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Category: Trinidad Politics 23 Aug 15
 

Is there an upcoming election in T&T? How can a country have a political campaign with lastminute scrappy manifestos? Can anyone tell me what the burning issues are? We see politicians running up and down the country in red and yellow T-shirts hugging our credulous, illiterate, sycophantic population.

Explain the supporters who come in bus loads to the meetings for ‘promises’ of ‘projects’ at a time when most oil-based economies are tightening our belts. Why is there no clamour for quality education, health care, environmental legislation, recycling?

This campaign is nothing but rubbish tied up in yellow and red bows, and election ‘limes’. I interviewed Timothy Hamel- Smith, an eminent lawyer, former president of the Senate, chairman of the Third Force Movement that is seeking to impact on governance, and chairman of the oversight committee for procurement implementation.

Why are our people buying a rubbish campaign with no debate on health, education, or the environment? “Everyone in this country feels second-class, the society is fractured. The majority of people are left out of party politics. When in an election campaign all politicians do is accuse one another of corruption, sycophancy, nepotism. They are canvassing the symptoms and not the heart of the rot. Look around. There is no critical mass of people following a single vision. The divisiveness and lack of vision has led to a self-defeating type mindset, that nothing is working, let the devil take the hindmost, look after yourself and leave others to their fate.

“The politics is race based. The Opposition’s role is to make the country as ungovernable as possible. If we want to fix this, fulfill our potential, the first thing we need to tackle is corruption. To do this, we need to implement procurement legislation. Inefficiencies in procurement can make up ten-12 per cent of our GDP. We are talking of up to 12 billion dollars being wasted.

Superimposed on this is that the party that comes into power gains all the spoils. If you listen to political parties the message is clear. “We want to capture the treasury.” The deal is, if you vote for a party, the largesse of the State gets divided among the followers, supporters and financiers through the flawed procurement system.

“The resulting corruption is divisive. The conversation becomes about who is going to get what, not based on merit or value for money, but based on who you support, who you know. The spoils are distributed amongst sycophants and supporters.

The rest of the country is alienated. A proper procurement is vital for the efficient delivery of services and goods, for the creation of jobs, for imports and exports. The reign of nepotism reinforces the heart of our problem, fracturing an already fractured and disenfranchised society.

“I don’t know if people understand how important it is to implement procurement legislation. The lack of it is eating away like acid into the fabric of our society. When you run a society like that, you can imagine how debilitating it is to run a society.

The underpinnings of the US is that it is the land of opportunity. Here we have opportunity only for those who support the party in power. Unless you create opportunity for all no country can achieve its potential.

“One of the things imbued in the Constitution is an obligation for effective and fair procurement. We already have an excellent legislative base. We have framework legislation. Legislation can take place without having to change the Constitution. A draft legislation has to be brought to Parliament for affirmative resolution.

“Once we cross that hurdle and the salary approved, we have to get a procurement regulator. The President will appoint the regulator. This is an executive post. There will be a board and they will meet as a committee to supervise, monitor and evaluate procurement.

“For instance, if six people tender for a contract and one of them feels he was not dealt with fairly he has a right to initiate a complaint. This will bring about self-policing. This will ensure competitive tendering, transparency, a level playing field, and good governance. If I am a shooter, I can say the ones at the top are committing daily crime.

Unless our leaders model transparency and integrity, we cannot expect violent crime to change. If we all see favouritism, corruption, nepotism pervading the top, we can’t expect the bottom to bedifferent.

“Society is getting eroded day by day—the criminality, the anger, and people stabbing and shooting. Why are we surprised at that? When we take an inch at the top, the population has permission to take a mile. The trajectory of politics in T&T has to be shifted if we want to see anything different.”

There—I had my answer. With just two weeks to go before the election, there is still a small window of time for the population to stand up and say, no we will not be part of a party that is waiting to get its hands on the treasury so it can pillage it for the leaders and sycophant supporters.

We can’t pay lip service to the idea of patriotism—wave at cricket matches, and wine at Carnival, and ‘feel’ patriotic if we like the food of all of the races and cultures of this country.

Hamel-smith said we are all like adolescents running around, grabbing and mashing up the place if we don’t get what we want. That is not a proper country.

This is not a proper campaign. This is not democracy. It’s time we put country first. If we don’t, once the money runs out, we will have nothing. A country without vision is a country without hope.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur