Leon Trostsky once reportedly told CLR
James (and if you donít know who he is, look him up) we ought to have
streets and statues named after James, so vital was he to who we are
today that spectator sport was a substitute for political action.
So we are gearing up for election on
September 7. So what is at stake? Do we know what the issues are? Do we
care? Or are we gearing up for the spectator sport? Are we going to vote
for someone because they look like us or because we respect him or her?
Are we educated enough to know the difference? Will we lap up the
propaganda of the imported spin doctors and giveaways sponsored by
companies hoping to get Ďwukí once the person they support is elected,
or are we smart enough to know that an election is not about a spectacle
but about the quality of our life. What does each party including The
Third Force offer?
Are you going to vote for someone
because they are of your race? Or are we going to grow up and demand
that candidates treat us with respect? If we use the British elections
as a reasonable template for elections, for a working democracy, we can
take some cues from them. The Sun which is considered the most right
wing tabloid of British papers, a paper that some believe caters to the
lowest common denominator, demonstrates that the British public has an
expectation of performance from their politicians that we canít even
Just before their May 7 elections, this
tabloid paper published a double-page spread outlining the issues the
British really cared about. Was it about who thief what, about who want
to put who in court, about this vote of no confidence, about who is
Indian and African and white?
No, it was Issues. 1. The Economy. 2.
Immigration and Europe. 3. National Health Service. 4. Security and
Defence. 5. Education. 6. Energy and Environment. 7. Crime and Justice.
8. Housing. 9. Foreign Aid. 10. Britishness. 11. Freedom of the Press.
If we had to adapt it to ourselves, I
would add 11. Oil dependency 12. Make-work dependency 13. Crime 14. The
drug trade and gun control. 15. Plummeting transparency index.
The first thing we have to do is tell
ourselves we are not going to treat our nation as a spectator sport.
That allows us to ask questions and ask for accountability.
I want to get the ball rolling. I know
that crime and corruption are meaty subjects, but healthcare affects us
all. We are among the most obese nations in the world, with among the
highest rates of heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. Thatís mostly
because we are ignorant of how to eat nutritious meals.
We are ignorant because some 400,000 of
us (thatís a conservative number) are functionally illiterate because
our education system does not give teachers respect, training or wages
according to the value they provide to our society. We are also ignorant
because the Government uses its stations to air propaganda rather than
They misuse funds so that instead of
having billboards telling people how to practice preventive health, they
pay chutney dancers and soca singers to do nonsense during Carnival.
Yes, go figure.
In the run-up to the September 7
election, I have some questions for the Minister of Health. 1. What is
the state of public healthcare in T&T in general? 2. What are some of
the key problems facing health professionals? 3. In your opinion, what
changes has the health minister made to improve or worsen the situation?
4. What are some of the most common health issues facing the people of
T&T based on the patients who access healthcare? 5. Do doctors, in your
opinion, follow a code of ethics? 6. Is there a bill of rights for
patients? Are they aware of these rights? 7. It is understood by the
public that doctors rarely testify against their colleagues in cases of
malpractice and this prevents patients from taking legal action. Is this
a correct perception? 8. How do the medical board and medical
association elevate medicine? 9. Do you think medical professionals
(senior) have enough of a say in the manner funds are used in
healthcare? 10. There are reports that interns are poorly paid, that
conditions at the San Fernando General Hospital and POS hospital are
appallingóreports of cockroaches, lack of beds, poor nursing care. To
what extent is this true? 11. What is your opinion on doctors who work
in public health but also have private practices. Is this ethical? For
instance, a patient who is put on a waiting list for a heart or kidney
operation can be given the option by a public healthcare doctor to get
it done quickly in private care. Is this a kind of hostage taking?
I would be grateful
for a response from any health professional at any level, from the
Minister of Health to cleaners working in public healthcare. I would
encourage you, the reader, to ask your own based on your experiences. If
we want spectacle, letís go to the cinema. If we want our lives changed,
letís start asking some questions and demanding answers.