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.

Happy Independence Day!

Well actually, yesterday was our Independence Day anniversary, 31st August. After 47 years of independence we have a lot to be thankful for, but a lot more to yearn. There lacks a general sense of patriotism within the country.

Now Trinidad and Tobago did not win our independence, rather it was given to us freely, without a fight; so I believe that this is a big part of the lack of patriotism among the people. Without patriotism there is no sense of country or ownership – we do not see this as our country, just a place that we live in.

We have so much crime, corruption and selfishness all around us. Within the government party politics trumps the benefit and the good of the people. URP, CEPEP and a variety of government run institutions all keep thousands of people in a dependence and entitlement mentality. Can we really and truly call ourselves independent?

We deserve better! Time to free our minds and become truly independent!

Trinidad and Tobago Flag

Trinidad and Tobago Flag

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.

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.

The New American President

So the new President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama, has been elected and taken office. I must admit that I really, really got tired of everyone in Trinidad (and the Caribbean) singing praises for the American President, especially when we have our own mess here to clean up.

I certainly do not expect in any stretch of the imagination that President Obama will put any emphasis on trying to help our Caribbean countries, especially when he has inherited a real sad state of affairs. I think that too much is expected of President Obama and we must realise that he is one man and that his priority is going to be trying to jump start the american economy once again and prevent a long and serious recession.

I am very happy for the new president, but I don’t accept that there is real change in the government. Change is not about colour, but about the way things are done. I guess only time will tell on that one.

In the meantime, stop showering praises and expectations on the man, and try stepping up to help yourself and your community.

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.

The IEEE Computer and Communications Society T&T Chapter is now offical!

Those who saw my earlier post on the IEEE Computer and Communications T&T Chapter would know that the inaugural meeting was held on the 12th of January. The meeting was smaller than I had hoped, but did expect. Member apathy is one thing that we really need to overcome. The executives for the period 2008 – 2010 are:

  • Chair – Sachin Ganpat
  • Vice-Chair – Prof. Mansour H. Assaf
  • Secretary/Treasurer – Gifton Caesar

I think we have a very good team here, and I am extremely excited. Below was my address to the small gathering:

Good Morning fellow members, IEEE Executives and fellow professionals.

I would like to thank you for coming out today, taking time from your usually busy lives to come to this our first chapter meeting. And the first of many.

The IEEE is one of the world’s largest volunteer organizations. As such, it is through the work of the local Chapter officers that the work of the IEEE and its Societies is accomplished. To accomplish its goals, the IEEE and its societies are dependent on the involvement of its members through the local Chapters. This means that the future success of the Chapter, the Section and the IEEE as a whole depends on you, fellow members. [Read more…]

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!