By Raffique Shah
June 26, 2023
I am convinced that the problem with politics and governance in this country, the fact that we never seem to get it right, that having wavered between PNM in control for thirty consecutive years to the party losing in 1986 33-3 then complaining about every government having freely elected them, maybe we need to look at ourselves, not the politicians.
Except for a handful of politicians who are guided by some principles, who stand by commitments they make to the electorate, most of the others are opportunists. Many are downright dishonest in what they say and what they do. Electors generally come from communities that are small in the relative sense, where people know each other well and know what they need from their representatives and from the parties they vote for. In spite of all these commonalities, they go out and vote by ethnicities or by loyalty knowing well that mostly they will be disappointed by politicians who are spineless, who stand for nothing but their personal gains.
I am not condemning all politicians or electors. But when we vote people in one election and are ready to kick them out weeks later that says something about us, not them. Having in one instance participated in a general election as a candidate, and more relevant to what I write here, a senior executive who was involved in selecting candidates for both general and local government elections, I suffered severe nausea when I saw what aspiring candidates would do to ‘get a seat’. And this in a party that had yet to prove itself at the polls.
So disgusted was I, after one term I walked away, in spite of Basdeo Panday’s ‘any seat’ offer, and never looked back.
But the electorate do not wish to disrupt their party, more importantly offend the party’s leader, they come out on election day, squeeze their nostrils to escape the stench of corruption they are involved in by knowingly voting for crooks.
Politics has degenerated into a kind of criminality that is not uncommon in daily life, so people say nothing. Last week I referred to local government activities as being the cradle of corruption, I apologise here for not having qualified the accusation by exonerating the hundreds of ordinary citizens who over the years have not merely given of themselves to the districts they represented everything short of their blood. I personally know many of these dedicated councillors who have worked way beyond the call of duty and the relatively petty compensation they got- at least years ago when I was familiar with local government. I ought never to have branded such men and women with the stigma of corruption but in the wider scheme of things, at all levels of electoral politics, the stench from high offices is nauseating. What adds to it is the fact the electors know of the corruption and instances, they are part of it. Party officials are also privy to their own officers being involved in white-collar banditry. But they too allow the thieving malpractices that abound at all levels of government.
It is said that people get the government they deserve. I add that they get the governance they have allowed to fester like a permanent abscess in the groin of Trinidad and Tobago. Look, I know too that this level of lawlessness, thievery, banditry, even wholesale pillage of the treasury is not confined to T&T but equally, I argue, that we have always had the resources- human and natural- to prevent such cancers from metastasizing.
Too, we have always had in this country people whose integrity cannot be challenged, some of whom have worked at senior levels of international agencies. They have made us proud. And, while the malfeasance of the few who have been exposed in courts across the world even as other accused of corruption continue to fight to evade justice, we must face the harsh reality that some of the biggest public officials who have been involved in criminal corruption remain untouched by the heavy hand of the law. Some of them dare not leave Trinidad to go abroad, lest they be arrested on sight. Those crooks continue to operate as if they are monks of some religious order. They are shameless beyond belief. But you know what, we ordinary citizens know they are guilty of crookedness but we continue to treat them as celebrities.
These are men and maybe women who have held high office here at home and sometimes abroad and given respect by the State and by you and me, making us all look like a bunch of idiots who see no evil and hear no evil.