Not Condemning: Whoops, whaps, clap, clap clap, management by voops and vaps

Last week, on 20 March to be precise, the Chairman of the Tobago Festivals Commission which is responsible for Organising Tobago Jazz Experience 2018 (TJE) made the announcement of the headline acts. That gives patrons less than six weeks’ notice that international artistes Ne-Yo, Taurus Riley and Anthony Hamilton and Jamaica’s Tanya Stephens will top the billing for the event, carded to come off from Friday 27 April to Sunday 29 April.

And Chairman, Mr. George Leacock had the gall to tell us, with a straight face, that “negotiations are still ongoing” for “Another major act (which) will be announced soon.”
You can call it ‘lazy’ or you can call it ‘slipshod’ or you can call it ‘doh care’ or you can call it whatever you like; I call it plain ‘insulting.’ Period.
And I want further to address these three questions to Chairman Leacock: Why do you insult your patrons in this way? Are you and your organising committee so self-assured, so certain that Trinis, your declared targets, will jump through hoops to get to Tobago at any cost?  Or is it that, in these hard times, there is a big chunk of taxpayers’ money just waiting to be spent, no matter the outcome?
And the really important question that I have for Mr Leacock is this fourth one: If this was your money, Mr Leacock, would you behave exactly as you have behaved here?
This announcement and this vie-ky-vie approach is indicative of the deep level of fiscal irresponsibility which has been practised by the THA over many years. We’ve almost grown accustomed to the late announcements. However, when you consider the continuing unreliability of the air and sea bridges and the concomitant insecurity surrounding it, this year’s late announcement tells me that TJE 2018 is on the crest of a dangerous wave which is heading for a crash landing on the Pigeon Point shore.
In fact, even the additional funding which has traditionally been squeezed from State enterprises may now be at risk.
As recently as May 11 last year, there was a discussion in Parliament about TJE it was noted then that: “For 11 years, this Tobago Jazz Festival has been taking place with no revenue being generated. So every year the THA, and, by extension, the Central Government of Trinidad and Tobago, would spend $10 to $20 million in hosting this event. I think this year (2017,) it was $12 million, last year (2016) it was $16 million, and monies have been spent like this over the past 11 years to host this festival with no profits at the end of the day. No profits.
And it was recommended by the JSC that we probably should have the private sector be part of this initiative and take over the Tobago Jazz Festival and make it into a profit-making venture”.  (Refer to page 120 of the unrevised Hansard of 2017.05.11.)
Success at any undertaking of this magnitude is predicated on proper planning and discipline. The Minister of Tourism has identified the successful St Lucia Jazz as a comparator for the Tobago Jazz Experience.  Well, let’s see what qualifies as “proper project planning” in St Lucia’s case. This year’s St Lucia Jazz is carded for May. They launched their 2018 edition over four months ago in November 2017 and then announced the performers for their festival on March 10.
By comparison, what we have here in Tobago is, clearly, mere management by voops and vaps.
The Keith Nurse Task Force submitted its report since December 2017. It recommended, among other things, the enhancement of the “selection and procurement process” for engaging performers for TJE. The Tobago House of Assembly accepted those recommendations and agreed to establish a committee to ensure that TJE 2018 was staged in keeping with what the Task Force had recommended.
The fact that, full three months later in March, performers are just being announced is, in my considered view, nothing short of a dereliction of duty.
I point no fingers; responsible people within the relevant organisations will know where the buck stops and where the blame must lie. They simply have to take proper pause and begin to do things merely because it is the right thing to do.
Responsible people outside of the relevant organisations cannot in all conscience support continuing irresponsibility.
Sorry, Tobago, there’ll be no jazz for this Trini this year.
Not condemning, just commenting.


Not Condemning: Of sirens, blue lights, uniforms and abuse …

Monday 19 March, 3:54pm.  Charlotte Street. The shrill screech of a siren assails shoppers, motorists and pedestrians as a lone Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force vehicle bores a hole through the two-way traffic, forcing drivers to hastily squeeze to the far edges of the road, making room where there is none.

I have experience of questionable use of the siren by politicians, both newbies and veterans alike. I have experience of police drivers going for doubles, siren on full blast. I have experience of Fire Service officers with civilians in their vehicles clearing a path with their sirens.

But this is my first experience of a vehicle with a TTDF license plate being driven in this manner. I had always thought that the TTDF did not engage in such shenanigans. The scales have finally fallen away from my eyes.

Is this chaos desirable, I wonder, inevitable? How are drivers supposed to respond, especially in standstill traffic where there is really no room for them to make way?

How does a citizen know that the use of a siren is legitimate, justified? Where can (s)he find a listing of the conditions under which sirens are to be used? Does one exist? Is it merely at the discretion of the proud politician in the back seat or the peewat policeman, fireman or soldier who happens to be behind the wheel, uniformed or not?

If no such listing exists, are we not allowing—not to say encouraging—the blatant abuse now almost routinely visited on the road-using public?

I remain unconvinced that Monday’s Charlotte Street episode was necessary, legitimate or above suspicion. Well aware of the systemic necessity for what was happening across town at NAPA, as I viewed the tangle left in the wake of the siren-blaring TTDF vehicle, I found myself focused instead on the widespread systemic collapse we in T&T are experiencing.

Most—if not all—of our problems, have their roots, I heard myself thinking, either in the absence of appropriate systems, processes and procedures or in the shocking uncensored disregard for the ones that do in fact exist.

In general, citizens will follow where their leaders lead, will pattern their behaviour after the behaviour of their leaders. In Trinidad and Tobago, it appears, those in charge are blissfully unaware of the concept of leadership by example; they seem completely incapable of providing the good examples that our citizens desperately need.

It must be clear to all and sundry that, if the people you lead see you taking advantage of your position to enjoy some benefits, it becomes easier for the (wo)man-in-the-street to rationalise his own indiscretions, to decide that, in comparison to what the big boys are getting away with, what (s)he does is small potatoes, “small t’ing” and, therefore, okay.

And so we have the upward spiral, which sees the once minor indiscretions working their way consistently towards the top. And the instances of inappropriate behaviour are exacerbated by the absence of consequences; people are so convinced that nothing will come of any of their indiscretions that bandits no longer feel the need to conceal their features by wearing masks.

Even if we can’t arrest the perpetrators of these most heinous crimes we see ritually reported in the media, we might at least attempt to arrest the negative trends. The bandits, after all, are in the minority—still!—and the majority of the population is as hungry for positive change as we are for honest, decent governance in all spheres.

The dissemination of vital information is a good place to start and our leaders would do well to level the playing field and let us all know the rules of the game.

So, I think I can safely say on behalf of the road-using public, we will all welcome some clear guidelines about the use of sirens, whether they be on black official SUVs or TTDF vehicles or Fire Service appliances or police cars, marked or unmarked.

Not condemning, just commenting.



“It ain’t over till it’s over!”

American baseball legend Yogi Berra is credited with the statement: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”  It can be understood to mean hold on your judgement because there is still hope. That’s how I feel about the Government’s response to the request made 90 days ago for the implementation of a Sexual Harassment policy in the Ministries and State Enterprises.  

While I live in hope, here is my reality.  The government has responded in two ways.  They have spent 3.5 million dollars to solidify the Chairmanship of their appointee at Angostura Ltd and made a song and dance about the publication of the Equal Opportunity Commission’s Guidelines on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Chairman Seebaran Suite must be commended for working hard to produce a framework for treating with Sexual Harassment in the workplace.  On the other hand, I cannot commend the Minister of Labour who simply asked the private sector to take the initiative and implement the policy.  The Minister and the Cabinet preside over numerous state enterprises and ministries, and could have implemented such a policy; this would have been an excellent opportunity to lead by example. Why did they miss it?

For the academics and theoreticians, International Women’s Day/Week/Month (IWD 2018) has been a resounding success because it brought together the young and the old in conscious dialogue and celebration in different spaces.  For me, there is still a lot of work to be done so my celebration is muted. I dream of the day when women truly stand proud and confident that the system will recognize and protect them. There are two action items outstanding; firstly the enabling legislation and secondly the policy implementation.

I have learned over my lifetime that the trigger for action is almost always an injustice which is caused by not having an appropriate policy, and until those consequences of that injustice are apparent and felt strongly enough, nothing will change.

The curtain is now closed on international women’s day activities 2018 but it is not closed on the necessary activism and so I hope that all the participants in the IWD solidarity will continue to be part of every movement and if we are to #pressforprogress, implementation of the sexual harassment policy and legislation is the next step.  However, the most important step is to allow for the transparent investigation of the Angostura case and that can only happen if the Chairman is removed. #Let’s do this!