Fourth Estate Outlasts Governments

By Raffique Shah
November 13, 2010

Raffique ShahMOST Cabinet Ministers in successive governments suffer with political foot-in-mouth disease, an affliction that seems endemic to the corridors of power. Others succumb to the “left-hand, right-hand” syndrome. In the latter, persons charged with governing the country, who meet at least once weekly, have differing interpretations of what they discussed and what decisions were made.

The new Partnership Cabinet seems to be stricken with both—which may account for the perception that this is a government in paralysis. PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar needs to rush her full Cabinet into the Political ICU, which, I am told, lies somewhere in St Ann’s. If she fails to act soon, the Political Morgue may well be her only other option.

Like many citizens, I am confused by the discordant pronouncements that ministers make all too frequently. Last weekend, Works Minister Jack Warner told contractors that the Government will pay debts owed to them in bonds, not cash. A few days later, Finance Minister Winston Dookeran stated emphatically that the affected contractors will be paid in cash, not bonds.

Then, in what may yet turn out to be the stupidest blunder it has made (thus far), State-owned CNMG terminated Fazeer Mohammed’s contract, saying it was part of a cost-cutting measure. As this storm-in-a-teacup erupted, volcano-like, into a national scandal, the explanations given by key government officials were comical.

Line minister for CNMG, Collin Partap, was reported saying he knew nothing about such measures at the media house. Dookeran, whose ministry regulated disbursements to such entities, said he, too, was unaware of cost-cutting at CNMG. If anybody in Cabinet has an inside track on this issue, it would be these two ministers.

Lo and behold, the PM returns from New York and promptly pronounced that Fazeer’s firing was related to cost-cutting. And Suruj Rambachan, whose controversial interview seems to have led to “Faz” being fired on the eve of Eid-ul-Adha (quite ironical—this Islamic festival deals with sacrificing animals), said Fazeer was the best thing since Larry King!

Who are we to believe? The PM? Dookeran? Jack Warner? Suruj? Partap? Or is this a case of, “Yuh hear lie? That is lie!”

You see, when persons in authority are trapped in a web of deceit, they try to lie their way out of messy situations. And that’s where they are caught—contradicting each other. One or more of these ministers is lying to the public.

They fired Fazeer for one reason: he is one of a dwindling number of media personnel who maintain a fierce independence. “Faz” savaged PNM ministers before and after the last elections. He did not take sides during the elections—at least publicly, on air. And once the new Government settled in, he was equally penetrating when he interviewed its officials or ministers.

His firing had nothing to do with his religion—except, perhaps, in the minds of religious zealots. He was very clear in demarking his personal religious views from his professional conduct. Even as a devout Muslim, what did he say about his religious views that warranted ignorant people dubbing him “ah Taliban”?

He said Islam does not allow women to lead in matters relating to religion. I disagree with that edict, but I am agnostic. I am entitled to my views, Faz to his beliefs.

But, as the venerable CLR James used to ask, tell me, you ignoramuses, what religion allows women to be clerics, far less higher leadership positions? There are no female Catholic priests, and worse, the males cannot marry. The Anglican Church suffered convulsions it is yet to overcome when it decided to allow women to mount the pulpit. Presbyterians have made some progress in this regard, but female reverends are still few.

Back in February 1994, Indrani Rampersad was ordained a “pandita” by the local Arya Samaj arm of the Hindu faith. While many Vedics and other Hindu organisations welcomed her elevation, the mainstream Maha Sabha condemned it most vehemently.

Sat Maharaj, a leader of the Sanatinist Maha Sabha, denounced Indrani, saying, “She represents neither the wider Hindu community nor Hindu women. The Maha Sabha does not recognise women in the priesthood just as the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans do not recognise women as priests.”

The only faiths I know of that allow women to assume leadership roles are the Orishas and the Baptists. Indeed, in the latter, there are many female bishops and archbishops.

So Fazeer telling Suruj that Islam does not allow women to hold high religious positions was a non-issue.

Clearly, and this is the pertinent point, the Partnership Government has chosen to stay on a well-beaten path that almost every other government before it has treaded: attack independent journalists with full force. In his time, Eric Williams disposed of a few bothersome scribes. George Chambers chased a TV crew, Basdeo Panday viciously attacked several journalists, Patrick Manning stormed a radio station’s studio…

So what else is new? Upon assuming office, PM Kamla said her administration would not trample on media practitioners’ freedom of expression. Now, in an embarrassing about-turn, she attributes a clear case of victimisation to “cost- cutting”.

Give me a break, PM. That act, and others that are taking place quietly, out of public glare, have bared your government’s intent to deal drastically with persons you perceive to be your detractors.

It’s a suicidal path, of course. Governments come and governments go, but the Fourth Estate remains intact. So it was in the beginning…

12 thoughts on “Fourth Estate Outlasts Governments”

  1. The media in T&T is basking in some sort of undeserved glow as “journalists” like the self proclaimed Shah pass judgment on the new government,based on some artifical measure created in their closed and protective minds.
    Who the hell is this “Faz” guy anyway….a rude , unkept, shabby looking egotistical dwaft, getting his fifteen minutes of controversy.In the USA he will probably be arrested for subversion.
    Shah himself, as he panders to a constituency which he believes to be supportive, boasts of the resilience of the “fourth estate”.
    These jokers , so undeserving, are cashing in on conflict and media hype. Only in T&T could a rabid, bearded radical terrorist-looking Muslim gain favour with lame duck commentators like Raffique. How could a talkshow host spew his anti- female rhetoric and get away with it? If a woman is not deserving to lead a religious organization and you agree with that position, you should ceast and desist!
    Climb back into your cave and continue to salivate, Faz. you should not only be fired but exiled.
    Governments of T&T have mistakenly placed excessive emphasis on trying to placate religious organizations.The government has no place in the churches, mandirs, temples and mosques of the nation.
    Why has the new PM allocated over $4 million to Divali? Gross error.If Hindus are so firm in their convictions, they should fund their own religious ceremonies. Same for the Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians,Methodists,Satinists, and Agnostics.
    No religious function or celebration should be state funded.No religious holiday should be declared.Cancel all national holidays which are religious in nature.
    Separate church from state.Religious conflict is at the heart of the competetive and racial tug of war which has dominated social existence in T&T. End it now!
    This blurring of the lines between religious affiliation and objective reporting is responsible for the controversy,
    The journalist, Faz , put his foot in his mouth and deserved what he got. Quit all the complaning. In modern society, you cannot deny the rights of women to aspire to the highest levels of power.Was he fired? Who cares? Was he demoted? Who cares? Actually. Andy Johnson is a much more accomplised journalist, well mannered, affable, less abrasive and easier to look at.
    T&t would forever be entwined in conflict, debate,separation, and strife if the country and its leaders try to placate religions and religious leaders. Hinduism seems to be the awakening giant which will bury the PP. Now Muslims are asserting their influence.
    We are right back where we started, the PNM will emerge as the voice of reason and the moderating referees of this religious sporting game.

  2. Raffique as usual misses the point. Islam is not only a religion and it does not separate religion from state affairs, it is all embracing and it certainly does not allow women to take on political roles, let alone be Prime Minister or even President.

    I agree with him though, the Fazeer matter is a non-issue and it was intended to create further discontent by anti-PP groups and as a decoy for the SIA fiasco.

  3. “Why has the new PM allocated over $4 million to Divali? Religious conflict is at the heart of the competetive and racial tug of war which has dominated social existence in T&T.No religious function or celebration should be state funded.No religious holiday should be declared.Cancel all national holidays which are religious in nature.”
    This guy T-Man, has finally gone staring mad.I admonished him ,to desist from sipping on that Canadian Maple Syrup ,he grew so fond of , but no, he would not listen.
    Hey buddy , just go easy on our lil Democratic Republic Trinidad and Tobago. The chances of any of your ideas coming to fruition, is as feasible us 1.3 million of our people ,trying to stop water from cascading down our eroded mountains , and Brazilian Favelas, to flood our fellow citizens in flat areas, where clogs drains are prevelant.

    For your information T-Man, this is not the religious/ ethnically intolerant we read and hear about across the globe, but instead,T&T, a tolerant ,wonderful mosaic of beautiful ,culturally mixed folks, with an overall love for each other’s religions, foods, music, opinions , temperaments, and foibles. .
    The PM is entitled to support members of her faith if she desire, as did Mr Manning before her , Panday ,when he too began “fighting for his people,” and Dr Eric ,when he pounced on the political scene,to embrace the Baptist movement.
    You guys of the Basdeo Panday old school camp, need to recognize that the days of race bating , and religious division politics are over. It is you blokes ,who have tried to force this nonsense on our nation , but guess what, folks are too savvy to buy into it.Ask Sat Maharaj, and Abu Bakr , as they both failed. So would any Christian ,or Buddhist equivalent if they jump on that bandwagon.

    Globalist like ourselves know, that tough economic times ,calls for pragmatic, nation building leaders ,with original ,or tested and tried ideas ,for job creation. There must be talks about encouraging global business entities ,to see the need to invest in T&T. We need to hear more about enhancing broad based entrepreneurial skills amongst the poor , and generally neglected , so that they can become self sufficient, and less state dependent.
    As a start, Finance Minister Dookie , needs to help stimulate growth, by pushing more prudent banking maneuvers ,so that small micro loans can be given to aid start ups across our land.
    PM ,Queen K, should just be her tough charming self , and quit allowing self serving advisers to try and mold her into insensitive ,tough characters such as Eugenia Charles,Margaret Thatcher,Indira Gandhi ,or Golda Mair, and instead push good laws, aimed at stamping out broad based corruption, and seriously ensure that our citizens remain safe, not through importation of foreign systems , and culturally suspect folks,with their eyes on the financial bottom line, with little results to show- ask Manning what Blimp, scotland yard blokes, and Israeli security play book got us.
    The various pie in the sky , missteps that has transpired thus far by your PP , would be forgiven by a tolerant nation , in recognition of the fact that a new government needs some time to get it’s feet planted , so as to fully implement it’s manifesto. The clock is ticking, T-Man,and we are watching.Manning and party had decades to mess it up, your PP’s margin of error, is very shallow, so be forewarned, as impatience is taking root.

  4. The basis for Fazeer Mohammed’s assertion is that ” the Holy Prophet has in a hadith emphatically stated that any society which has its leadership under a woman will never progress,leadership not limited to religious affairs.From the earliest days of Muslim scholarship, even those jurists who implicitly accept the hadith above as containing some injunction have differed on the meaning of ”placing affairs in the hands of a woman”. Some scholars prohibit women from all public duties. While others will permit a woman to hold public office, even to be a judge in matters in which her testimony is admissible- that is all cases other than those involving fixed penalties (hudud) and retaliation (qisas). Some Mullahs, allows a woman to hold every office apart from that of the Head of State based on this hadith.

  5. I would also like to add the reference to Fazeer being like the Taliban was based on his religious and personal views on women in high office.I believe this will affect the veracity of his objectivity as a news analysis in the climate of a woman as leader of the country.

  6. Fazeer been like the Taliban ? Please! Just cut it out morougamax, and stop demonizing our Moslem brothers and sisters across the globe , for a few criminal opportunist that misinterpret, or use religion to continue their strangle hold on desperate people. Take it from me, Due to my job , I have been to Afghanistan, and Pakistan several occasions when the Taliban were now forming into a political force, and believe me when I tell you , that what you see ain’t always what you get , so leave it alone. You and similar jokers can talk until the cows come home, but no explanation can justify this dedicated patriotic brother from his job ,so as to replace him by a carpetbagging media hack like Andy Johnson. My good City College Professor ,Caribbean/ International Relations expert , and one time admirer of his ,must be holding her head in shame , to see what he has succumbed to , and in the process loose all credibility as a journalist.
    Yes Uncle Panday, you finally won , and must be having the last laugh, as you chief protégées , have all fervently taken to the hilt ,your prime philosophy that ” politics has a morality all of it’s own.”

    1. Neal you claim to be present during the inception of the Taliban,do you know Charlie Wilson?How old are you 70?
      Look all I am saying we do not need this type of Sharia or Wahhabi style of Islam in Trinidad.Muslims in Trinidad are peaceful and have lived that way since they arrived here,we do not need people with the likes of Fazeer to put into question the beliefs of other Muslims in our country.

      Look Neal I am a Moruga fisherman,I went to the Universidad de la calle,I studied law at the local Rumshop.
      I do not claim any special title to my name nor do I have any friends in high society like you and your friend Dr.Codjoe.
      I am a layman,the man on the ground so to speak,I am just pointing out the flaws and ill intent in your devious message and practice of racism and bigotry.
      Is Fazeer one of your friends with nothing to loose?

  7. No Morougamax , please note my emphasis ,as it’s , “when the Taliban were now forming into a political force,” and not the inception of the Taliban as you alluded. There is a difference.
    No Morougamax , Fazeer is not one of my friends , and I never even got a chance to hear a program of his ,nor care to ,now ,or in the foreseeable future.
    I could give a darm if he is a Muslim, Shango Baptist, or Hindu, Christian , or my Buddhist faith ,either.
    What I cannot tolerate as a citizen ,is a conniving bunch of non progressive political leaders ,that claims to stand for democratic principles, Equal Rights ,and justice,willing to run rough shod over the lives of fellow citizens , simply because they do not toe a particular ,neo racial , political party line.
    The little I have heard most say about Brother Fazeer , is that he is a very passionate , yet objective journalist. It is inevitable my friend ,that as humans ,we’ll have our biases , and even hidden prejudices, but in a civilized society where one is properly socialized , it is expected that one would keep them to oneself, and not force it on the rest of the population.
    This is especially applicable ,where one makes up the majority of a government , and have been leading the war cries for decades of being victims of blatant discriminations ,at the hands of mostly Christian African folks, ably assisted by Muslims ,in our country .
    To conclude that Fareez,subscribes to some “type of Sharia or Wahhabi style of Islam in Trinidad,”simply because he is a Muslim , is nothing short of preposterous , and both you and Dr Rambachan , are aware of this- even if in your case ,you are a Morouga fisherman , that was educated in a village rumshop.

  8. Neal you remind me of some of those PNM ministers that can read a speech eloquently even appear on TV and speak on the matter,but in reality they did not have a full understanding of what they were saying.
    I would like to refer to my earlier post and I quote “The basis for Fazeer Mohammed’s assertion is that ” the Holy Prophet has in a hadith emphatically stated that any society which has its leadership under a woman will never progress,leadership not limited to religious affairs.From the earliest days of Muslim scholarship, even those jurists who implicitly accept the hadith above as containing some injunction have differed on the meaning of ”placing affairs in the hands of a woman”.
    I also said,”Muslims in Trinidad are peaceful and have lived that way since they arrived here,we do not need people with the likes of Fazeer to put into question the beliefs of other Muslims in our country.”

    How could you then misconstrue what I said when you imply that I was picking on him simply because he is Muslim.

  9. I have tried to converse with many jokers on this board , and some though irritating at times, were occasional fun , because you sense they had some levels of intelligence, and most importantly respect for others. However , morougamax , with each passing commentary , you are proving to be not only a fool ,but a disingenuous creature , who naively believes that he is wise.
    To prove it , you first tried to pass yourself off as some folksy ,illiterate, Morouga ,rum drinking fisherman, not realizing, that by so doing you were subliminally sending a message about how you think about fishermen, and desperate souls on the lower economic echelons- perhaps like similar others ,to compensate for the fact that your great grandparents ,were part of that low caste bunch , that escaped the drudgery of ‘India untouchable peasantry’ decades ago.
    Secondly ,you lost all credibility , and displayed quite vividly your obvious stupidity , for daring to try and elevate your own status , by questioning my ability to speak on a subject, based on whether I visited Pakistan and Afghanistan, when you linked Charlie Wilson, with the Taliban young students who only developed fully around the middle 90’s ,after decades of indoctrinations in the refugee camps , and Madrases of Pakistan.
    Again , in the name of peace ,I have crisscrossed the length and breath of both countries , and have seen up close fighting warriors , intellectuals,political leaders ,domestic and foreign political enemies , in addition to millions of desperate civilians that remain pawns of a diabolical political game played out amongst competing forces then, as well as today.
    It is because of this , and other global forays , and observations ,why I painstakingly use my time on this board to also encourage fellow citizens to avoid the numerous socio economic traps , and political problems that have created conflicts far and wide.
    The first of them is to bury the tribalistic mindset amongst our people with common needs, secondly to our leaders- political and business- share the economic spoils of the country equitably, and thirdly ,work towards a cohesive nation, where patriotism is more than a catch word, as we all strive to develop some sense of respect for the other.
    If we do that in ‘Sweet , Sweet,T&T , aka Rainbow Country,’then we do not have to resort to some of the stupid 14th century ,anti terror theoretical mechanisms ,that you jokers learned at the University of Toronto , Leeds, Tel Aviv ,and Edmonton, to keep angry folks in check.
    In ending, I wish to ask you,and the like of your pals T-Man, khem,and similar creatures, with some obvious ,baseless neo tribal agenda -which will definitely fail. I know you guys get certain sadistic pleasures ,as long as our discussions are relegated to some time wasting, ludicrous , Indian great , Africans evil,Europeans supreme,interplays, but to what end , both for our country as a whole , and other readers , looking to learn something from our more wider global exposures?
    Time to step up the game buddy,quit playing the fool,elevate the discourse , and as always , ‘Love country over Tribe!’

  10. Neal the only analogy that I can come up with to describe what it has been like,trying to put some sense into that thick scull of yours it is like telling a man lost in the desert to take a bath.
    You are a cheap one trick pony playing the same race card in every one of your post.
    I know who I am,the real question is do you know who you are?
    Unlike you I did not come from any tribe,we had a caste system of which my grandparents who were Chhatri and Lohar they came to Trinidad in 1909 from Paltan Chawani Lucknow in UP state India.The reason why I know this is my grandmother kept in contact with her brother through mail until her passing.
    My parents own an estate in Moruga and we maintain an active presence in the community,without disclosing any more of the family matters I can tell you our family business is known throughout both islands in our twin state.
    I guarantee you there is probably not a single fisherman or someone in the sport of boat racing in Trinidad and Tobago that do not know who we are.
    When ever you come to Moruga ask anyone who is Morugamax and who badder,badder just to give you an idea who you are talking to.

  11. Yeah ‘mr proud ah me noble ancestry morougax,’ you keep chanting your pitiful , egotistical, bull-crap long enough through the mosquito laden morouga nights, and even you might begin to believe it.
    So happy you are of yourself,that like others ,of your tribe you’ve decided to hide behind another ludicrous sobriquet , as opposed to your own name – in similar fashion to to one ah dem ,hood wearing American neo racial , savage African/ Jew hating , KKK terroristic bandits- in effort to deceive and preach the divisive , destructive’ hatred for the other,’ across the nation , that you folks have learned so well from the likes of pseudo spiritualist Sat Maraj.
    It is very obvious that you are just one of many delusional fools, to believe that somehow you and your clan have some bragging rights , on others that help build this country ,simply because you emerged from a caste system within the South Asian continent.
    Dey say that Karma is fiction, but we tolerant , and caring Buddhist, believe otherwise. Don’t worry buddy, your Oxford educated great Gramdma was able to escape the bride burnings , and destructive population curbing efforts of sterilization Queen, Indira Gandhi de 1st, since she was born a few decades early before the elitist neo colonial’s tenure , but I advise you to take caution,and the reason is clear.
    With the reign of Queen K , her possible reincarnation, who knows what is in store for you low cast jokers , still suffering the side effects of delusional grandeur, as members of your tribal elites -starting with Bas- run roughshod over you ,in similar fashion to the appeasing ,pandering political bums,on the opposite side of the so called divide , that have had a strangle hold on this country for 40 out of 48 years.
    Hopefully, this is not too high over your head , morougamax , since unlike many of us driving on this here information highway ,that benefited from and education , you never did, as you forced to leave school very early, to travel bare-feet ,and hungry daily by water buffalo to distant rice paddies , to help put food on the table for both yourself and your 20 or more other siblings, that barely survived in the dungheaps of morouga.
    Speaking about morouga, shame on your ‘little black boy,’croning , gerry curl head, alleged multicultural MP, for jumping on a sinking ship , and doing nothing to help your town/ his constituency , or the nation at large , as he also behaves, as if-like certain ,unmentionable ,criminal kids- he too, has his both hands locked behind his back, with a key less handcuff. As a magnanimous soul , and being the by products of kings and queens myself, I still wish you well my friend ,as you strive to find catharsis for eradicating your own demons, yes?

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