Roti Diplomacy

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
November 28, 2016

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeTomorrow is Election Day. It is the first time the populace will have an opportunity to express their views about their new government. Although one expects the PNM to triumph in this campaign, it has not evoked the same passions of the last election, nor for that matter, the same urgency. Whatever its outcome, it will be a referendum on the prime minister’s leadership.

In June this year, in a foreword to Dr. Rowley’s autobiography, From Mason Hall to White Hall, I noted that last September citizens voted for a brilliant scholar, an eloquent orator, and an articulate individual to become the prime minister of the country.

My sense was and still is that Dr. Rowley is adequately prepared to guide this society in a positive direction. He came of age politically when West Indian nationalism, Black Power, was at its height nationally and internationally, and the moderate and not-so-moderate socialism of Michael Manley and Fidel Castro respectively were in vogue.

In 1981, when Dr. Rowley entered politics, the profession enjoyed a higher status in the national consciousness than it does today. People had greater respect for politicians, and the latter engaged in substantive policy and ideological issues. People expected more of their politicians. Today’s “roti diplomacy” (how much one spent to entertain guests at national festivals) has taken over from “rum and roti politics” of yesterday where one plied voters with rum and roti to get their votes.

In earlier days, one could espouse certain principles, even though it contradicted the leader’s views. In his autobiography, Dr. Rowley asserted: “I always felt that the membership must assert itself in the party. Because of how the party evolved from Dr. Williams, who was a political colossus, the political leader subsumed the authority of the membership, and incumbents were often running the party without sufficient concern for the views of the interests of the party.”

Dr. Rowley says he introduced a “one-man, one vote” policy, something for which I still have many reservations, to counteract Dr. Williams’s authoritarianism. A week ago, Michael Harris took exception to Dr. Rowley’s language when he removed Eden Charles from his UN position.

Dr. Rowley thundered: “When I put my signature that you come home then you come home because I am the Prime Minister of T&T.” (Express, November 21)

Harris says Dr. Rowley’s words struck him “like a two-by-four to the side of his head.” It took him back to Dr. Williams’s boast of 1971: “When I say come, they cometh and when I say go they goeth.” This leads one to ask: How much of Dr. Williams’s leadership style has Dr. Rowley internalized in spite of Dr. Rowley’s assertion to the contrary.

Keith Rowley’s government has made some remarkable achievements over the last fourteen months. It has stabilized spending, brought the economy under control, and maintained social peace, in spite of the fact that international oil prices have declined by 60 percent since mid-2014. There have been similar declines in natural gas prices.

During the period 2006-2014 the government collected approximately $27.5 billion annually in taxes from the energy sector; in 2015, those taxes declined to $19 billion. In the last fiscal year, it declined to $8.6 billion. By 2019, the government expects to collect about $14 billion from this source. Government revenues have fallen significantly from what they were when the UNC reigned and, with it, the ability to continue the freeness.

Faced with this major economic shock, the government had the confidence to take measures that were shunned by previous governments for the past decades. It has limited fiscal subsidies (gas subsidy), engaged in serious tax reforms (VAT), resorted to necessary but unpopular initiatives (such as tax revenues), and attacked sacred cows (URP, CEPEP, and GATE). A colleague said to me: “Keith was willing to do what is right rather that what is politically expedient and that should count for something.”

In my foreword, I said Dr. Rowley’s experience prepared him adequately to face the challenges that awaited him. I argued that if Dr. Williams possessed an encyclopedic knowledge about the facts of his society and his people, A. N. R. Robinson a haughty yet humane understanding of our economic and political conditions, and Patrick Manning a fascination with greatness and a Machiavellian duplicity, then Keith is blessed with an understanding that at this stage of our development we must return power to the people in their communities which is precisely what his party offers the electorate at the local elections.

One does not know how successful the party will be in this endeavor. At least, it is worth a try.

Dr. Rowley’s government has not achieved all that it set out to do when it was elected. It has been slow in responding to the murders that keep on increasing, and black people are being shortchanged by his administration. Only time will tell how well he faces up to these and other shortcomings.

I wish him all the luck in tomorrow’s election.

5 Responses to “Roti Diplomacy”


  • Speaking of leaders , and the delusional bozos, who pretend they are .

    http://www.newsday.co.tt/news/0,236460.html

    Tell me again Doc , why so many leaders of the Global South , such as Caroni Ltd ,Trade Union Stalwart, Papa Baz ,and we can throw in ,too numerous , elitist, misguided intellectuals ,a la Llovel Francis here , still have this crazy obsession ,with Socialism, when the evidence would indicate, that the majority of countries ,whose leaders, choose to walk this escapist part, have had their chiefly lower caste folks,still stuck in abject poverty , and ugly sufferings, as ‘sustainable development,’ , remain an illusion?
    Yeah Llovel, “a Caribbean hero,” indeed , but only for you , Basdeo, Michael Manley, and that equally nepotistic, self serving creature,in -“….fascination with greatness and a Machiavellian duplicity”- …Patrick Manning.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/opinion/sunday/for-blacks-in-cuba-the-revolution-hasnt-begun.html

    Yeah Basdeo , agreed,the nepotistic 90 year old bastard ” Fidel, was a charming man,”and so was Mao, Stalin,and Lenin.
    Oh,and by de way , his net worth at death was $900,000,000, while for his 85 year old hermano,it’s $100,000,000, and counting.
    As for the millions of citizens of color, in his country?
    As my late, extremely wise ,Tobago Granny used to say — well, ‘dats a horse of a different color, si?
    At least the neo Marxist Guyanese ,Dr Chedi Jagan, well supported by his Yankee- CIA Wife Janet,did not hide his ideological preference, hmmmm?

  • There are many who strongly believe that our PM is not such a brilliant scholar, eloquent orator or articulate individual and they can provide ample evidence to support their position.
    His present leadership, in spite of numerous platform promises has failed to produce any innovative ideas or policies to steer the country out of its fiscal problems. He seems to be waiting for a resurgence of oil and gas prices. His arrogant and unqualified finance minister should be replaced with someone less vacuous. Mariano Brown has provided good financial counsel from the sidelines.
    The PM’s roti dog whistles are certainly not going to help him in this election, especially when it turns out that his figures were incorrect. He stoops too often to gutter politics and he does it in the most angry, raging and base way possible, unfortunately, much to the delight of his supporters.
    The PM has already replaced two ministers. He needs to go even further and replace his Finance minister and his Education minister, both fumbling and stumbling daily. His Cabinet lacks people with vision, innovative ideas, creativity and above average intelligence, all qualities required for strong leadership at this time.
    The results of this local government election and any other election really does not matter because nothing changes. The opposing forces is just as bankrupt when it comes to leadership and talent.

  • “The results of this local government election and any other election really does not matter because nothing changes. The opposing forces is just as bankrupt when it comes to leadership and talent.”Tman

    Interesting, perspective, mi Pizanno! Hey TMan, last I checked , our T&T ,only had 1 ,” brilliant scholar, eloquent orator or articulate individual,” who served as our PM,and we survived nevertheless.
    Quit your doom& gloom – pessimism! It so , ummmmmm…. unbecoming ,especially of a Trini elite school , educated bloke, hmmmm?
    We’ll do just fine again, over the next four years , or more ,Uncle Rowley,and his ‘Red,& Ready Gang ,’ rule de political roost- and the fast evolving , irrelevant , UNC/PP- Setting Sun ,politically inept Bozos , waddle in the wilderness- due in great measure ,to it’s own – as you so adroitly put it- “bankrupt leadership and talent.”
    Tell you what TMan , I’m with you , as long as you ,and similar non patriotic others-come post Elections results – don’t start calling for riots,Liberal Democratic , Yankee-fake feminist-Hillary style , si?
    Long live de Republic!

  • The results are in .The PNM cannot be happy with the outcome. In addition to the fairly even results, there is the turnout, the lowest in modern times, 34.3 per cent as opposed to an average 40.3 per cent in eight local elections between 1987 and 2013. A strong message to both parties, but stinging to the PNM. It is the first time a ruling party has so quickly lost its shine, incapable of stirring even its own base, evidenced in PNM areas according to an Express report by Ria Taitt, in St Ann’s River Central “a mere” 16.6 per cent turnout; St Barbs/Chinapoo “a pathetic” 15.94 per cent, and Beetham/Picton “a meagre” 16.8 per cent.” Indeed, in PNM strongholds the turnout was very low: for example, Port of Spain 22.7 per cent, Laventille 24.6 per cent and Diego Martin, 21.8 per cent; whilst, in UNC strongholds, it was far higher: Chaguanas 40 per cent, Penal Debe 40.4, Siparia, 41.8 per cent, Mayaro 49 per cent, Princes Town 41 per cent.

  • http://www.trinidadexpress.com/20161203/editorial/kudos-to-kamla

    “The PNM cannot be happy with the outcome. In addition to the fairly even results, there is the turnout, the lowest in modern times.. A strong message to both parties, but stinging to the PNM. It is the first time a ruling party has so quickly lost its shine.” Tman

    We expected this tribal idiocy ,and grade school logic , by politically irrelevant , subpar Playwright ,Ralph – Ungrateful – Maraj,but good ‘God’ – if such truly exist – not you too TMan. To think we the more astute , thought you were one of de smarter ones, due in great measure , to your idle boast ,of attending opaque , Trini elite Secondary schools, where pedophile Priest, and sex starved ,angry White European Nuns ,rule innocent kids, like 3rd World tyrants.
    Where was it Fatima, QRC , or CIC?
    Only lame brain comedians ,would look at the results of the recent Local elections , and view the returns, as a failure for the present regime, after they were forced to implement some of the most austere, socio – economic measures , this country has ever seen , except those of Mr 6% George Chambers, and COLA freezing ,ANR Robinson , with his NAR.
    The failure of the two parties to boost voter turn out , had nothing to do with Dr Keith’s Red & Ready Political gang, but rather , your politically inept ,damaged goods ,Siparia Queen Karma, who even after what – some 6 humiliating losses under her wings -just won’t take the cue ,to pack her doggy bags,and hand over party leadership ,to Mikila -Inderia -Benezia -Panday.
    Not that such ,would bear better dividends to the Setting Sun Yellow belly, political gang party fortunes,her Papa, along with Sandhurst Train Coup School hero , Uncle Shah, and OWTU Stalwart , George Weeks , help create
    It’s simply called Political fatigue, mi country hating Pizanno. People had enough of stupid political piccongs,and lack of substantive public debates ,where issues could be dissected.
    Look TMan , here is the deal , and no matter how you, or phony objective intellectuals ,such as Hamid Ghanny ,Morgan Job, or Selwyn Ryan ,slice it , this really sums up our T&T political dilemma:_
    1. Your UNC,and the PNM ,are ideologically the same . Two Grassroots political parties , who pander to business elites, while repeatedly giving the middle finger to the masses, who blindly vote for them, irrespective to the kicks they’ll get in the shin. 2.Unfortunately the UNC has trust issues- and their ugliness, tend to be more vivid , once in power.
    3. There is this fake alliance ,called the PP,which is now virtually dead , even if the political clowns at the helm ,are pretending not to realize such. The COP Partners of the more dominant UNC ,don’t trust them ,for obvious reasons. Likewise , the electorate as a collective holds the same contempt,but can be tempted to hold their nose ,and throw dem a bone , but not for more than one term , over every 15 ,to 20 year span.
    4 Trinidadians , and Tobagonians ,are generally very naive , simplistic , delusional folks , who in most cases , don’t give a rats behind , if Good Friday , falls on a Monday.
    As such , some politicians tend to take them for granted, and would – in the words of Yankee TV Judge Judy- try to “pee on their legs , and tell them it’s raining.” Ain’t always going to work, as was seen in the past 2 elections. Am I right , or am I right TMan?
    4.The electorate, recognized , who tried to play the escapist , POPULIST game – even with plummeting oil/ gas prices.
    5. Then again, maybe ,many have extremely wise,( Tobago like ) Grand Moms, like I did , who warned dem , dat – ” if better can’t be done , let de worst continue ,” hmmmmm?
    We wish our people well, as a collective.

    http://www.trinidadexpress.com/20161203/news/pastor-8216caught-having-sex-with-girl-148217

    Speaking of which,& where you at Dr Keith Honorable MP for Westmoorings,and we can throw in, dem poor ,insignificant folks, of Carenage, and Bagatelle Rd Diego Martin?
    Yeah we know , now dat this local Election is over , ready to sit down with AG Alll – Ahhhh- Weee, and National Security Minister , Uncle Dillon, and enforce /tighten the law , with respect to sex starved , pot gut hombres , who love to prey on innocent , underaged girls.
    I’m certain that you would like to see this pastor ,and potential baby daddy ,of this 16 year old kid unborn baby , castrated, then both sent to one of our prisons , where they would become wives for 6ft , by 11 inches, Mandigo Prisoners.
    Now objective guy that you are , I’m certain ,that you ,unlike morally repugnant , neo elitist blokes , such as Basdeo Panday, Kamla , Sat Maraj , and Imam Ali,would like to see the same draconian measure , initiated , for all the hombres, who were fortunate to use their wealth, influence , and power , to do the same / engage in Statutory Rapes , against 9, 10 12, 14 , and 16 year old poor Indo Trini girls – under the guise of legal marriage , si?
    While we at it , to ensure parents to encourage these behavior , Imams ,and Priest who marry , and Health care officials, from Doctors to Midwives , who turn a blind eye to this social malady , pay a price.
    Just checking.
    Oh , what’s that TMan , you’ll like to see the age of consent lowered for all, to 14 years?
    A tough sell ,in your T&T, Mr Progressive.

    Stay Vigilant T&T!

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