Firetrucking Nonsense!

kamla and jackI remember the first time I paid attention to “firetruck” in the news papers.

The Express/Guardian/Independent/Express/Guardian columnist BC Pires had used it. It was his euphemistic way of saying fuck in the newspaper. Firetruck, firetrucking and firetrucked!

Almost 20 years later BC Pire’s firetrucked is so apt I can’t even smile.

In our latest Adeventures of Squandermania with Kamla we’ve got a damaged firetruck that cost $6m to wreck.

Yes, you read that correct. A fire tender….and get used to the word tender because it is going to feature regularly today….fell off the side of the road in Blanchisseuse, Trinidad…an area known for its narrow, poor roads. It went down the side of a cliff by a couple hundred metres on November 17th, 2012 and by November 19th had been removed to the tune of $6.8m.

Now let’s add in the rest of the salient details. The Minister of National Security under whose remit the Fire Services fall was then Jack Warner…remember him?

The company that did the lifting and wrecking was Junior Sammy Multilift.

If the name Junior Sammy sounds familiar to you it might be because the company gets contracts to pave roads and highways here all the time…except in Blanchisseuse obviously…or because Junior Sammy was once held for questioning in a murder.

Folks are rightfully upset about the obscene amount of money used to wreck a fire truck….but let me give you the other reasons you should be upset.

This is a contract that cost more than a million dollars. According to our laws any contract over $1m has to be put out to tender. So in short the job to wreck the fire tender had to be tendered for offers. Junior Sammy isn’t the only company in Trinidad that does this kind of wrecking…and the Trinidad Guardian, who broke this story, quoted at least 2 businesses that said the job could have been done for between $25,000 – $50,000.

So ask yourself this…if the truck fell off the side of the road on November 17th….did the government have the opportunity to get 3 quotes in time to do the job on November 19th?

And since we heard the original quotation was for $10m exactly when in that 2-day period did Cabinet meet to review the $10m quote from 1 company and then review the $6.8m quote from the same company? Or was a snap decision made to select a company to do a job and the assurance given that you will do the job and we pay you $10m and get everything approved afterwards?

Are you beginning to see that a job that cost us tax paying folk $6.8m never went through the proper procedure?

To thicken the sauce you have Fire Services submitting a report on November 29th giving the recommendation to not salvage the fire truck, but in fact abandon it and purchasing a new fire truck that would have cost us significantly less than $6.8m.

And despite this recommendation from the Fire Services, Cabinet still came after November 29th and gave the approval for $6.8m to wreck a firetruck.

COP JackSo let me ask some more questions.

Who in the Ministry of National Security took the decision to wreck the fire truck without the initial assessment report from Fire Services?

Who gave the go ahead to wreck and salvage by November 19th?

Was a tender for the job put out for wrecking and salvaging or was one company…Junior Sammy Multilifts….selected for the job?

If a company was selected without a tender process who did that selection and on what grounds?

Did the selector not find the $10m wrecking and salvage fee astronomical? If not, why not?

Why was the recommendation of the Fire Services to not salvage the fire truck ignored by Cabinet when they had to approve payment for the wreck and salvage?

Which Cabinet members were a part of the approval? All? Some? One?

Did the Cabinet members not raise red flags about the tender process, the recommendation by the Fire services and the price?

If this is what we paid to wreck 1 fire truck….what else is going on that we don’t know about?

How many other processes are being abused and ignored while Kamla and her Small Goal  Side keeps wasting our tax dollars?

Ken GordonThe hard part about all of this firetrucking nonsense is anthony carmonathat ideally the Integrity Commission should be investigating this because all the signs point to a breach in public life…but the new President, whose powers we don’t know he has, isn’t using his powers that we know he has to appoint a new Integrity Commission….so we could cuss and rant and rave as much as we want about this firetrucking nonsense…..but not one firetruck will be done because the President’s inaction has immobilised us. We are no longer in a position to even pretend we give a firetruck about the corruption because there isn’t the masquerade of the IC to hide behind.

So now that we have a clear as day story showing that Cabinet members and public servants misbehaved in public life and an entire Cabinet got together to approve the misbehaviour…..what are we going to do?

We Firetrucked and Loving It!firetruck (1)

 

Guest Column: Wayne’s Way, the Highway, and other Take-Aways…

by Christian Hume ( A Pantomime Guest Columnist)
on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 7:51pm ·

Like everybody else, I’ve watched with rapt interest the unfolding saga of Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh’s hunger strike. Like everyone else, I’m not exactly sure what is the reaons behind this hunger strike. You see, when Wayne first started fasting, his stated reason was because Kamla refused to meet him as promised. Then the reason shifted to being because Kamla promised to stop work until certain conditions were met, and now these are the minimum conditions he listed to the Opposition Leader before he would break his fast – “…the announcement of a multi-component technical group with some element of independent professional/technical, input, detailed to review the alternatives….” When the reason for the fast evolves from “meeting the Prime Minister” to “the announcement of a multi-component technical group”, what is the Prime Minister supposed to do??

 

That aside, as a native of the area under the direct orbit of the Debe – Mon Desir stretch, let me make it unequivocally clear to all and sundry that I WANT that stretch. I want if BADLY. The ability to drive to Port-of-Spain without passing on the South Trunk Road will make sense only to those of us who have lived with the increasing burden of traffic along that road. Up to when I left Presentation College in 1996, I could get to school on time for 8:00am if I caught the maxi “Black Diamond” which usually passed my house around 7:15 to 7:20am every morning. Today, if I were DRIVING my own vehicle, I would have to leave home by 6:30am to be SURE of getting to school on time, and this from a point that is just FIFTEEN MINUTES’ drive from San Fernando if there is no traffic on the road. So you can imagine what people from Point Fortin have to go through, being a good 45 minutes’ drive from San Fernando on a clear road. I won’t attempt to describe in detail the woe people from Siparia, Penal, and Fyzabad, because I’m not from those areas – except to say that when they too decide to use the South Trunk road to get to San Fernando – it makes life much more difficult for people like me and the people coming from Point Fortin.

 

I also wish to make it unequivocally clear that while I want the Debe – Mon Desir stretch, I remain resolutely opposed to the secrecy, nepotism, and corruption that seems to be part of the mix right now. Unconfirmed figures are popping up on facebook that seem to suggest that the cost per mile to build that stretch os way above and beyond anything that obtains anywhere else in the world. As a nation, we need to ask ourselves a collective “Why”?? Is it because of the corruption that I just alluded to, is it becase the highway’s propodes path includes taking it THROUGH the Oropouche Lagoon as opposed to AROUND it?? What’s the reason?? If at the end of it all, this issue of cost is not interrogated, we would have missed a major opportunity to continue the process of fighting back against the systemic corruption that has bedeviled all admininstrations of this country and kept us back from being the leading beacon in the WORLD that we can be.

 

In a strange twist of irony, I am personally happy that Mrs. Persad-Bissessar is the Prime Minister who has to deal with the highway in its present stage, and not Mr. Manning or Dr.Rowley. This is yet another opportunity for UNC supporters to interrogate the propensity of their representatives to flip-flop on major issues depending on which side of the Speaker’s face is closer to them in the Parliament Chamber. We recall Panday’s flip-flop on the Carribbean Court of Justice some years ago, having opposed it in Opposition and then going on to continue with it while in Government. Today we are treated with the spectacle of Dr. Kublalsingh, having been utterly consistent in his positions with respect to the Smelter, the TCL matter in Claxton Bay, and the Debe – Mon Desir stretch of highway; going to bed in a political threesome with Kamla and Moonilal on the night of May 24, 2010, only to wake up on the morning of May 25, 2010 to find them both scrambling to shove him off the bed. How long will UNC supporters continue to put up with this level of flip-flopping?? Kamla early in her tenure as PM proclaimed Roodal Moonilal as her heir apparent, but based on the evidence of his stiff-necked flip flop on the Debe – Mon Desir stretch of highway, if Roody is the best the UNC can come up with, then the UNC, and the entire country by extension, is in a pretty deep cesspool. Can we use this Highway impasse as another opportunity to interrogate ourselves as a country and start holding our leaders to a higher standard??

 

As a native of one of the affected areas, I can say with an authority that people who are not from the area cannot possess, that Kublalsingh’s Re-Route is nonsense. However, this matter has long since ceased to be just about the technical details of the “Re-Route”. There are many questions that need to be answered. Why did Kublalsingh reject the findings of the technical review implemented by the government?? Why have the findings of this review not been made available to members of the public?? Why is this stretch of highway being made to pass THROUGH the Oropouche Lagoon instead of around it?? Why does the HRRM not seem to have a problem with the decimation of the very same Oropouche Lagoon to facilitate their proposed re-route through the Mosquito Creek?? Why does this stretch of Highway have to cost so much more than any other highway anywhere in the world?? Why has the process of awarding contracts for this stretch of highway been so shrouded in secrecy?? Why have Roodal Moonilal and Kamla Persad-Bissessar been given a free pass to perform a naked about-turn from opposing the Highway when the PNM was in government, to suddenly insisting on it now that the UNC forms the government?? Why are the views of the residents of Point Fortin, Erin, Cedros, Buenos Aires, Penal, Siparia, Fyzabad, and surrounding areas not being courted as aggresively as people are tuning in to Kublalsingh and the HRRM?? Why are the people who actually want the Highway not being as vocal about their want and need for the Highway??

 

Take it Away!!

 

NOTE:

 

While I was doing this note, the Higway Re-Route Movement issued the following clarification on my wall of the reasons for Dr. Kublalsingh’s hunger strike:

 

 

“…Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh never asked to MEET with the PM. The reason for this is that we HAVE met with her. The aim of the hunger strike, stated many times by Dr. Kublalsingh on several occasions to the press in my presence, was to get the PM to honour her promise to put works on “hold” as she put it until a review was done. You see, in the 2-3 meetings with the PM and/or Ministry of Works/NIDCO since March of this year, the Movement has never seen a Technical report, Cost-Benefit analysis or Hydrological report from the Govt, all of which we requested and never received. We therefore ask “what review was done, and if so, where is it?”..”

I Out On De Road: Section 34 Style!

No, not lemmings, just right thinking Trinbagonians defending their democracy!

 

I’m marching today. And happily so. When I marched weeks ago I was told by people who consider themselves thinkers, humanists and buddhists that to march meant I was Pro PNM…..and even better, marching meant I was a lemming. If Rowley was so against Section 34 why he vote for it. At that point in time no one was willing to listen to the details of the story. That Cabinet had promised to implement certain conditions and further that the early proclamation was a breach of trust.

Today, as more and more details of the section 34 issue has been revealed and more and more people realise the extent of the conspiracy perpetrated against the country all of a sudden marching has become the fashionable thing. The people who wanted to make this about Keith Rowley and the PNM a few weeks ago are going to be out on the street en masse today because that’s how bandwagonists function. They diss an action that they are not in favour of in its early phases and then when they see the direction the wind shifts in all of a sudden their intellect kicks in and they find a plausible reason for joining and become even louder and more vociferous than the original members of a movement. It’s all good, once they pulling their weight. I guess the Lemmings have company today.

But there are people who are still detractors to the march. We’ve seen the government throw up distraction after distraction where Section 34 is concerned. Pre-Budget Rallies, Post-Budget Rallies, random attacks on the media from Jack Warner and Jamal Mohammed, Warner trying to block crime statistics….all in an effort to distract the electorate from the issue of Section 34 and what it means that an entire Cabinet conspired to mislead the Parliament….and now pretending they did nothing wrong.

Last night there was a last ditch effort on the part of UNC apologists. People arguing that the issue has already aired publicly, so let’s move on. Well neither Kamla nor the AG have answered my questions on this matter satisfactorily so I can’t move on. And apparently the launch of TSTT’s 4G that was meant to thin out the protest crowds has been put off as well. So it’s just lemmings in Woodford Square at noon today.

Another argument is that this March today is about causing political destabilisation….uhhh….YES….we don’t trust the Government. No electorate should have to be saddled with a Government it doesn’t trust, and to argue that we must put up with an untrustworthy government for five years is to play smart with foolishness. That’s why it’s called a democracy….we have the right to show our displeasure and I am going to show it.

And Section 34 isn’t the only reason. There are at least a hundred…but let me refresh your memory with a few reason why I will be out on the road.

1. Reshmi

2. Gopaul

3. Mary King

4. Cheryl Miller

5. Nizam Mohammed

6. Dwayne Gibbs

7. Gary Griffith

8. The Crop Duster

9. Raids on TV6, Newsday, Crime Watch and attacks on Asha Javeed and Denyse Renne

10. Chandresh Sharma’s London Taxi fare

11. Shoppin Toppin and Fuad Card!

12. The Soca Warriors $$$$

13. Jack as a Minister, Jack as a member of the National Security Council, Jack as Minister of National Security (this alone is a march in itself)

14. The bungling incompetence of the AG

15. Silk Gate

16. The dismantling of all of our border and coastal surveillance,

17. the deployment of national security helicopters as air taxis for the PM and her friends and family.

18. Vidwattie Newton

19. Janice Thomas/Marcia/Sasha Mohammed

20. The mess that is healthcare

21. The mess that is education

22. Fucking up our energy sector

23. Three massive budgets that have put us into deficit and saddling us with a debt my grandchildren will be paying.

24. Insulting our Caricom Neighbours with the ATM statement

25. Kamla being the most incompetent and ineffective, self absorbed, nepotistic and corrupt leader this Caribbean has ever seen.

 

I could go on for days…but I’ll stop there. See you on the road!

 

De Vice Cyah Done!

 

100 Missteps in 2.5 years by Xavi Silva

I had to share this list with you guys. FB blogger Xavi Silva tagged me in this post and I thought maybe you’d want to take a read and add whatever you think is missing:

2 1/2 years 100 bad decisions here is our government:

1) Reshmi
2) Sasha
3) Jack multiple FIFA bribery scandals(Bin Hamman, TTFF, Haiti)
4) Vasant Cayanne
5) Farmers without crops
6) A RedBull Flugtag Plane for 900k to replace a blimp sold for 50k how? What? Why?
7) Diversification what how where?
8) SOE
9) Assassination Plot
10) NP friends and family contract
11) Anand proposing to monitor social media and emails
12) Raiding media houses for sources
13) Verna locking up Cheryl Miller
14) Seizing guns/drugs locking up nobody and saying we on top of crime!
15) Frequent flyer trips with no solid results
16) 20% voter turnout in local elections called a success!
17) 0% Economic growth for 3 years!
18) Jack the unlimited bank account!
19) Dismissing the Transparency International Corruption Report
20) Vetoing the head of the Financial Intelligence Unit(FIU)
21) 2.5 million for 3 farmers to cut the Airport grass(I in the wrong field who have a whacker?)
22) Anand and Kamla say SILK wrong but still wearing them own.
23) Gift wrapping oil for India
24) Alutrint board appointed something smelting bad.
25) How come race talk so prevalent now? It was ever so?
26) Paid bloggers sound off how the Blackberry wokking?
27) What going on with the probe on Ish, Steve and Jack AG? We ever hearing that again?
28) Wait Verna doin the Back Peddle dance and welcoming back Ms. Miller but I thought she commit her?
29) so 48 million barrels is the answer to we economic problems? Well Barbados 2.5 billion find will make them richer than Apple Corp then!
30) Why Anand eh lock up Caulder Hart yet? That is a nex probe up somebody eh hem!
31) Protests by TCL and Unions watch out for a SOE jus now
32) Sunway! Whichway? Caulder Hart Way $300 million quarrying contract thanks Kamla we always knew your “Hart” was good.
33) Ag Superintendent Bisnath Maharaj is the new SSA director that name sounding familiar hmmm.
34) Omar Khan resign cause he unqualified! Why this sounding familiar?
35) “I hired my sister with taxpayer dollars that’s good family values” say it frequently an wine!
36) Before elections: “I will never move into the PM’s residence” After elections: “Put the elevator from the HDC building in my bedroom”
38) Aye! How I could forget Sat! Anybody know if he still seeing pantylines? He still like black people?
39) COP members say they fed up of the poor governance an they not settling so! COP have a backbone then?
40) Somebody pay me TT$1.5 million to paint a small building nah gosh boy look how much people getting handouts.
41) Oil Sands/Highway Re-Route
42) All files on Jack, Ish an Steve stolen from the SIA
43) Giving India a stake hold in Petrotrin
44) Hiring workers from China to pick coconuts
45) New CONCACAF president slams Warner for financial impropriety
46) Dwayne Gibbs find no evidence against Warner so the DPP can’t prosecute that’s a shocker…
47) Reducing NIS pensioners to $1,000 per month and less in some cases.
48) The purposeful allowing of taxpayer dollars going to waste from assets e.g. The Brian Lara stadium and the 4 water taxi’s simply because it was a PNM one.
49) Jack National Security? How?
50) Why no consultation on the SEA curriculum change?

51) Jack has no authority to command the armed forces and police
52) Why were environmentalists consulted on the destruction of the turtles nest?
53) Why is the gov’t considering a Tar Sands Mine?
54) New Central Bank Governor was on India trip too hmmm guess he real “independent”
55) Property Tax on or off on or off?
56) T&T Embassy, Washington, DC
Veterinarian, turned diplomat, Dr. Neil Parsan, nephew of Local Government Minister Chandresh Sharma, has been using millions of dollars of taxpayers money to transform the Trinidad and Tobago Embassy in Washington to capture a piece of the “sunlit Caribbean.”
57) How much to renovate the US embassy here again??
58) Bobol at NLCB
59) Bobol at EMA Staff quitting and workers wearing red to protest!
60) New Traffic plan destroying business in St. James.
61) Four members of the Estate Management Business Development Company Ltd (EMBD) resigned from the board after raising concerns over transactions involving senior company officials.
62) Mt. Hope storing cancer patients tissue in water containers.
63) Why did Jack influence the firing of the COP and deputy COP?
64) How come exactly 50 to be released for our 50th Independence? 50 no more no less!
65) Flags that not really flags just modified 90 degrees.
66) Gov’t official under FIU probe ah wonder who hmmmm,
67) Sect. 34 sounds like a horror movie only worse.
68) The National Security helicopters is the new shopping car.
69) Shaq get $10 million to help crime go up!
70) Machel make more money that the T&T economy thanks Kamla!
71) Keshorngate everybody get even if yuh finish second to last. Oh wait Nijsane eh get nuttin.
72) Partap drunk nuff said…
73) Financial Action Task Force (FATF) reports suspicious activity in the amount of $500 million from Jan to Jun 2012
74) But wait crime back up I thought the SOE fix that? Where Steven Williams two crime plans? And Jack phantom one?
75) 21 workers responsible for the regularization of 4,500 cane farmers fired Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj denied such claimed. Unions have letters for all 21.
76) Wait we still giving out laptops to schools when the one laptop per child experiment proved no marked increase in test scores?
77) I feel iPads for all MP’s will fix all the nation problems.
78) Why the discrepancies in the auditor general report? http://www.auditorgeneral.gov.tt/documentlibrary/downloads/9/Vol%20%204%20-%20AG%20REPORT%202011.pdf
79) Jack new crime plan to outline how people dress…
80) How did we achieve developed country status in a negative economy again?
81) AUSTERITY MEASURES!
82) 50 criminals to be released coinciding with 50th Anniversary Independence.
83) Hubert Volney became the fall guy for Anand Ramlogan.
84) Pre-Budget Rally!
85) Post Budget Rally!
86) Attiba Phillips pay $1,335. to a taxi from his home to Mid Centre Mall in Chaguanas sample eh it have plenty more.
87) No drill in a major hospital that is all.
88) Jack Warner begins another job program in place of proper economic development ala color me orange, hoop of life.
89) The DPP states that that Section 34 “cannot stand on its own without absurdity” http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Breaking-News—Gaspard-Breaks-Silence-169487316.html
90) The AG, PM continue the rash of lawsuits in place of debating with the AG proudly compiling a list of those he has sued.
91) $1.3 billion requested for arbitration with BAE for the OPV’s
92) Reshmi! No wait Reshmi mommy and Anand Ramlogan creating a position of Clerk IV that does not exist.
93) The new tool to attack the opposition is race! Everybody saying they was racially discriminated even Jack say Rowley racial cause he focusing on Anand but Anand doing poor I think.
94) The Minister of Communications show his inferiority complex on paper writing claiming bias against reporters and finally the head of an independent news agency and oh yeah using racial slurs in referring to himself as a “Muslim Coolie”
95) The ink on the 2012/2013 budget still wet and the Ministry of Works done want to borrow $2.7 billion! Who say massive debt and IMF?!
96) Massive hirings an firings at our embassies overseas that bound to happen less attention http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/_I_will_take_you_to_the_PM_-176132371.html
97) Paid bloggers being recruited the usual suspects all there slithering around.
98) The same NAMDEVCO that giving Reshmi mommy a fake position fire the whole board real bachannal Among them are irregular hiring practices that have landed five board members before the Integrity Commission.
99) How come people so silent about how FIFA stop funding Trinidad & Tobago? Must be how Jack Warner still interfering in FIFA business when that was the condition of his being fired/resigning(same difference) that he dont interfer?!! http://www.wired868.com/2012/10/06/warners-controversial-letter-to-sport-minister-anil-roberts/
100) After all the Section 34 bachannal Anand still ent remove serious fraud from the statute of limitations look at that.

Rowbama vs Kamnesia

The crowd at PNM Convention 2012

It’s the Battle of the Re-Brands folks, and Keith Rowley is ready to rumble.

In 2010 we saw a rejuvenated UNC re-brand itself after getting rid of Basdeo Panday. A lot of money, effort and Ernie Ross went into making over Kamla. On the campaign trail she was constantly surrounded by foreign security guards. Her normal attire was a yellow sweater twin-set and black pencil skirt, with perfectly coiffed hair. An accent, not bought from Honda, became readily apparent and we became the NAY SHUN. Persad-Bissessar, desperate to prove to us that she was a breath of fresh air, the chayyyynge that was blowing through the nayyyshun would lip sync Bryan Adams and Celine Dion for us: A New day was coming and Everything she was doing, she was doing for us. Her supporters were ecstatic over the re-branding. They were happy for the new image, and for the opportunity to prove to the rest of the country that the Panday era was behind them.

Tonight the PNM’s Keith Rowley reinforced Jamal Mohammed’s fears of a re-branded PNM by unveiling just that. This is my first PNM Convention ever, I have no idea what normally takes place. But the presentation of the Political Leader this afternoon was an interesting concoction of fanfare and substance. The PNM, a party that I have often considered to be stuck in the Jurassic era used a lot of multimedia this afternoon, and I was happy to see that. There were two documentaries: one on Section 34 and another on Rowley the Man.

Section 34 gave us a synopsis of the Constitutional crisis facing the country complete with man-on-the-street and informed talking heads (Faris Al Sexy and Justin Jwoww Phelps). the documentary on The Keith sought to show Rowley in a new light. Not the aggressive parliamentarian that earned him the name of rottweiller, but the man that Tobagonians see. Last week after returning from the Tobago meeting I commented to a few friends that the Rowley seen in Tobago and the one seen in Trinidad are two different beasts. Tobago is where he relaxes, stands up and limes with a crowd of people after a meeting and smiles and jokes.

Today the gathering at the QPS Grand Stand got to see some of that as the documentary showed Keith in his Mason Hall home, looking very much the gentleman farmer on land inherited from his grandfather, surrounded by other Tobagonians, family members and with a cameo from the Anglican archbishop. You saw Rowley as husband, father and neighbour.

The Keith takes the stage at sunset

Then there was the short video introduction to his speech that showed Franklyn Khan calling The Keith on his Blackberry. The Keith getting ready, and poking fun at himself several times pretending to comb his hair and even pausing on his was to the Savannah to pet a vicious looking dog. Who knew the man had a sense of humour? Then he and wife Sharon emerged on stage, and you don’t have to like Rowley to admit that he and his wife are a very handsome couple.

Then came the speech. And what it was, was a well crafted manifesto. It is the second time in a month that The Keith has presented an energy and debt servicing policy as a counterpoint to the abysmal budget Larry Howai delivered on October 1st. And when you consider the Ministry of Works asking for $2.7b since the Budget was read, and today’s announcement that the AG needs $1.3b to pay for the OPV arbitration; Keith’s policies and plans re the country’s finances begin to look far more attractive than the mismanagement and misstepping that Kamla and her small goal side have given us.

Between Independence Day to the present the Opposition Leader has used every opportunity at his disposal to present himself as Prime Ministerial; to show that he has the intelligence and leadership skills necessary to, as he said today, put the country back on track. And it doesn’t help the UNCs cause that at every turn they are doing absolute crap and Kamla….the epitome of female leadership remains the mum mother and grandmother.

Indeed,  the Prime Minister is probably hoping that Ernie Ross can give the country a dose of Kamnesia and make us forget the non-stop missteps of the last 2.5 years. In this upcoming week, when a massive protest is planned expect more wild statements from her ministers, especially Ministers who until now have been quiet. Expect all manner of distraction. And expect Rowley’s new look and his manifesto to be bashed even though the PPG has nothing by way of actual policy in the entire term to date that can compare. In fact, Rowley seems to be doing the Government’s homework time and again.

But new image a side, there was another aspect to today’s convention that was more satisfying to me and it is an area that I would like to see The Keith and his executive address. I had the pleasure and honour today of meeting Rick Rampersad and it was all accidental. I’d gone into the media room to charge my phone and ipad when a colleague brought in a young man to do an interview. The gentleman was from the West Orupouche seat (same one as Stacy Ramnarine). What started as an interview between him and the reporter quickly became a conversation between him and several people. Rick Rampersad talked about Indians in politics, particularly Hindus in politics in a way that isn’t discussed on the campaign trail. It was frank, respectful and refreshing. Not just the party’s voter base, but the entire country needs to be hearing more voices like Rick Rampersad’s. the face of the PNM is too often seen to be Black and Christian. It never looks as all inclusive as it claims to be and voices such as Rampersad’s and a host of others NEED to come to the fore.

As I write the COP is having it’s internal elections and no doubt the UNC is ensuring that it gets as many of its people into the party’s key positions that way Kamla can continue to call the shots. Once Kamla can call the shots she assures herself several things: no COP walking out before the next elections; and no COP to split votes then either.

This weekend the PNM showed that it can and will evolve in order to survive. It’s leader has shown that apart from being bright and incisively intelligent he is also  flexible enough shake up his own image. THA elections are around the corner. Time to see if the UNC has more to offer the electorate than really bad PR and an empty treasury.

De Vice Cyah Done!

Get in Whose Section?

 

This morning I know most of us are coming to terms with the details of the Budget for 2012/2013. We are trying to figure out how exactly this was a budget that targets the rich when both middle and lower income persons will face the brunt of the reduced fuel subsidy and all its fall out in the areas of increased taxi fares and prices for anything that requires fuel. The business community here has never impressed the population with scruples; so, I imagine plenty belly banding start already. And then there is the illusion of lower food prices because of VAT removal. As of the time of writing the government is yet to release this list of 7000 new items that are now non-Vatable. I do know that she listed Ovaltine and Milo as some of the new items that are zero-rated, when in truth and fact Ovaltine and Milo were zero-rated under the previous regime…but she was advised!

But my focus this morning is still the Pre-Budget Rally, not for its uselessness and vulgar display of a government addicted to its own PR. Rather for the implications of the Prime Minister’s speech.

Our politics has always been riddled with ethnic tension. Political scientist Kirk Meighoo notes that “Indian-Negro tensions manifested themselves as early as Jamuary 1961…” as a result of PNM supporters breaking up DLP meetings. The DLP complained that they were not receiving adequate protection by the “Negro-dominated police”. Meighoo goes on to say that the elections of 1961 “have been considered the most tense in the country’s history, with race seeming to dominate the campaigns.” Fed up of PNM attacks on his meetings, DLP leader Rudranath Capildeo lost his temper at a meeting one evening and called on his supporters to take action. He said to them, “You will be called to arms. Wherever the PNM holds a meeting you will have to break it up.” And violence did break out during that election, causing limited States of Emergency in political seats like St. Augustine, Barataria, Caroni East and Chaguanas.

Flash forward to the present. On Saturday Mrs Persad-Bissessar made several statements that caused me some alarm. She advised the crowd to, “get in yuh section”, “an election is coming”, “we know who the enemy is”. Sections? Enemies? If this was a pre-Budget rally, why was it sounding like an election campaign? Why was the Prime Minister, at a meeting she claims the people called for, making comments that indicated it was “We versus Them”? In a country of Trinbagonians, who precisely are the “enemies” that the PM is speaking of? And why such divisive and attacking language? The election she referred to was the THA election. And the mood of the crowd at the time of her speech was drunkenly aggressive. I was standing in the midst of it looking on and wondering what madness was being incited at the Mid-Centre Mall car park. In a country where people’s tempers are stretched thin by any number of daily issues, the Prime Minister was being extremely imprudent.

Prior to the PM’s speech there were many subtle and overt comments to attack the PNM, at what was billed as a pre-Budget Rally. The fiercest attacks came from Ramlogan, Roberts and Moonilal. Their speeches were delivered early in the event, so by the end of the first 45 minutes of an event to announce the Budget, the predominantly UNC crowd was whipped into an anti-PNM frenzy. It was in stark contrast to their rallies of 2010. At those rallies then Opposition Leader Persad-Bissessar had stated to all her her audiences that she was running a clean campaign. There would be no slurring or mudslinging on her platform. She insisted that she was running a campaign focused on sober discussion of issues. The façade of being a principled coalition fell on Saturday.

The woman who is brought onstage to Celine Dion songs, dressed very femininely in demure and muted shades of yellow; the woman who routinely reminds us that her decision-making is informed by her status as both a mother and a grandmother revealed her claws. And she can scratch. At the helm of a party and government responsible for a multi-ethnic population phrases like “get in yuh section” and “we know who the enemy is” sound an alarum.

This in the wake of Warner openly casting aspersions on Asha Javeed, and we start seeing a trend with this government: attack the media, treat citizens of the country that are not Pro-UNC as the enemy and use both subtle and overt references to race and ethnicity as the determining factor.

We already have a situation whereby instead of promoting people who have genuinely achieved, regardless of their ethnicity, this government has been hellbent on reinventing political, social and cultural history to suit itself. Roodal Moonilal, introduced by Anil Roberts, as a man with more degrees than Rowley, announced to the crowd that Adrian Cola Rienzi founded the OWTU. He didn’t. He was the first sitting President of the union because Butler had to go into hiding from the authorities. But he can’t be called the union’s founder. But this is the kind of politics to be expected from this regime. Twisted, menacing and corrupt.

Three months away from THA elections, I still looking for a section. Please advise, Madam PM?

 

Compare and Contrast : A Rally Go Round!

Budget Matikor programme. Photo E. Pantomime

I from Central….Couva North. Basdeo Panday Country. I from a constituency where if Panday sneeze, 15, 000 does show up to hand him a handkerchief and ask, “Yuh alright, Boss?” Is so Couva North stop. We did real like Panday. So when after 3pm on a Saturday evening in the heart of Chaguanas I could breeze down the highway and find a park and stroll into Mid Centre Mall Carpark for a  Budget Maticor know is water more than flour and like they aint put enough dhal in the loya!

Crowd and Venue

The thickest the crowd ever got. Photos by E. Pantomime

The edges of the crowd and how the rest of the carpark looked.

The other side of the stage. That camera rig isn’t cheap to rent.

Crowd size I know is important to a lot of people who currently observing the political situation because it will help to tell us where the electorate’s head is at…so let me begin by describing yesterday’s lay out. The UNC used the part of the Mid Centre Carpark that is at the back of the mall and Hi Lo. The main stage for the MPs was at the eastern exit, the stage for performers was behind Marios. It was two massive dome stages, the kind HD normally uses for Machel Monday. Two of those in the Mid-Center Car Park takes up a lot of room. Couple those two stages with another smaller stage for their control crew and media cameras; and two more small stages for camera men and equipment and you are beginning to get an idea of how contained the space was for the event. Then along the fence area were food stalls and then on the end that is normally the main entrance to that car park where the security booth is were the portable toilets. My point is, that you can’t think of the entire eastern car-park as free and open because there were a lot of things crammed into the space…..the only thing not crammed in was people. Even with all of those stages, stalls and booths in there the space could have held a crowd of 20,000 and that would have made it difficult to move. Movement yesterday was never difficult. Only in front of the actually stage was the crowd thick…but not so thick that you couldn’t walk through and make your way to the front and take pictures. There were TOP supporters, brown band maxi taxis from the south heartland, Collin Partap had a flag crew there, as did the AG, and Ramona Ramdial. The bussed in CEPEP crews were pretty obvious.

Giveaways for the crowd…

When you consider the size of the mandate this government holds; when you consider the size of its support base; the resources it put out yesterday and all week long you get confused. Kamla announced since last Sunday that she holding a Pre-Budget Rally. There were countless radio ads for an entire week. Across FB you had Ministers using their walls to rally people, Surujrattan Rambachan and Anand Ramlogan’s walls were the ones I noted. Even COP councillors got in on the action promoting Budget Matikor. I expected to see the crowds Warner boasted about. 30-40,000. At a generous guess I’d say the crowd was about 13,000 at its peak.  And in all likelihood it was less than that. Later on that evening when i went to Price Plaza just a stone’s throw away from Mid Centre, that mall’s carpark and business places had more people going about their month-end business than Budget Matikor. Not even the neighbours on my street, who can easily be described as UNC Die Hards bothered to attend the rally.

Now this can be interpreted in multiple ways: the have complete faith in their government, or they have become disenchanted…..make of that what you will.

Where for me things got exciting is as usual the dynamics on the stage and the content of the speeches.

IT was pure UNC attack mode with Kamla warning about a gathering storm, saying the lines are drawn and telling the crowd they know who the enemy is. She reminded me of Capildeo asking the DLP to attack the PNM in the 1961 elections. We going good in this place!

You had Suruj Rambachan further extending the dependency syndrome that the UNC deplored 2 years ago by announcing 6000 jobs in short term programmes coming up. This seems to be their way of shoring up votes for THA and Local Government Elections. So if you thought the 10 Days Mania was something specific to PNM or Afro-creole people….think again. UNC pushing the 10-Days mentality hard….change? No, EXCHANGE!

Marlene Coudray got dragged up onto the stage too. And it was a painful thing to see. Coudray’s speech delivery was heart rending. There was no pep, no heart, no belief in her hype even. She seemed to be a woman still deep in mourning. And to have dragged a woman who has recently lost a child in such a way out this weekend to simply say to the crowd that Gender will be bringing new programmes onstream shows you just how insensitive and manic this government has become. The PM could have made that announcement herself and left Coudray to mourn in dignity. But this is a Government that will send 5 men to sit on television and gossip like vicious, bitter women about Rowley’s parking habits, and to attack Asha Javeed.

The AG was brought on to bark and growl….and Anand has effectively become the UNC’s version of a rottweiller. He yelled at the crowd that he not moving, not leaving. Said again and again that Rowley was a liar….but never once did he actually touch Section 34, the time line and his role in piloting the Bill. He went on to list all of the people he will be taking out lawsuits against….and I am still waiting to find out if we have benefitted from any of his lawsuits to date? Any? Has anyone been charged? Made to serve jail time?

Moonilal, announced as a man with more degrees as Rowley, then came on stage to prove just how dunce he really is. Within mere minutes of coming onstage Moonilal went on to state that Rowley got no signatures on his petition and handed the ag President a bag of paper. I was willing to forgive that lie on the basis og politicking….then Moonilal decided to play the ass with national history….a feature with this government. A people so insecure about their position and heritage here that they have to lie and re-invent history. Moonilal told the audience that Adrian Cola Rienzi founded the OWTU….not quite Mooni. Cola was its first sitting president when Butler had to go into hiding to avoid arrest. Butler still is and will always be the founder of that Union. But you see, when you don’t know, and you drunk in a fete, you will listen and applaud anything without questioning it. And that’s the kind of voter base this party is encouraging. Change? EXCHANGE!

After Moonilal we had speeches from Ramadhar, who spent time talking about Section 34 and its fallout in code and then exhaling with relief and sitting down after warning us to not repeat 1990. Too late Prakash…and your speeches at these rallies don’t actually constitute new politics. You have failed. Go to the back of the class.

In the wake of Ramadhar we had three asses follow: Ahsworth, NJAC and Warner. Their specific purpose was to recite Psalms 23, remind the audience that no murders had taken place in Morvant/Laventille for 20 days  (until last night) and that better days are coming. Tedium and boredom.

Then came DJ Larry Howai, the person I had shown up to hear…..not the conch shells and the free vuvuzelas that were handed out. And Howai’s comments were mundane at best: improved healthcare, education, lower food prices, make groceries more affordable and help people have more money to spend in groceries. No details on how these things are going to be improved or whether money spent on these areas last year were well spent. After Howai’s speech I am convinced that the thrust of Monday’s Budget will be to distract the population with focussing on decreased food prices by November 15th, and there may well be a couple stings in its tail. So look out for what may happen to gas subsidies, utility rates and the property tax.

The highlight of the evening was the PMs announcement of No Vat on food items….and my brain went fuzzy for a minute because under the PNM  between 2002 – 2007 VAT was removed from many food items. The list goes:

CONSUMER ITEMS THAT CARRY NO VAT • unprocessed food of a kind used for human consumption; • rice; • flour; • milk in any form, including processed and tinned milk; • margarine; • bread; • baby formulas and baby milk substitutes. • cheese and curd; • corned beef; • curry; • fresh butter; • peanut butter; • table salt; • salted butter; • tinned sardines; • smoked herring; • toilet paper; • yeast; • baking powder; • pasta, whether or not cooked or stuffed (with meat or other substances) or otherwise prepared, such as spaghetti, macaroni, noodles, lasagna, gnocchi, ravioli and cannelloni; • cane sugar; • cocoa powder, whether or not containing added sugar or other sweetening matter; • coffee; • mauby; • orange juice; • Herring; • Tuna; • Mackerel; • Ghee; • soya-bean oil; •) maize (corn) oil and its fractions; • sesame oil and its fractions; • chicken sausage, canned; • salami sausages; • icing sugar; • preparations of malt extract; • corn flakes; • biscuits, unsweetened; • grapefruit juice; • vanilla essence; • soy sauce; • tomato ketchup; • prepared mustard; • mineral water; • ordinary natural water; • aerated beverages; • orange drink; • grapefruit drink; and • vinegar

So then on what items is Persad-Bissessar’s government removing VAT on?

Her most desperate attempt at attacking Rowley last night was in the form of a cheque that was signed by Duprey to the PNM for party financing. The link that our Silkened PM fails to make with her cheque revelation is this….Rowley links the cheque on May 18th from Steve Ferguson to Section 34….can the PM show how the PNM when in Government colluded to free criminals? Change? This Section 34 issue is even worse than Exchange!

In summation Budget Matikor was a real let down. The familiar refrain of Blame the PNM, and anything but the PNM, and Make Sure and Don’t Vote Back the PNM was the message of the day. This wasn’t about the Budget…it’s not about food prices. It was entirely about attacking the PNM, pandering to their voter base and trying to distract from the crime of Section 34, the declining economy and the sting that is coming in this Budget’s tail. Oh, and it was about attacking the PNM, just in case you missed it in all the previous speeches!

At the end of the day what the PM and her Cabinet assured us of yesterday is that she is no longer listening to the people, she’s too busy drinking her Kool Aid mixed with Vodka!

De Vice Cyah Done