As the two tribal parties fight for the spoils of 2020-2025, I am suggesting to the small parties and the undaunted individuals to embark on a journey to establish a new political culture to meet the needs of the polity and society into this century.
On reflection, we must recognise that the pre and post-Independence period of politics has run its course. It achieved a measure of political independence, stability and periods of economic prosperity due to high oil and gas prices. The creation of the natural gas industry was the only economic innovation that T&T can take credit for during the period.
The governments most noticeably created greater equality in educational opportunities. So too was there an expansion of the financial sector to utilise the windfall revenues from energy. As a result of the spreading of the oil dollars by successive governments, the private sector economy created commercial and manufacturing jobs with foreign investment in petrochemicals.
However, the politics and governance structures have not delivered in the manner expected; surely not as aspired to by the labour and political movements of the 1920s-30s. Then the objective was for self-government, meaningful constitutional reform and social transformation from the entrenched class, colour and economic inequalities left behind by colonialism.
The “nationalism” which emerged out of the post-colonial era delivered open tribal politics. The political, economic and social structures which grew up in the era deepened inequality. 1970 exploded and opened the way for transformation. In the end, the marginal reform achieved faded into the background as the petro-dollar culture took over during and after the first of the oil booms.
The era of the first quarter of the 21st century demands transformation and a fresh start after the messianic and tribal politics of the post-Independence period.
The need for transformational politics is not peculiar to T&T and the Caribbean, it is apparent in the Arab world, Russia and China, in Britain and amongst the European Union countries. Most notably, the desire for change from the old political order is very discernible in the showpiece of western democracy, the USA.
President Trump is representative of a segment of the society that cannot live without the colour, social class and economic deference it has exercised for 400 years and cannot let go of.
The major objective of this column is to urge the small parties and the individuals to usher in a new era of political mobilisation and organisation to break with the past. Receiving a few hundred votes each under the contemporary dispensation is of no value; scarce resources, time and energy are wasted towards no realistically achievable goal.
For those hoping to win a seat in the Parliament to generate change, that has been tried with little success.
To be clear, this is not an advocacy for overnight coalitions to fight elections; it’s a projection to redirect the politics and to achieve sustainable economic and social change.
Overnight coalitions have been electorally successful on two occasions at the general election level.
What has been common to both attempts is the shattering of the coalition within two years of coming into government.
What has not been attempted is a long-term mobilisation, not merely to win an election, but to create a political, social and economic culture incorporating masses of people and their views for stabilisation and development of the society.
This is not the kind of advocacy required in an election campaign one week away from an expected scintillating and rewarding climax in glory or pain. “Should I not be seeking to boost the stocks of one or the other of the major tribal formations?” There is enough of that going around. Instead, I am suggesting political dialogue emerging amongst those who have reflected on the politics and concluded that we are closing in on a predictable end-time cataclysm. We need to be brave and innovative of mind to want to achieve something new.
Especially the young and enthusiastic, you must wipe away the tears and hurt on the morning after August 10 and seek out a new beginning. Those interested must ask themselves if they have the innovative spirit, the insight, the courage and more to look anew at our condition and conclude that the need is to initiate a dialogue with others from everywhere.
The shortcuts have not and will not work.