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Making Paleau with Politics
Posted: Wednesday, June 28, 2006

By Michael De Gale

Historically, coalition Governments are not known for their longevity. This is mostly due to competing ideologies and hugely inflated egos that inevitably collide. However, I believe that men and women of conscience, good intentions and integrity could make any coalition work. The recently created Democratic National Alliance (DNA), forged from the leftovers of otherwise insignificant parties has the potential to form an effective coalition if it contains the right ingredients. In culinary terms, it must be a political paleau or a callaloo if you prefer. As Trinbigonians, we all enjoy paleau and callaloo if prepared with love and all the essential ingredients are present hot pepper and all.

The fact is that I am encouraged by the inherent possibilities of an alternative political organization that can successfully challenge PNM hegemony, UNC disfunctionality, the Strong Man approach to governance and the tribalism of both parties. This is by no means a blanket endorsement of the DNA as I am not intimately familiar with their platform nor with the composition of their membership to allow myself to make an informed decision. However, I will be happy to endorse any political organization that is socially progressive, placing country before party and way ahead of the narrow focus of special interest groups.

Anyone who pays attention to the obscenity that passes for political dialogue in the nation's Parliament and the numerous social problems plaguing T&T will agree that something must be done urgently to save the nation from further polarization and ultimately self-destruction. Despite billion dollar budgets, there are a myriad of burning issues that generates discontent in T&T and are totally unacceptable by any standard. A cohesive, visionary, socially conscious and progressive party can seize upon these issues and register a positive impact on the political landscape. However, the philosophy and central focus of such a party must overlook personal ambitions, greed and pettiness, and concentrate on moving the country forward leaving no citizen behind. For such a party to be successful, it must include but cannot be the exclusive domain of intellectuals, business interest and political opportunists. Ideally, it must include voices that for years have been crying in the political, social and economic wilderness. It must espouse a political ideology that is ethnically inclusive and committed to creating opportunities and justice for all. Its members must come from organizations with long histories of committed struggle. Included in its ranks must be women, anti-poverty groups, trade unions, environmentalist, cultural organizations and other progressive but otherwise disenfranchised voices. In effect, it must be a party with a Caribbean heart, a global vision, and a social conscience. If such a party should ascend to the seat of Government, that could be the beginning of a Caribbean style renaissance with all its attending benefits. If we must live together, it is imperative that we work together for the benefit of the country. As our motto clearly states, "Together we aspire. Together we achieve".

Unlike other developing countries, T&T's problem is not the lack of wealth but rather its gross mismanagement, the absence of visionaries at the political helm, unaccountability and petty people who pander to the divisive issues of race and class much to the detriment of the country. When T&T declared its independence and became a sovereign nation, we inherited social, political and economic structures that worked to the benefit of our colonial masters. Today, we operate within the confines of these same structures which continues to enrich a few and leave too many still begging, "...Brother can you spare a dime?" It is not necessary to dismantle these structures, but using them to create developmental opportunities where hopelessness reigns will honour the spirit of the Social Contract.

For a country that is blessed with oil, natural gas, pitch and an abundance of human resources, it is shameful to see the sorry state of the nation's physical infrastructure, its appalling social programs and to witness the lament of the poor and the sucklings. Newspapers across the internet scream headlines of violence, poverty, discrimination and corruption even as the Soca Warriors are making us proud on the world stage. As a tourist I will be petrified to visit T&T despite the numerous things that are attractive about the country. This dichotomy is indicative of a severely fractured society desperately in need of healing. At the same time, it also presents a unique opportunity for people committed to country, to mobilize politically and to put forward a progressive agenda. In addition to stimulating economic activities and promoting educational development, any organization that is deeply concerned about the country must address the pestiferous issues of work ethics, respect in all its manifestations and discourage the negative behaviours that contributes to systemic poverty.

Try to envision a country in which the national pride that was demonstrated because of the Soca Warriors is a tangible and visible everyday occurrence. A country world renowned for its local art, culture, libraries, museums, sports and social programs which ensures that everyone could enjoy at least life's basic necessities. Imagine a country in which prosperity in not measured only in dollars and cents, but by the quality of life of all its citizens and is not found wanting. One in which laws expressly prohibit discrimination of any kind and incentives to create economic opportunities and bridge the widening gap between rich and poor are abundant.

At the risk of sounding naive and being accused of envisioning a Utopia, I will state emphatically that a better society is indeed possible complete with liberty, opportunity and justice for all. If we boldly proclaim in our national anthem that, "...Here every creed and race find an equal place..." then make it so. We are in the process of building a nation not developing an area. It is instructive to remember that "a house that is divided will not stand." If nation building is what the DNA is about, then that effort will necessitate making paleau with politics. The past forty years will show that that concoction is better than rum and roti on any given day.

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