Open Yo’ Eyes & Ears, PNM…

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
July 30, 2018

“Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not.” — Jeremiah 5:21

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeAny party that has any pretensions to be relevant to its people needs to take time out to listen to what they are saying. The recent by-election came and went. The United National Congress won a seat—it increased its margin of victory-and the People’s National Movement (PNM) lost a seat—its margin of victory decreased. One would think the ruling party would examine why it didn’t do as well as it wanted to.

Faris Al Wari, attorney general, accused Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Leader of the Opposition, of playing “a significant amount of politics for the sake of the Barataria election. And that has, in my view, contributed to the outcome.” The Prime Minister accused her of “fear-mongering to create racial and religious strife for political advantage” (Express, July 18).

Nafeesa Mohammed, a Muslim and one-time deputy political leader of PNM, protested “the treatment meted out to them by the government and its self-serving statements.” She warned: “The election results should send a message to Prime Minister Rowley that the party has lost ground in its strongholds because of his insensitivity to the Muslim community and the issues facing the country.…It is easy to point fingers and make statements to suggest that people want to divide this country along race and religion. We voted last night [to say] we pass that” (Express, July 18).

Mohammed voted with her fellow Muslims against the government although she was reluctant to say so. This is significant. Followers of Islam, one of the three major Abrahamic religions—Christianity and Judaism being the other two—have always supported the PNM. It has been a faithful element of PNM from its inception except when its members, with other Indo-Trinbagonians, bolted the party to support the election of Basdeo Panday.

Why didn’t the PNM foresee this revolt by Muslims in the recent election? Given the volatility of the Islamic issue internationally—and the disproportionate presence of Trinidad jihadists in ISIS,-— it is difficult to see how PNM’s political strategists left the government’s treatment/relationship with the Muslims out of the electoral equation.

Xander Causwell wrote in Georgetown Security Studies Review: “Violent Islamist extremism in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) has endured despite improbable odds and ineffectual domestic militant operations. Nonetheless, T&T extremist groups will likely continue supporting foreign jihadist operation until the former are dismantled” (“Islamist Militancy in Trinidad and Tobago,” March 8, 2018).

He continued: “Unless the government of T&T succeeds in eliminating the militant network [of jihadists], the world can expect T&T to remain a latent source of violent Islamic zeal.” He praised the government for “initiating reforms specifically targeting local extremists.” Given this trajectory one can expect more rather than less ideological and propagandistic encounters with the Muslim community.

Our political leaders can learn a lot from industry. When Darren Woods took over the leadership of Exxon from Rex Tillerson, the former U.S. Secretary of State, he realized that his company faced a few challenges. He initiated what he called “engagement, discussion, debate” to tackle those problems. He told the Financial Times: “The way you get the most out of people and the way you get to the best solutions and the best ideas is by engaging in constructive debate with a diversity of opinions and ideas” (July 26).

The solution to the breakdown of relations between the PNM and the Muslim community lies in greater dialogue between these two communities. Each party ought to listen more carefully to what the other is saying and recognize the challenges that each party faces. The government has certain international obligations which it is bound to uphold for the greater good of the whole whereas the local Muslim community must do more to restrain the enthusiasm of a small slice of its members.

This is why I was happy when the AG decided to open up a discussion with those citizens, ten thousand strong, who asked that consideration be given to legalizing marijuana in the society. The same opportunity should be afforded to those groups who feel strongly about the archaic nature of the buggery laws.

The Prime Minister needs to exert stronger, hands-on leadership in these and other initiatives. On Wednesday, Sergio Marchionne, chain-smoking, espresso-drinking, chief executive of Italy’s Fiat Company, died. An editorial in the Financial Times noted: Marchionne “deserved to be called a leader. He had a vision of what needed to be done to return a troubled company and industry to health, worked relentlessly to realize it, and brought many others along with him” (FT, July 26).

PNM leadership finds itself in a debilitating bind in terms of the economy, its relationship with the various groupings, and the demands of citizens. It needs to listen more attentively to what its members are saying. The only way out of its dilemma is consistent “engagement, discussion, and debate”

The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know and what they see. The old people used to say: “Why take a flambeau to look for something at night when you can see it in broad daylight?”

“Open yo’ eyes and ears, PNM.”


The Slave Master of Trinidad by Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
The Slave Master of Trinidad by Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe

3 thoughts on “Open Yo’ Eyes & Ears, PNM…”

  1. Open Yo’ Eyes & Ears, PNM…

    I guess if this article was written on Today July 30th, 2018, a day that will go down in history for T&T.
    A day for all who were blinded, the glaring truth is there to be seen… Gary Griffith, My God.

    The fix is in… Susan François at the FIU (another Reshmi according to Dr. Rowley) and Gary Griffith as police commisioner.. wow.

    Well, there is hope… At least, the Police do carry guns.. and they are mad.

    Good luck T&T..

  2. Over 400 Muslims left the shores of tnt for the green pastures in the desert of Syria in search of “Kalipha”. It was a shocking display of stupidity as a Trini appeared in a propaganda video saying Trinidad was bad for him. The usual no job, no money, lots of children and no future. There in “Kalipha” lay the hidden treasure of Islamic utopia. A strong draw of money, guns and rivers of pleasure to satisfy the call to jihad. Yes the PNM failed these young men by taking the bread from their mouths.

    The Americans created ISIS providing weapons, money and protection including training to these soldiers of Allah. Then they watch as a war of epic proportions erupted in the desert. Fine cities such as Aleppo was flatten, the rich, centuries old facades disappeared as the blood demons marched mercilessly on innocent civilians. Thousands fleeing their homes and marching to Europe. Falling along the way their tired carcasses. No one seem to care. What about the Islamic brotherhood? Yes rich old Arab men came with money in hand and purchased young Syrian girls in the refugee camps to satisfy their lust. Many of these defenceless little girls were raped over and over again, then returned to their family, as the sickos continue to satisfy their thrist for other young flesh, based on a religion that allows such. No one commands their destiny in a war situation because predators abound.

    But back to Trinidad and the ever growing divide between the PNM and Muslims. An election is an opportunity to voice discontent and send a message. From the day Kamal a founder of the PNM was bypassed for the Prime Ministership the wound within the Muslim community bled profusely. The attack on Nafeesa was reckless politics by Rowley, good or bad it reopened the wound and the result was a walk away from the PNM. It was not entirely Rowley fault the US has taken a keen interest in Trinidad after the highest amount of jihadist left these shores. Rowley is caught between the sensitive Islamic sentiments and the Prime Ministership. Many of them have a disdain for American involvement in the Middle East and their strong support for Israel. No more is this more pronounced under Donald Trump. So Keith has to walk the tight rope, and frankly that is not easy for him. He sometimes let loose much to the delight of Kamla a Prime Mimister in waiting.

  3. “PNM leadership finds itself in a debilitating bind in terms of the economy, its relationship with the various groupings, and the demands of citizens. It needs to listen more attentively to what its members are saying. The only way out of its dilemma is consistent “engagement, discussion, and debate”…

    The PNM is now an institution, not a political party. Doc, political parties (1) Plan, (2) Strategize (3) implement. Each institution reaches a saturation level meaning that their level of engagement dwindles because they believe they have arrived.

    The PNM economic plan is simple distribute contracts galore thorough balisier house to the faithful. Distribute OJT work through balisier house. As fully applauded and endorsed by the minister of labour. Institutions can do that circumvent all democratic structures and reach your voters via soup kitchen diplomacy. If a political party does that all hell will break loose.

    We have seen the institution at work as Gary Griffith got the nod to be CoP. The PSC came up with a candidate but that was squashed. Another democratic “a political” system of governance thrown to the back of the bus. Nobody can challenge the institution that is the PNM. Then there is the Port Authority, place by the said government but all their decisions routed, board replace then a ministerial committee appointed to go find a boat. The boat has arrived but is not working may not work for some time as a staggering 3 out of 4 propellers need to be replaced. But because the PNM is an institution no outrage, in fact not a dog bark. Roget cannot march in Port of Spain because he is a favourite son of the institution.

    Then we see the institution taxing everything, the latest is the lottery winnings. They are going to take 10% of your winnings. Not a dog bark. Nobody marching, no Kublalsingh fasting. Then come September poor citizens who don’t present a long list of documents showing this is actually their property will have to find $5000 to pay for their ignorance. Or their inheritance will go to balisier house for further distribution. The PNM decree no increases for government employees and everyone got quiet. If this was a political party everyone would have been up in arms!

    Yes as election draws near the PNM institution will wage war with its war chest filled with goodies. It means money will be there, never mind the $120 million in debt. Or the consistent borrowing. The institution will survive any blood bath..

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