Last update: 11-Dec-2013 6:16 am
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
You are here
T&T politics as barren as the UK’s
“So what did you make of it?” a colleague asked me once the dust had settled on local election day, “now you’ve seen us at our worst...” I had to give her my honest answer. Not a lot.
The day before the election I shared on Facebook the Basdeo Panday statement, that he was refusing to vote for the first time since 1965. I called it “huge.” I stand by that, even if his intentions themselves may have been self-serving.
Whether Panday’s comments influenced the electorate or whether he presciently anticipated a low turnout, or whether his views mirror the country’s, 26 per cent of the population is dreadfully low.
Turnout amongst 18-24 year olds will be lower still. That young people have been turned off politics is a shame and something that might only be reversed by the emergence of politicians who actually mean something to young people.
That means we need younger politicians. It also means we need a more diverse range of politicians. More women for a start.
A gay politician or two wouldn’t hurt either, even though that would be technically illegal. T&T’s MPs should reflect more closely the people we see around us in society.
With the coming of younger, fresher politicians would come newer, fresher political ideas. Refreshed approaches, a renewal of political thinking and behaviour.
One hopes it would kill off the kind of infantile nonsense (by elder statesmen no less) that has marked some of the parties’ election campaigns.
In trying to respond to my colleague’s question I tried to think of any politicians I have encountered thus far in my short time in T&T who I find to be good.
And by “good” I don’t refer to their social or political outlook, less still their moral fibre. I refer to: good at their job. Inspiring, caring, motivated, skilled, focused, informed, in touch with the public, earnest and with integrity. I could only think of one who appears to match those criteria, the member for Diego Martin Central, Amery Browne.
One other, in my brief encounters with him, seems to embody other important values of a politician such as intelligence, patience and experience, Ganga Singh. Beyond that, with respect, I’m struggling.
I think Winston Dookeran means well and is sincere but I heard him recently described as a “technocrat.” Philosophically and theoretically he is well versed but is he adept at running a ministry?
As for the rest? Well, it’s about as barren as UK politics is right now. In my Facebook post I described British politics as dull but T&T politics as non-existent.
What we saw in these local election campaigns was not politics in any sense of the word. It was simply slander after slander. Playground behaviour from grown adults.
For Jack Warner to appear onstage in his concession speech and complain at the “low politics” he encountered, a man responsible as much as anybody for dragging it down into the gutter, a man who quite literally acted the goat, it was a bare-faced deceit. One in a long series of deceits. When I arrived in T&T and saw the birth of a new party, clad in green, it appeared to hold some promise.
Promise that, despite his past, Warner—with his bulging coffers and a degree of public popularity—might reinvent himself and reinvigorate a political scene entrenched in tribal, racial, partisan politics. How wrong I was.
His speech in Endeavour, Chaguanas heralded not by the blare of trumpets but the fading squeak of vuvuzelas, now bunged up with so much wool and stuff and nonsense, was the first time I’d seen him forlorn, pathetic almost.
A defeated man visibly taking in the message from the people, even from his own supporters. Probably doing the mental arithmetic of how much all his efforts have dented his bank account.
He even made an oratorical mistake! Heaven forbid! Instead of calling his party the ILP, he said UNC! A horrendous, subconscious slip of the tongue that he only corrected when one of his entourage pointed it out.
I said earlier T&T needs more women in politics. Warner had tried to bring them in to his fold, but whether he did so for the right reasons is a debatable point. As for the woman at the top of the game, it remains to be seen what lasting legacy she will leave and what kind of inspiration she will be for aspiring female politicians.
I hope that, unlike Margaret Thatcher (seen as the ultimate feminist icon but fundamentally a self-loathing woman who would have preferred the rest of her gender to stay home cooking and sewing while their husband’s sorted the world’s problems with missiles and truncheons) Kamla Persad-Bissessar might do a little more for women. She has two more years to do so, if she makes it that far. As for the ILP, it appears they won’t.
If it loses St Joseph frankly it might as well go home. That a selection of cobbled together candidates could be rejected so badly appears unsustainable.
So does that mean that Keith Rowley’s PNM, which made huge strides this week towards 2015, is the only credible party? Without wishing to align myself in any direction, I would say, as an outside observer, Rowley seems the most serious and intelligent of the political leaders, in the way he conducts himself. He is more serious about politics, less concerned with mud slinging. If he is to be T&T’s next prime minister, long may that continue.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.