The Victim Blame Game

Yet another view on this entire victim shaming incident.

Square Peg (Round Hole)

Let’s play a game.

This is going to end well. [Image:] This is going to end well.
[Image:] Imagine you have a car. Not just any car, but a really nice, new one. Make and model of your choice, fresh custom paint job. You drive your gorgeous car to a fancy restaurant, opt for valet parking and have a delicious dinner.

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Barry and the Bull

Say What Barry

Roughly a week ago there was a shitstorm taking place on social media. On Saturday, October 10th, the MP for Princes Town, Barry Padarath, gave his maiden presentation. Padarath’s fiery debut was quickly followed by Darryl Smith, also a first time MP giving his maiden contribution. Smith used his opening remarks, and intervals in his speech, to poke fun at Padarath’s effeminate mannerisms which left a sour taste in the mouths of many viewing the 2016 Budget Debate.

That same day, during and after Padarath’s speech, a Facebook profile belonging to the Finance Minister made comments that also poked fun at Padarath’s effeminate manner. The Trini penchant for double entendre kicked into overdrive, and the word bull – used as a sexual reference in the patois, and also used to describe homosexual intercourse in the pejorative – was enjoying the limelight for a few hours. Minister Imbert would, that same evening, distance himself from the comments. He insisted that he had been hacked and that whoever was in control of his profile then was responsible for the comments. By Sunday October 11th what Smith and the person controlling Imbert’s profile thought was picong became a serious issue with members of the public shouting at each other over social media and talk radio about gay rights, gender equity and bullying.

The LGBT community was immediately up in arms and defending Padarath. And rightly so. There are multiple ways to exhibit manliness and to be a man, just as there are different forms of femininity and womanhood. Padarath’s way of expressing masculinity may not be mainstream in a society that is very chauvinistic, but his mannerisms don’t make him any less of a human being or deserving of respect. Just like being black, assertive, straightforward and male shouldn’t make any person fair game for names like raging bull, rottweiller, wajang, rapist and pedophile. But it seems, certainly given the responses of some members of the LGBT community, that some versions of masculinity are more deserving of defending than others. Which is unfortunate.

To date Smith has apologised for his comments and to the LGBT community. PM Rowley held a Cabinet meeting to bring his MPs and Ministers to order. Imbert, well, remains Imbert. And political correctness is whipping picong into submission.

The uproar this week over the bullying of Barry showed that there is a growing awareness of sensitivity to gender and orientation issues. There was much needed discussion. But something got lost in all the talk of princesses and bull, and that was Padarath’s abuse of his influence and privilege as a member of Parliament which resulted in him bullying us.

Saturday October 10th was day 2 of the Opposition’s response to the Budget. The role of every MP in the Lower House is two-fold: represent the interests of your constituents, and assist with shaping legislation by contributing to the debate. In Padarath’s 55 minutes, where did he fulfil any of this? List one concrete suggestion he made for the looming economic crisis? List one plan he detailed for his constituents? These are serious questions. Barry isn’t in Parliament to serve as an LGBT poster boy. I have no clue what his orientation is, nor do I need to know. What I am clear on is that he is there to represent the residents of Princes Town. All of them. And his debate contribution thus far, fell woefully short of doing any of that. If he did want to be the LGBT poster boy though, surely flawless execution of his role and duties as a member of Parliament would only help that community?

Padarath’s presentation was filled with equal measures of sound and fury. He delivered half-baked lessons on Sanskrit, syllables and religious salutations. He repeatedly threw down the gauntlet at the Cabinet, with special attention to Ministers Deyalsingh and Imbert. He joked about Imbert’s height and Deyalsingh’s pronunciation of his name. Taunted the government with his own sexual innuendoes about looking forward to a good pounding from their bench, and regularly trumpeted that Kamla was his queen. In a democracy (I have no words). I sat through Padarath’s speech waiting for him to actually and actively address the Budget by way of the figures and allocations. Something the Opposition is yet to seriously do. He announced that he was the shadow minister for culture during his tirade. I waited for his recommendations and suggestions for Culture and Community Development. There were none.

It was fifty five minutes of a maiden speech that was both taunting and haranguing. A week later the country is still focused on Barry being bullied; but there is little discussion of how Barry dropped the ball. Apart from bombast, his presentation featured fluent inaccuracies that would have made it into the Hansard. Was that laziness on his part, or an abuse of his privilege as a Parliamentarian. Will Padarath now hide behind the protection the LGBT community has afforded him by waving the bully card when challenged in Parliament and continue to deliver half baked, boastful, substance-less contributions? Much the same way Kamla waved the gender card to explain away her weakness and mismanagement as a leader? Is he going to give his constituents a six for a nine for the next five years? Or will Barry surprise us all and cut through the bull?

Perjoratives and slurs aren’t the only types of insults that can be wielded in the House of Representatives. Sloppy under prepared debate presentations go a long way in generating disgust too. I want to believe that both Government and Opposition will step their game up and fulfil their real roles as MPs. Otherwise we can simply hire 41 circus clowns and get on with the entertainment.


Pimping the Pooja

The notice for Hanooman Pooja in Trinidad Express, June 1st, 2015, p 17

The notice for Hanooman Pooja in Trinidad Express, June 1st, 2015, p 17

In the last 5 years Indian Arrival Day (not Arrival Day) has become the official holiday for Sat Maharaj to mouth off, with open encouragement from the Prime Minister, and make offensive comments to the rest of the national community while acting as if only Indians of Hindu descent arrived here, ever.

In light of this auspicious holiday, Sat’s comments this weekend, and an advert making the social media rounds, I feel compelled to write this piece.

The Pooja should not be pimped out for the purpose of politics. Not even by religious sects that think themselves the voice of orthodoxy.

In fact, no religion should be pimped out for the purpose of politics. Religion should at all times and in all instances remain a personal and private thing that you never wave in anyone’s face: unless they ask nicely.

Unfortunately, this government and its supporters are desperate. So desperate that they have shifted from the quiet campaigning which we all know happens in religious houses and have made it an open and national thing.So desperate, that all pretence at inclusiveness and ethnic harmony are out the door.

So come June 2nd, Hanooman pooja is going to be pimped out to help Kamla regain office. I didn’t say it, the pg 17 ad in the Trinidad Express did. Its purpose is to protect Kamla. From what, it didn’t say. Maybe tins of peas? Fake assassination plots? Hyper/Hypo/Hyppa glycemia?

And frankly, to use a religious ritual in this way is disgusting. But no less disgusting than the disdain and contempt with which this government has treated the nation in the last five years with the constant missteps, coupled with the abuse of the Treasury and Constitution. Now, we have the flagrant use of religion in the political gayelle; with Ministers of State no less, endorsing and hosting said poojas.

The implied meanings are clear. This is a government for Hindu citizens. Temples that are openly promoting such poojas are also implying that their devotees operate with a hive mind. And their altars and congregations are politically aligned. Try and imagine any of the Churches here holding novenas, prayer services and mass for Dr Rowley’s victory at the next elections? And having the temerity to advertise such openly? Imagine the uproar?
Have we forgotten our disgust at the Guanapo Church?
Have we gotten over the insult of Kamla handing over million to churches at Christmas time despite declining oil prices and massive deficit budgets?

Does the separation of Church and State mean anything at any level?

The dynamic duo: Sat Maharaj and Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

The dynamic duo: Sat Maharaj and Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

It is unfortunate that these are the messages that Kamla and her Small Goal Side continue to send out. They have had numerous opportunities to help Trinidad and Tobago move beyond polarised, race-fuelled politics; but each time they have been contented to play the race card and pander to their base. This weekend, Sat Maharaj, in front of a rapt audience, called for the capital to be moved from Port of Spain. Of course, Port of Spain is seen as as an urban space. In Trinidad urban space is code for black. In Sat’s world, black is code for…well it isn’t code anymore. In his world black is a bad thing. And power, any kind of power, even administrative power, sitting in any other hands but his own is problematic. One of his arguments, hopelessly flawed, is that Port of Spain has no temples or mosques.

The flaws reside on two levels. Temples and mosques are built where there is a membership. The centre of Port of Spain does not have a significant Hindu population. So no temples were built there. It makes perfect sense. However, there are mosques in the heart of the city, contrary to his claim; because Port of Spain has long been home to a thriving Black Muslim community. But Sat does not acknowledge Black Muslims. Queen Street, close to Piccadilly, if I am not mistaken, is where the mosque is located. The outlying areas of Port of Spain, the town of St James, have mosques and temples. Yet the faithful and the myopic lap this bullshit up. Much the same way they could be seen arguing on Facebook over the weekend for the word “Indian” to be a part of the holiday name. Totally ignoring how exclusive and polarising re-naming a holiday “Indian Arrival Day” can be when you have Chinese and Portuguese who were migrant labourers as well.

The truly sad part of all of this is this holiday, like many other ethno-specific holidays, could have been used to teach the population more about the various groups here. Not just about where they came from, but about what has been achieved and done here. We know so little about ourselves. Instead, the holiday is now used to re-write history inaccurately, pretend that Enslavement and Indenture are one and the same thing; and drive a wedge between Trinbagonians.

In all of this, I hope the pimps are handsomely rewarded. It would be a shame to be on the losing end twice.


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!

The Cult of the COP



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.