One dose of democracy

By Raffique Shah
August 31, 2014

Raffique ShahOne thing we citizens can celebrate on the 52nd anniversary of the nation’s independence is just how dependent we are on our illustrious politicians to tell us what is wrong and what is right, what is good for us and what is not.

Mere mortals that we are, and ignorant ones at that, we were blissfully unaware that for five decades-plus, we had engaged in general elections 13 times (counting 1961), but mostly, the results have yielded governments that did not reflect the will of the electorate. This seething but invisible problem has been the root cause of all our woes — rising crime, nagging poverty, dysfunctional health and education systems, and so on.

Fortunately for us, our wise parliamentarians and senators, the majority of them anyway, diagnosed this serious deficiency in the body politic of the nation, this root of all evil, and inspired by forces unseen, they came up with cure: give them a huge dose of democracy!

And so it came to pass that on the eve of independence celebrations, these saviours of our souls, sitting night into day and day into night, tapped their intellects to the fullest and their maths to the extreme to bring forth some formulae which, while they might befuddle ordinary minds like yours and mine, are guaranteed to give the citizenry the most democratic elections mankind has known.

Since this exercise in enlightenment climaxed at the end of the annual July-August vacation, as I listened to the rationale of those who argued that the “run-off” provision of the Bill was so good for the people, only that the people did not know it, my mind wandered back 50 to 60 years, to my boyhood days during the same vacation period.

Back then, because we were mostly poor people who stayed at home for the entire eight weeks, and whose escapades were confined to playing a variety of physical sports and games with our siblings and friends, and whose adventures extended to foraging for fruits that were in abundance in fields straddling the villages and communities in which we lived, we hardly knew what a beach was, far less a beach house.

The few fortunate who managed to spend some time with cousins or friends afar (meaning Port of Spain or Mayaro) were the objects of envy. An even rarer breed—I knew none—was those travelled abroad by boat, or magically, by plane.

The absence of electricity and television and gadgetry and sundry other modern devices that anchor today’s vacationing children to the dim indoors, so much so that they never experience the sun casting its vitamin-D-laden rays on their backs or getting soaked by downpours while collecting juicy ripe mangoes, only added to our robust upbringing.

But rich or poor, high or low, one experience all children endured during those vacations was the forced administration of a foul-tasting concoction of senna and Epsom salts, the dreaded annual purge. In retrospect, since our bowel movements were normal and mostly we were very healthy, we probably never needed this violent purge that, besides its foul taste, the gripe, the hurried trips to the outhouse, must have wreaked havoc with our innards.

But when Ma, belt in hand, confronted you with the order, “One dose of salts…it good for you!” you had no choice but to gulp the foul concoction and subtract the day from your vacation.

I guess if “one dose of salts” didn’t kill us then, “one dose of democracy” will not hurt us now. The Mother of the Nation has whipped out her belt and administered a mathematical concoction that confuses me to no end. But she says that for too long we have suffered in our ignorance, that we need to be rescued from our own stupidity.

Maybe the lady has a point, only I am not bright enough to understand it, much the way I did not understand Ma and her “dose of salts”. But all Queen’s horses and jackasses, and a few be-suited senators, seem to think the provisions of the Bill, more so the “run-off” rule, will deliver us from the evils that past elections inflicted on us.

Indeed, so critical are the constitutional amendments to our well-being as a society, our lawmakers have prioritised them over crime that is suffocating us, with detection rates that probably need a convoluted mathematical formula of their own to make them look good.

How do you convert a five per cent detection rate to fifty-five? I’m sure the genius who formulated the “run-off” can conjure something.

The Bill was infinitely more important than the tens of thousands of criminal cases that have clogged up the judicial system for decades. “Run-off” takes precedence over eliminating preliminary inquiries, dismissing petty matters and taking courts closer to prisons speed up justice.

Ignore a health system that has condemned thousands of patients to years of waiting for simple procedures. Silence the thousands more who cannot get life-saving medications because somebody messed up. Bet your food card that many schools will not reopen next Tuesday for lack of repairs.

Forget the mess at the BIR offices, Licensing, the ports, public transport, flooding and on and on.

Give them one dose of democracy.

12 thoughts on “One dose of democracy”

  1. Very well said Raff. You have proven time and again that not only your navel string buried in Trinidad but that you are in fact ‘Trini to D Bone’. This conjures more than words can express. When you speak, we know what your are talking about, whether we agree with you or not, but you are always on the subject that concerns us as Trinidadians. While I have my thoughts on the subject matter, I reserve that for now to return later, but I just want to praise your brand of journalism because it is so down to earth that it makes me smile, especially when you described the August vacation of yesteryear and the purges we had to take before returning to school and envying of friends who had somewhere other than home to go to. Great stuff!

  2. No amount of run off can deliver T&T from the venal racist who use guile to perpetuate their ethnic hegemony over the nations they manage to take over through elections. They have an agenda, and it is rooted in a thousand year odious belief system that even predated the gruesome rationales advanced by Hitler and his crazies, and the perpetrators of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. So much so, that David Duke, a rabid white racist of American nationality, boasted that he never completely understood racial difference until he visited India.

    Unlike many who continue to ignore the evidence that is before our eyes, I refuse to ignore a reality that has been building up in this tropical Caribbean Paradise over the past 6 decades. We continue to allow silly guilt trip accusations of racism to inhibit our deep examination of an evil that hides behind a facade of twisted and group serving rhetoric. We will wake up one day and find ourselves wondering how, and why, after our struggles against racism, discrimination and marginalization all over this world, we could have missed the same political, social and linguistic features that preceded the introduction of the oppressive systems during those eras.

  3. In Trinidad we have always had a problem with calling a spade a spade. This bill(s) is nothing more than a “Hail Mary” attempt to change the election process to the advantage of the PP government. Prakash is not pro-COP but pro-hindu/UNC. As an attorney, he is very familiar with process and understands that education is not just an exercise but a requirement to inform people of a proposal, allowing them to listen to the pros and cons so that they can vote with a ‘learned’ pre-requisite of information before casting a vote for or against. That learning process should be exhaustive and inclusive of every element of arguments that might possibly be experienced on the occasion of such a bill becoming law. Prakash, Ramlogan and Kamla knew that if due process were allowed to occur before ‘passing the bills’ they would stand a less than favorable chance of passing, so expediency became the preferred method of passage. What are these bills seeking to do? Run-off – create a scenario where only two parties would be constitutionally allowed to contest a seat. Given the nature of the population when such an occasion becomes necessary, the PP/COP is sure that Indians would vote for Indians and given the natural split in the ‘mixed’ population, even if they don’t get a majority, it still offers them a better chance of winning. This is how the bill is presented and the the debate bears that fact out clearly. Even a so-called independent senator who, one would naturally expect to weigh both sides of the coin, expressed tribe loyalty by saying “you want one, you get one” or words to that effect when it came down to the wire. Essentially what he was saying that he would vote Russian roulette with peoples’ lives and livelihood. The constitution was never meant to play ‘dolly house’ with. It is an extremely serious fixture that examines a people, establishes rules and regulations by which ALL can experience equal benefits and opportunities under the law, not giving advantage to one class, race or group of people and Kamla and Ramlogan and Prakash are trying to do. The process employed to ‘win’ this fight is flawed and unfair. I am sure when it is brought to the most constitutionally experienced court of law it would not find favor. I expect it to pass the judiciary as presently constituted in T&T. But when it gets to the Privy Council, there is no doubt it will not pass.

    1. Social change refers to an alteration in the social order of a society. Social change may include changes in nature, social institutions, social behaviours, or social relations.
      When a society changes in its composition, institutions and mechanisms must change accordingly. This new constitutional alteration in how members of parliament are elected simply reflects the changing nature of the population of T&T. The Westminster system as well as former British protocols may no longer be relevant or desirable in a country like T&T.
      In fact opposition to the changes are based on the fact that the present system favors the PNM and is therefore acceptable and desirable.

      1. TMan you are still talking racism with a capital R. How are you so sure that the changes to this bill is the remedy for social changes? Government should ALWAYS work godwards the development of ALL. When you seek constitutional change, it must be for the good of ALL. You said that as presently constituted the system favors the PNM, if that is so, how come the present government ended up with such a large majority in parliament? We do not change for the sake of change, when we change it must be a studied change that benefits all. Your ascrtion confirms my beliefs that it is racial in nature and purpose having absolutely nothing to do with democracy.Whilst that might be good for you , have you given a thought to the fact that those whom you have public stated your hate for might not be as accepting of that change? Bear in mind that when one has nothing to loose, destruction may not be seen as a loss either. Change must be enacted by consensus, not arbitrarily enacting it because you don’t like the outcome. What is acceptable and desirable to you is abhorrent and destructive to me so, does that make you right and me wrong?

        1. Looks like we are at an impasse. Should there be a gunfight at the OK coral? I have a question for you my dear friend. Who is the “all’ of which you speak?
          You have been lingering too long in oblivion. The “ALL”is now a majority which you disapprove of.Do you realize that your PNM people are now in the minority?
          You seem to having problems dealing with the new realities in T&T.CHANGE reflects the new realities which have left the PNM behind.

          1. TMan it is obvious that for you ALL means Indians. ALL for me means those for the PPP, those against the PPP and those who don’t give a hoot. Regardless of what you say, employment of recklessness and imprudence in governance means – having it your way is dangerous and a strategy for disaster. If you feel that it is your way or the hi-way, then be prepared, there are red flags all over the place. You continue at your own risk my friend.

          2. Is our Cyber Trollogian in Chief ,Cuz TMan saying, that the new realities,as he and kind sees them, must only be observed by de Afro -dominant -PNM, or are these also applicablble to his Cabal controlled , Indo -dominant -UNC as well?

            Simply funny to see how this neo tribal comedian , is using two useless, non progressive political parties, to assess social demographics.
            Let’s guess , he think that the PNM won those 98 out of 100 elections since Massa England left, with only Afro Trinis votes.
            Get a grip mi amigo, for the 2 victories that Kamla, and her mentor Papa Baz , scrape through, were because, cross tribal patriots, across our country decided to throw dem a bone.
            Now if only we can get one of our Trini center blogging gurus ,to tackle the subject of the impact of our mixed , ethnically confuse population , on voting patterns , and tribal powers, that would be a first.
            Moving forward, the question remains as follows:-
            Will Dr Rowkey be another PNM appeasement leader, just like Eric, Chambers, and politically comatose Manning? Time will tell.
            In the interim, the follies of square pegs , operating in round holes, will continue ,until…..?


            One just cannot script this people . Not even Playwrights Ralph Maraj,Earl Lovelace, or Derrick Walcott?


            T&T is on the brink of becoming a failed state, but the Tin pan soldier, turned glorified National Security big wig, is ecstatic about expensive war tanks -purchased in the absence of public tenders- allegedly ,to fight crimes, chiefly in poor , neglected neighborhoods.
            Worst yet, traffic Congestion across the country ,is stressing out citizens, plus negatively impacting workers production-since folks cannot get to ,and from work in time, and yet these bums are solely worried, about cost, re a revamp modern Transportation system, and the distribution of state owned , tribally coveted lands.
            As my late, extremely wise, Tobago Granny used to say to yours truly,back in de day,”Lord put ah hand, but if you can’t , then put ah foot!”
            I luv dis land , Y tu?
            Long live de Republic of T&T, hmmmmm?

  4. A very thoughtful article Mr.Shah.However,why does this article appear on my computer on the 7th,September,2014,and not on the 31st,August,2014?

  5. “Social change refers to an alteration in the social order of a society. Social change may include changes in nature, social institutions, social behaviours, or social relations.”…..TMan
    What gives you the right to say that government, especially a troubled one like this PP government, should be the agent for such a change? Guyana today is a basket case, because like you they believed that change from a racial perspective is the answer to their problems, so institutionalizing fixtures to suit the Indian is in fact the way to prosperity and longevity of the Indian. Leadership is not just about winning and loosing. If winning an election produces the type of leadership that we are seeing now in Trinidad, what makes you think that appearing with the constitution every time you think that you may loose is the recipe for staying in power. What makes you think that the retention of bad governance will not meet with resistance? The people elect the government the need/want, but even bad people want good governance. Government is not a rumshop, where you open when you want and close when you want. It is not a rumshop where you cuss people and tell them to ‘get to hell out of here’, then slams the door in their faces. Sociology is a science coupled as an art, putting people with a PAGANISTIC mindset to institutionalize change is a recipe for disaster. I’ve listened to radio stations and heard many people who think like you say the same thing ‘when we in government, we change to suit us’, and boy! is that dangerous! The need for change starts from down and elevates its way up, giving the answer for change from one side of the many sides CANNOT be a good remedy for future development.

  6. Kian.
    I have been reading the response from you, with regards Bro. Raff. and must agree that if we are not careful Trinidad may very well be another (British Guiana 1960s)Guyana
    As for the “Tman, continue to teach him how he should live with others, other than his own kind.

  7. Yes I agree with this article and wish to even add running our gadgets playing jockey in the canal during rainy season used to be fun as a young boy and the tops and marbles etc.added to the fun of those times. Our minds used to create then…not now where everything is put on a form for us to fill. But more important life was simple then and not complicated as today such that those today who walk down the corridors of power as our so called leaders in our country still feel the treasury is theirs to take from anytime for their own uses. But God doh sleep. I feel sorry for them as certainly they will face their own bitter consequences as our sins do follow us to our graves and even tarnishes the lives of those family that follow. The tar brush touch all ah we and as one person said all ah we thief. Why because we doh talk about it, that is…the plain truths openly… for fear of victimization. By the way I notice that “we” Pres. reach. I must warn him though that that those who are given more ….more will be expected of them. Yes we are born and will live equal before the lord. So I feel sorry for him too as he clearly has lost his way. He was given more but he feels that his free will is to do as he pleases. Mr Pres …I or my family did not get the same opportunity as you in a failed system so please do not sugar coat things for me for you are fooling yourself not me. Miss so and so is tainted and time will show this to be true. She made no improvements to the Police Complaints Organization where abuse is still rampant and even worse than how she met it. She like most in North America has false papers as that system breeds that. And we copy all their con jobs….word for word and paste them in our little Trinidad and Tobago. Instead we need to fix from within as we did in the 50s. We had statesmen then. Now we accommodate students who study self more than wanting to serve… We clearly lost our way. And what is so bad is that there is no connect with the wisdom of the old and the brains of the young so that they can carry the baton forward. I wish we could understand the materialism of the great West is nothing but a distraction for us. Our real values were once in our togetherness as a nation. You know where we once shared an equal place….this is no more. Our politics taught us differently. Lucky or unlucky …for those who feels the world belong only to them. More so our politics is rigged with failure bombs waiting to explode (e.g. remember the mother who beat her son with a spade as slavery taught her to…did we miss this …the lesson of the past) and like God always reminds us …go straighten things out with your brother before you approach or come to me with your problems. Like ISIL ….the great West cannot seem to understand that the problems they fail to resolve as God wants them to ….comes back today to haunt them. Just like in Trinidad where the Mr Bigs of Colombia and Mexico fight for drug turf that USA and other G8s fed on for years ..their drugs they so love to consume. Their politicians are failing them too as Capitalism is a failed system. but we want to copy …God must be stupsing as he gave us brains to love and know and serve him and find solutions at that. Yes we hurt because we have always sucking up to the G8s who are busying exploiting others as in the 60s to now. All we have to do is stop sucking up to …a la ….Calder Hart, Ewaski, Gibbs etc and use the brains God gave us to chart a better place for us. North America, the UK, France, Germany etc, do not have any answers for us. In fact they are the cause of our problems like the fruits of ISIL is to Iraq and Syria. Can we learn from our mistakes from the money hungry politicians we were blessed with? Hats off to KUB. At least he’s got guts. We have a truly failed system both in the Judiciary and otherwise. The Law Association should take a good look at themselves before they look to fix anything in our blessed lands.

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