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,
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
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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
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.