Paranoid Prime Minister

By Raffique Shah
Sunday, August 2nd 2009

PM Patrick ManningI often wonder what grave sins we Trinidadians and Tobagonians have committed to warrant the kinds of politicians we have been saddled with for generations. It’s not that they are the worst in the world, although some people may swear they are. Look at it this way: we could have had really brutal dictators like the monsters who have wreaked untold suffering on billions of people across the planet. Mercifully for us, we have been spared that kind of horror.

Surely, though, a country blessed with the kind of resources we have, especially the caring, loving people we are, deserve better. I know many would question my “caring, loving” description of a people who seem to have morphed from that mode of yesteryear into a lawless breed that extends beyond the criminals who stalk the land. Still, I ask, in how many other countries, even those that are proclaimed developed, do you find communities of diverse ethnicities in which the hungry can get a meal for the asking or the infirm help without asking?

We do have our faults, of course, sometimes too many to count. But as a people, even amidst a degeneration of societal values, we can still hold ourselves out to be among the friendliest anywhere in the world. So I return to the question: why have we tolerated politicians who, while they may be nice persons as individuals, collectively urinate and defecate on us? Is it that we are a friendly-but-foolish people? Must we forever be subjected to the kind of mediocrity-or less-that passes for great leadership?

Last week, on the eve of Emancipation Day, Prime Minister Patrick Manning told his party faithful about a plot to assassinate him, which, in turn, led to an unsavoury incident and cost a policeman his job.

The natives applauded him wildly. I couldn’t determine whether they were happy that someone, or a “group”, as he explained, wanted to out his light, or if they endorsed the unseemly incident that followed.

No one had the fortitude to demand of the PM an explanation as to why he had failed to have the purported threat to his life reported to the appropriate agency. Knowing a thing or two about matters of this kind, I am surprised that it was an informant who went to Mrs. Manning to report the threat. Shouldn’t the Special Branch be on top of any such threat, collaring the purported would-be assassins before word even reached the PM? I’d hate to think the Prime Minister feels he cannot trust the police or other security agencies. If that’s his mindset, then we are in deeper trouble than I thought we were.

Assuming the Branch mucked up, why did the PM wait one year before he made the matter public? Why did he not report it to the police, as was his duty given the office he holds, immediately he was apprised of the threat? Imagine the Prime Minister of the country under threat of assassination, but security chiefs learn of it a year later. Where else in the world would something like that happen?

Manning must really take us for fools. Then he adds for bad measure that the media are against him, his party and his government. In one unjustified outburst, he blankets all journalists as being enemies of the PNM. I imagine I, too, am seen in this light, and he would hold this column as proof of his accusation.

But the plot thickened. The PM, having met with the Media Association to discuss this tripe, unleashes a barrage of perceived sins of the media houses, according to Marlan Hopkinson, president of MATT. To compound the dotishness, his Information Minister, Neil Parsanlal, later said that MATT had agreed to some independent body being set up to regulate the conduct of journalists. MATT immediately denied any such agreement. In other words, the journalists who attended the meeting now say the PM and Parsanlal lied about what actually transpired at their meeting.

Really, why is Manning going out of his way to justify calls from some of his opponents for him to undergo psychiatric evaluation?

On the subject of standards in the media, I would be up front in saying that quality reporting has declined over the years.

Ed Fung, a reputable radio announcer of yesteryear, made the point at a recent gathering of fellow-professionals of his era, some of the best in the business-ever. With some 30 stations in operation, with few exceptions, radio today stinks.

The press, too, has allowed a degeneration of standards. Clearly, media houses need to train their staff properly, something that is more the exception than the rule. Some columnists have political affiliations, but that is not unusual in the media anywhere in the world. Still, that is no justification for the PM’s blanket condemnation of the media. More and more, Mr Manning comes across as being paranoid. Maybe it’s a case of “uneasy lies the head ”

We don’t need a prime minister who is paranoid. Surely, the nation deserves better. Sadly, we see no such hope on the horizon.

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9 thoughts on “Paranoid Prime Minister”

  1. I will answer the one question asked by Mr Shah in his message entitled “Paranoid Prime Minister”. Why do we need politicians? I won’t bother with the rest of the message since it has all been exhaustingly played out in the media out over the last week.

    Mr Shah, we need politicians whether we like it or not to coordinate and deliver the priorities of the people. By electing policians we ask that they serve us by delivering clear priorities that matter dearly to all of us.

    What is often overlooked is the relationship between politicians and the people. People play a part in politics even when they don’t participate in elections as politicians have a duty to serve all people.

    Often, I read the media and comments from the people and it seems as though people expect politician to do all the work while they sit back to criticise. If put in the politicians shoes people, will people do any differently?

    If I want my community to become a better place, I let my local politician know about it, I get involved to see the task done and play a continual part to ensure my community never return to its past misdemeanors. Never do I sit back and wait for a politician to do for my area. I’ve got to make them understand the plight of my community.

    To get politicians to understand my concerns, I present my case to them by raising the concerns of the community and I provide evidence to support my claims. I see myself as the eyes and ears for my community and don’t expect my local politician to be there bodily to observe our plight.

    We all ask so much of politicians who constant have to balance the necessity of need before funding can be allocated to specific project and when they’re unable to deliver, often because funds are not available or is directed to other more pressing projects, we quickly and easily condemn.

    No politician has been able to fully and totally satisfy everyone’s needs. No politician ever will. The might of the people in keeping its focus and taking steps to deliver its community needs is greater than the funds of a politician.

    So, do we realy need politicians? Politicians are people like us the only difference is that they have access to the funds that could make the difference to our community but before funds could be allocated, the balancing act must be applied and unfortunately it may not be in our favour.

  2. yea i think it’s only when political ledders but people frist then it will be better there is so much hope there but no real plan for young people there

  3. Raffique my Bro!! You could not have said it any better.
    are going through a bad Karmic period in our existence. We are burdened by a very bad Government and a just as bad Opposition. I once read that [People deserve the GovernmentS they have] so maybe its an old Karmic debt that we are presently paying off, that is the only valid explanation that we can use to descripe our present leaders.
    We all have to pray to Almighty God to have mercy on us and forgive us this debt. Whatever wrong we might have done whatever Holy names we might have offended we must ask to be relieved of Mr. Manning and his Government and Mr.. Panday and his Opposition. So mote it Be! Val Young!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Norma has an excellent explanation of why we need politicians, and how the system works. If politicians allocate money to do a community task, and the community sits back and waits to see who will get involved, usually not much gets done. Norma should be teaching civis lessons to the dunderheads who sit back and complain, and always have an empty hand out wanting omething.

    I am willing to bet that Norma has had experience outside of Trinidad and Tobago, living in a country where citizens do not assemble to burn tires in the street, but pack City Hall to get something done, or go to the legislature by the buslaod.

    The Prime Minister I saw pictured walking among the people in Today’s Express, during yesterday.s Emancipation Celebrations, did not look paranoid to me. Perhaps he can trust his own more that those in some central places.

    We dismis the concerns about the safety of others, forgetting that the assassin of Selwyn Richardson, and of the board member of the Rio Claro Regional Corporation,(Hansraj Hanumairsingh?) have never been brought to book.

    The people of TnT need to be alert and actively involved citizens. When my late brother was tired of waiting in line for WASA to run water into Murray Road, Waller Field, Arima; he got the neighbors together and went to see the WASA people. They got the specs of the pipes that were needed, how deep there were to be buried and so on. They put their money together, hired a back-hoe and did the work. WASA mde the connection to the main running along the Eastern Main Road.Africans and Indians collaborated on this farm project.They got water without burning a tire, blocking a road, or masive destructive demonstrations. That too was a civics lesson.There has been water there now, since 1985.

  5. I assume based on what you are saying Val Young that you are resigned to see the PNM control political power for the next 50 years , while we watch the Opposition whine and complain about ethnic and racial victimization atrocities , African corruptions -including election malfeasance- and discriminations , am I correct? In the mean time ,political gridlock is the norm, and nothing of substance is pursued in our country, as both sides pander to tribal bases ,and financial elite minorities players work their angels in pursuit of narrow ,self interest . However ,work with me now,. Who would provide hope for frustrated and poor Indo Trini males that repeatedly resort to suicides, and other destructive forms of abuse to women and kids within their community as a relief from the sense of despair they are daily experiencing due to feelings of neglect by politicians on both sides of the so – called divide? How about the young budding business conglomerate elite with the recently acquired degree from NYU or UWI, that finds that his millionaire Pappy is taking too long to die , and he is forced to plot a scheme to hasten his untimely demise , or some childish kidnapping stunt on auntie , or little sister – that even a 10 year old Columbian , or Pilipino guerrilla aspirant could figure out blindfolded before the our Commissioner of Police , and his savvy Scotland Yard support – after eliciting the help for a kinky head Afro – Trini high school drop out from John John , Lavantille Febeau Village ,or Upper St Babbs Belmont?
    You see where I am going with this? I know you are still reeling under a few Post Emancipation drinks , and so did not give too much thoughts to your defeatist Karmic comments , or in typical Trini fashion , is simply humoring us a bit , just before you press send to purchase $50 million worth of stocks on the Japanese Exchange, or transfer a few thousand to that secure Cayman Island or Swiss Bank account.
    These are however serious times Val Young , and you can rest assured as much as night follow day, if we do not find a way to stop clowning around and begin the serious task of ensuring equitable distribution of wealth – especially land , providing proper social services for the desperate ,we can loose it all.
    Once more , my mantra remains “beware of a man with nothing to loose .”
    Desperate folks would be tempted to eventually throw away their Bible , Koran , and Bhagwat Gita, and finally demand what they deem to be theirs , right here on earth. Remember 1970? That could someday look more like a Sunday School play if party freaks /comatose masses across our wonderful country , finally achieve some sort of consciousness in defiance of elites posturing .
    It is so ironic , that folks are still on this board pointing at Basdeo Panday , and Patrick Manning as if they both are some panacea for the ills of our country. Rise up you sleeping masses and take back your country.
    I am also talking to you our fat cat Business class merely concerned with changing you yachts and Lexus each year, hopping on monthly global vacations to shop for caviar , and other exotic items to celebrate the Queens Birthday and Bastille Day , Thanks Giving , while turning a blind eye to the social needs in your country . Can we suggest support to civil society networks ,creation of research foundation on some matter of relevance such as medicine cure , or prudent job creation investments? Our country needs you and me all working together, not pie in the sky dreams about returning as a lizard , or suffering one’s fate into perpetuity as advanced by elites.
    Come on my Black Socrates brother Mighty Trini – sing for Val ,and all ah we !

  6. Linda Edwards,

    You are overlooking several pertinent points in this ‘plot to kill Manning’ scenario.

    1) If this report of a plot was true, why they (Hazel and Patrick Manning) did not make a report to the police?

    The police commissioner said that Manning’s recent statement about a threat to his life last year was the first he heard of it.

    2) Why did Manning wait a whole year before making this public?

    In the absence of reasonable answers from PM Manning to these questions, it is reasonable to assume that a) if the report of a threat was true, they did not take it seriously or, b) Prime Minister Manning made up that threat on the spur of the moment in order to distract from other issues.

    You said: “We dismis the concerns about the safety of others, forgetting that the assassin of Selwyn Richardson, and of the board member of the Rio Claro Regional Corporation,(Hansraj Hanumairsingh?) have never been brought to book.”

    The concerns people have with the prime minister’s claim of a threat to his life last year are not about dismissing the concerns of the safety of anyone. You are obfuscating the real issues surrounding what the prime minister said about this threat. As I have itemized in questions 1 and 2 above, there is the issue of why no report was made to the police and why the PM chose that time to make such a claim. The Prime Minister has a credibility problem of his own making. We cannot simply sweep all the skepticism about his claim under the carpet of political and racial bias against the prime minister.

  7. We have yet to learn how to make politicians accountable to the people of our nation. The very people who keep supporting them at election time. He does think we are fools. I am curious to see what will happen should there be a snap election.

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