Bacchanalian Budget Debate

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
October 25, 2011

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIt’s either I am crazy or the Prime Minister is going mad. She stands up in Parliament and maligns her citizens. When she is confronted she refuses to accept responsibilities for her actions. Defenseless citizens are left at her mercy. Then, the press either defends them or maligns them further. In a good season, the press may then point out that a mistake has been made and call upon the authorities to rectify it.

But not so quick. The fourth estate may not be able to defend your rights for much longer. One better have a second thought about that. In a flight of madness that borders on the edge of a totalitarianism, Fazal Karim, the Minister of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education, declaims: “I am of the view that the time has come for us not only to graduate and certify persons , but to register them in a body and also to license them as practitioners and in so doing lift the quality of the bar in terms of delivery of services.”

I do not know what Minister Karim professional qualifications are but I would like him to tell us the countries in which journalists are licensed? And what happens to columnists such as I? Am I supposed to go to the Ken Gordon School of Journalism, get certified and then apply to a government ministry to be licensed to become a columnist?

The word licenses smells to high heaven. Are we talking about a buying a pound of fish; cutting someone’s hair; operating on a person’s heart; or interpreting the law? And in case Minister Kazim may not know it a professional is a self-regulating entity. It is an arena the state does not get into unless someone breaks the law as in the case of libel.

But I am getting ahead of myself and the importance of self-regulating institutions. A report is issued by a committee that is headed by John Le Guerre who is married to the first cousin of the Prime Minister. He sends his findings about a matter to Devant Maharaj, one of Sat Maharaj’s chief lieutenants and a Minister of Government. He hands the report over to Kamla. She goes to Parliament and then the bacchanal begins.

In Parliament the PM declares that the daughter of Brigadier Peter Joseph received $25,600 from a “secret” fund that was administered by Joan Yuile Williams, former minister of Culture. That fund could not have been that secret since everyone knew about its existence but that’s for another day.

Confronted by this accusation, Brigadier Joseph commented: “I wish to state that my daughter did not receive an education grant from the Government through the Ministry of Culture and Community Development. I state categorically that my daughter Adanna Joseph has never received an award of any kind for any purpose from the Government.”

That seemed categorical enough.
To make things even clearer, Brigadier told Newsday:

“I don’t know who is feeding you that information. She did not write the Prime Minister. She applied to the Minister of Culture and Community Development…She applied on a form she had, and [had an] interview and after the interview they said she did not meet the criteria.”

Now it does not matter whether Brigadier’s remarks are true or not. The pertinent question is this: why should citizens have to suffer through the daily onslaught of government figures whose primary responsibility is to represent their interests (not some citizens) and to protect the citizens and their rights. Even when citizens err or even break the law, there is a procedure that starts with a basic assumption that a person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Our government doesn’t operate that way. It’s really us versus them; black versus Indian; PNM versus PP. So that although the constitution gives one the right to vote for whatever party one chooses; although the constitution categorically denies discriminating negatively against citizens and declares that one’s racial make up should not be a criteria in the awards of grants and scholarship, the PP is determined that the nation should be broken down into warring factions better to pick off the least defensive faction.

The PM claims that she bears no responsibility for her actions. As she intoned on Tuesday after Parliament: “This is what the Equal Opportunities Commission said. This is in their report. So what I read, all that information I gave came out of that report. They are not my words.”

This is our prime minister who has taken a solemn oath to protect the rights of her people. These are not my words. They are the words of my cousin-in-law. So a prime minister can say anything, without checking its accuracy, malign a citizen and all she has to say is: “Ah just reading a report. It’s not my words. Is ma’ cousin-in-law words.”

This brings me to the gist of the problem. A national budget is supposed to be a document that outlines the priorities of a government. Generally, it tells us where the government wants to go and how it intends to get there. Listening to the various members speak one would have thought that the most pressing problem that faced the government is that 45 million dollars were given out to black people (92 per cent of it) and therefore the constitution is violated and these people should pay back de money. And just in case yo’ tink yo’ could get away with it, we will now control the press, be sure you get a license to write and thereby create a racist totalitarian state.

Sooner or later, the populace will have to decide if this is the level of governance they need and whether the PP represents their hopes and aspirations. All the signs are there. All you have to do is to determine whether you accept this bacchanalian discourse and whether it represents us. The road to hell is always paved with diabolical statements. We just have to get their meanings.

12 thoughts on “Bacchanalian Budget Debate”

  1. In most countries an article of this acerbic nature would not be published, especially when most of the content is biased, unsupported opinions and generalizations.
    Is it not interesting when a case of prejudice is proven against the PNM, how defensive and vocal PNM supporters become?
    The Minister might have a point when he questions the professional qualifications of “journalists”. This rant by Cudjoe certainly lends support for the need of qualifications as “journalists”. There are many others who are published every week in the daily newspapers who should be forced out. People like Gillian Lucky, Dana Seetahal and Martin Daly are always in a conflict of interest or ethically questionable when they wax in newspaper columns. I am quite sure that T&T has many qualified, young people who can competently replace them. Cudjoe himself has used up his ink; he is a one theme divider who fails to deliver objective analysis every week. There is a difference between being educated and showing sensitivity and sense

  2. What happens when a PM make their spouse a minister in the government?? In which country could this happen??
    We expect many things to happen in countries with small populations. Either we agree or we do not understand population distributions.
    What we call journalism in this country could never happen in the country that this author talks about so often. The newspaer will be sued. Not only do they not have the facts correct but they don’t know anything about investigative journalism.

  3. This article is a boorish and lacks any kind of direction except if you are PNM the Prime Minister have no right to touch your saintly garment and accuse you of wrong doing. It is a paltry attempt to defend the sins of the previous administration.

    Here are the facts August 2010 Guardian Newspapers ” The construction industry in Trinidad and Tobago could collapse within three months if Government does not pay contractors the money owed to them. Mikey Joseph, president of the Contractors’ Association of T&T, estimates that figure to be more than $7 billion.”

    In the PNM spendamania and wastage they did not practice fiscal control. Trinidad Express July 2010 quote ” He said the projects were: Chaguanas Corporation Administrative Complex—$10 million over-budget and 24 months’ delay; Chancery Lane—$300 million overrun, 24 months’ delay; Government campus, Legal Affairs Towers—$300 million over-budget and 18 months’ delay; International Waterfront—$1.3 billion over-budget and six months’ delay; Minister of Education Towers—$300 million over budget, 20 months’ delay; NAPA (PoS)—$234 million over-budget and 12 months overdue; NAPA (San Fernando)—$238 million over-budget and 30 months overdue; Beverly Hills—$106 million over-budget and 65 months’ delay; Brian Lara Stadium—several hundred millions of dollars over-budget, and “not to be outdone”, the Diplomatic Centre at the Prime Minister’s residence—$700 million over-budget and 5 months overdue. The last official figure given for the Diplomatic Centre was, however, $200 million.”

    The waste and spendamania is of the PNM was leading Trinidad down the pathway to economic ruin, thankfully the PP stepped in.

    Yet in all of this if you ask PNMites about the PNM they will say they are most saintly party in T&T. Defending the corrupt and wasteful practices of the PNM is truly indefensible. The figures and facts speak for themselves. Only a “monkey in a suit” will jump to their defence…

  4. It is so strange that Dr Cudjoe is ignorant of the fact that in the Developed Countries it’s a requirement to obtain a license and be on a register before a graduate can write or practice his trade be it Accounting, Medicine, Electrician, Lawyer.
    I’m suggesting that the learned Dr Cudjoe should not be too quick to plead his ignorance because he may be judged by it.
    It is also a requirement in T & T to obtain a license for many trades.
    Come on Dr Cudjoe, don’t let your political party affiliation supersede your time spent in school.

  5. I think this country is going Ape under the current administration. I was brought to respect the law, authority, protocol, my elders and those who hold elective office. The more I read of this government the more I wonder if at all we have a ‘government’ in the classic way that I have been accustomed to in all my years. The last time I checked, we were a democracy which is of the people, for the people and by the people. If that is truly so, then I wish to ask the following question, who does this government really represent? For the sake of clarity, the Prime Minister, the Attorney General, the Transport Minister clearly articulate the same views as that of Sat Maharaj, there is a clear message that HINDUISM has taken centre stage in the running of this government even in a real democracy the combining of church and state is not encouraged and is so stated by statute. To my best understanding, something can only be truly ‘authorised’ when the issuing authority completes its deliberations and officially signs off and delivers the documents to the duly accountable department with all relevant signatories vouching for its authenticity. Given the different positions by the Prime Minister and the stated author of the documents, the information being debated in Parliament is really not an authorised copy because, according to the author, Professor LeGerre the report did not go through its legal process to be made public. Is this the kind of behaviour a Prime Minister should be encouraging? The other thing that strikes me is the scandalization of innocent citizens. Brig. Joseph might be an enemy of the political Kamla, but his daughter is a private citizen and should be accorded the protection that is afforded ALL citizens are expected to receive. This is a terrible signal of immaturity on the part of the PM to just call people’s name because they do not have the bully pulpit that she so flippantly enjoys, to put a private citizen in such a defencless position. It is only in a fake democracy you would have a PM appointing a relative to an agency that is supposed to be ‘fair’ and without favour, let alone leading it. It would seem based on the arguments presented that all the government cares about or gives a damn about is the so-called 7% and to hell with the 93%. What happens to the the people who are not represented by this government in this argument? What happens to people who are NOT Hindus? What happens to the Catholics, Anglicans, Seventh Day Adventists, Muslims, Protestants, Presbyterians? The agenda of this government as articulated by its protagonists is Hinduism pure and simple and it is about time people whgo do NOT belong to that religion get up and understand where this woman is taking us. It is a clear path to hell and destruction.

    1. “It would seem based on the arguments presented that all the government cares about or gives a damn about is the so-called 7% and to hell with the 93%”.

      Kian you miss the point, this fund was not used to help those who were in need, rather it was used to gain political milleage. A close look at who received funding shows that they were well to do people. As for the 7%, we all know that state funds were being used to promote segregation and racism. This speaks for itself. If you were Indian don’t bother applying. If you were black you stood a 93% chance of being accepted…It is wrong and you really cannot defend it. Fair must be fair. Having said all of that since the inception of the PNM that is how they operated. Thousands of PNMites benefitted from the public largesse. It is only now all of this is coming to light. Keep it quiet Kian..(lol).

      1. “Kian you miss the point, this fund was not used to help those who were in need, rather it was used to gain political milleage. A close look at who received funding shows that they were well to do people. As for the 7%, we all know that state funds were being used to promote segregation and racism. This speaks for itself. If you were Indian don’t bother applying. If you were black you stood a 93% chance of being accepted…” …..Mammoo
        Let me state again, when one is political, every point they make turns out to be political. A quick glance at the above statement any fair-minded individual will find it rather confusing and amusing. First of all, Mamoo said the fund “was not used to help those in need”, if so, then ordinary non-indians did not stand a ghost chance of getting a scholarship. Secondly, the fund was used to gain “political mileage”. It would seem that if those who benefitted were those who already were part of the I-made-it group nothing new is added so where is the mileage?. “A close look at who received funding shows they were well to do people”, this is a clear indication that poor or middle class non-indians were left out of this equation. Mamoo concludes that because 7% of those who benefitted were Indians, then this is a case of segregation, discrimination and racism. Oh really? Discrimination (based on his argument) against poor, middle class and non privileged non-indians were ok because “if you were black you stood a 93% chance of being accepted”. This is all Mamoo’s argument (not mine). I am convinced that people write to hear themselves or try to say things that they cannot prove.
        The ball is in your court Mamoo.

    2. “according to the author, Professor LeGerre the report did not go through its legal process to be made public”.(KIAN)

      Professor LeGerre did not say this.He stated that the report is in the conciliation stage, whatever that means. There is no law disallowing the PM from revealing the findings since the report was forwarded to the parties involved.FACT: It was a fund which only PNM people seem to know about.FACT: 93% of the awards went to PNM supporters or to those who had PNM connections.

      1. TMan, you have shown in many instances that you can be understandably objective when you want to be. If, as you stated, a report is in “the conciliation stage”, there is nothing in the English language of understanding for one to conclude that that means it is final. It is more apt to believe that there might be others (co-commissioners) who are yet to conclude that the report is final and ready for publication. If the report is so objective, how come the only people privvy to its contents are the Prime Minister and Devant Maharaj? With regards to your statement that “only PNM people to know about” I am willing to state categorically that that statement is one hundred incorrect as reported. I am not against the claim of racism but at least make a claim based on something substantial. I agree that this is yet another bogeyman they want to tie around Manning’s neck and I have disdain for the contempt with which he treated the same people you are telling us are the beneficiaries of his largese. I wish it really were because many of my nieces and nephews would be gainfully employed today. Please examine your facts before printing.

  6. I can think of nothing more irresponsible than that the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who accepted the Lord Jesus the Christ as her Lord and Saviour when she was baptized in the Baptist Faith, standing in Parliament and fanning the flames of racial strife against black people in this country.

    It was a very un-Christian thing to do and a mockery of Jesus the Christ and it is not going to end lightly for her AT ALL!

    Patrick Manning, the former Prime Minister, tried such a mockery in the last Parliament and he fell flat for all the world to see. I do not know why Kamla should feel that she could succeed. You wicked and perverse generation, how long shall the Son of Man suffer you…

    To add insult to injury she did so using a Report, the publication of which was prohibited in law- The Equal Opportunity Act. Kamla Persad-Bissessar was a party to the enactment of that legislation. She is an Attorney at Law. She must know that the publication of any such Report (incomplete or otherwise) was unlawful. (See S. 55). Further to that, finding of discrimination was outside the ambit of her cousin-in-law LeGuerre and his Commissioners.

    Kamla Persad-Bissessar, what have you done to fan the flames of racial strife in this country? What does it profit a man to gain the world…

    For my own part, I do not intend to rest until there is redress in this matter.

  7. Against the background of claims that the former PNM administration practiced discrimination through a secret scholarship fund, Public Administration Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan has promised “100 per cent transparency” by the current administration in the award of scholarships.
    “The system we have put in place is to ensure that there can be no nepotism, that all scholarships shall be based on meritocracy,” she said.
    Seepersad-Bachan explained that the award of scholarships did not involve ministers but a scholarship selection committee made up of technocrats.
    “So, you understand, there is no way that we (ministers) would be getting involved,” she added.
    She said this year there were new systems in place for scholarships including eligibility criteria clearly stated in advertisements.
    She added that an evaluation framework was being developed for each category of scholarship which will be used by the committee.
    “So we get it very objective-based. It is no longer very subjective,” Seepersad-Bachan said.
    She said that with the Scholarships and Advanced Training Information System (SATIS) being developed by the scholarships division there is “very little room for (impropriety) because it will be open and transparent.”
    Last week in Parliament Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was reported to have read from a July 2011 report from the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) that showed evidence of racial discrimination by the PNM in the award of the scholarships.
    Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley has stated that the investigation, however, was still ongoing.
    Seepersad-Bachan was speaking with the media yesterday following the opening session of the Outgoing Scholars Symposium, which was held at the Trinidad Hilton and Conference Centre, Port of Spain.
    She noted that scholarship applicants would be able to monitor their progress from application to the award.
    She noted for unsuccessful applicants the basis for rejection would also be clearly identified.
    She also noted that the Interministerial Team for scholarships, which she chairs, is looking at priority skills needs for country and where are the skills gaps in the public service.
    She said the Labour Ministry is to conduct on study on skills requirements from the country but in the interim they would utilise information from ministries to ascertain the top priority areas.

  8. It is time the Prime Minister made up her mind about whether she is a prime minister of all the people or she is just a Hindu prime minister. Judging by the public behaviour of herself, the AG, the Information minister, Transportation minister, so called multicultural minister and others a lot of citizens remain unconvinced that she is really serious about being a Trinidadian!

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