Governing the ungovernable

By Raffique Shah
September 08, 2013

Raffique ShahRather than re-shuffle her Cabinet for a third time in three years, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar should have considered resigning and calling fresh general elections.

By an annual tinkering with her appointees and their portfolios, the PM has all but admitted she is incapable of leading the country, which, really, is nothing to be ashamed of. The great Eric Williams often complained this country was ungovernable. It still is.

In the face of seemingly intractable problems—a crime epidemic, rampant corruption, lawlessness—the PM simply does not measure up. I hasten to add I cannot think of anyone else who stands out as being capable of leading us out of the abyss, although many are offering themselves. For the country’s sake, I wish them well.

But having the decency to resign and call fresh elections—some might say stupidity—is hardly the hallmark of politicians anywhere.

For all his shortcomings, Patrick Manning did it twice, but lost on both occasions. I do not recall the precise circumstances that triggered the 1995 election a year before it was due. I think there were rumblings in the ranks of his Government, and there was an issue with House Speaker Occah Seapaul bucking the PNM, which Manning handled badly by putting her under house arrest.

Anyway, he called elections and lost his majority with the memorable 17-17-2 results that saw Ray Robinson throw his two Tobago seats with Basdeo Panday to give the latter his first lien on power. Manning would do a repeat performance in 2010, this time bowing to public pressure over some very stupid things he did, and losing badly to the People’s Partnership.

Panday, too, facing a rebellion in his ranks in the aftermath of the 2000 elections, returned to the polls in 2001, which resulted in the historic 18-18 tie, following which Robinson named Manning Prime Minister.

Except for Manning in 2007, politicians in this country have always ignored public opinion or their own failings, clinging to power until the last hour, until they are routed from office the way George Chambers was in 1986 (33-3) or Robinson in 1991 (winning only two seats).

In this instance, Persad-Bissessar has exhibited extremely poor judgment in selecting many of her ministers (and sundry other appointees), hence the need, as she saw it, for repeated “realignments”.

Playing musical chairs with as critical a ministry as National Security, more so in the face of runaway crime, is a sad indictment of her leadership. Four ministers in as many years must be a world record of sorts.

In appointing Captain Gary Griffith to the post, she said what is needed is someone with a military background. But she had that before: John Sandy was a retired brigadier who had some 40 years of military experience, someone who held command positions far higher than Griffith did.

Yet she removed him after only one year to put Jack Warner, who, if we believe the police, was the best minister ever. Matters not that the crime spiral continued under his watch, much the way it has done for more than a decade—short respites punctuating long, murderous binges. The police, and, I guess, members of the other services, liked Warner because he pampered them, pandering to their every wish.

His “success” had nothing to do with reining in crime, although he now speaks of a hundred initiatives he had recom­mended that Cabinet failed to support or implement. If we are honest in appraising reasons for the crime epidemic, we must conclude the police, or significant elements in the service, are very much part of the problem. If he does not already know it, “action man” Griffith will soon face this humongous institutional obstacle that all his predecessors did.

Another aspect to the PM’s latest re-shuffle that I find puzzling is that it came on the eve of the presentation of the 2013-2014 budget. Debate on the Appropriation Bill will begin within a week of the new ministers familiarising themselves with their new ministries. Clearly, they will not be able to make informed contributions on matters relating to their portfolios—unless they parrot briefs prepared for them by public servants.

In a related issue, stakeholders in the tourism sector lamented the change in line ministers just when Stephen Cadiz was getting to understand issues they face and was about to implement measures to boost the sector.

The PM also made some rather strange statements about a “new era of my Government”, about a “lift-off”. If it has taken her three years to “lift off”, when, pray, do we see the flight? I think what we are witnessing are the desperate actions of a drowning Government.

But it would have been so much more honourable to have faced fresh elections and lost. Manning returned from the dead. Chambers and Robinson did not. Therein lies a lesson for those who are brave enough to venture to govern this ungovernable country.

6 Responses to “Governing the ungovernable”


  • It is very difficult to govern in a country in which arrogance, egotism and corruption have become part of the cultural norms.Many of the foreign contributors incorrectly blame “race” for the paralysis in T&T.
    Is this a case of shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic?

  • Hey T- Man ,speak ,for yourself ,and perhaps the Mayaro drunkard Mammoo , on that pathetic subject of race . You should know , for it was race that got you , and many lying , country loathing others , to Canada in 1986, once Basdeo and camp ,resorted to tribalist ploys ,to undermine the ANR regime.
    Excellent article Uncle Shah, and thanks for showing a bit of love ,to a few leaders ,who supported democratic ideals , irrespective of the consequential fallouts.
    The irony was not lost on us , that Basdeo Panday , destroyed the NAR government, but needed ANR Robinson’s actions ,to become his country’s first ,Hindu PM-and for this ,he was applauded. However, when he decided to flip the script , and throw a bone for Manning later , he was deemed an evil racist .
    Ain’t it something , that the folks who love to idly boast ,of how much they adore Britannia, and the fine Westminster system,which include’s that English ,non written , constitutional , tradition example,would never in a million years , ever resign , once they have power in their grasp, irrespective of how negatively , they are perceived , by the nation?
    Let me go on record , and publicly state here , Uncle Shah,that any leader , who have a Dr Goopiesing, Suraj RAmbachan , and worst yet , AG Ramlogan ,in their cabinet , should be looked at with utter contempt.
    Let’s continue to wish our people well!

  • TMan, if you cannot come up with an efficient answer it is better to say nothing. You have a government of incompetents therefore any thing they do will be incompetent. RACE, yes RACE is the method by which they govern and yes we ‘blind people’ can see and understand that LOUD and CLEAR. You need not inject that is is a farce to say, understand and believe that RACE is the modus operandi of your governing party. When in opposition, every word that came out of their mouths were “fairness”, since being in government that word has become non-existent in their vocabulary. Your ascertion that “foreign contributors incorrectly blame “race” for the paralysis in T&T.” is false, then you should say what really is. You are insincere in what you believe and what you write. If your PP government dumps “race” it would help in realigning our existence as Trinidadians.

  • Look folks there is a shared inefficiency that is evident between the PP in T&T and the PPP in Guyana when it comes to administrating the affairs of those two diverse nation. Just parsing the comments and perspectives of the TMan and Mamoo you can discern the impediments that culturally impede the management of nations with diverse populations. They are incapable of separating ingrown and cemented cultural prejudices that skew judgement and reinforce ignorant and primitive stereotypical perspectives. They come to the table of political management of these two nations inundated with the arrogant myth of ethnic superiority and an understanding that democracy means that “those black fellas” must know their place and allow them to do whatever they want.

    One has to ponder the question of why there is similar social upheavals in places like Guyana, T&T and Fiji. I mean all across this world in many majority black nations a rainbow of people, including Indians live under regimes that are comprised of ethnic members different than them, and do so in relative comfort and security. But when one examines these three nations, what becomes glaringly evident, are traces of the socially stratifying administrative policies and attitudes that had its genesis in Ancient India, and seem to have migrated to the diaspora. As soon as power gets into the hands of some, they immediately seem bent on reintroducing those replicas of past and present cultural systems into the political administration of the nations they happen to win governance over.

  • Does Shah know that the AG is looking at ways to have him in jail for life?This Forun is bombarded by pnm racists who are missing the freeness from the gravy train.

  • Sorry intricate ,but your politically clueless , over zealous , fast talking AG,ain’t touching Uncle Shah , with a 10 ft pole. As the wise folks , would often say, ‘Monkey knows which tree to climb.’ Put differently , ignoramus bullies , know’s which fight to pick,si?

    http://www.jayblessed.com/2012/11/16/google-blanks-tt-govt-requests-to-remove-youtube-videos/

    We don’t have to worry about Yankee owned , Social Media big dogs , for they can take care of delusional ,legal upstarts, but as for Kinky head Wendy, from Diego Martin?
    Well ….,she thought that winning for T&T , was all that matters, but now this.Go figure!

    http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/AG-SUES–WENDY-189531891.html

    As to the question at hand , re ,’governing the ungovernable ,’Uncle Shah, let’s take a little time , to shed a tear for the lost of another little flower in 2 day old Nishan Lal, shall we? Perhaps in our rush to judgement, we should likewise hold off on the denunciations, but rather try to get to the heart of the matter ,as to why here 21 year old mom , choose to go the part she did.There are numerous other seemingly hopeless Alicia Acevero’s out there , and we need to find a way to reign them in, so that they make better choices, correct? More laws won’t cut it , neither would cabinet reshuffles, and elections .

    http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/CHARGED–WITH–KILLING–HER-BABY-227165051.html

    Just think for a moment folks , where our country would be heading – along the sustainable developmental – continuum,a la ‘UN Millennium goals ,’ if local , lifetime Social Activist , turn PP Minister ,Ms. Verna St Rose , was not told to be silent, then eventually dismissed, by what some might deemed her simi autocratic boss,all because she had the temerity to request some governmental policy , to deal with taboo subjects such as female abuse , child neglect , and wider welfares ,of the poor ,all across T&T ,aka Rainbow Nation?
    I love this land , Y tu?
    Your influence counts , so use it !

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