By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
December 10, 2019
In May I met Esmond Forde, the parliamentary representative of Tunapuna, at the “dead house” of a respected villager. I told him that from what I heard and saw the PNM will lose the Tunapuna seat in the next general election. He disagreed and assured me that Indians in the constituency would support him so he was not worried. I wonder if he was surprised that UNC won the Tacarigua, Paradise, Caura seat in the local election.
Oskie is my best friend. Later that month, at the North Coast Jazz Festival, I told him the PNM will lose the next general election. He got mad and asked what did I know? He insisted the UNC could never beat the PNM. I didn’t argue with him. All I told him, and it still remains my response, “Let’s wait and see.”
I was not surprised by the results of the local election. The PNM has lost touch with its members on the ground and does not listen to their concerns. It feels money alone can win an election. On August 25, I wrote: “It used to be that you couldn’t beat the PNM when it came to election strategy and campaigning. We may have to reconsider this truism. This time the PNM might be sleep-walking into an unpleasant election defeat” (Express).
From about 2013 to 2017 the people of Tacarigua, Caura and Dinsley fought a dogged battle against the UNC government to prevent it from building a stadium on the Orange Grove (Eddie Hart) Savannah. Under the leadership of Carol James and Ulric “Buggie” Haynes, our village idol, we defeated the state and prevented it from desecrating our land.
The judge ruled that nothing should be built on that land without parliamentary approval. We wanted to keep the space green (we called ourselves the “Green Space Committee”) and hoped to make it a historic site and holy place. However, before we could say “Jack Robinson,” the Tunapuna- Piarco Corporation (TPRC) extended the paved area on the southwestern part of the savannah and converted it into a food court.
On November 29, a trashbin titled “An Eddie Hard Food Village” was installed on the grassy side of the savannah which gives rise to the speculation that the TPRC is/might be thinking of converting that space into a food court or even extending the present food court. A mature healthy tree at the perimeter of the car park was cut down to make way for whatever the TPRC has in mind.
In 2013 one of the arguments I made in defense of keeping this space green sacred is that the savannah is a natural water table from which as many as 250,000 people receive their water supply. There are twelve pumps on the site that assure a constant supply of water. If this area is paved, the water will run off and will be lost rather than collected by the water table. In his ruling the judge cited information I had given in my booklet Preserving the Tacarigua Savannah.
This judge’s ruling does not matter to the TPRC or the PNM. The politicians know best. They do not consult their constituents, follow the law, or listen to their voices. They only listen to the wishes of the moneyed class, which is one reason why the PNM lost the local election.
The money bags believe if they swamp the airways with ads the unthinking plebs will go to the polls and vote for the PNM. They believe that they could cuss UNC-call them evil-bring out their cocoyea brooms, and rid the country of its ideas. They forget that Indo-Trinbagonians are the country’s largest ethnic group and their number continues to grow. The Afro-Trinbagonian group remains static.
Dr. Williams and the early PNM selected their leaders on the basis of a delegate system. Contrariwise, Dr. Rowley changed the system to a one-man one-vote system. That sounded like progress and modernity. But it transferred the power of the party from the ordinary members into the hands of the moneyed class. The party may want to reconsider this policy.
Today, a poor boy or girl from La Brea, Toco or Caroni can never hope to lead the PNM. No matter how brilliant, if s/he does not have the necessary finance to support his candidacy he can never become the leader of the party. As was demonstrated at this local election, the PNM bought out all the television and radio spots, leaving any competitor to rely on social media to promote his campaign. That, on reflection, may be a more effective election strategy.
Many of my neighbors were turned off by the obscene amount of money that PNM spent on the campaign. Many of them didn’t bother to vote. It was like a big concert: plenty money spent but few people came to the dance. This might account for Aaron Thomas’s loss in the area.
The PNM must return to its roots. If it does not tell people what it has accomplished and what it intends to do for them, particularly black people, they will be defeated in the next general election. A party that deliberately ignores its constituents’ wishes cannot ask them to place its members in Parliament to represent their interests. These are contradictory demands.
PNM’s character has changed so drastically that many of its faithful followers do not recognize it. The power of financial capital has replaced the dependability of social capital and filial love. The party leaders should remember that money does not always buy you love, nor for that matter, even votes.