Winners and Losers of Local Government Elections 2013

So the final(?) tally from yesterday’s local government elections give the People’s National Movement (PNM) control of seven regional corporations, the United National Congress (UNC) keeps control of 5, one draw in Chaguanas, and one to be decided (Point Fortin, which would probably go to the PNM). The Congress of the People (COP) and the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) got no corporations. This gives the PNM a good win over the ruling People’s Partnership (PP).

The PNM winning the majority of corporations was not surprise to me. The PNM as I see it is under new management and may be making in-roads of regaining trust of the electorate. Many commented that Rowley’s demeanour was calm, and unlike of someone who just decisively won an election, but I can understand his mood. He had to have known that this win was probably more from serendipity than by any strategy or tactic. It was the split votes between the UNC/COP and the IPL that ensure the PNM’s success. If I was Rowley, I would take a look at the elections and determine how best to continue to grow the momentum.

I was surprised by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s statement that “We did not lose,” and this was a “People’s victory.” It was either that she was delusional, or that the objective of this election was not to win. I think it’s both. While it may be everyone’s opinion that KPB is clueless, I also believe that the objective of this local government election was to prevent Jack Warner’s ILP from winning. And they achieved that, so they are happy. It goes to show the loser politics being played out.

What was even more surprising was the ILP not winning more seats. With the amount of money being spent, and the gatherings, rallies, and commentary on social media, I was lead to believe that the ILP was doing well. I was wrong. It did bring me a certain joy that the people of Trinidad are not as naive and hoodwinked as I believed, unlike those folks in Chaguanas East. I won’t rule out the ILP just yet. JW did not survive in FIFA all that time by luck; he’s a brilliant strategist and may have other tricks up his sleeve. Too bad he never used his skill for pure good.

The COP losing their seats and control was unsurprising to say the least. Now, they have no voice, and off even less leverage against the UNC in the PP Government. Voters have realised that they are a spineless bunch, and that all their talk of change and new politics was just rubbish. They now have little place in the future of the political landscape and will now wither into nothingness. I don’t believe that even a change in leadership can help them now.

If we should take anything from the elections yesterday was that only around 25% of the registered voters turned out to vote. While turnout for local government elections is usually low, there was a 39% turnout in 2010, 38% turnout in 2003 and 39% in 1999. Therefore, yesterday’s election saw the lowest turnout in a little more than a decade. This is evidence of a disenfranchised population. What can you expect when you are forced to vote for the lesser of evils?

I hope that things will get better, but the cynical part of me knows otherwise.

So the real winners and losers of this election? Well the losers are the people for certain, with no real choice, we only have the illusion of democracy.

The winners? The media houses and their massive windfall of campaign money.

Lost for words, but definitely outraged!

Twenty-three year ago in Trinidad and Tobago, a radical Muslim group staged an attempted coup on the democratically elected government of the day. The standoff lasted for six days, during which time the Prime Minister was shot, 24 people were killed and the capital city looted and burnt to the ground.

The criminals, the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen, never paid for that crime against the nation. The amnesty signed under duress was inexplicably upheld by the local courts, although it was thrown out by the Privy council. The criminals were, and still are, free as birds.

Many of the businesses in the capital did not survive. Some took their family members and left for greener pastures, others took loans to rebuild a city that many would say the government and authorities had forgot.

Fast forward to the present: this same criminal organisation held a march yesterday to remind the citizens of their “victory” that day. These criminals, who now hold property and riches, marched through a city that they almost destroyed 23 year ago, when they should either be behind bars, or dead.

They marched through a city that businesses had to struggle to rebuild. A city that is now fraught with crime, poor infrastructure, and smells of piss and shit. A city that is seemingly forsaken by the same authorities who approved that march. Such a slap in our collective faces!

We’ve really reached as a nation haven’t we? The officials who approved this disgrace should be removed. But I shouldn’t have expected any better. The lawlessness that we see take place every day in Port-of-Spain is an indication of the mentality of the T&T population to just take it as we get it.

We as a nation have failed if we can allow the power that they people seemingly wield.

The Trinidad Express had as its headline, “Outrage”. And we should all feel that way.

Why I agree with the Zimmerman verdict

I might be the only one among my friends who agree with the Zimmerman not-guilty verdict. I agree that it’s a travesty that young Trayvon Martin died that fateful night, no one can say whether he truly deserved it, but the verdict was almost guaranteed.

People are turning this into a race crime, but it’s not. Many people would have done the same thing given the circumstances. I will admit, that if I see a young, man of African decent standing outside my house in a hoodie I would feel suspicious. I would do the same if the person was of Indian decent as well. I probably wouldn’t if the person was white or Chinese. Many of us have this in-built stereotyping and can’t help ourselves. We do judge a book by its colour.

If I had a gun, I would probably be more emboldened to confront a suspicious person. And if that person becomes aggressive, I would also like the right to defend myself with force. I’m sure that many other people will want that as well.

We all want to right to protect and take back the community from criminals. But many of us can’t as we have to depend on the Police to protect us. If I see a suspicious person and call the police, will the police actually come? What happens if that person becomes an aggressor, can I protect myself with force? Sometimes the answers to these questions is no.

But if I was able to “stand my ground” I can confront people and use deadly force if necessary if they did pose a threat.

The jury had to find Zimmerman not-guilty. They too want to be able to stop possible criminals. They too want to be bold enough to step up and kill if they had to. A guilty verdict could change all of that.

I don’t know the events of that night, but I know that if I was in the same position, I might have reacted similarly. This was no premeditated act. This was simply Zimmerman wanting to protect the community. Taking away the racial undertones, no jury would have found him guilty.

Do we need to change the way we think about Charities?

Very interesting point of view. I’ve heard of this type of talk before, and I’ll be honest, it sort of makes me queasy.

Do I really want a charity to operate more like a for-profit corporation? I see how some non-profits like United Way and Habitat for Humanity operate, and wonder how much of that is based on real giving, and how much is corporate bureaucracy and greed, with a hint of feel good factor?

Perhaps he has a point?

 

Going TOPless in Tobago

Tobago 34 by Abeeeer, on Flickr

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Elections were held on Monday 21st January, 2013, and the People’s National Movement (PNM) won all twelve seats, eliminating the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) as a political force in the island state of the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Back in the May 2010 general elections, the Tobago people voted for TOP and voted out the PNM. Now 2 ½ years later, the people have gone back to the PNM.

Why did they do that? What changed so much that they went back to the PNM, and not just went back, but went back in droves, winning every seat?

My opinion is that nothing changed.

The Peoples Partnership (PP), was a coalition party made up of the five political parties – the United National Congress (UNC), the Congress of the People (COP), the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) and the TOP; the MSJ later left the coalition due to irreconcilable differences. The majority member is the UNC.

When the PP won the elections, they did so on a mantra of change, along with “we will rise”. However, after the PP took office, many soon realised that change meant a change in government, but not a change in operation. The corruption and the mal governance continued, as “misstep” after “misstep” was made.

In short, the only thing changed was the Government, nothing else did.

So nothing changed.

Tobago people saw this. The PP had two years to prove that they would change the way the country was governed, and they didn’t. So how could you lead the THA election campaign on change when you have proven that you cannot do it?

While people would insist that PNM won this election based on race and racial fears, I would strongly disagree. While I admit that there does exist a level of racial prejudice in the country, the majority of us have never let that get in our way and we’ve embraced our racial diversity. I’ve certainly never felt anything like that in Tobago, and I’ve driven all over there. Instead, we should be looking at the PP as they seem to be driving further divisiveness in the country, especially when Jack Warner opens his mouth with racial and religious statements.

Many are saying that this is a wake up call for the PP; it is, but I hardly expect a change in the way they do business. The corrupt culture is so engrained within their psyche that it will be impossible to remove. The only thing we can do is to vote them out in the 2015 elections. But vote for who? Is there really a better alternative.

Back in 2010 the people were ready for change, we accepted that it must happen. Tobago people wanted that too, that’s why they voted for the TOP. This time around they are back to the PNM. To them, it was best to stay with the Devil you know rather than the Devil you don’t.

And this, I believe, is the saddest part of it all – we do not have a feasible alternative for good governance – and it’s a poor reflection on us as a country.

Left Wanting… for Leadership!

If you have been paying attention to the current events in Trinidad and Tobago recently, you would know that many controversies surrounding the current administration. From Reshmi Ramnarine and to the Section 34 fiasco, with many incidents in-between, this administration looks no different, even worse, than the last one.

The current brouhaha has to do with the highway to Point Fortin. There’s a group who call themselves the Highway Re-Route movement who is protesting a particular section of that highway. More particularly, is the link between Debe and Mon Desir. The group claims that this link will disrupt many communities as well as cause irreparable environmental harm. The group has called for a cessation of that link construction, and an independent review of that highway link including a cost-benefit analysis, a hydrology analysis and an social impact analysis. I also doubt that it includes a proper environmental impact assessment.

The government has not been very forthcoming with that information, and as such the protesters have held their resistance, culminating with their leader, Dr. Kublalsingh, going on a hunger strike. At the time of writing, it is now day 13 of the hunger strike.

His actions have been slammed by many, some going as far as wishing that he dies, so that the highway can continue. No matter how much I may disagree with someone’s views, I have never wished that they died because of it. To me this is a really sad, sad reflection on our society. But the saddest part has been the response of the top members of the government.

Here we have people, who we assumed to be the greatest examples of leadership in our country, instead of addressing issues and encouraging debate and discussions about the facts, they choose to personally attack and vilify Dr. Kublalsingh. They have debased themselves to spreading rumors and lies and trying to sully the character of the goodly doctor. And even worse is to hear the mindless people repeat exactly what they have been told.

I will admit that I have not bought into Dr. Kublalsingh’s cause, nor do I know if he has ulterior motives and what they may be, but I admire his strength and determination to fight for it. He has maintained, for the most part, his composure (except when he cursed the Minister of Health). But have yet to hear him personally attack, vilify, spread rumors and lies, or try to sully any of the characters of the people in government.

It is unfortunate that the people we expect the most from that we get the least. We do need leaders like Dr. Kublalsingh, and it is a pity that there’s none of his ilk in the Government. It is hard to not feel disenfranchised.

Freedom… well sort of.

Since the Government of Trinidad and Tobago instituted a State of Emergency a few months ago, a lot of people have been faced with the restrictions placed by the curfew. With an initial curfew of 9pm to 5am, this was changed to 11pm to 4am. So after three months, they have decided to finally remove the curfew, although the SOE remains.

Many people at first hailed the SOE and the curfew as the greatest thing to happen against crime. Soon many of the people came to realise that nothing had changed. Many of the arrested were freed without being charged, murders still continued, and the police detection rate had actually decreased.

Yes, crime had fallen, but with an SOE and curfew, shouldn’t it have been almost zero. Added to that, nothing has been done to ensure that crime is tackled in a sustainable manner.

Still there are some who feel that the curfew should remain and that the SOE should continue indefinitely. These people are helpess and clueless, grabbing at straws hoping that something can save them, especially since they have no ideas of their own. I on the other hand have some ideas that I think can work if implemented.

  • Consistent and persistent police patrols. Not just car patrols, but foot patrols too. And this is not a gang of police like what we have now, in groups of 4 or 5, but 1 or 2 police officers patrolling the streets. This not only gives citizens a sense of security, but makes it more likely to catch a criminal in the act.
  • Act on all forms of lawlessness. Trinidad and Tobago has become a seriously lawless society. We see it everyday with the way we drive, carry on and perform. Private cars for hire (PH “taxis”), illegal vending, squatting, littering, are all forms of lawlessnes that we need to clamp down on. As long as a section of people feel that they can get away with a crime (and have no doubt that these are crimes), they will push the limits.
  • For anyone caught breaking a law, even a misdemeanor, perform a background check and lookup for outstanding warrants. It is possible that the PH driver or illegal vendor may also have a warrant out for their arrest, due to the fact that those involved in one illegal activity, often are involved in other illegal activities.
  • Get into communities and help them fix themselves. The current government is continuing the mistake of the past government in just giving away things to people – money, houses, jobs. These are things that should be earned, regardless of how destitute someone may be. There are times where charity is genuinely required, but we must scritinise the cases properly. Instead, we must ensure that communities are doing what they must to remain sustainable and productive, contibuting to building the nation and not just taking from it.
  • Ensure a smooth and efficient judiciary. We have cases that take way too long to start and then even longer to complete. This is not only expensive, but also dulls the feeling that justice is being prevailed. The judiciary must be given the proper resources it needs to improve themselves. On top of that, laws need to be updated to remove those archaic requirements and use exisiting technology. We have no acts in place for computer forensics, and even video evidence is not admissible in our cours becuase the laws don’t allow for it. It is time to get with the times.
  • Improved use of current technology. We’ve finally implemented the breathalyser, but still takes three police officers to catch someone speeding. We have cameras all over, but we are unsure if they are being used, or even if they work at all.

As I get more, I’ll add them in, but feel free to suggest some yourself.

Using Cell Phones as Teaching Aids

Some time ago there was a huge scandal where some students used cell phones to record videos of themselves engaging in sexual activity. This blew up into a storm of fury and calls of banning cell phones, that way the students can have sex and we won’t know. Well the Ministry of Education did not heed that call and thankfully so – the cell phones did not make the students sexually active.

I know the Ministry does have somewhere in the back of their minds that the mobile phone will someday play a part in education; there were some requirements for projects that I came across that stated that the solution should allow connectivity or have the capability to allow connectivity of mobile devices. Well there is one school district that has moved way further in making that happen.

The Keller Indepedent School District (ISD) has started a pilot project that uses smart phones for a 5th Grade class at Trinity Meadows Intermediate School. The phones can’t be used to make calls or send text messages, but otherwise all the functionality is there including MP3 player and camera. The educational applications built-in are tailored for the lessons being taught.

The idea behind the whole thing as I see it, is that the smart phone is a tool that students can have access to at all times and allows different methods and mechanisms for teaching concepts at a practical level.

The idea is not a novel one, as I know that Japan has been using the concepts for a long time and has so far gone to use the Nintendo DS in the classroom, but it does mean that the idea is catching on.

I strongly believe in education and anything that improves the chances of having better educated children and a society as a whole I am certainly for. Maybe, our Ministry should also look at this; with the amount of money that they are wildly spending they should at least put some to good use.

Recession on hold until after carnival

The Central Bank governor is saying that Clico is in a far bigger mess than what they thought, which has led to CL Financial sources saying that the CBTT is being harsh to them. I say that CL Financial got themselves into this mess and not the governor.

What is surprising to me is the lack of real concern by the masses of the turn of events. There was much brouhaha after the press conference announcing the buyout conditions for CL Financial by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago (GoRTT), but that has died down tremendously. I think that people only have Carnival in their heads and not taking on the goings on with CL Financial, but wait till Carnival finish and they have no money to buy everything that they are accustomed to.

Signs of a recession?

When the financial crisis hit the US (and other part of the world), our Government ministers went on record to say that we are in no trouble, then later the Prime Minister went on TV to saying, “time to tighten your belts“. After that, Finance Minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira says that the crisis won’t last for ever.

Now on the heels of plant shutdowns and government cutbacks, we get breaking news – Government Bails Out Clico! It seems that CLICO Investment Bank (CIB) just does not have enough liquidity – basically no cash – unlike the other banks that have truckloads of the stuff (while I don’t). Not being liquid, especially in these turbulent times, opens the door for panic and even legal action.

I cannot understand a few things though:

  • CL Financial is a privately owned company, not under the scrutiny of the public eye or shareholders.
  • Lawrence Duprey is like a gagillionaire, and under this plan he reduces his liability (and probably loses little as well)
  • CLICO gives millions of dollars in sponsorship every year to sports, parties and fireworks shows, is it that they were being really supportive, or just didn’t know what the heck was happening.

So why are we pulling Clico out of this jam with taxpayer’s money? The CL Financial Group is the parent company of CLICO (Colonial Life
Insurance Company) and manages assets of over $38 Billion Dollars (I
assume TT), which is about a quarter of T&T’s Gross Domestic
Product (GDP). That’s a really huge chunk of moola we’re talking about,
so we really cannot afford for the group to fail, but at the same time, I hope that someone is held accountable for this, as I am sure that there was signs of trouble long ago.

The question is whether the recession is here? Well, technically no, although it’s pretty close. We define a recession as two quarters of consecutive negative grown (positive shrinkage?), so what we have is really a slowdown, and depending on how it is managed, we can get through the current world economic crisis without going into a recession. It is to be seen what will come and what the goverment and people will do. Our actions alone will determine how we get out of this, so act wisely.