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.

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.

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.

Ready for a Recession?

In the US there is a lot of talk and fear about a recession hitting this year. I don’t think I am in any position to debate that. From my pretty much uneducated opinion, though, I believe that one is brewing. Based on the sub-prime mortgage issue, the war on terror and the increase in consumer credit, it just looks like the US is setting themselves up for it.

We here in Trinidad and Tobago should not feel that we are immune to the effects of a recession in the US. As our main importer of our major export good – oil and natural gas – and our main country of origin of imports, we need to think again. I for one is looking carefully at developments.

The fact is that progressions and recessions are part of the economic cycle – what goes up must come down – but as countries develop the net gain should be a progression. As such we should be ready for one should one occur. I was catching up on some news and came across two blogs that discussed how to stay employed in a period of economic recession.

I invite you to take a read of these articles as they provide some pretty good advice. I have some points on my own (that are related loosely to the points in the articles.

  1. Update your skills. Just being continuously employed is not enough if you are not also ensuring that your skills are up to date – get those certifications or do those short courses that you have been putting off. Note that skills not only refers to the technical ones but also the softer ones. Organisations are progressively looking for the kind of skills that you can’t get from a class (although they do try don’t they).
  2. Improve your education. You would find that you not go very far in your own organisation, far less others, if you are not improving your education. If you don’t already have your degree then get going; if you already have your degree, then get an advanced degree or even an MBA.
  3. Have a plan B. Sometimes we will set our careers around only one path that should that industry collapse or become over-subscribed with employable candidates you become unemployable. Ensure that you have something else to go to if your chosen career goes bust, even if then change in career means a reduction on salary.
  4. Create your human network. Cisco has it right, the human network is one of the most important weapons in any one’s arsenal. Make contact by joining and being actively involved in professional institutions, non-governmental organisations or even sports clubs. You know what they say – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

One article (Are Gen Y-ers Greedy or Just Different?) though sees any recession being a wake up call for those Generation Y’s out there. It’s something you see with young school leavers and recent university graduates, especially in the IT industry. You have candidates calling for large salaries and nothing to show for it.

I know that if a recession hits it would be terrible for some, but a part of me wants it to happen to wake up the citizens of the country. With government spending out of control and prices of housing through the roof, we need something to get us back on track.

Security Heads Retreat!

So it seems that the Minister of Backpedaling, umm, I mean National Security, has taken the heads of all the security agencies and others to a nice weekend at the Salybia Beach Resort. While they are calling it a retreat, I think it is to breaks from the licks they are getting after Joseph admitted that the Government failed with it’s anti-crime initiatives.

Later Joseph recanted his statement after the PM said that they did not fail.

Now, I take the ole talk sometimes, but now is not the time; we need action and no amount of ole talk can create that. A source revealed that some of the new anti-crime initiatives were:

  • the return of round the clock bike patrols in residential communities
  • a gun amnesty
  • increased rewards for information leading to arrests
  • a return of the community police
  • a restructured Rapid Response Police

Now, does any of these “new” anti-crime initiatives look new? All these were suggestions made so long ago, by everyone, including the current government. Again, ole talk!

Are they going to address the public’s non-trust of the police service? Are they discussing the social issues regarding crime? Are they discussing the apparent non-intelligence of the police force? We don’t know what they are discussing.

The Opposition also only wants to politicise the issue when we need to come together to resolve this mess.

We need to have action now, and stop the blame game. The police service needs to get their act together and start enforcing the laws. We need to get the criminal elements out of the police service, and we know that they are there. And we as a people need to start holding the government of Trinidad and Tobago accountable for our security. Every month we pay for them to provide protection for us, we must ensure that we get our money’s worth!

The new cabinet

Prime Minister Patrick Manning has installed his new cabinet this week – “Woman Power” one newspaper article calls it. Now I don’t mind women in cabinet, once they actually have the skills to perform the duties that are required. Let’s look at two of them – Finance Minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira and Attorney-General Brigid Annisette-George.

Nunez-Tesheira is an Attorney-at-law and admits she has little or no experience in the field of finance, “save the work she did in the handling funds as vice-principal of the Hugh Wooding Law School.” She says that she is ready for the challenge, as she puts it:

“It’s challenging. I love a challenge and I look forward to doing my best. It’s a new territory for me but I look forward to learning and more learning.”

Further she says:

“I was glad it was not law, I did want to move away from that…I feel honoured”

Good to know that running the country’s finances is going to be a learning process for you Nunez-Tesheira, as well as a good start for that job change you were looking for. I strongly believe that on-the-job training is an important part in everyone’s education, BUT NOT WHEN RUNNING THE COUNTRY! Oh geez and ages! What is wrong with these fucking people. And what was Manning’s comment:

“Well, when I became Minister of Finance, I had no experience.”

Way to instill confidence in the people dey Patos. As for the Attorney-General, well she told reporters that she had had a private practice specialising in civil and matrimonial law, conveyancing and probate. “She admitted that it would be challenging, but she was prepared to do her best.

It is good that we have new cabinet members who are looking for a “challenge”. Let’s hope that they are up for it.

As for the other members; well there are some old faces but most notably, two of the most fucked up choices –  Colm Imbert, Minister of Works and Transport and Martin Joseph, Minister of National Security. These are two of the worst Ministers ever to come into the country and they put them back. They move Rowley from the Housing ministry (who I did like as Housing Minister), but they kept these two cunts! Lord help us. Now we know that the traffic will get only worse and that crime will rule supreme. I would like to have seen Rowley as Minister of Security. That would have shaken up some things there.

People say that the PNM has no vision, to which I disagree. The PNM has some vision, just not enough. Plus they have some visions that are just wrong (anybody say aluminum smelter and water taxis?). They have the Vision 2020, but has anyone bought into that. They talk about developed country status by 2020, but being a developed country is a journey, not a destination. It is an evolutionary development that you will reach eventually after setting policies and building the society. There is nothing wrong with being Third World, and the truth is that we are not that badly off from a lot of the other third world countries.

I believe that the people of our country really needs to start educating themselves (and I don’t mean just going to school, I mean really making an effort!). It is only when we build ourselves as a nation, then we can truly start to develop.

The results are in!

Well the elections are finally over and the results are in.

  • PNM – 26
  • UNC – 15
  • COP – 0

Not the results I would have hoped for, but now we have to live with it. I would have hoped for the COP to win at least one seat. Winston Dookeran in is speech last night said that:

“Clearly, from the disappointing results we have seen, the country is not ready for the change which we offered. We still believe our change will one day become a reality for our people.”

He is right. It was the belief that there are many more educated people out there, but educated does not necessarily imply intelligent.

So now we have five more years of the PNM. Five more long years of mad spending, mismanagement, inefficiency and arrogance of a party that will force something down our throats regardless of whether we want it or not (anyone for an aluminum smelter?).

One thing that I am sure of, is that I am never voting for a Panday led UNC ever! He speech last night left me disgusted. The pure hate and venom that he spat out just shows what type of person he is. He can never again be leader of this country. Fuck, I don’t even want him to be leader of the Opposition.

I don’t know when the people of this country will wake up and realise that we need good governance.