Unity, change and exchange

By Raffique Shah
July 05, 2009

Trinidad and Tobago News Blog

PM Patrick ManningALTHOUGH I can’t afford the luxury of frequent travel abroad that some people do, I understand why they opt to spend time in other countries. It’s not that they don’t love their country, whatever its shortcomings. But they seek escape from the crime wave, look for respite from a runaway government that believes its mandate is to disrespect and disregard lesser mortals, especially those who voted it into power. Most of all, though, I suspect they wish to drown out the cacophony that assaults us from every direction, the ubiquitous call for “all those who oppose the wicked PNM Government to unite to remove Mr Manning from power.”

Not being actively involved in politics as defined in the Trinidad (one must belong to a party or vote in elections), I have grown more wary of the “country criers” who are out of power than of the arrogant and ignorant few who wield real power in this country.

The Prime Minister can translate his words and deeds any which way he wants, truth is he displays absolute disregard for voices of discontent, and even more galling, voices of reason. We are lucky that the latter breed has refused to retreat into extinction the way some of our flora and fauna have.

The resilience of those a generation ahead of mine-John Spence, Julian Kenny, Reginald Dumas, to name a few-assures me that we shall never surrender our independence, our commitment to country, with a whimper.

No “sawdust Caesar” will ever dim the fire of Dessalines that burns deep within our souls. We shall speak out, write with the fearlessness the way my colleague Kevin Baldeosingh does, whatever the consequences. But even as we expose the arrogance that goes with power, the contempt with which our leaders treat their respective constituencies, we also have a nose for smelling bullshit from the proverbial mile.

When disparate elements in the society call on us to unite to remove the PNM from power, many of us are smart enough to ask, well, why? What defines this “unity” about which you crow from every palm-tree-top?

Is removal of the PNM from power a solution to the ills that bedevil the country? If it were, then we ought to have witnessed miracles in the wake of the 1986 elections when the PNM was all but obliterated from the electoral map. Instead, we saw another face of the very arrogance we had condemned during the Eric Williams era. We saw a hastily contrived unity come apart at the seams before Mr Manning could blink, far less take his cat-nap in Parliament.

The same can be said of the period 1995-2001 when the UNC wrested power from the one-term PNM regime. Ray Robinson wisely decided to lend his two-seats support to Basdeo Panday to enable the latter to achieve a life-long dream, that of being Prime Minister of the country.

We saw what their definition of unity could do, and it was not a pleasant sight. Two MPs, elected to their constituencies as PNM candidates, calmly switched allegiances to continue to savour the taste of power. Shortly thereafter Panday became confident enough to kick Robinson upstairs, to the office of President, an act that would return to hurt and haunt him. Before long, the UNC Government was rent asunder by unbridled corruption, unmatched in-fighting, and arrogance a-la-Bas.

Removing the PNM from power, however compelling that may appear in the face of the Government’s many sins against its people, is not an end by itself, nor is it a means to an end. Let’s say all those who are fed up with Mr Manning’s misdemeanours decide to join together at the polls and remove the PNM Government. What happens on the very next day? “Who is your leader?” the President would ask. Problems. Big problems. Within the ranks of the traditional anti-PNM crowd, there is a major division as to whether Mr Panday is fit to lead any new government. So the “united” force may not cross the first hurdle.

Assuming it does, though, what new form of governance would it present to make it more acceptable than the PNM? Would the new PM consult with his colleagues before naming an Attorney General? Or would it be a case of “who Bas put, no man touch”?

Would there be greater consultation with those who voted the “united platform” in the process of selection of the Cabinet? We are talking fundamental change here, and I haven’t heard one would-be PM address it. My view is that he (or she) would see no reason to strip himself of this ultimate symbol of power.

What new policies would be implemented regarding managing the economy? Would the united-disparate-forces halt Mr Manning’s heavy industrialisation plans? Bear in mind Mr Panday, when he was in power, had signed an agreement with Norsk Hydro to erect a huge smelter in Savonetta. Would lofty plans for food production take flight, or would they remain grounded, as happened under all previous governments? Would the new government have the balloons to slay the dragon that is the URP? I shall continue exploring unity and change in my next column.

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2 thoughts on “Unity, change and exchange”

  1. Vintage Uncle Shah said, “removing the PNM from power, however compelling that may appear in the face of the Government’s many sins against its people, is not an end by itself, nor is it a means to an end.”
    Now this is why I have always been an ardent fan of our elder statesman , wise councilor , and editor at large Mr. Shah ,who has “been there and done that,” as we often say. This is the sort of fearless , objective discourse I expected to hear from a national that cares about his country, and wishes to see it get onto the partway of globally recognized and acceptable sustainable development.
    It is definitely a shift away from the common ,nonsensical , partisan dribble that we are bombarded with so frequently , by many more of our alleged, informed pundits ,at home and abroad .
    Thanks Uncle Shah. You are a voice of reason , crying out in the wilderness , prepare ye the way for the progressives that are prepared to retake power from the blind , arrogant , vindictive ,and misguided ,to shape a politically holistic agenda ,that would finally enable ‘Sweet T&T aka Rainbow Country,’ to assume it’s rightful position as an emerging social , economic, and political giant , as well as a true model and shining example for others with only a miniscule proportion of our human and natural resources ,to eventually follow .
    It is no secret that we are grossly mismanaged as a country, but the more pitiful scenario is that we lack a leader with the foresight and organizational structure behind them , that can formulate any coherent policy much different from the nonsense that the deficient and clueless Manning led PNM has subjected us ,for too long.
    In reference to our seeming country bashers , and closet non patriots he said , “It’s not that they don’t love their country, whatever its shortcomings. But they seek escape from the crime wave.” I agree, no security , translates to no development, as your best and brightest with the means at their disposal , would disappear to more pristine regions in throughout our global village.
    Speaking about unity and the travails of Mr. Basdeo Panday. He would have been better served in his youthful days, had he spent a few less hours in the Oxbridge drama classes , and a few more appreciating history and political science en route to his Law Degree.
    It was his deceptiveness ,dishonesty , and un-statesmanlike coup within the government in 1986 by withdrawing of his 10 pieces of silver from the NAR party, and fervent global distortion of prevailing national social and political realities ,in efforts to obviously undermine ‘Ah we Buoy,’ aka De Castaria Kid’s power , that did him in long-term as it came back in true revengeful Machiavellian fashion to bite him soundly in the symbolic butt later. “Revenge is a dish that is eaten cold,” and all such sayings . Robbie in contrast studied Philosophy, I am told.
    The old Bengal Tiger Bas again worked his destructive magic -in a case of self our party / nation- against the much adored and more palatable economist Mr. Deosaran , and so enabled the PNM to succeed in the polls . My only hope from all such fall out is that his ambitious , supposedly learned Oroupuche West daughter MK, is taking lessons and can be enticed to convince the dinosaur to take a rest , and be her own leader, so as to transform not only this political party , but the fortunes of the ‘entire country.’ I won’t hold my breath on that one , for as the wisest woman that ever lived in my loving Grandmother would fondly say :- “Banana can’t bear plantain.” A Panday is a Panday, as the historic disgusting nepotistic examples in India ,USA, Barbados, Antigua ,Jamaica, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, , North Korea , Syria , and Bangladesh soundly proved with mostly devastating effects.
    Since you Uncle Shah cannot be convinced to put down the mighty pen and lead the charge, even if you were tempted with your own Cuban styled hospital , four new planes after the first month in office, day in office, and an expensive mansion constructed in your honor every year of your existence in power. Speaking of ‘mighty pens’ and unmentionable ‘swords,’ those Hondurans are some feisty folks , and big brother King Obama cannot deceive them with all his changed rhetoric , eh ?
    Ah , the consequences of arrogance, in a ‘non drug sedated nation!”
    Join me and another unsound hero/ member from ‘De Black Socratic Movement,’ as we try to subtly edify, and wake up our complacent people.
    Sing Bro. Valantino

  2. It is not often that we have real Trinbagonians exchanging views that express a national point of view as Raffique so eloquently does with his thought provoking assessments. Take for example the issue of crime, it is no doubt the one most important issue that affect each and every one of us by the we eat, sleep, drink and live. It affects the rich, the poor, the aged, the young, the concerned and the not so concerned. Race should never come into the play as far as getting rid of crime is concerned, yet when the politicians talk about it, suddenly the issue seems skewed and it takes on a dimension that is void of passion, priority, pride and a sense that we are are all in this together. What we get from them is that their party is the most essential element in restoring our once congenial lifestyle. That is far from what we need. We need public officials who have real understanding of what our young children are going through. We need public officials who are sympathetic to needs of the poor, the elderly and those we need to train to be the leaders of tomorrow. That kind of leadership is not forthcoming on our national landscape and there is no one currently offering s sliver of hope that they can take these issues and qualify it the way Barrack Obama did in the last election. We need leaders who will make us feel good about ourselves. Not the Sat Maharajs and Devant Maharajs, they tend to exacerbate the old wounds and prolong our prejudices.

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