Presidential “boof” is insufficient!

A ‘boof’ from your ‘tantie’ will sting, but it will not necessarily lead to any improvement of the undesirable behaviour it was aimed to correct.

At the opening of the refurbished parliament building, called ‘The Red House’ for over a century, our president, Paula-Mae Weekes, fondly re-named ‘Auntie/Tantie President’, ‘pelt a good boof” at the 41 members of parliament and reminded them that the country is hurting. I wonder what response she is expecting, or more importantly, will these pointed remarks catalyse any positive behaviour change in her 41 ‘children’?

Photo: President Paula-Mae Weekes at Red House re-opening (via guardian.co.tt)

On both sides of the aisle, the parties seem stuck in their ruts, unable to redefine themselves in any meaningful way. On the government’s side, we know that election is in the air, with the paving of roadways and the increased rhetoric about transformation. Those of us who have been around the block a couple of times smell this for what it is—cheap, lazy electioneering.

On the opposition side, I was impressed with yet another ‘makeover’ of the leader of the opposition (new haircut and all), and on this occasion, an un-slurred delivery of her remarks at the opening of the refurbished Red House. A closer listen told me that the UNC is smelling victory, but a look at the stable reveals very little to hope for.

When government is weak or unhealthy, everyone suffers and that is what we are suffering from—the malaise of weak institutions and even weaker leadership. I struggle to identify the systemic changes that indicate things are moving in the right direction. Instead, there is the continuous din of accusatory statements about the displaced opposition and a high-pitched tone about a turnaround, which we are all looking for.

The world looks at the ease of doing business ranking as an indicator that a country is on a growth path, but when I see that in four years, we have slipped from 62 to 105 on the index, I have no reason to be happy. Some of the countries ahead of us include Jamaica, St Lucia, Rwanda and Kenya. One of the reasons that this indicator is important is that the easier it is to do business in a country, the more likely it is to attract new investment, which in turn propels growth.

Trinidad and Tobago is at a place where no band-aid can help. What we need is deep systemic change, which can be accomplished by putting to work a team of bright young minds who can take a solutions-oriented approach to at least one of our problems. We continue to suffer because there isn’t the political will to take such a bold move. Instead, we seem to think that advertising campaigns will trick our people into believing that the work has begun.

Photo: PNM supporters celebrate their 2007 General Elections victory.
(Copyright Pedro Rey/AFP 2015)

Annually, there are companies that stage rally-type meetings, engaging the minds and hearts of their employees, but these visioning sessions are supported by work, plans and key performance indicators (KPIs) so that that progress is measurable. Our country is stuck at the rally stage and no amount of boofing from a well-intentioned Aunti/Tantie President will change that.

Maybe at her weekly meeting with the prime minister, the president can demand that he identify one specific goal, supported by action plans and KPIs to prevent her from having to resort to this public boofing at the next opportunity. Meanwhile, thanks for the reality check, Auntie/Tantie.

Demming: Time to vote for newbie politicians; T&T leaders fail to get things done — Wired868

Like most of Trinidad and Tobago, I am not looking forward to the upcoming election (a.k.a. silly) season with the current offerings. The PNM and the UNC or its derivatives have ruled this country since independence and the problems of underdevelopment persist. 35 more words

Demming: Time to vote for newbie politicians; T&T leaders fail to get things done — Wired868

Rowley should set positive precedence, give us the 2020 Election Date …

The PNM Manifesto 2015 begins: “In summary, we in the PNM envision a society where integrity and morality in public life is of the highest priority and the Government serves the public good above all else, and where decisions are made and actions taken by the Government in the best interest of all concerned.”

That statement comes to mind as we embark on the journey towards general elections 2020. It also reminds me that the 2015 elections represented a significant departure from the conventions that we have developed as a country.

Photo: Placing a vote in the ballot box.

Except for the election years of 2000, 2001 and 2002, governments have either called elections early or within ‘three months after every dissolution of Parliament’ as outlined in our Constitution. This was the practice before the PP Administration of 2010.

The PP’s natural term in office was from 18 June 2010 to 17 June 2015. Former Prime Minister Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar chose to take the elections down to the wire and hold it on 7 September, with just two days to go for the expiration of the three-month window.

Except for circumstances of war, it is clear that the framers of our constitution intended for the life of parliament to be five years (see sections 67, 68 & 69, Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago). The unprecedented extension of the life of parliament—on grounds that have not been shared with the population—communicated the guiding beliefs of an administration that epitomised the negative values that gave us the nickname ‘Trickydadians’.

On one occasion, former Prime Minister ANR Robinson said: ‘… streams into rivers and rivers into seas’ as a way of cautioning us about how small acts of indiscretion can escalate. What the PP government did was not illegal, but it broke a significant precedent in the way we conduct our political business.

One of the reasons 51.68% of the electorate voted for the PNM on Monday 7 September 2015, was their belief in the promises of the manifesto. To live up to those promises, it is necessary for Dr Rowley to dissolve parliament at midnight on 6 September 2020 and announce the date for the general elections. Here is an opportunity for him to demonstrate his commitment to doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley fields questions from the media.
(Copyright AFP)

The time has come for us to standardise the date for general elections, which I am suggesting should be the fourth Monday in September. If this is done, it will prevent any future prime minister from taunting the public with the remark that the date was in his back pocket or simply extending her term in office for political expediency.

If we can establish the dates for Carnival forever, why can’t we establish the date for general elections with the same certainty?

I have three wishes for our country as we start this new decade: 1. that we treat each other with grace and dignity, 2. that our public officials conduct themselves with kindness instead of arrogance and 3. that we regularise the dates for general elections.