Kudos to Dr Rowley, but now Persad-Bissessar should step aside for UNC to re-create itself …

Congratulations to the PNM on their victory at the polls under the leadership of Dr Keith Christopher Rowley. Congratulations also to the ongoing Leader of the Opposition Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Unless the results in the marginal constituencies are in the single digits, it would be a foolhardy pursuit to seek any recounts. I hope that as the sting of the defeat recedes, this idea will also fade from the memory of Mrs Persad-Bissessar—therefore sparing the population of this aggravation.

Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
(via UNC)

Mrs Persad-Bissessar’s biggest obligation is to provide the UNC with an opportunity to re-imagine what the party can look like on Election Night 2025. The first step in this process is to provide a clear path by resigning as MP and anointing a suitable successor to run in the Siparia By-Election which will be triggered.

From the historical patterns, that person will be successful— so it is a relatively risk-free activity which also has the potential to help the party heal, re-create itself and signal a different role for the Opposition in Parliament.

It can happen that a loss may be a better teacher than a win, especially since the winner is not likely to change strategies. This loss provides the UNC with a tremendous opportunity to think deeply about our society and how future elections can be conducted.

Unfortunately, the 2020 campaigns continued the focus on an ‘us versus them’ strategy and not on messages which spoke to: ‘we, the people…’.

My subjective observation is that the electioneering and dirty tricks have reached a new low with attacks and counter-attacks. Some believe that it is entrenched and all we can expect is the continuation of gutter politics, but I am not convinced.

Photo: Then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) shakes hands with her successor, Dr Keith Rowley, en route to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa.
(Courtesy News.Gov.TT)

I still believe that there are citizens who want better and are interested in the social transformation that is required to make Trinidad and Tobago a place of excellence. If we can transform the political parties, there is hope for our country.

A re-imagined UNC has an opportunity to embrace a digital strategy as it rebuilds itself, using platforms which allow it to keep in touch with members in real time. The UNC might take the lead on targeting different segments of the voter population directly and not having to rely on third party platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which currently appear to have their own filters, biases and priorities.

A properly re-imagined UNC will be able to identify new areas of focus and therefore keep its membership continuously engaged around its plans and activities. If this is done, a permanent change in the election game might occur and this can steer the country in a new, beneficial direction.

The UNC has been given an opportunity to analyse, adapt, build and prepare for 2025. Unfortunately, the pattern is for parties to use that time in opposition to tear down and have a mad scamper to appeal to the electorate in the final months before the subsequent General Election.

For the love of your country, please Mrs Persad-Bissessar, go in peace!

Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar on the campaign trail in the build-up to the 2020 General Election.
(via UNC)

Nov 07, 2016 – Letter to Prime Minister Dr. Rowley.

Dear Prime Minister,

Today is the anniversary of your 14th month at the helm of our country and from all indications there is very little for us to celebrate.

On the campaign trail, you stated that the traffic situation is a quality of life issue which is intolerable.  You further promised a mass transit solution and inspired the population with your rhetoric about what we could do if we did not spend 4 hours on the road.

I am requesting an update on the status of the mass transit plan as you promised.

Yours for our country


Dennise Demming
Citizen

Oct 4th, 2016 letter to Prime Minister Rowley

Dear Prime Minister,

We say we are pegging our future on the success of a strengthened Tourism Industry but  we keep shooting ourselves in the foot by not strengthening Caribbean Airlines nor presenting our strategic plan.  The current shouting about Sport Tourism will fail because there are NO bedrooms around the excellent facilities which have been built in Central Trinidad.

To borrow a phrase from Dr. Gabrielle Hosein, “If I was the Prime Minister” here is what I would do to make sports tourism a reality.

I would convert the Couva Children’s Hospital into a sports tourism complex which could house athletes and provide a service for the convalescence of international, regional and local athletes.  (There is no facility where athletes can convalesce in the region).

I would invite accomplished sports doctors and physiotherapists to function there during the winter periods or periods which coincide with off-season training of athletes and cyclists.

I would go after the hosting of a major international swim or cycling activity to show off my facilities to the world.

The Couva Hospital is ideal because it has a good combination of wards (which can provide dormitory facilities for athletes), private rooms which can house officials and medics, cafeteria facilities, recreational facilities and medical facilities.  More importantly, it is within an easy commute from our world class facilities.  Without bedrooms and other amenities, the aquatic centre and the cycling centre would have a difficult time attracting the traffic that is needed to make them viable.

These suggestions will put us ahead of the curve in several ways.

Regards
Dennise Demming
Citizen

No outrage about Police killing Mr. CoP!

There has been a muted response by Commissioner Griffith to the incident in which 3 men were killed in a shoot out in Morvant.  Contrast this with his response to the shooting of 2 year old Aniah and her father.  The CoP mocked and jeered would be protestors about their absence of outrage.  Well Mr. CoP, we have no outrage because our spirits are dampened and we are suffocating beneath the weight of the death of children and young men. 

Once again, my stomach boiled although I know neither the pain of losing a child nor the pain of losing a child as a result of gun violence!  Annually 500 women feel this gut wrenching pain of losing their child and we simply tick it off as someone known to the police or involved with guns, drugs and gangs.  The anecdotal evidence is that for each murder, at least 5 persons are affected.  Annually 2,500 persons suffer trauma from gun violence.  Over the past 5 years it means that at least 12,500 persons have suffered mostly in silence.

Courtesy Trinidad Express

Maybe, there has been no outrage because we have lost hope that the COP or the Leadership of the country are committed to taking any meaningful action against the scourge of crime.  We remember the name calling, sarcasm and arrogance and juxtapose those remarks against the increasing crime statistics and retreat to our cubby holes to pray that home invasions do not continue an upward trend.

Subject matter experts on Crime remind us that the only approach to reducing crime is a strategic, long term, multi-sector approach. It is not simply about police, vehicles, guns, armoury and police stations.  A clear vision is needed, followed by short, medium and long term goals and objectives.  This is all management 101 but there is tremendous inertia and a view that we can talk our way into solving crime.

Gun violence in this country is out of control and there are a couple associated ironies.  We do not manufacture guns in this country, so each gun comes in across our borders either formally or informally. How is it that despite having the electronic scanners in place, we seldom ever hear of a shipment of guns being intercepted.  Is it that those electronic scanners do not work?  How is it that often, when we hear of the seizure of a high powered gun, it was found in some field or barrel or some obscure place and not associated a specific person or importer?

Mr. CoP, citizens have no outrage because we fear for our own lives.  We want to help but we are looking for a plan and a strategy aimed at changing the way we do things.   

A Trumpian Rant vs Clear Communications

Minister of Communication Donna Cox delivered a masterful stroke when she responded to Media inquiries about her health.  In less than 30 seconds, she was concise, clear, complete and achieved the objective of closing the communications loop.  Her response shut down any thoughts or attempts to explore the matter any further. Well done Minister Cox!

As a communications exercise, contrast such mastery with the Prime Minister’s facebook rant about head of the Chamber of Commerce Gabriel Faria and you see an attack on someone in a position of leadership who is simply speaking his truth about the business community and the government’s lack of action.  Faria has consistently spoken and written about outstanding VAT and how it negatively impacts the business community. The Prime Minister’s “Trumpian” rant reminded me of the “bullishness” he was accused of by the late former Prime Minister, Mr. Patrick Manning.

Let’s examine this rant based on the rules of communication.  In one concise missive he accused the Chamber head of: trying to influence voters; being very disrespectful to the country’s leadership; disdainful of all the people who offer themselves for office and having a disrespectful mouth.   It was concise.  On the rule of clarity, the reader is left wondering about what caused this!  What was motivating the Prime Minister?  On the rule of completeness, the rant is incomplete.  I have to concede that he may have achieved his objective but that was not apparent.

The Prime Minister would do well to embrace the counsel of his Minister of Communications while pausing any inclinations to revive the “raging bull, wagang or rottweiler” behaviors of which he has been rightfully accused in the past.

Mr. Mayor – praise in public, criticize in private …

When a mayor resorts to angrily scolding a roomful of more than 80 adults (all of whom can vote), it tells me that he has forgotten the road travelled to the office he holds. It tells me that he should not be the mayor of anything; he should really return to the ‘block’ from whence he came.

Photo: San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello (via newsday.co.tt)

There is a long-standing human relations principle, which is also practised in bringing up children: praise in public, criticize in private. San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello’s recent outburst indicates the extent to which the party he represents disregards the people they should be serving and feel empowered to not think twice about verbally abusing us.

There was a time when the standard practice was that the organisers and the mayor’s office would have met and worked out the details prior to the function, therefore ensuring seamless execution. If the master of ceremonies made a faux pas, a quiet word would have been sufficient. If there was chatter from the audience while the mayor was speaking, a simple pause could have been enough to quiet the audience. But maybe the mayor was so boring that the crowd was totally disengaged. Maybe he lacks credibility to such an extent that the audience felt no compulsion to even listen to what he had to say.

Such verbal expression of anger is aggressive, violent, abusive and lacks the grace and dignity we expect from the holders of high office. I am not surprised because Mayor Regrello represents a party that perpetuates such hatred toward the population that the leader had no difficulty likening women to golf courses that needed to be groomed; the minister of finance had no difficulty jeering at the population when he boasted that there was no riot despite frequent increases in the price of gasoline; the attorney general suggested that a victim of sexual harassment said: “ah want money.” I can go on ad nauseam with the examples of abuse being perpetrated upon the very people who continue to vote them into office.

The mayor should have heeded his own advice that ‘the children are looking on’ and found the grace and dignity to de-escalate the situation so that what happened would have been publicly unnoticed, but privately dealt with. Instead, he chose to mar the celebration of the accreditation of a laboratory.

I long for the day when officials exercise their duties so that we all feel inspired and hold our heads proudly because they are representing us well. For now, many of us sit and cringe as mediocrity, bacchanal and disquiet prevail at all levels of our society. I keep asking, when did we get to this level of incompetence? But I live in hope that a new normal will be established based on mutual respect, grace and dignity.

Imbert … neither the love nor the likes!

Jamaican reggie artist Chronixx does it for the “love, not the likes”.  That is the line that dominated my mind in the recent hurricane of lashes that the Minister of Finance received from his post budget discussion.

 

I am convinced that Minister Imbert does it neither for the love nor the likes.  He has been returned to office by his constituents for the past 25 years and this reassures him (the way a battered woman reassures her abuser) that the population will always love him. But politics and spousal abuse are not the same and it is only a matter of time before his constituents say, “enough is enough.”  While I recognize that the vote is for the brand (ie. the party), the representative will either add value or diminish the brand by his actions and words, and at the moment the brand seems to be going in the wrong direction.

Minister Imbert, like the leadership of the current Cabinet represents a cohort which refuses to believe that our future politics will be determined on social media. He is stuck in a paradigm which died at the turn of the last century.  Public figures and indeed politicians whose salaries WE PAY, MUST engage us respectfully.  Communicating in an age of social media means that your every communication must be based on a wellthought through strategy that considers (a) your target audience and (b) the outcomes you wish.  Once your strategy is agreed, and the target audience identified, then you shape the message and decide on the messenger.

Communicating in a digital age means that audiences want quick, easily digestible messages.  They will not engage with the 3-hour budget presentation or the full clip of the exchange at the post-budget discussion.  They will receive whatever is trending and unfortunately in this instance, what was consumed was an articulate black women taking on a sullen faced white politician.  No legal threat or manoeuvre could erase that impact.

The current government has been weak at traditional Communications and they are even weaker at communicating in a digital age. What is needed is a total re-design of the engagement strategy of the government at every level, from the budget presentation to the employment practices of public servants.  Systems re-design is the only way to become effective.

Here’s a CNBC comment that could put some reality to the dinosaur-like thinking that is passing for communications and leadership.

“At 2.01 billion, Facebook has more monthly active users than WhatsApp (500 million), Twitter (284 million) and Instagram (200 million)—combined.  (Source: CNBC)”.

Minister Imbert doesn’t seem to care for the love nor the likes so it’s licks for the population.

 

Sans Website?

office-of-the-prime-ministerLong time ago, when the internet was in the toddler stage, I asked a “techie guru” why do I need a website?  His response – “it’s like your home address”.  In today’s world everything on social media pivots to your website where you essence is communicated.  It is the place where you invite people to learn about you and  decide if they want to do business with you.  That rationale has not changed.

Why then when I google “Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago” I get an under construction message.  But when I google “Office of the Prime Minister of Canada” I get a dynamic website which even includes his itinerary.

office-of-the-prmie-minister-of-canada

In today’s world if you are interested in communicating with your population, you have to use the internet and the range of online tools which it offers.  Inviting yourself to a radio programme just allows you to speak to 18 percent of the population.  What about the other 82 percent?  And what about the youth cohort for whom the internet is their sand box?  Recently I was able to hear the Valedictorian on Facebook Live broadcast from one of the the graduation ceremonies at the University of the West Indies.  This just shows the power of the internet if used sensibly.

I can’t think of one reason why the Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago does not have a functioning website.  It must be a new deliberate strategy to not communicate.  It must be because my Prime Minister and his advisers have no desire to engage  “Pradeep Public”.  It must be because they are have no interest in being inclusive.  It must be because they think they have all the answers.  It must be that the Government just does not understand that the future we must create requires an ICT strategy which enables our people to have information at their finger tips.

We keep talking about diversification.  If ICT does not form the backbone of the diversification strategy then we’ll be saying welcome to the past”. 

Our country has the potential, the people and the creativity.  What we lack is the leadership!

Some Sorrel Juice Please Mr. President!

no_alcoholThere was a time, not so long ago when the only juices you could enjoy at President’s House were sorrel juice, grapefruit juice, mauby, star apple juice and any juice that could be made using local fruits.  I am told the fruits also came from the gardens on the premises. That was a period when the office still held some awe and mystique.  Today, the “The Hassanali’s” are still spoken of in glowing tones as part of the good “ole” days.  For that time, the serving of “home made juice” at President’s House was seen as disruptive.  Fast forward to today and the Office has its own wine label at the expense of the citizens.  There is inconsistency in the messaging here.  On one hand we are saying that there is need for austerity while on the other, we commission a private label wine for the President’s House.

The recent budget announced an increase in the sin taxes (meaning alcohol and tobacco) which is a good initiative but if we are aiming to change the alcohol palette of the Trinbagonian, it didn’t go far enough. It should really have been a one hundred percent charge for all imported alcohol.

If we’re serious about reducing the foreign exchange drain, why not temporarily  ban the use of alcohol at all government functions and on all government premises including the Diplomatic Centre and President’s House. At least we could implement this tax while the country moves towards economic stability. An old saying comes to mind: “People do what you do and not what you say”.   There is a tremendous move to authenticity in today’s world and people are looking for behaviour which they can pattern.  They do not respond to instruction. If you want to call out the best of others you have to be the best you possible.  If we want the population to understand the dire straights we are in, then our actions must be consistent.  The focus at the moment is on the Presidential label for his special wine but it is only a matter of time before someone leaks the bill for the Diplomat Centre and Household.  

How comfortable are you at the Trinidad Country Club?

Those of us who “took tear gas” in the 70s remember NJAC as our hope that “every
creed and race find an equal placeScreen Shot 2015-07-12 at 19.30.29“.  I now ask the question … will Chief Servant Makandal Daaga and Mrs. Liseli Daagaor or Bro. Khafra Kambon be at the UNC meeting at the Trinidad Country Club.  And if we rewound the clock to (2010) the year of their ascendency to political office how would this article have been re-written:  Continue reading “How comfortable are you at the Trinidad Country Club?”