Trying to put the pandemic in pan’s way is putting democracy at risk

Originally published https://wired868.com/2021/10/14/demming-trying-to-put-the-pandemic-in-pans-way-is-putting-democracy-at-risk/ Thursday 14 October 2021

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) is now run by a non-elected normalisation committee appointed by the sport’s world umbrella body, The Federation of International Football Associations (Fifa).

Led by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, our Parliament acted to override the collective will of Tobagonians when their election results with a 6/6 split spoke to collaboration.

Photo: Robert Hadad is co-CEO of Hadco and board member at the International School in POS.
Hadad was appointed head of Fifa’s normalisation committee in Trinidad and Tobago on 27 March 2020.
(Copyright Gary Jordan Photography ©2017)

The Pan Trinbago Executive has extended its term of office by another three years.

What these three examples communicate to me is that we are pushing towards autocratic styles of leadership instead of seeking to ensure that people are allowed to exercise their democratic rights. The central idea behind democracy is to provide followers with an opportunity to validate leadership, which we do via the electoral process.

Elections provide an opportunity for officials to be held accountable and to seek a fresh mandate. Followers look to leaders to act in their best interests as well as to provide ACT: accountability, collaboration and transparency.

In the absence of these three intangibles, either autocrats will emerge or chaos will reign.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, our country has held two in-person national elections and we are currently preparing for a third, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Elections.

Photo: PDP political leader Watson Duke (centre) poses with supporters in Tobago.
(via PDP)

Banks, financial institutions, credit unions and voluntary organisations have all held their elections using technology and blended approaches. If collectively we have the wisdom, capacity and technology to hold elections, why is Pan Trinbago using Covid-19 as the reason for not honouring their constitutional obligation?

If, as reported, the majority of their members have supported deferring the elections, I wonder how this majority was measured. If it was done online, then it follows that you can certainly hold your elections online as well.

If it was done in-person, then the excuse offered is hollow!

If it is true that the majority of their members are unvaccinated, then isn’t this an excellent opportunity to come out in support of the national vaccination drive?

I expect that, as a woman in leadership, the Pan Trinbago president will act in our collective best national interest. That, I submit, means promoting the vaccination drive to increase the numbers of fully vaccinated citizens and assist in a direct way in the fight against the uncompromising pandemic.

Photo: Pan Trinbago president Beverley Ramsey-Moore (right).

It also means, I suggest, demonstrating that although she may not be an internet native and may be in an age cohort which is largely resistant to technological change, she is willing and enthusiastic to embrace technology to find solutions to our myriad problems.

A way to vote freely and fairly is just one of them.

The election of president Beverley Ramsey-Moore heralded a wave of hope for forward thinking and doing things right.

I hope she is aware that her reluctance not to say refusal to seek to re-validate her leadership can completely undo whatever good she may so far have done.

Please, madam, hold the elections.

Chatting with CEO of Nevis Tourism Authority.

Tourism in Nevis
This edition of Demming Chronicles explored the island of Nevis with CEO of the Nevis Tourism Authority Jadine Yarde. Under her leadership, the focus is on developing a strong team to communicate clear messages. The Covid Pandemic provided an opportunity for collaboration between Nevis, St. Barts, St. Martin, Anguilla, St. Kitts, Saba, and Sint Eustatius to promote the concept of island hopping among different islands as a unique experience for visitors.

Intra Regional Travel
A major obstacle to Caribbean island hopping is the cost of intraregional travel to the extent that a ticket from New York to France can cost less than a regional ticket or one to get a person to the Caribbean. Jadine is confident that this long-standing issue can be solved if we collaborate and are prepared to engage in open conversations.

Leveraging Technology

She also commented on the importance of packaging our Caribbean offerings as an opportunity to share the unique cultural experiences of people who are resilient, proud, and fun-loving. To young people across the region, she pointed out that the new shift in technology brings with it opportunities to develop different methods of communicating and creating content to reach audiences whose interests go beyond sun, sea, and sand.

Whether it is “Nevis Naturally” or “Nevis Nice”, a warm welcome awaits you.

Going, going, going, gone! Goodbye, Gary Griffith

Originally Published on September 29 View Point

From 1956 to 1981, Trinidad and Tobago experienced what it is like to be led by an unapologetically patriarchal leader who made decisions on our behalf whether or not we supported them.

During that period our two-island nation became the richest country in the Caribbean. For 25 years, the leadership style of former prime minister Dr Eric Eustace Williams was accepted—although, after the Black Power Revolution of 1970, it was perhaps more tolerated than accepted. Dr Williams was globally respected as a Caribbean scholar firmly grounded in the history of the country of his birth.

Photo: Prime Minister of Trinidad Dr Eric Williams (standing) addresses the opening session of the Independence Conference at Marlborough House, London on 28 May 1962.
The talks lasted about two weeks and resulted in Independence for Trinidad and Tobago.
(Copyright AP Photo/Staff/Laurence Harris)

Since his death in March 1981, we have been led by individuals who have generally continued his style and made little effort to change the structures, systems and processes which were created under his leadership.

Understandably, our history nudges us to lean into a patriarchal style of leadership characterised by gender inequality, lack of inclusiveness and Father-knows-best authoritarian stances. From a ‘hassled’ approach to our digital transformation strategy to unclear guidance about the creation of dining bubbles, we continue to be led by men whose leadership styles prevent them from moving away from ego satisfaction.

This often dehumanising style was exemplified by our now former commissioner of police Gary Griffith. For example, he has publicly referred to citizens as ‘cockroaches’ or ‘criminal elements’. Some may have found his communication style appealing but to me a guideline of ‘one shot, one kill’ is totally inappropriate.

In a bygone era, there was doubtless a role for the patriarchal leader. However, the leadership style which brought us out of colonialism is not the leadership style required for us to thrive in a world which is in the throes of change and redefinition.

Photo: Then Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith poses over a dying suspect, who was arrested for the murder of a policeman, on 28 December 2019. 
The image is blurred as it may be disturbing to some readers.
(via TTPS)

It is time for us to ditch the patriarchy and embrace a leadership style which is forward-thinking, inclusive, agile, collaborative and transformational.

We should thank the ultimate patriarch, former commissioner of police and former captain Gary Griffith for his services at the same time insisting that we need a different leadership style.

Your job, sir, is done!

Among the many initiatives for which you have taken the credit are a decreased murder rate, police being arrested for corruption and the investigation into the issuing of Firearms Users Licenses.

But to whom should the credit go for all the citizens—far too many!—who have been killed by police bullets? Are we all wrong, the large number of us who are of the impression that ‘zessers’ in the west are treated more gently than ‘zessers’ in other parts? Video Player00:0000:20

Are we all overly sensitive, the large number of us who recoil in the face of your verbal abuse and imprudent, intemperate language?

The new commissioner of police must receive the baton and carry on with the good we have seen from our now former commissioner. His job is to inspire our policemen and women to protect and serve equally, to support the social changes needed to improve our communities, to be positive role models for our citizens and to engage communities for our collective good.

His challenge is to modernise the systems, structures and processes while making it crystal clear that our collective responsibility is to keep each other safe under the watchful eyes of 7,000 police officers who are resolved and determined to protect and serve.

Come what may.

Welcome, good sir; we wish you all the best.

Goodbye, Gary.

Chatting with Jean Claude-Cournand and Devon Seales

Civil Conversations

The conversation begins with Spoken Word advocate and founder of the @2CentsMovement, Jean Claude Cournand who comments that spoken word provides an opportunity for millennials and others to have civil conversations about topics like politics, religion, and diversity. Comparing spoken word to traditional communications tools, he referenced the superiority of a good poem to tug at your heartstring over simply narrating a statistic.

Spoken word and Education

Referencing how spoken word is used in other parts of the world Jean Claude commented that Chicago has provided a case study of how it could be integrated into the school’s curriculum where teacher Peter Khan has integrated a “Poetry Slam” into his school’s curricula and all students participate. The benefits experienced go beyond reading, writing, and performing to developing their confidence and presentation skills. There is ongoing research globally to understand the impact of spoken word from an evidence-based perspective.

At 17:00 the conversation pivots to Devon Seale who is bilingual (fluent in Portuguese), a Calypso Monarch (2016), and a technology nerd. Inspiration for him comes from being around people who are passionate about what they do whether it is solving an “IT” problem or hearing an “encore” in the calypso sphere.

Digitization

In dreaming of the future of our country, he wished for us to embrace technology in all forms and implement the changes that are necessary to digitize our country. Among the many areas where service delivery can be improved, he commented on transportation and the easy win which could be derived by embracing technology.

Devon operates at the intersection of the Calypso art form, Technology, and Language. His motto is “Trust and Believe.”

Where is Trinidad?

Originally published Friday , September 17 2021 Wired868

Thanks to rapper Nicki Minaj, that question topped the Twittersphere recently. This came about after Minaj tweeted that her cousin’s friend had taken the Covid vaccine and ended up with ‘Swollen Testicles’.

Photo: Controversial Trinidad-born American rapper Nicki Minaj.

Her tweet led our hard-working, super-busy minister of health to admit that he and his medical team spent all of 24 hours trying to verify the accuracy of the ‘swollen testicles’ story. He then announced to the whole world that they had found no evidence to support the claim that the vaccine causes testicular swelling.

Scientists the world over have identified and documented the Covid side effects. But not even among casual Covid followers and conspiracy theorists has there been any mention of swollen testicles. Until now…

So why go down that rabbit hole? But then, this is Trinidad and Tobago; here, common sense often seems to be not all that common.

My reaction to this particular ministerial statement was two-fold. First, it caused me to wonder what was the anticipated outcome of the announcement of this disclaimer and what was the thinking behind the advice to respond? Secondly, it spawned a few questions in my mind.

What was the process used to ascertain the veracity of the story? Was there a physical examination? Who conducted the examination? Was the examination completed merely by observation or was some kind of measurement necessary? The examination having been completed, what measures were put in place to ensure that all necessary protocols were followed and who verified the results?

Image: A meme pokes fun at Nicki Minaj’s claim that the Covid-19 vaccine led to swollen testicles for her cousin’s friend in Trinidad.

Whatever the answers to these questions, the fact is that our country provided global comic relief to several talk show hosts and their millions of followers for at least 72 hours. And the memes continue still.

So if we are seeking an example of a recovery effort, we need look no further than the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Though steeped in controversy, the Dove reaction has ultimately been very successful.

Thus, as a response to this global clap back, it is clear that we have a choice. We can either run for cover and hope that the issue will be forgotten. Or we can put our creative minds to work and mount a global social media and traditional media campaign to answer that Twitter question about where in the world is Trinidad.

I thought of the book Where’s Wally? (called Where’s Waldo? in North America) which is a series of children’s puzzle books in which readers are challenged to find a character named Wally hidden in the group.

We do not have to go that route. But a proper—and timely!—answer will provide us with an opportunity to sell our tourism product to the world with the tagline ‘…and the birthplace of Nicki Minaj’. For example, a social media post could be: ‘Trinidad and Tobago, the land where the only new musical instrument of the 20th century was created and, of course, the birthplace of Nicki Minaj. #superballs.’

Photo: Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh (right) was a guest on Trevor Noah’s Daily Show, a popular American satirical news show, on 16 September 2021 to discuss Nikki Minaj’s claim about the alleged response to the Covid-19 vaccine experienced by her cousin’s friend in Trinidad.

The 19th-century American showman and circus owner PT Barnum is often credited with the statement ‘Bad publicity is still publicity’. Maybe we have to see this as an opportunity for us to make lime juice when life provides us with limes instead of oranges, for us to turn an embarrassing reference into a positive campaign.

Maybe it gives us an opening to shine a spotlight on Trinidad and Tobago as a prime tourist destination, a great place to visit. If we are clever and act promptly, we may even be able to strengthen our bond with the rapper to bring global attention to our tourism product.

A few months ago, when American actor Michael B Jordan of Black Panther fame launched J’ouvert Rum, we failed to make capital of the opening. After the social media backlash, he quietly withdrew into the shadows, leaving us, some of us, to quietly mourn the squandered opportunity.

This is another big break. We cannot let it go to waste. As a country, we have the creativity. All that is needed is for us to have the cojones to take a bold step, strike while the iron is hot, seize the time and try to jump on the horse’s back instead of finding ourselves bidding frantically to close the stable door long after the horse has bolted.

#nickiminaj #superballs.

Demming Chronicles hosts Former Energy Minister, Kevin Ramnarine & Environmentalist Dr Rahanna Juman

Reduction of State Dominance in the Economy

Former Minister Kevin Ramnarine shares his views on critical areas which can help our economy grown and thrive. Five takeaways from this interview are: Trinidad and Tobago needs to revise our constitution with the aim of reducing the current concentration of power in the hands of the executive; intensify our focus on preserving our natural environment; urgently work on improving our Ease of Doing Business (EODB) ranking from 105 and establish the goal of becoming the bunkering hub of the region.

Reduced dependency on Hydrocarbons

Kevin noted that our modern economy which began in 1974 with the first oil boom has run its course. While the dominant narrative will continue to focus on hydrocarbons and the revenues from oil, gas, and methanol, global demand will continue to reduce and force us to pivot to other areas for revenue generation.

Bunkering Hub of the Hemisphere

Recognizing the explosive growth that is expected by our neighbours Guyana and Suriname, Kevin noted that we are naturally endowed to become the bunkering hub and transshipment point for the expected increased Maritime traffic. There are at least 5 docks in the Gulf of Paria which can accommodate large maritime vessels. A bright economic future can stand on the pillars of a reimagined Maritime Sector, a stronger Manufacturing Sector, and an improved EODB.

At 19:00 Dr. Rahanna Juman changes the conversation to remind us about the important role that Mangroves play in environmental protection, climate change mitigation, coastline protection, and even protection against storm surges.

Carbon Sequestration
She notes that Mangroves are sometimes described as the “Supermarket of the Seas” because of their ability to provide a range of organic materials. As Trinidad and Tobago continues to be called out for our huge carbon footprint we can use the revitalization and rehabilitation of our mangroves as part of our strategy to capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide. A recent study concluded that our mangroves capture more than 4 times the amount of carbon that is captured by our terrestrial Forests. This special group of plants, both trees and shrubs can live in the harsh intertidal zone where they help protect our coastlines. Their ability to store vast amounts of carbon makes them an important weapon in the fight against climate change.

Protect our mangroves
Although 50% of mangroves have been cleared to make way for housing and industrialization, much can be done to remove the stressors on our mangroves. There needs to be a greater focus on strengthening our policy implementation and enforcement strategies especially as they relate to minimizing pollution caused by industrial waste and other run-offs into our rivers and streams. Citizens are encouraged to become active participants in the thrust to revive and rehabilitate our Mangroves. By protecting mangroves, we can help protect the future of our planet.

Demming Chronicles features Suzette Cadiz (Let’s Read) & Quilin Achat (Cannabis Advocate)

A library in every school
The conversation kicks off with Suzette Cadiz of the NGO “Let’s Read”. Their goal is to unlock the passion for reading in each child. Recognizing that several Primary Schools no longer had libraries, they set about in 2010 to re-create reading spaces and to date have reestablished libraries in 31 schools throughout the country. In addition to school libraries, Let’s Read has two other initiatives “Book a Baby” where new books are given to pediatricians to be given to new mothers; and the “Little Free Library” where box boxes are placed in remote areas and target children aged 0-14.

Developing a passion for reading
The idea behind Let’s Read is to move away from reading to pass a test to reading for understanding and enjoyment. This can be easily achieved by an early introduction to reading. Parents can play a role by reading to their children and teaching them to use their imagination to understand the world. One can experience unimaginable joy in seeing children become excited about reading.

Gently used books
Let’s Read relies on corporate support and individual funding to do their work. They reach out to families and individuals to provide “gently used” books to stock the libraries. Their initiative is a long-term programme to transform children into becoming deep readers. The more passionate the reader the likely are we to expand our discovery of creatives and inventors. Suzette also commented that Let’s Read allows each child to receive a gift of literacy which can have a long-term positive impact on their quality of life.

At 13:35, Quinlan Achat talks about the movement she founded called “Stay Calm, It’s a Plant” and about her advocacy for the Cannabis movement in Trinidad and Tobago. The movement began in 2010/2011 and as a Rastafarian Woman, Quinlan has accepted responsibility for protecting the safety of the sacred plant of Cannabis.

Negative Imagery of Cannabis
In December 2019 Cannabis was decriminalized and the movement is looking forward to the passage of “The Cannabis Control Bill, 2020”. According to the Parliamentary Website This “Act will provide for the regulatory control of the handling of cannabis for certain purposes, the establishment of the Trinidad and Tobago Cannabis Licensing Authority and connected matters.”

Cannapreneurship and the future
Since the decriminalization of Cannabis, there has been a huge growth in the market for the supply of different kinds of edibles but the industry is uncontrolled. Quinlin is confident that once the operating framework is established and organized, Cannabis can become a strong sector of our economy.

In taking a future view, she sees a multi-level industry that will produce a new kind of business owner who is committed to environmental sustainability and the empowerment of young people to create new and different businesses.

Dear Trinidad and Tobago, we must ‘become the leaders we wish to see’

Originally published on Wired868.com on August, 22nd 2021

Every time Honourable Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley opens her mouth my phone lights up with comments, video clips and messages of longing for a prime minister like her. Just stop it! 

We have whom we have; just deal with it—because in the natural flow of things, that will not change in the foreseeable future.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (left) and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley.

I truly believe that our prime minister is doing the best he can (and yes, we should be concerned about that) in the way that he knows and with the resources available to him. Calling him narcissistic, foolish, misogynistic or any other name will not change the fact that 23% of our population, which is the majority of those who bothered to show up on Election Day, voted for the PNM and he is the leader.  

So what do we do?

It is a great question, and my answer has been to lead from where I am in the ways that are available to me. Find your tribe and find a cause, even if it is a tribe of keyboard warriors using the rhythm of the keys to play a different tune for the future.

But in all that we do, let us be respectful of each other. Let us use language that is uplifting and a tone that is respectful even if it is brutally honest, and use our resources to help someone else survive another day.

The Covid virus is not done with us as yet. Continued locking down and implementing curfews are not coping strategies. Realistically the Delta spread we are about to experience will take out several of us; especially the unvaccinated.

Photo: A sample tests positive for the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus.
(via Shutterstock)

Even when we reach herd immunity, the economic, social and physical devastation is expected to intensify over the next 12 to 24 months.

The conversation about returning to normal is bothersome because there is no normal to return to. Even after our borders are fully open and there is in-house dining and some semblance of a Carnival, the conditions will have to be re-designed.  

Each of us has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design our future in a way that makes sense to us and that is where the ‘new normal’ begins.

Living with Covid means finding ways to collaborate and to share resources for our mutual benefit. This might sound like a ‘kumbaya’ strategy which may be considered naïve and unrealistic, but it is a call for us to redesign a society which values honesty, justice, equity and sustainability.

While everyone has been impacted by the devastation of Covid, there is a popular view that rich people and politicians live in bubbles and enjoy comfortable lifestyle while poverty rains havoc on the rest of society.  

Image: A satirical take on the one percent.

As the gap between the rich and the poor widens, the biggest need is to teach people how to use technology to fit into a digitised reality. Never before has the concept of ‘teaching persons to fish’ been more relevant.  

We must embrace the notion that we can’t change the quality of leadership we currently have but we can take personal responsibility and become the leaders we wish to see.  

Let us lead in our individual spaces and make a difference in the country we occupy.

Structures and Mounments Ground Us

https://secure.mediafiles.fi/newsday/210820162817_public-FFQutJMYpRGSaCpTRbIMWT4kpsUE1brKexTi4o3F70M/Newsday-Thursday-August-19th-2021-Issue-No-10195/#p=14

Two unlikely knights Dale Ramirez and Valmiki Maharaj used their social media channels to bring attention to important government plans which appear to be out of tune with the expectations of many citizens.  Dale’s comments about the proposed AstroTurfing of Mandela Park contributed to an outcry which resulted in the Prime Minister tossing the Mayor under the bus when he suggested that it was a salesman’s dream.  Valmiki’s post about the removal of the PowerGen Towers has not received similar traction but several citizens have made suggestions about how the site might be used. 

As a pacifier, citizens have been offered an entertainment piece with a short window to view the lighting of the towers prior to the removal and destruction of this 120-year-old landmark.  My interpretation is that when mild mannered citizens are motivated to speak up in this way, it is a message that the government and the citizens are moving in opposite directions.

In 2016 the Artists’ Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) presented a plan to the Economic Advisory Board of how the space could be transformed and the history preserved.  This approach is neither new nor unique to Trinidad and Tobago.  A quick global scan will point to the re-purposing of the Toronto Power Station, the transformation of the Battersea Power Station in London and the retrofitting of the Potrero Power Station in San Francisco.  In every instance, the repurposing of former power stations fit into a wider tourism plan to change the dynamic of the space and attract different traffic for commercial benefit.

“San Francisco’s Central Waterfront has been a center of industry for over 150 years. While industrial uses will continue to be an important element of the urban fabric in the Central Waterfront, including at PPS, the City’s Central Waterfront Area Plan identifies the site as a location for additional growth and a wider range of land uses, including residential, commercial, and parks.” https://sfplanning.org/potrero-power-station

There are many other examples of alternative approaches to destroying and erasing historical landmarks.  As cities change and develop, the focus seems to be on repurposing and redesigning spaces.  The concept of redeveloping the city of Port of Spain is welcomed but the vision must give consideration to maintaining our iconic buildings and spaces. 


Development is not solely about building new structures.  Of greater importance, development is also about creating an aesthetic which sees the beauty around us and works towards its improvement.  It is about understanding that monuments and old buildings and structures teach us about our past and what went before.  They help cultivate pride in our past and respect the struggles of those who went before us.  They help ground us in understanding who we are as a people.

Old photographs of Port of Spain tell me about tramcars and trains as a means of transportation, elegance and style while dancing at the Princess Building and gingerbread-style houses in East Port of Spain.  These images help me to feel a sense of pride and uniqueness as a people.  

The continued removal and destruction of iconic structures wipes away our history and adds to the disconnect many feel with the land of our birth making it difficult to accept any notion of blooming where we are planted.  As the disconnection intensifies, more and more of our people entertain the thought that a better life can be had elsewhere.