|Category: Trinidad Politics
||09 May 10
A five-million-dollar “hit” out on Kamla
Persad-Bissessar; accusations of media bias against the PNM by Patrick
Manning; Dr Rowley with a tightly-zipped mouth at a PNM political meeting,
giving rise to speculation that he has too much dirt to reveal. Retired High
Court judge, Herbert Volney, obliquely negotiating to contest a seat into
Parliament while he sat on a bench; The rejection of the Pandays from the
new UNC/COP Alliance; the ejected Obama strategists back in town. It makes
for great television, radio and headlines. Each election is unique in this
miniscule town, a dot on the world map, made up of compressed continents, a
test bed for the interaction of races in a new world. The result in this
tiny country is always electrifying.
The NAR euphoria of 1986, when the PNM
won only three of 36 seats, signalling a ANR Robinson “rainbow party” never
before seen in this demographically-split country, was an unforgettable
moment in our political history; the 18/18 deadlock, in 2001, another, and
now this. The spectacle of this electoral carnival is irresistible. The
number of registered voters has soared; political meetings nationwide are
overflowing with spectators; roads are being paved; grants given to the
elderly (a laughable symptom of election fever, given its obnoxious quick
fix signals, but also another opportunity to get donations/votes for the
party) and, as always, the staggering power of business interests are
fuelling the elaborate show of this drama and comedy for the benefit of the
people. I agree with Winston Dookeran. This is an election like no other,
for several reasons.
The first nagging disquiet came when I
asked him what he felt about the leader of the party he supported. He said
she needed to be “protected.” An image of Kamla Persad-Bissessar, surrounded
by bodyguards, sprung into mind. This tied up with reports of “scuffles.”
The “hit” news is no surprise. The unease took on momentum after senior CNC3
news anchor and journalist, Shelly Dass-Clark, scored interviews with COP
leader Winston Dookeran, Esther Le Gendre, MP for Tunapuna and Minister of
Education, and Basdeo Panday on the flagship CNC3 current affairs programme
“Decision 2010 with Shelly Dass.” It was the idea of a tech-savvy, bright
young woman in the CNC3 marketing department to get viewers to text in their
comments as they watched Ms Dass grill our election kings and queens.
This enabled a level or participation
that encouraged democracy, and mirrored the voice of the people in a way I
have never seen in all my years of working as a journalist in this country.
“Call-in” programmes, even in the glut of electronic media, have their
limitations, and can take a maximum of ten, maybe 20, calls in an hour. The
people who comment on local news articles on-line still remain within a
closed enclave of the Internet. But when social media, text messages, and
television meet, the result is monumental, as each feeds the other. When
Dass interviewed Le Gendre, Dookeran and Panday, our Facebook pages were
flooded with comments. The “commentators” are the tech generation to whom,
I-pods, Internet, text messaging, and social media, like Facebook, Twitter
and blogs, are second skins. They are eligible to vote. They represent
various socio-economic demographics of this country.
Promises for “change”
So, are we missing the point entirely?
Promises for “change” or more of the same cannot be passed off as “issues.”
All promises will do is tweak governance. Our system is not ideology-based.
In a globalised economy we have even less leverage. The only factor that can
bring about real change is a commitment to create systems to ensure greater
government transparency. Have we forgotten so quickly? Dr Keith Rowley is to
the PNM what Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj was to the UNC government. Each started
an unstoppable topple from within. In 2009, we fell to 79 in the world
ranking, below many of our Caricom neighbours. Can it happen again? That’s
the question we should be asking.