Manufacturing Motion Mania

By Raffique Shah
September 14, 2008

PM Patrick ManningI am often guilty of making a fool of myself, although those who know me well would agree that I readily admit to my stupidity. There I was last Sunday, pontificating on American politics and politicians, their weaknesses and hypocrisy, when in my own country our politicians are making fools of us all. It’s bad enough millions of Americans see salvation in Sarah Palin, a woman whose thinking is archaic and unimpressive, to say the least. Now, trapped in this Mickey Mouse country where clowns rule or aspire to rule, I find myself falling flat on my backside, ashamed of being a Trini.

The motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Patrick Manning being debated in Parliament today (I write this on Friday), has generated so much media coverage, it makes me feel ashamed, being part of the fraternity. If the composition of Parliament were such that there was the likelihood of Manning losing his position, I would understand the hype. Every sensible person knew it was an exercise in futility. Ramesh Maharaj has provided a platform for Manning and the PNM to crow like yard-cocks, convinced as they are that Trinis are stupider than Americans.

In normal circumstances, a non-motion like this would have elicited no excitement, not even from the media. Only in a country like this, where daily crime-quota is met like clockwork, so much so they are now consigned to the inside pages of newspapers, can a political circus be created to take people’s minds off the many woes that beset us.

Since the debate in the House was a non-event, how could the politicians exploit it? The PNM seized the opportunity to have a show of strength by having its millionaire-minions organize a rally in nearby Woodford Square. If the trade unions could spur more than half the working population to enjoy a “day of reflection” on Monday of last week, why not give “we people” another day of freeness to show the unions who is boss? We know people’s weakness for “ah juzzy”, a bus ride (nowadays in air-conditioned comfort), rhythm section, free food, free drinks, music and more.

To add drama, to stimulate the media hype, PNM officials distanced themselves from “rumours” of a rally, even as 42 tents were erected in the Square, and now standard big-screen television sets were deployed. Feeding on what had by then turned into a media frenzy, the games continued all week. By last Wednesday night, almost half the newscasts on all television stations focused on this “impending war”.

By then some very smart journalist had planted in Basdeo Panday’s head the idea of his supporters also heading Woodford Square way. Like Ramesh, Panday revels in media attention, and never loses the opportunity to grab any such opportunity. “I will mass UNC forces in Port of Spain that day!” Panday bellowed. Confrontation! As a former editor, I can just imagine the screaming headline, waiting only on the story!

Nobody questioned whether the UNC could muster more than a few hundred of its core supporters for such a demonstration. Out of power and without access to public funds or millionaires’ money, Panday struggles to put together a hundred people at his weekly meetings. Even if he and his colleagues could access the money, the transport, the rum-and-roti, there was little chance they could persuade their supporters to brave their way into what was nothing short of a “PNM sampat”.

There was a time when Panday could get his diehards to follow him into Hell. No more. While they will hardly switch their support to the PNM, Panday is no longer the demi-God he once was. So what does he do to further ignite public interest in the damp squid the debate promised to be? “Call off the troops!” he shouted. “I want no confrontation. If my people go to Woodford Square, there will be violence…I don’t want that!” What troops? What violence? It was a hollow cry from a politician who is dying a slow, painful death. My colleagues in the media stand guilty of torturing the man on his journey into political after-life.

Look, Manning and the PNM are guilty of many political sins. In this period of plenty when they could have used the nation’s wealth to address some of the long standing problems facing us, they have arrogated unto themselves God-like powers to dispense largesse as they see fit. Too many primary schools look like something out of the 19th century, which they are. Too many police stations are derelict buildings of the same era. Too many people, among them even as ministers sip champagne to celebrate skyscrapers. Too many projects that are unnecessary for our future well-being are pursued with a passion that is incomprehensible to the majority of people.

Maharaj’s no-confidence motion was always doomed to failure: Manning must pray, though, that the masses do not take a bold, unconventional step to have him removed from office. That is one story I won’t want to write.

4 Responses to “Manufacturing Motion Mania”


  • I totally agree with this. Just on the issue of schools itself the primary school i attended is still in the same condition i left it. this is a good example of what type of system we have in T&T, one as Mr Shah rightly pointed out is more concerned with skyscraper’s than upgrading or building new schools. I would further add to those who would say that well”PNM built the ones we have today in T&T”, a great deal of those schools were built by the British! and Eric Williams did his part as a result of the times. No “independence” leader of the time could be seen as one who did not provide these much needed social services demanded by the people, therefore It was his obligation to do so. Or else he would have faced the wrath of a newly freed nation, yearning for change, at least he was genuine about his projects, building, even with his limitations, the last hospital built in T&T, Mount Hope.

    This article exposes the nature of the system in T&T, the very exploitative, capitalist, globalist Top heavy approach. Where for example UTT, as noble a cause as it is, is being built at the expense of the run down primary and pre-K schools. So what you will have if those old run down schools are not addressed, are a “class” of students that go to UTT comming mostly from private high schools and colloges, because the conditions of the “government schools” are such that students will not be able to perform at their maximum potential. Thus creating a further class divisions for the looming explosion to come! Thus perfecting that US system of crowded high schools, lacking the necessary tools for students to excel which provides for the private schools and their rich patrons to instead.

    This is a sad commentary on all governments that followed the first in T&T, Let us be very clear about this, social development is no longer a priority for any government in T&T

    The ounce “mixed economy” that provided for such development, as limited as it was, has been successfully dismantled by the IMF/World Bank, and all of the government’s that followed the first have carried out this policy.

    It is a fact that todays “oil boom” is much greater than the one in the 70’s, that as it is, why then, has the social services in T&T not been further expanded or built anew? The money is there to do so! This can be done while those skyscrapers are going up! what is the problem?

    Those who are behind the curtain and in control, those foreign Governments/companies, and their “bail out your country” “funds” spearheaded by the embassy opposite the savanna! are the one’s deciding the nations faith, with their “ten point programs of restructuring”, that nationals will never be aware of until “Crapo smoke their pipe”.

  • why would’nt you wish to write the story of the popular overthrow of Manning-PNM and the official structure of TnT Raffique Shah?

    thats the most interesting statement in this article! and coming from a journalist I admire I am suprised at the shortage of courage exibited here…especially given the well known expeience of Mr Shah himself.

    the only real alternative for the people of TnT is exacly the overthrow of the government of TnT popular… control of the nation and the elongation of structures of national control that the people themselves can manouvre and work to their on-going best interests.

    what else in heavens name will turn things around in Trinidad and Tobago, in the westindies…in the capitalist world as a whole?

    what are rhe people waiting on Santa Claus?

    does raffique Shah expect that democraic change will come through the electoral process in TnT?

    …like the election of Hugo Chavez in Venezueal next door for eg…. who proceeded to carry out major reforms there, bringing home national control of that nation to the people?

    well from which source is such a development possible in Trinidad?

    certainly not from an of the official parties which are all filled with money grubbing traitors of the national patrimony.

    so from whence if not from popular uprising, impromtu, spontaneous and without prior organisation, collective and democratic…can reform for the nation and the region come?

    and as latin america collectivise and close ranks against the empire in its current Bolivian effots at at making a right-wing coup….. now is the time for the people of the westindies to rise.. to cleanse the region of the westindian neo-colonialst elites, who emerged in replacement of ‘ole marse’ after Independence.

    that is the problem right there…this elite through their political parties, an at all social levels really… collude with foreign interests to control and exploit the people of TnT…the westindies as a whole.

    if this elite is not overthrown and replaced by the people, acting in their own interests…then our current mess will evolve into an ever worse set of social conditions for the people..probale eventual re-enslavement

    there is no hope from our current elites and leading classes at al, as demonstrtaed by the very state of things at the moment…so much money, so much resources and the people still suck sal’ as the money is plundered, wasted and misused…. directed by same old traditional enemy by the savannah.

    I am suprised by Raffique Shah here. I would have imagined that the rise of the people would be THE story he would have loved to cover as a political journalist!

  • Very good points Narvin!

  • The only part i will add is that the uprisings have to be sustained and transformed into revolution! and they “must” have the “popular” support of the masses in T&T in order to protect it.

    Without that their will be no change.

    One T&T, One Caribbean!

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