoral seat unless…….Sat is your only trump card and things so bad, you need to rally your base?

Trouble in the heartland? Are folks disenchanted with your less than stellar record?

Let me quickly remind you of what Kamla campaigned for in 2010.
1. Good Governance, Transparency and accountability. The country still waiting.

2. An end to wastage of public monies and Squandermania. Have you read the last two Auditor General Reports on the spending of Public Monies? We are $30 billion dollars in debt. Yes. $30b.

3. An end to violent criminal activity and white collar crime. Two words: Dana Seetahal.

4. The right to recall MPs if they are underperforming. Cabinets shuffling and reshuffling and realigning every year, but no talk of the right of recall anymore. I wonder why?

Those are just four items from their very glossy and colorful 7 Pillars of Development. Remember that document?

The PNM votes that Kamla’s PP got in 2010 to sweep her to government have returned home. The marginal voters cussing themselves and avidly searching for reasons to vote in 2015, and this means pressure has to be put on Keith Rowley to show that his game is superior.

This leaves Kamla with her heartland. And that’s what? 15 seats? After winning 29 in 2010?

Then there is the other group. The criminal element. This is the one group we cannot underestimate. Abu Bakr of 1990 coup fame has often alluded to the role his organization, the Jamaat Al Muslimeen, has played in mobilizing votes for political parties.

As reports on the Life Sport Programme have shown, Kamla’s government has gotten very cozy with a group that has criminal shadows over it. As an electorate, we have to ask ourselves how many other groups like this is the UNC govt bankrolling and at what cost.

Today’s Guardian claims the Life Sport Programme is being audited a third time. As a result, payments from the programme are on hold.

If this is the only such programme under this government, expect frustration when “at-risk youth” from “depressed” communities cannot get their monies.

But I sincerely doubt Life Sport is the only programme doling out monies to criminal elements. The very same hand out syndrome Kamla lashed out at and despised in 2010, has become a key feature of her government. So, I expect a reporter to soon find another programme or slush fund in some remote corner of a Ministry that is bank rolling less than savory elements.

Consider now, that Kamla really only has two bases to rely on. And it is only one she can rally and call out to publicly…the party faithful. A group that  nurses great resentment towards the larger community. A group that at every turn is quick to point out that no one likes them because they are Indian, or Hindu or both. That they are oppressed and marginalized and persecuted because of their ethnic and religious identity….as if oppression, marginalization and persecution belongs to any one group here. This is the group Sat Maharaj represents, and this is why showering him with public accolades is important. She has to reassure this group she is still one of them, hasn’t forgotten them and needs them. If Sat were speak out against Kamla, consider what that would do to her chances at the polls next year in her heartland seats?

After running a slick PR campaign in 2010 that pretended to be about issues, Persad-Bissessar has gone back to basics and is going to run a race platform. In reassuring herself of her heartland base Kamla has resorted to reactivating the Race Bogey. We are back in 1961 all over again. Sat Maharaj remains one of the most polarizing and divisive individuals the country has produced. His racist comments are now being described by the PM as free speech. And the PM is yet to apologize for the many instances she has used race baiting and prejudiced comments on the campaign trail during last year’s 4 elections. When calypsonians and satirists practise the same freedom of speech I hope she is just as openminded.

It is now up to us, right thinking citizens, to reject race rhetoric and force the coming political campaigns to be about the glaring issues that are sinking us daily.

We in Full Dotish mode to 2015. It will get tense. It will be sticky.