An ‘old boys club’ headed by an old lady

By Raffique Shah
November 29, 2009

Trinidad and Tobago News Blog

Commonwealth 2009 Heads of State
Commonwealth 2009 Heads of State

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2009Friday morning. Big day for Prime Minister Patrick Manning. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II heads a list of dignitaries attending the CHOGM. Over the next three days Trinidad and Tobago, this small country, will showcase its wonderful Chinese architecture to our envious Commonwealth brethren. Look at me! Watch my costume (including my brand-name ‘darkers’ that I don’t take off, not even to look Her Majesty in the eye, as royal etiquette demands). Don’t mash my Performing Arts cape! I’m on the world stage!

So your not-so-humble scribe, who will be nowhere close to where the CHOGM action is, decides to check out the main newspapers in some Commonwealth countries. Surely such an important, $300 million conference, being staged in my country, will command headlines in the principal participating countries.

I check the Times (London and India), the Guardian (UK), the Independent and I stop! What the hell is wrong with these editors? Don’t they realise that Port of Spain is the centre of global activities, at least for the weekend? All the British newspapers lead with the ‘Dubai debacle’, trying to measure the impact the US$80 billion sand-castles’ collapse would have on their already beleaguered banking systems.

Who cares about Dubai, about Sheikh Maktoum’s folly in building not only billion-dollar sand-castles, but entire off-shore islands, the world’s biggest this and tallest that, and two snow skiing complexes (yes, you read right) in the middle of the desert? Who gives a sucrier fig about his plight-except multi-millionaires like David Beckham and other celebrities who bought ultra-expensive real estate on dubious man-made islands?

I turn to India’s press. India is probably the strongest pillar on which the Commonwealth is built. Have you noted how many Indians occupy the highest positions in its Secretariat and its many off-shoot institutions? Surely, the Indians would highlight the conference in Trinidad, which their Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh, is attending.

Again, I am disappointed. Both the Times of India and the Hindustan Times lead, with pride, I should add, how India has joined with superpowers like the US, Britain and other EU countries in calling on Iran to halt its nuclear programme. I scratch my head: is India not a nuclear power? Is this not a country that has not only several nuclear power plants, but nuclear bombs and warheads?

Anyway, there is never justice or equity in global affairs, so why am I surprised? I scan the Hindustan Times: aha! Here a dateline from Port of Spain! We reach (translation for Her Majesty: we have arrived!) I read the story. From top to bottom, Prime Minister Singh, interviewed by some Indian journalist, is still gushing about the gala dinner hosted in his honour by US President Barack Obama.

He tells the press at the Indian High Commission: ‘It was a unique experience. The dinner was lavish and extravagant. The atmosphere and the layout was (sic) outstanding,’ He said President Obama and his wife Michelle had laid (sic) out ‘one of the best dinners and went out of the way’ and was a ‘magnificent’ event. ‘It was a great experience and I enjoyed being there. It was one of the best dinners that I have attended,’

Clearly ‘Manmo’ is a man who loves good food and better company. But the Indian reporters asked him nothing about Trinidad and Tobago, about CHOGM. Or if they did and they forwarded their stories, their editors did not think they were of any value to India and Indians. India’s focus must now be on reining in Iran even if that meant raining Israeli bombs on the country that, two years ago, signed an agreement with Delhi to pipe much needed natural gas to feed its growing industrial needs.

Do I hear someone shout, ‘Neemakharam!’ I do, but that from another source and used in another context-some internal party elections. But all of the above still leave me with the question: what of Mr Manning’s pride, CHOGM? Why have the vast majority of Commonwealth countries’ media houses chosen to ignore us in our hour of glory?

Except for the local press and electronic media houses, no one else seems to be taking this $300 million bash seriously. Don’t they understand what this means for Mr Manning’s ego?

There will be no lessons learned from this hollow experience. The Commonwealth is nothing more than an ‘old boys club’ headed by an old lady (quite a contradiction, eh?). It is passé, an anomaly in a modern world where alliances have changed, where geopolitics dictate who are your new friends, who matter, and who don’t.

We should never have committed ourselves to staging this conference. It adds nothing to our economy, to our development. A handful of entrepreneurs may benefit from new deals-hopefully by exporting our skills and rich experience in the downstream energy sector. We didn’t need CHOGM for that.

Did people notice the full-page advertisements in last weekend’s newspapers offering scores of jobs in Qatar? Mr Manning’s vision of ‘development’ is similar to Dubai’s Sheikh Maktoum’s, whose name is now mud in global financial circles. Is that the way our Prime Minister wants to exit the political stage? I should hope not.

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7 thoughts on “An ‘old boys club’ headed by an old lady”

  1. To get on the world stage these days, you have to crash a party, like that idiot couple in Washington who now trying to charge the networks for interviews. Or, throw a shoe at Somebody Big. We trinis are too polite for that. I am sure RAf, if you interviewed elementary school children you would get some candid views on the CHOMG that would be worth publishing, like ‘who is that Grey head old lady? why he wearing all dem buttons and ribbons in did hot weather?
    Anyway, the fact that r. Sarkozi, the UN head, and other big wigs thougt it worth coming to, augurs well for smething coming out of it.

    Most of what world leaders do nowadays is meet and greet anyway, and leave the details to others. The meeting did give Tim Gopiesingh his chance to gripe in front of Big Mama about conflicts between his UWI job and his being a sitting member of parliament.(There used to be something in the Civil Service Manuals about two offices of emolument under the crown– which is to say not even he could do two fulltine jobs simutaneously.

    So, to the extent that he could gripe to grannie, the conference might have been worth it.
    The climate change issue which you never mentioned is something with potential.

  2. Rafique,
    I read the story of Dubai’s impending demise and automatically recognised the similarity to His Highness Patrick Manning’s dream of 2020. As you had mentioned in an earlier article all this structural waste is nothing but a whited sepulchre.
    Will Trinis recognise the ridiculousness of this man’s ‘dreams’ in significant numbers to put him in his rightful place or will he be abetted by Panday’s ‘dream’ -the other side of the same coin.

  3. As above so below, there’s nothing in the major US medias about the CHOGM. Similarly, President Barak O went on a tour of Asia and didn’t even acknowledge India as being part of Asia or in any plans associated with the future of Asia. The Chinese are the most important part of Asia, with a billion plus people, there’s lots of opportunities to open up more Macdonalds, Burger Kings, Kentuckys, and last but not least, Walmarts. Of course India being a predominantly Hindu country, there’re not a lot of demand for certain parts of Americana. India supplies the world at large with endless talent from Bollywood movies to computer experts, and also scientists, engineers, doctors and spicies. The UK is well aware of India’s resources and its people from their past colonial days. CHOGM is a waste of funds from a country that cannot provide its people with basic wants, running water, electricity, security, good roads, jobs, etc. TnT will end up in so much debt, that the Mannings will be looked upon with scorn on hearing that name. Throw the bums out, both Panday and Manning, get a fresh new generation to run TnT the way it was supposed to be governed, before the terasury runs dry.

  4. India’s population is now estimated to be a billion. My president was visiting east Asia.had he ben visiting South Asia, he would have taken in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. We loiving on a dual set ff rocks in the Caribbean have little idea of the vast distances between these places.The President of the USA desn’t catch a “vaps” and visit a place just so. Obviously, the visit of The Hon. Manmohan Singh was scheduled long before he actually came. Its not like Christmas where you visit my house today and I come to yours tomorow.
    The presient has stressed that India is a valued ally, sharing many things with th e US. We can learn good vegetarian eating from them. Do you not find it significant that this noted Hamburger lover, should host a vegetarian dinner for his First State Dinner. The Indians I know in my home town were very pleased.

  5. India is a very important part of Asia and is very important to Europe and the U.S… China is trying to catch India in Technology while maintaining its position as the greatest manufacturer in the world. The U.S. and England have changed their economies from manufacturing to be service based. In todays fast past globalized economy, it means that the U.S. and England are relying more and more on technology. India by the nature of its growth is to some extent a threat if not just a competitor to the U.S., and England in the technology/ mass communication sector. Many Americans who filled customer service positions ten years ago lost their jobs to Indians in India who could do the same job for a fraction of the price. That’s just one example of where India fits into the global economic market. McDonalds has altered its menu to work in India. Nothing will deter that machine.
    Manning and Panday are fighting for royal scraps. The country has no future under that sort of leadership.

  6. Curtis. India, in fact, is just a US/British satellite used for outsourcing jobs and the waving of it’s “allowed” nuclear energy/weapons at it’s next door “trouble maker” nation visa vis Pakistan. It has become a sort of Mexico with Nukes if you will. The deplorable state that the majority of Indians live in ensures this. Anyone thinking other wise would also think that South African’s are on the whole doing great because of it’s immense wealth which never trickles down to the majority poor. low wage “unskilled” customer service jobs(outsourcing) will ensure a stunting of technological growth and nothing else. I agree with you about the fact that nothing will deter that machine, for nothing stops the greed of an elite that will scarifce it’s own young for profit.

    Most Tech advanced countries in the world according to The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2009
    China is listed as #56
    India as # 58, two steps down from China
    Hong Kong made the top ten though, and that my friend is China. Also making the top ten was Canada and USA, the countries that played a major role along with Russia in setting up India’s Nukes!
    I do agree about the royal scraps that those “leaders” in Trini are fighting for though! But keep in mind that puppets can never be leaders just followers.

  7. If the London Society that Host The Galla of Buckingham Palace with all those Treasures there, the Popes of Italy in Vatican city would give up some of those treasures there, Poverty would be eradicated in the morning. Do we want FACTS!!!!!
    Where did England get those priceless GEMS, Where did the Vatican get those Priceless GEMS- From Robbing the POOR NATIONS of the Earth, sell this Stuff and help the poor of the Earth.
    Enough with this crap of trying to eradicate Poverty from the Earth. When the Big Nations of the Earth have already ROB the Earth of the Resources, then they coming to tell the SMALL NATIONS to deal with Pollution- and emissions!!!!! Nough of this CRAP. We not that STUPID.
    Them Leaders them telling the Nations how to go- Yet their Faces is Full of Guilt- Wake up People. Enough is Enough!!!!!! Open Your Eyes and see this CRAP.

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