Many commentators compare us with the likes of Singapore, Taiwan with respect to our economic development and invariably our failure to develop is placed on the ineffectiveness of our governance...
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Arima MP, mayor at war
Convinced that some ungodly force is attempting to steal the soul of the nation Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister and Arima MP, Rodger Samuel, is embarking on a one-week fast to save T&T. The fast starts from tomorrow. Samuel, also a pastor, disclosed that he resigned from the Congress of the People last year. He admitted that he and the Mayor of Arima do not see eye to eye and that this has been affecting some projects in the borough.
Speaking about his conversation with the Lord on his future in the politics, Minister Samuel said it was an ongoing process and the Lord will guide him accordingly.
Q: Mr Minister, I believe you and I are going to fall out this morning you know...
A: Why? (A curious expression in his Sixth Floor office in the Nicholas Tower, Port-of-Spain, Thursday morning).
Because you told me that I wouldn’t be able to ask anything about the politics in the country at this time. Aren’t you an integral part of the politics?
Well yes I am but not for sensationalism. I came to really serve and to make a difference with who I am and with my life.
You seem to shun the spotlight, but I am warning you, I cannot promise I will not ask you the political questions. In this day and age when image is important, don’t you think it is important to have your PR people working as the rest of your Cabinet colleagues are doing?
Ok. But we shall see as we go along.
Mr Samuel, how do you reconcile the fact that you are both a politician and a man of the cloth...isn’t that a bit out of the ordinary scheme of things?
I disagree. When you look at the bible David was a King, Joseph was a prophet and so on, and people who believe in the higher authority of the Almighty God should not be afraid to become leaders of nations.
Very well. Mr Minister, this morning three talk show hosts Richard Ragoobarsingh, Dr Morgan Job and Wendell Stephens...
(Interrupting) Power 102…
Yes. They were literally wiping the floor with your name, accusing you of being just like your predecessors who served as MPs for Arima and who they claimed did nothing for Arima.
(Slightly indignant) Unfortunately they never called me, and you know to reach me these days is a difficult proposition because...
I had been trying to reach you the whole day yesterday unsuccessfully. Were you in hiding?
I am not...I am at work. My thing is that I am a disciplined person, a responsible person, so I do not say things for saying things sake. When you left one of your voice mail messages I said okay, if he calls again I will answer and you did call. I heard the sincerity in your voice, and I said “let me speak with him.”
Thanks for the commercial (laughs).
Getting back to your Power 102 fans (half smiles). Do you share their view on you being just like your predecessors?
I don’t agree with that, and I really do not like to blow my own trumpet, but I have ten pages of (taking out the documents from a file on his desk) major stuff which has been done under my watch in Arima, which include rebuilding the Mt Pleasant bridge which was impassable for 28 years, and we are reconstructing the Blanchisseuse Road.
I also promised to build a new Arima police station and this will be completed by year end. We are about to have an entirely new hospital on a government to government contract with China. We are now establishing the type of hospital to be built and completed by March 2017.
So why these talk shows are criticising the MP?
I am not too sure that these people have been to Arima. And remember, I am in Government only three years now.
Very well, Mr Samuel, are you disappointed today that you agreed to offer yourself for public office in 2010?
No way. There has never been a disappointment.
I got that impression after reading a newspaper interview you did earlier this week...
I do not know where they get that from...I am not disenchanted.
I am not disappointed.
I am not disgusted.
(Leaning forward on his chair and pausing briefly) I am.…I have been excited about serving people. Sometimes things are not happening as fast as you expected them to happen, but I persist and pursue regardless of what.
I take it you are satisfied with your stewardship thus far?
(Confidently) 100 per cent. Not that I feel I cannot do better, but I am satisfied so far and I normally push myself.
Mr Samuel, you know we journalists (an anticipatory chuckle) receive information as part of our remit, and I was told that you and the Arima Mayor do not see eye to on some major development projects in the borough.
That may be 100 per cent correct and in some ways it has stymied progress of these projects...in some ways it has. When I campaigned in Arima in 2007 and 2010, I did so with a vision; where I can take Arima from where it is now. Arima honestly had been abandoned for years, but when I took office the mayor did not really see or embrace the vision that I had when I campaigned, although I shared it with him.
Isn’t there any way yours and his views can gel to benefit the constituents?
(Puzzling expression) I have no idea what his vision is to be honest with you. It has never been articulated. So I have often asked “What are your plans and vision?” But really, it has not been clearly articulated and as a result there have been difficulties.
I was also told that’s the reason for your disappointment being in Government, which you have denied…
Nah…Nah…that is not true.
And that you submitted your resignation some months ago?
(A four-second pause with a somber expression) In...I will be honest with you. Last year, because of the difficulties with the operations of the borough, I tendered my resignation to the COP. We had tremendous conversations subsequent to that and I agreed to stay within the party. So I continued to work and support the Congress of the People because I believe in the philosophy of the party.
Why did you send in your resignation?
Because I felt that at the time it was necessary for the party to seriously look into the problems that we were experiencing, and I felt also that insufficient was being done to alleviate the issues. And, Clevon, I am not a person to cause confrontation so I would say “Okay, probably you can function better without me.”
Did you take your concerns to the Prime Minister?
Yes. I will take the time to speak with her and share with her how I feel, and because I respect her that’s why I have said nothing to the media because we need to respect people. She is my immediate boss. She is campaigning and I will wait until it is all over so together we can sit one to one. Maybe she would have some words for me likewise.
Ok, ready for the big question?
Is it political?
You will tell me if it is political, right?
(Again, leaning forward in eager anticipation and bursts out laughing) You are so good...you are so good...
Mr Samuel, have you completed your conversation with the Good Lord on your political future?
It is an ongoing process. Clevon, I am not a microwave-styled Christian where I feel I talk to God and zap it happens! God has guided me thus far to be where I am.
Do you feel, Minister, that God will guide your path away from politics?
(Pleading with outstretched hands) I don’t know... don’t know. I am not God. I am subject to him, and the Bible says the steps of the righteous are guided by God.
Mr Samuel, are you concerned with the standard of the conversation emanating from the main camps in the run up to the July 29 by-election for the Chaguanas West seat?
(Bending forward and resting on his desk) Yes, and that’s why I am praying.
I understand you are fasting, too?
Yes. I am fasting. I have embarked on a fast...
But here you are at your desk hard at work?
That’s alright. Jesus said when you fast do not go about the place looking droopy and stuff like that…go and wash your face and look alright. I have been given leave but my full fast will start on Monday, and I will have only water for seven days.
Exactly why are you fasting?
For the soul of the nation. I believe there is some force that is attempting to steal the soul of Trinidad and Tobago, and I need to beseech God to save the soul of the nation. Too much is happening and too much has happened over the years...bad we have left it undone. We need a righteous resolution that we can get back fearing God and that we have to answer to the Creator at the end of the day.