By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
June 06, 2012
A few days ago, the People’s Partnership (PP) celebrated its second year of office amidst a lot of hype and propaganda. Their esteemed leader even tried to mamaguy Orville London by calling him “a bully and cry-baby” because, in his capacity as the Secretary of the THA, he sought a meeting with Kamla Persad Bissessar, in her capacity as the Prime Minister, to talk about the affairs of his country. Under normal circumstances, London would not necessarily have wanted to meet Persad Bissessar because there is nothing intellectually attractive or physically compelling about her. But such is the dynamics of power that the Prime Minister and her cohorts could say a lot of nonsense and get away with it because they control the political purse and constitutional discourses about the nation.
To add insult to injury, Ralph Maraj, a political grasshopper, advances the silly position that “fearless, comprehensive examination has not been a feature of the PNM” and suggests it “has never dealt with the steady decline that first significantly surfaced in the Black Power uprising of 1970 and culminated in the devastating 33-3 defeat in 1986″ (Express, April 14). I wonder if Maraj has ever read Dr. Williams’ “Chaguaramas Declaration” (1970) and whether he considers it an adequate response to the challenges posed by the advocates of Black Power. I wonder if Maraj would have considered the PNM an introspective party if it had won the 1986 elections and continued in office for yet another five years making its reign thirty six consecutive years. Apart from a political dictatorship, I wonder if Maraj could name one party, anywhere in the democratic world that has won elections consecutively for 36 years. Political parties do atrophy, reorganize and reinvent themselves and come back again. Sometimes they even die.
On June 5 (Express) Maraj went at it again. He laments: “It is sad to see the People’s National Movement fading” and that “the populace is daily losing interest in the party. It is exciting no one, including its die-hard supporters who cling mainly to hope.” While it is true that the party should involve the populace in its plans to transform the party I am not sure that his major suggestions– “one-man one-vote” and a public discussion about PNM’s “past sins, is now indispensable for the party’s revival.” This is absolute hogwash. In May 2010, the national population decided on that matter and defeated the PNM decisively. In other words, we are beyond that point or, as younger people say, we over’s that. That is how democracy works.
Almost invariably, elections are based on choices and, in many cases, on the performances those who are in power. As we assess the PP, not the PNM, we should ask two questions: Are we better off today than we were in 2010; or are we safer today than we were in 2010?
First, the economy. Although the PP hated to hear it and Jack Warner uttered his usual nonsense, the fact remains that our economic health has worsened over the last three years and we are in trouble. Dookeran’s circumlocution that Trinidad and Tobago “is not in any slump” because there has been “a revision of growth rates in all the major economies” (Brazil, China, India, etc.,) is the most absurd reasoning I have ever heard. Suffice it to say, that in most societies, three years or three quarters of negative growth is usually considered a recession and this is precisely where we find ourselves.
The news gets worse. Governor Ewart Williams reported that in 2012 “crude output continued its trend to decline, falling by some 13.8 percent below first quarter 2011… Lower crude oil production also contributed to a 15 per cent decline in the output of refinery products.” The economy continues to lose jobs. Although the unemployment rate fell to 5.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2011 from 5.8 per cent in the previous quarter, “the improvement is however more apparent than real since it results mainly from the reduction in the labor force, which outweighed the number of jobs lost in the quarter.”
Economically, we are worse off today than we were in 2010.
How about our safety? Newsday’s headline on June 5 reads: “8 murders in 4 days: Young blood flows.” Significantly, these indiscriminate murders have spread from Laventille and Morvant to Maracas Bay, Toco and Biche. One of the victims left a wife and three children raising the question, “who will take care of that wife and those children?” Today, the murder rate stands at 177, eight more murders than we had in 2011 in spite of the State of Emergency (SOE).
In 2010 the PP’s biggest promise was that it would solve the crime problem. It instituted a SOE, picked up black men indiscriminately, and constructed a detention camp to house them. Five months later, things are worse. The prospect of murders increases and is an ever-present danger. It is relatively easy to get Sugar Aloes to perform at a PP rally. That is propaganda. It is more difficult to solve the crime problems. This involves having an effective crime plan.
If I were Mr. Maraj I would be hesitant in making such large leaps about the death of the PNM. In the end, an election is fought on the accomplishment of the party in power and the capacity of the opposing party to offer an alternative. There is much more that the PNM’s executive and its leader should be doing to ready the party for the THA election in 2013 and the general elections of 2015. In the short term, the PP (and TOP) may be successful, but in the longer term, if I were a betting man I would put my money on the PNM in the year 2015.
Thus far, the PP has been “full of sound fury, signifying nothing.” Its accomplishments have been slender and its future prospects have been marred by corruption, cronyism and racism. It has been a failure and this is what the referendum will be on in 2015.