Thursday, October 17, 2013


Jack Warner's call for a minimum wage of $20 per hour has largely gone unnoticed amidst all the hype and hyperbole of the election campaign. The fact that his call has been ignored either means that persons who should understand economics clearly don't, or that they have an agenda which effectively prohibits a discussion of what ought to be important economic issues except for those which those "experts" deem to be important. I will readily admit that there may be a third or even a fourth reason for the deafening silence, but for the life of me I can't think of one.

Mr. Warner's call for a higher minimum wage was/is a recognition that there is what might be called a "fairness deficit" in our society where the rich are getting richer and where more and more people ... especially the young ... are slipping backwards into poverty. Certainly, inflation has seen to it that in real terms most incomes ... especially at the lower end of the scale ... are effectively lower than they were a short ten or fifteen years ago. Most young people cannot afford the lifestyle that their parents had when they were their age.

Social mobility, which progressed in leaps and bounds in the sixties and seventies and even into the eighties is now "flat lining" and is in serious danger of going into reverse. Why are we so surprised at the rising rates in crime when we are effectively throwing so many young people on to the rubbish heap of life by failing to provide them with a good education, good job opportunities and the hope of a better and improved life style.

UWI, UTT and the employer class must all do more to help end long term youth unemployment by increasing learning and earning opportunities. No Government can do it alone. That is the reality. But a Government can and should provide the right business climate where these things happen. Employers, for example, can and should provide better pay, better opportunities, better training and career development. The universities should provide increased higher quality learning and earning opportunities for the young who should be expected to take up those opportunities or face the tough consequences.

The education system needs to be revised where the brighter children are helped and encouraged to do better. There should be a system of reward for those better teachers as well as consequences for those inefficient or incompetent teachers who for whatever reason simply aren't teaching their charges.

Upward social mobility ought to be our mantra. Mr. Warner's call for a higher minimum wage was an implicit recognition that poverty is becoming entrenched into our society. It was a recognition that there is a growing insecurity and a stalling mobility in our society that is far more widespread than has been recognized by our politicians and business leaders. The reality is that there are too many children in our society that are growing up who will have a lower living standard than that enjoyed by their parents. The nature of poverty has changed, and we as a society have failed to understand this.

We are not a fair society. We need to redouble our efforts to reduce our country's "fairness deficit". We are rapidly slipping back into becoming the kind of society we were before 1956 where one's birth determined one's fate. Mr. Warner's call for a $20 per hour minimum wage is an effort to try and create a more level playing field of opportunity. This lies at the core of what our nation's business ought to be. And instead of shooting the messenger it would be really nice if we started to pay attention to the message.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


The assumption in many media boardrooms in Port of Spain is that the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) and Jack Warner will simply fade away. They argue that Mr. Warner simply cannot sustain the effort that is being made now and that this society in any case is a "twenty four hour" society which quickly forgets yesterday's news. And, they argue, the ILP is quickly becoming yesterday's news.

They argue that even if the ILP makes inroads in the upcoming Local Government elections that the electorate will revert back to tribal voting when the bell rings for general elections. They say that even if the ILP does well now that this victory will simply bring home to the tribes on both sides of the political divide that voting for the ILP could very well destroy the PNM/UNC as their vote will simply allow the UNC/PNM  to win ... and that would be a tragedy!!

What the "intelligentsia" (for want of a better word) is failing to understand is that what we are seeing on the ground is that the ILP is appealing strongly to "younger" voters, i.e., those under 50. What we are finding is that it is very hard to convince the older voters (over 50) who are "PNM/UNC till ah dead!" These older folk are stuck in their ruts and no amount of logic can get them out. The best that one can hope for when discussing politics with them is "well, I'll think about it", which really means "you haven't changed my thinking but I have no logical or reasonable arguments to rebut yours, so I'll just keep quiet for now."

The younger voters, on the other hand, are resonating with and responding to the ILP's main message which, in one word, is performance. They are saying to us in every corner of Trinidad (sorry, I haven't been to Tobago as yet) from Sangre Grande to Point Fortin, from Port of Spain to Mayaro and everywhere in between, that they are fed up with tribal voting and that they see Mr. Warner as a performer and a man who has risen above the racial divide. They see him as a twenty-first century man who can and will demand that his team performs ... that they work!!

The message that the ILP has been getting loud and clear from the people is that they are fed up with fancy words and empty promises. They couldn't care less about race. What they care about is that whomsoever they put to do a job actually does the job. They are tired of the "blame game". They want action.

And they couldn't care less about the allegations that have swirled around Mr. Warner's head for the last 12 or so years. Their attitude is that there has been more than enough time to charge him. And the fact that no charges have ever been laid speaks more loudly for them  than the cries of Mr. Warner's opponents who seem to want to say anything to bring him down.

But you know what? If ILP does only one thing for this country it has done so already, i.e., it has made the other two parties (I simply don't count the COP) wake up and smell the coffee. Our information is that they are beginning to listen to the people ... finally!!

There is an awakening taking place ... a not-so-quiet revolution ... a tsunami in our politics. We are on the verge of really becoming a twenty-first century society where the colour of a man's skin or the texture of his hair really counts for nothing and what really counts ... what is in his heart ... is everything!! But isn't that what we all really have wanted?!?!

Friday, September 13, 2013


One of the advantages of growing up in San Fernando was learning that Port of Spain was no more representative of how the country thinks and feels than London is typical of England or Paris representative of all things French. Oh! Our capitol city is important in the overall scheme of things and the views held by those in the capitol often have an inordinate sway over opinions that predominate in the print and electronic media. But those who live in Port of Spain frequently have no idea of what things are really like outside of the city and its environs, nor do they have any real idea of the problems that ordinary people face who live outside.

This lack of knowledge frequently is reflected in the print and electronic media, and one often reads social and political commentaries from persons who are intimately familiar with the boardrooms of the banks and wealthy conglomerates, but have no connection whatsoever with the ordinary person. Because they are influential when it comes to the business of money, they believe that their views and opinions are made of gold and precious stones, even when they are badly misinformed. In addition, the media is dominated by vested interests and 'Status Quos' that have absolutely no desire to see any type of change that does not benefit them. (I read somewhere once that the slightest suggestion of change always means death to some status quo).

I am saying all this because I read an article in one of the dailies recently (i think that it was in the 'Express') where the would-be pundit and commentator opined that "one swallow does not a summer make" and basically said (my words) that Jack Warner's victory in Chaguanas West was very likely a flash in the pan and not likely to be repeated. The man took a whole article to say just that!

My answer to the commentator (and to anybody and everybody else who wants to question the ILP's popularity) is don't take my word for it. Get off your tails and go into the country as we have been doing and meet the people. Ask them what they think. Ask them whether they are happy with the status quo and the tribal voting that has dominated this country's politics from the very beginning. Ask them whether they are prepared to vote tribe again. Go ahead! Ask them!! Because I have been asking them. And what I have been hearing and seeing is very, very different from what I have been readin or hearing on the radio.

For the last ten days I have been travelling all over Trinidad as part of the ILP screening committee. We have been to Sangre Grande, Barrackpore, and just about every where else in between. Yesterday we screened candidates for Port of Spain. This afternoon we are doing San Juan/Laventille and then we will have three more screening sessions for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The ILP has done something different from the other political parties as regards how it goes about screening its candidates. What we have done is rather than make the people come to us, we have gone to them. The advantage to those who were screened is obvious. But the advantage to the ILP is/was that we got out into the country and were able to get first hand the views, not only of the would-be candidates, but the views of the ordinary men and women living in the areas all over the country. It has been extremely tiring for us and not a little stressful, but it has been worth it.

One of the questions that all would be candidates was asked was why do you want to go up as an ILP candidate. What is most interesting is that every single would-be candidate (and so far we have screened more than 400 persons and have about 200 more to screen) has said that they are fed up; they are fed up with tribal politics; they are fed up with the non-delivery of goods and services; they are fed up with the non-representation that they consistently get (or don't get) from their parliamentary and local government representatives. They are fed up with the fact that although both the PNM and the UNC like to cast stones at each other, they are really no different from each other in terms of their performances in government.

They have also told us that they like Jack Warner's brand, which in one word they say is 'performance'. They admire the fact that Mr. Warner works as hard as he does and obviously cares for the people. They like how he is moving and they want to be part of the movement for change that they see sweeping the country.

That (in a nutshell) is what we are seeing and getting from the ground. A little different from what you are reading in the papers, eh?! Well, don't be too surprised at the results on October 22nd. And remember, you read it here first!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013


One of the things that I have noticed in these past few weeks since becoming re-engaged in active politics is how completely fed-up people of all races, creeds and classes are with all three mainstream political Parties in Trinidad & Tobago. (And, no, I do not count the TOP as a mainstream national Party ... it is strictly a Tobago affair ... but it seems to me from my Trinidadian perspective that people in Tobago are also as fed-up with the TOP and all the rest, as we are in Trinidad.)

The truth is that all of the mainstream Parties have had their chance at governance and none of them has really cured any of the deep rooted and deep seated problems that exist in our society. Time and again they have all gone to the polls and shouted from the roof tops about how corrupt their opponents are (often with a great deal of justification) but as soon as they get into power, except for the names and a few other changes, nothing changed. I defy anybody to show me the real differences in policies and in governance between any of the last few administrations.  Please. Can anybody tell me what are the policy and philosophical  differences between, say, the PNM and the UNC? Or the COP and the PNM? or the UNC and the COP? And don't come to me with platitudes like "better government" or "new politics" or some other essentially meaningless and empty phrases. What exactly are the differences? And don't tell me "well, they are corrupt and we aren't", because the perception in the population as a whole is that all of the Parties are corrupt and effectively condone corruption while pretending to be horrified at the corruption of their political "enemies".. Where are the essential policies and philosophies different? In finance? Education? Health? Security? Where?

The truth is that the differences between the three in terms of policies and philosophies aren't worth a snowball's chance of surviving in hell! Since the elections of 1986 that ushered in the NAR there have been no differences worth mentioning between any of the major Parties. Put another way, for the last 26 or so years we have had a series of different administrations whose only discernible differences have been noticeable solely by race. No new ideas have come forward in decades as to how to fix the myriad problems that afflict us. I have asked the following question in many forms: if I blew up the education/health/ police system this afternoon so that tomorrow morning there was absolutely nothing and we had to build a brand new education/health/police system, would you put back the exact same system or something completely different? And the answer always is that we should put back something completely different! So, the next obvious question is why then,  in the name of Heaven, do we continue tinkering with the systems instead of putting in systems that will work for the benefit of the people? Why are we so surprised that the country is slowly going down the proverbial tubes when no knew ideas are coming forward?

The population is quite understandably completely burnt out. People are coming up to me all the time and saying that "whatever you (i.e., the ILP) do, please, please, please don't bring back any re-cycled politicians". In other words, they are completely fed-up with those persons who have ruled in their name for so long. It is no secret that Jack Warner's extraordinary appeal to the population of the whole country is the fact that he works extremely hard for the people. The attraction of the ILP at the moment to the population as a whole is that they hope and expect that he will make his team work and perform at such levels that the population will benefit. (Let's face it, there aren't many of us who can put in 19 to 20 hour days for 7 days a week! I certainly can't! But I can work hard!)

Put another way, the people are asking that their elected representatives perform; that they do the work that is necessary. I recently posted on Facebook that I joined the ILP because, to me, it gives the best hope for Trinidad & Tobago. I re-entered the political fray after a seven year hiatus because I saw an opportunity to create a new alignment of the ascendant educated young voters, the educated older voters, the minorities in the society, those persons in the society who, while ethnically are either Indian or African, who might be Christian, Hindu, Muslim or any other creed or religion, but all who think of themselves as Trinbagonians first ... and ... (more importantly) last! I want to create an alignment of persons who demand honesty, not just from their elected representatives, but from the powerful unelected elites; elites like the fourth estate (better known as the Press or Media); elites like the business community. (Who is more guilty: the person taking the bribe or the person giving the bribe?)

In other words, I want to help cure the disease that pervades T&T politics. I want to be part of the movement that finally begins to build that "shining city on the hill". That is why I joined with Jack Warner. That is why I am trying to help build  a genuinely new movement whose credo can be summed up in one word: Performance!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Sometimes I find it difficult not to scoff at the views of learned and respected commentators who, from the absolute safety of their armchairs, pontificate on matters of State and politics as though the words that they commit to print ought to be treated with almost the same reverence as ordinary mortals give to the Holy Koran, Bible or Bhagvad Gita.

The latest offerings from local (as well as Caribbean) commentators is that the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) is not a bona fide political party because it doesn't have a proper constitution, has only "a few" members, no proper structure, no proper organization and is essentially a 'flash in the pan that will soon fade away. There are probably a few other choice criticisms, but these are the main ones that keep being repeated, probably in the hope that if they obey Josef Goebbell's dicta (remember him? Adolf Hitler's Nazi Minister of Propaganda!) that 'the bigger the lie and the more often it is repeated, the more people will believe it'.

What I find difficult to understand is why these armchair critics believe that the only way to build a political party is from the top down? Part of the success of Jack Warner (apart from the fact that he is an incredibly hard worker) is that he builds from the ground up. He spent the three months between resigning his seat in Parliament and the actual day of the bye-election literally walking every single square inch of his constituency. He literally went to every single house in the whole *&^#@&* constituency! He literally canvassed every single voter! And he literally found out what exactly were/are the problems in every area of his constituency (if he didn't know them already!).

The people of Chaguanas West (most unsurprisingly) responded overwhelmingly by giving him their collective vote. And why shouldn't they have done so? Because of unproven allegations made in a seriously flawed report by a former Barbadian jurist? The people really didn't and don't care about unproven allegations (and more on that later in another post). What the people care about is that the persons who they elect to represent them in Parliament (and elsewhere) actually do the jobs that they were put there to do.

I have said it many times: there is only one reason for politics. There is only one reason for Government. To make life better for the people!! Full stop!!! There is no other reason! What has been taking place over the last fifty or so years is that (except with one or three notable exceptions ... and, yes, I deliberately said 'one or three' because there are more than just one or two) just about every person that we have put into high office has become fat, arrogant and completely divorced from the people. There have been a thousand little things that could have and should have been done over the years to make life better for us ... which have been completely ignored by the politicians who, when they get into office, seem to forget completely the thousand and one little inconveniences that the average person must put up with every day.

The two big political parties ... the PNM and the UNC ... have existed for years on the politics of straight race, which they have barely bothered to hide. If you ain't an African or a Hindu then forget it! Crapaud will smoke your pipe! And as for that completely failed entity the COP, does anybody see after three long years exactly what they meant by "new politics" other than just a catchy slogan that sounded good on the campaign trail? Making life better for the people has been a concept that has been totally alien to our politicians of all ilks.

No. To the armchair critics who are saying that the ILP is just a flash in the pan (with absolutely no evidence whatsoever to back it up other than the certainty that whatever falls from their mouths or pens is absolutely right) I say get off your tails and go into the streets of the country. There you will find that the spark that Jack Warner lit in Chaguanas West has sped like wildfire all across the country (and, yes, Tobago is part of the country) in a way that is almost unimaginable. Sitting at the epicenter of "the storm" I will readily confess that I didn't expect the kind of positive reaction that we have been getting from all over. People are excited about the possibility that at last here is somebody who is putting his money where his mouth is and is really trying to make Trinidad & Tobago a better place for all of us. People want a better T&T!

Our problem is trying to manage the virtual tsunami of support, organize it and channel it into a credible political entity. And that we are doing ... from the ground up. Work is proceeding apace in putting down systems and procedures that will run and control the Party. We are planning to have our first convention by the end of September when the draft constitution of the Party will be presented to the membership for ratification. Coordinating teams (which will later 'morph' into Party Groups) are being formed every day. Plans are well advanced for rules and regulations that will govern and control the Party ranging from the screening of potential candidates to how the Party Groups will function and report back to the Central Executive ... and everything in between!

What is crystal clear to the ILP is that the electorate in 2013 is not the same as the electorate in, say, 1963, or even 1993. Most people are better educated and more sophisticated than they were a bare twenty years ago. And the people do NOT want 'politics as usual'. They want performance ... and that is the Jack Warner brand in one word. So, the Party is not properly organized .... yet! It will be ... and sooner than the armchair critics will find to be comfortable. (I do not mind confessing, by the way,  that I thought that I was a hard worker until I started working with the old Jack! Good grief! The (proper) demands that he makes on those who are with him really are enormous! And so they should be! The ILP team is working in a way that I have never seen a team work before!)

The slightest suggestion for change always means death to some status quo. And the ILP is threatening a heck of a lot of 'status quos' in the country right now. They should be very uncomfortable. But you know what? If the armchair critics are right and all the ILP ever achieves is that we force the other political parties to perform then I, for one, will meet my Maker with a smile and say 'we did it! We made the 'so and so's work for the betterment of our country'. And that's what it's all about!!

P.S. The ILP's "few" members as of today, number more than 106,000!! The tsunami is real!

Friday, August 2, 2013


"Denial," somebody once wrote, is a side effect of cowardice. Consciousness requires courage. When we are afraid to deal with an issue, we try to pretend it doesn't exist. That's particularly convenient when we don't know what to do. It takes real strength to say ' I don't have the answer and I'm worried that even if I can get it, I may not like it, but I am going to keep asking questions anyhow.'" That is why when I saw the Prime Minister's response to the defeat inflicted upon her Party in Monday's bye-election I found it ... well, incredulous, to say the least. Her Party didn't lose because it was still in Government!? What? But when at the end of a long week in the politics of this country, one of the very high profile leaders and a very senior Minister (Dr, Suruj Rambachan) in the PP Government says that he is "saddened" by the fact that the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) is no longer interested in joining the Partnership I had to say a loud 'WHAT?' Nobody from the Partnership Government (other than Winston 'Gypsy' Peters in his private capacity) has called any member of the interim executive of the ILP to say 'let's talk'. What do they expect? Mr. Warner has been publicly rejected ... not once but twice ... in his overtures to join the Partnership. Should he do so again? Why? To be rejected and humiliated again? What do they think that we should do? Come cap in hand when we have won? When we have beaten them? We haven't done yet any kind of scientific survey as to what our membership wants, but we have been recieving hundreds of calls from people who are telling us unequivocally that they do not want us to have anything to do with the Partnership. For every hundred of these calls we might get one or two persons telling us that we should go in with the PP Government. Jack Warner has made it clear that the ILP intends to "lead from behind", i.e., that this Party will put the wishes of its members first, as to whatever direction that the Party should go. He is clear in his thinking that the voice of the people must be listened to at all times. Perhaps, that is why he has been so successful in changing the political face of Trinidad & Tobago in such a short time against seemingly invincible odds. And not to forget that on the other side of the political divide we have had the Political Leader of the PNM saying that Mr. Warner's win will adversely affect the image of Trinidad & Tobago abroad. Again, I have to say a loud 'what'? If Dr. Rowley really believed that, why didn't he make that an issue during the campaign? Because, if he did, he certainly didn't stress it in a way that it could have been reported. And didn't Mrs. Persad-Bissessar also make this an issue during the campaign? And didn't the people consider this when they voted? What are they talking about? The traditional type of leadership that we have got, and are getting, from the two main political Parties has been exactly the same in that when either one of them is faced with (for them) an unpleasant truth or fact they fall back on denial and attacking the messenger. But the ancients had it right: Fortune does favour the bold, and the country is crying out for a bold new beginning. The ILP is going to do it's best to provide just that. In the meantime, when you hear something from politicians that don't quite make sense to you, don't be afraid to say 'what'?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


My father always used to tell me when I was a teenager, often with a wry grin when I confessed to missing an opportunity to getting a kiss from a girl, "opportunities lost never return". And he was so right (and not just about the girls either)!  A lost opportunity never does return. I suppose that's something similar to the ancient Romans' admonition 'carpe diem' ('sieze the day').

I have been thinking about my father's saying as the by-election date for the Chaguanas West (CW) seat looms (5 days and counting from the date of this post). For the very first time in our modern political history the country has an opportunity to turn away from the traditional racial voting and trying something "new" (and I put that word deliberately in inverted commas). The PNM has always been openly, if not blatantly, racial. If you aren't African do not expect to get very far in that Party... certainly, you will never be the leader. The best that you can hope for is that you can become very attractive "window dressing" to give the illusion of inclusiveness. And if you happen to be non-black but very, very bright, you can only become quite powerful if you allign yourself to the right African and never, ever be a threat to him. (Do you remember Lenny Saith?)

As for the UNC, well under Basdeo Panday it made a serious effort to move to the centre and be "all inclusive". It's predecessor, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) was a right wing Hindu party where only Hindus needed to apply. Panday, to his great credit, was much more secular and pragmatic in his thinking and was able to take the UNC into the corridors of power by being centrist and "all inclusive".

Which brings us down to today. The present leaders of the UNC certainly held themselves out to be "all inclusive" in the Panday mode, although long before the trouble with Jack Warner reared it's head we were hearing stories that the Party had veered to the right and was becoming quite "Hindu-centric". But since the by-election was announced, the gloves have come off and all pretence about being a national and a nationalist political organisation has been dropped. Just about every single person in the top brass of the UNC from Prime Minister Persad Bissessar on down has come out and preached a line that sounds dangerously close to saying to the people 'vote race'. The electorate in CW has been told in so many words that if they were to vote for Jack Warner that will be a vote for the PNM. To which any reasonable observer can only say "huh?" How that could be is not explained. Then you have people like Minister Roodal Moonilal saying things like "they" don't want Indians to drive Range Rovers, BMW's and other fancy cars, but "they" want the Indians to go back to riding in a cart pulled by a bison! Again, the reasonable observer has to ask "what?" Who the heck are "they" that do not want to see Indians getting ahead and driving fancy cars? The innuendo that I got was that "they" were anybody who was not a Hindu Indian. I will freely admit that I could be wrong, but that is what it sounded like to me!

And here is where the opportunity for the country is rearing it's head. If Jack Warner was to win in next Monday's by-election it will send a very loud signal ... an almost earth shattering one ... that the old way of thinking is well and truly dead. No longer can politicians come to us and say 'vote for me because I am African/Indian'. Now they are going to have to come and say 'vote for me because I can and will perform!'

Jack Warner has miles to go before he can sleep soundly. His new born Independent Liberal Party (ILP) still has to be put on a proper footing and be properly organised ... and no doubt the indefatigable Warner will turn his considerable energies and talents to doing just that in the weeks ahead after the election ... but he has to win his seat first. I am on record in this blog as predicting that he will do just that. Having listened carefully to all of the candidates (including those like Ishmael Samad who will lose his deposit) it is clear that only Mr. Warner has approached the electorate with a modern 21st century mindset. Mr. Warner has basically said "look, I am a performer. When I was your MP I performed and delivered those services that you required. Further, when serious allegations were made against me (all of which I deny) I resigned my seat to give you the opportunity to decide whether or not you still wanted me to represent you in the Parliament of our country'. (It is noteworthy that nobody else in our short history has ever done this!) The PNM candidate has been a total waste of time. If he has any ideas on how to make things better for his proposed constituents they haven't been reported and he has done nothing to get those ideas out into the public domain. Certainly, when he went on breakfast television about a week ago all he did was mouth meaningless platitudes. Ms. Khadija Ameen has also been a disappointment. There has been no meaningful debate on the issues facing the constituency, nor has she articulated clearly why she would be a better representative than Mr. Warner other than the fact that she wears the yellow jersey of the UNC. Again, when she has appeared on television her pronouncements have been vacuous and full of meaningless platitudes.

Mr. Warner is changing the politics of this country for what can only be the better. If the electors of CW do not re-elect him and vote tribe instead the message that the whole country will get will be obvious and most detrimental to our long term political good health. It will be an opportunity lost!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


The old saying "plus ca change, c'est la meme chose" (the more things change, the more they stay the same)came to my mind last night. What happened was that I made a call to my 91 year old Uncle Bobby just to have a chat, say hello, and give him the latest political gossip that I had heard over the last few days. To my (not so great) surprise I realised that my phone was being tapped ... again!!

 Some readers will recall that Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar announced in Parliament in or about September 2010 that the Manning regime had systematically and routinely tapped the phones of certain politicians and other prominent persons. My name was one of those read out in Parliament. Now, until that rather surprising confession I had absolutely no justiciable evidence whatsoever that my phones had been tapped. I suspected it strongly and had even indulged myself in a little 'scam' to see whether or not there was substance to my suspicions.

You see, around March 2002, after the December 2001 elections which had produced the 18/18 result when then President Robinson had (wrongly) installed Manning as Prime Minister, both Mr. Manning and Mr. Panday were having meetings in the Hilton hotel to discuss a possible way forward. I personally believed that the meetings were a total waste of time and that Manning had absolutely no intention of making any compromise with anybody. I also believed that my phones were being tapped. Almost everytime I made or received a call I could hear a very slight echo on the line (which is what I heard last night while talking with my uncle). So I devised a scheme with a friend of mine, which, if my phones were NOT being tapped would have been completely harmless, but if they were then it would cause a certain amount of political mischief.

The day before the third scheduled Hilton meeting between Messrs. Panday and Manning, I telephoned my friend as pre-arranged. Our conversation went something like this:

Me (laughing: Boy, you won't believe the trap we have for Manning tomorrow!
Friend: What?
 Me: Well, when Manning continues to block all of our proposals we are going to go to Robinson with a letter that will be signed by 21 MP's (members of Parliament) that says that the 21 MP's all support Rowley as prime Minister.
 Friend: You have 21 MP's?
Me: Yep! Our 18 (UNC) and 3 PNM including Rowley.
 Friend: Wow! But how will that work?
Me: Easy! The Constitution says that the President must appoint as Prime Minister the person who commands a majority of MP's in the Parliament.
Friend: So, how are you doing this?
Me: Well, we take the letter to Robinson and he is constitutionally bound to appoint Rowley as the prime Minister.
Friend: With no general election?
Me: That's right! We have been very careful. We haven't been meeting with Rowley but with his representatives. we don't want Manning to find out. That's why the negotiations are taking so long. everything is now agreed. The only Cabinet post left to agree on is who will be the Attorney General. We'll get agreement on that tonight! And then tomorrow we'll drop the bombshell on Manning!

Now, that conversation was real, but the events that it purported to discuss were entirely fictitious. It had all been pre-arranged. There had never been any meetings with Dr. Rowley nor his representatives nor had there been any kind of deal made with anybody to go to the President. But, my friend and I reasoned, if my phone was indeed tapped then Manning would cancel that last Hilton meeting. And you know what? He did just that! A few hours before the meeting was scheduled to take place a curt notice was put out from the Office of the Prime Minister announcing a postponement. That last meeting never took place! Of course, this was not justiciable evidence ... nothing that you can take to Court. But it makes you think, doesn't it? It certainly made me think!

And so, I realised then that I had to be extremely careful in whatever I said or did on the phone as I believed throughout the ensuing years of the Manning regime that I was being monitored. On the one hand, I knew that I have never ,and would never involve myself in any kind of seditious or illegal activity so that I would never have anything to worry about. On the other hand, it grated badly to know that my privacy was being so ruthlessly, cavalierly and illegally invaded. It really annoyed me. I couldn't even have an argument with my wife without the persons tapping my phones knowing about it!

And it still does. It annoyed the living daylights out of me last night to realsie that this is happening all over again. I am really cross. I can't prove it ... but I know that it is happening.

So, to the security services (who I know will read this) let me say this: I am not and never have been involved in any kind of seditious or illegal activity. I know that you won't do it, but if you really want to know anything about me and my activities,  come and ask and I will answer you truthfully. In the meantime, get off my case. It is really, really annoying. I am vexed about this. Really, really vexed! And if you are doing it to me, who else are you doing it to? Surely, I am not that important?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I read a saying somewhere once that “the slightest suggestion for change always means death to some status quo”. This saying came back to me forcefully this last week as Jack Warner launched his Independent Liberal Party and the predictable reactions emerged from the two main political parties in Trinidad & Tobago. To be fair, the reactions from the PNM leadership have been more muted than those from the UNC, perhaps because the PNM knows full well that it’s young Indian candidate has as much chance of winning the Chaguanas West (CW) seat as a snowball has of surviving in Hell. The PNM’s poor sacrificial lamb of a candidate appears not to understand that he has absolutely no chance of winning the seat, or perhaps believes that throwing in with the PNM now will give him something later on when and if the PNM ever returns to the corridors of power; either way he is as dead politically as the proverbial duck. This fight is between Jack Warner and the UNC … and nobody else! The Prime Minister appears to be panicking as her attacks on Mr. Warner have become more shrill and defensive. Having thrown Mr. Warner “under the bus” a few months ago it is difficult to understand why she didn’t realise that this was a huge mistake on her part. She has made just about every mistake in the book from effectively calling Mr. Warner a crook to appealing to ethnicity and traditional tribal affiliations. But her biggest mistake is probably the same one she made a few short months ago when she entered into the fray in the Tobago House of Assembly elections. Instead of letting those elections be a strictly local or Tobagonian affair, she effectively made it, by her entry into that arena, a referendum on her government. The Tobagonian electorate reacted predictably and punished her by giving the PNM (who really deserved to lose if the campaign had been strictly local) a clean sweep of all twelve seats. Now she is entering into the fray again and attacking Mr. Warner at every chance she gets. Mr. Warner has refused, so far, to get into a slinging match with her. This by-election will be (amongst other things) a referendum on her Government. That's the last thing that she should want, especially as it looks as if she is going to lose ... and lose big time! Up to now, in our society, a deliberate break with the past has not been seen as potentially creative. Innovation is regarded as dangerous and subversive. Our society has always been highly suspicious of mass movements that throw off the restraints of traditions and the various status quos make it their goal to protect their followers from “political quackery”. Threatening of the old and established order is simply not allowed. Politics in Trinidad & Tobago has been, since 1956, a matter of cult and ritual rather than ideas; it is based on emotions not on ideology or consciously adopted theory or philosophy. This is not an unfamiliar attitude in our society; many of the people who support one party or the other are not interested in political philosophy and dislike the idea of change. They find that the traditional loyalties to the two main Parties give them a sense of security. They do not expect brilliant ideas from the leaderships and are disturbed by changes in the political rhetoric. In fact, when the political rhetoric departs from the norm they have great difficulty in knowing how to deal with these changes effectively. (Witness the Prime Minister’s ineffective responses to date to Mr. Warner’s challenge.) The old loyalties give them a sense of identity and a sense of security. And this is what makes Mr. Warner so dangerous. He has gone completely against the established order: a black man running in a predominantly Indian/Hindu constituency and looking like a runaway winner to boot! Never in our political history has this ever happened. Dr. Rowley doesn’t appear to have woken up to the very real threat that Mr. Warner’s ILP poses to the PNM. All he sees is the serious threat to the UNC. Well, he is going to be in for a most unpleasant surprise. After 29th July (the date of the by-election) expect Mr. Warner to train his guns on the East/West corridor and the extremely vulnerable PNM seats there. Mr. Warner will be able to say to the country words to the effect that ‘I am the face of the future. I am a black man who has won in an East Indian seat. The old politics are now dead. I am the new politics that the country has been yearning for’. And you know what? The country will probably buy him. The country is getting tired of the old racial divide and will embrace a new order. Of course, then it will be up to Mr. Warner to deliver. His honeymoon will be very short.

Monday, July 1, 2013


A long time ago at an election meeting in San Fernando Dr. Eric Williams who was then the Prime Minister, said words to the effect that if a crapaud (which for the benefit of my foreign readers is a toad) wore a balisier tie (the balisier is the symbol of the PNM) that he would be elected. Dr. Williams was expressing a certain frustration because he had wanted to get rid of certain PNM candidates (the then MP for Port of Spain South, Brinsley Barrow, was one) and had been forced by the Party Groups of those constituencies to accept them as PNM candidates. He was effectively calling these persons on the PNM slate crapauds. To say that he was annoyed was putting it mildly.

The electorate well understood what he meant and although Mr. Barrow and the others were re-elected their political careers were effectively over and they were all pushed out at the next elections.

The phrase came back to me this morning as I was going to work and listening to the popular talk show duo on the radio, Dale Enoch and Tony Lee, who, in commenting on the up-coming Chaguanas West (CW) by-election,  used the phrase 'crapaud politics'. They were high lighting Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar's exhortation to the CW electorate to vote party and not personality ... an obvious not-so-tacit admission that Jack Warner is a huge problem for the People's Partnership and the UNC in particular. Mr. Warner remains extremely popular in the CW seat and probably beyond. My information (which is usually very accurate) is that all 31 party groups in the constituency nominated Mr. Warner as their candidate. The fact that the UNC Party Leadership decided to ignore the wishes of the party groups and to impose their acting chairman, Khadijah Ameen, as the UNC candidate for the CW seat is going to spell huge trouble for both the Party as well as the Party's Leadership. The voice of the people, it seems, is no longer the voice of God!

People have noticed this obvious dichotomy and they are talking. There is a level of dissatisfaction that is rising now in the country that has to be disturbing to the UNC Leadership ... if they are listening! The problem is that the UNC Leadership appears to be "getting high on their own supply" and attempts to bring them down to earth by well meaning supporters who are worried about the looming crash,  are dismissed with a casualness that borders on arrogance.

Then too, the newspapers don't help by their continued inaccurate reporting. Take, for example, an article in yesterday's Sunday Guardian
that said that the UNC motorcade was met with a warm welcome in Felicity on Saturday. I was surprised by the article and decided to check it out by telephoning someone in that area who has always reported to me faithfully what has been going on down there. Her exact words were "dose newspapers could lie! If it had ten people from Felicity in dat motorcade it had plenty!"  So, why was the Guardian deliberately misleading it's readers? I can think of only two possible reasons: (a) the reporter is incompetent; or (b) the Guardian wants to mislead the UNC Leadership into a false sense of security because the newspaper is really against the Government and wants them to lose. I freely admit that there might be another reason for the inaccuracy, but for the life of me I can't think what it might be.

But that is a digression. The point here is that Jack Warner is going to upset the crapaud politics that has prevailed in this country for more than fifty years. When (and not "if") he wins he will be able to say convincingly that he is the new face of politics in this country. His victory will not only be a terrible blow for the UNC but also for the PNM whose seats the formidable Warner is bound to turn his attention to. The two major Parties in this country cannot be happy over the developing scenario. Both of them have played their respective hands very badly against Mr. Warner who is looking more and more like a winner with each passing day. And people love winners!

P.S.  The return of a triumphant Jack Warner to the House of Representatives is going to spell serious trouble for the Persad-Bissessar regime in more ways than one. One of the things that Mrs. Persad-Bissessar is going to have to pay close attention to is her seemingly invincible majority. At the moment she commands 28 of the 41 seats in Parliament. She will  no longer be able to count on CW when (and not "if") Jack Warner wins. No big thing you say? Well, it could become a big thing. There are several Parliamentarians on the PP side who are likely to go over to Jack, especially as all of their seats are vulnerable and could fall to the PNM in the next elections if they don't. There are 3 UNC seats, the occupants of which look as though they will throw in with Mr. Warner: these are Ortoire/Mayaro (Gypsy), St. Joseph (Volney) and San Juan/Barataria (Fuad Khan). Now Herbert Volney isn't the brightest bulb in the room and he ain't worth "diddley squat" in the polls but he does at present occupy a seat, and therein lies a huge problem for the Prime Minister. In addition, there are COP seats occupied by the likes of Anil Roberts, Lincoln Douglas and Winston DeCoteau that will likely go over to Jack. (If they don't, they will lose to the PNM in the next general election.)That's a total of seven seats including Jack's. The margin starts to get very uncomfortable. The PP will then be dependent on the two Tobago seats to remain in office until 2015. Interesting, eh? And we haven't yet begun to discuss what will happen when the next general election rolls around!!

Monday, June 17, 2013


I am beginning to come to the very reluctant conclusion that our society is hopelessly and helplessly mired in corruption. And I am not just talking about corrupt politicians (and God knows that we have more than our fair share on ALL sides of the political divide) but I am talking about everybody.

Let's get the politicians out of the way first: this firetruck issue, for example,  stinks to high heaven. In a million years you cannot justify to me a cost of  $6.7 million (or more than a million US dollars) to haul a truck out of a ravine/ditch/hole/whatever of approximately fifty feet. That is as bad as Gary Hunt's $2 million flag ... or worse, because the obvious thievery was more. And I am fed up with all those PNM hypocrites who kept absolutely silent during the excesses of the Manning regime who are now holier than thou and crying corruption every chance that they get!

I am also fed up with Keith Rowley's endless bleatings about corruption when the Landate matter is still not  resolved. (For those who have forgotten, Dr. Rowley was involved in a land development project in Tobago about 10 years ago. The sub-contractor on that project was a large company called NH International which is owned by his good friend, Emile Elias. A commission of enquiry found that materials and equipment had been wrongfully removed by NH International without the knowledge or permission of the engineer from a site where the Scarborough General Hospital was being built by NH International, and taken to Dr. Rowley's development. The commission of enquiry recommended that there be a police investigation to determine whether or not NH International "had commited any breaches of the Larceny Act", in other words whether or not the materials had been stolen. No such investigation has ever taken place, and the question has to be asked: why? No good explanation has ever been given!)

I am fed up with so called paragons of virtue committing acts that cannot be justified and pretending that these actions are all right because they would never do anything wrong. Look at what the Chairman of the Integrity Commission did! He has a secret meeting with the Leader of the Opposition in his home over an issue which his commission is supposed to be investigating!!?!! And nobody sees anything wrong with that?!?!

Let me tell you what's wrong with that: suppose you and I are in a dispute which is going before a particular judge in the High Court of Justice. How would you feel if I went to the judge's home one evening before our trial?!? You would feel good!? No! You wouldn't! But isn't our judiciary composed of honourable men and women? Yes! And don't you trust them? Yes!  But such a meeting would be  patently wrong on the face of it and I surely don't have to waste any more words in making that point. Ken Gordon was wrong to meet Keith Rowley in his home. He can write all the aide memoirs that he wants ... but nobody except the erstwhile chairman and Dr. Rowley ... the two participants ... was there to confirm or deny that what he wrote was in fact true. And there should be absolutely no cloud of suspicion hanging over the Integrity Commission. What the heck does the word "integrity" mean, for crying out loud?!

And then look at what I wrote about the charity United Way spending money on a cocktail party. I might as well have been whistling in the wind! None of the daily newspapers see this as wrong! Nobody has written about it! Why? Is it because those involved are all "big" businessmen and therefore advertisers who can pull their ads if they are criticised in public, or is it that I am wrong in thinking that was a big thing and is as wrong as wrong can be?

And what has got me so riled up now? On Saturday we had a birthday party for our 11 year old son. My wife got the bright idea of hooking up a little karaoke machine that we have to our other son's lap top and downloading some karaoke music from the internet for the kids to enjoy at the party. We needed a special cable to connect the karaoke machine to the lap top.

But when we shopped around we found that the cable was going to cost $528 so we said "nah!" That was way too much. But the son of a friend of ours went on to the internet and found the same cable on Amazon ... too late for the party, but he found it! Guess how much it costs on Amazon? Four American dollars!! Or, if you like, a little more than TT$25!!! Talk about rip-off!! Profit is one thing, but this kind of rip-off is as dishonest as it is wrong. It makes me wonder what else we are being overcharged for in this little republic of ours! And don't bother to answer that! The question was really rhetorical!

I am  as fed-up as I am upset! I am upset because the same people who complain vehmently about the corrupt politicians are the same ones who are ripping off the society in other ways. The hypocrisy is too much to bear! And we all seem to think that this is acceptable, for none of us does anything about it! We criticise the politicians, but not the businessmen or those who spend large wads of money given for charitable purposes on expensive parties!  But then, in Trini Wonderland, by definition, you obviously can't be corrupt if you are not a politician!

Monday, June 10, 2013


On the social page of today's Trinidad Guardian ('The Talk of Trinidad') there is a two page spread of photographs of a cocktail party hosted by the children's charity United Way at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port of Spain. (Now, for those who might not be aware, the Hyatt is the most prestigious and most expensive hotel in Port of Spain.) The blurb accompanying the photographs says that the function was held by the charitable organisation to say 'thank you' to its sponsors for all the support that the sponsors have given to United Way.

And this was where I said a big loud "WHAT?" What in the name of heaven is a charitable organisation doing spending money that it has raised for charitable purposes in order to host a cocktail party to say thank you to the persons, firms and corporations that gave them money in order to do charitable works? And then the charitable organisation has the guts to boast about it by inviting the Guardian to send it's social reporter and photographer to record the event?!?

There is something grossly vulgar and obscene about this. It probably doesn't fall under the standard definition of "corruption" but to me this is as wrong as wrong can be! A charity doesn't raise money to help sick children and then go and blow a whole wad of it on a cocktail party to "thank" the people who gave them the money to help the sick kids in the first place!! A cocktail party like this will cost a cool $50,000 or more!!  If the charity can do this, then the next thing is that the chairman of United Way will say that he needs a Rolls Royce or Mercedes Benz to reflect his status and the importance of his organisation. And don't laugh! Some so-called charities in the United States have done just that! I mean, to heck with helping sick kids (which is the raison d'etre for the organisation in the first place). Let's have a party complete with Johnny Walker Black to thank all these nice folks who gave us all this money so that we could have a party! And not just a party, but a party at the Hyatt!!!!

No! This was wrong! Perhaps it is an explanation of why T&T has the stink of corruption surrounding it no matter what political party or parties we put in power. For if  a charity can do this where its directors are so-called honourable people, and we accept that there is nothing wrong with this, then why should we complain when the politicians simply take it one step further?

Thursday, June 6, 2013


I don't think that there are many people who will disagree with the statement that the Integrity Commission ('IC') over the years has really not lived up to the promise of what it was set up to do, i.e., prevent corruption. And before people like Basdeo Panday stand up and say "if you have evidence of corruption take it to the police" let me state quite clearly that I have no evidence of anybody, either in past or present regimes, being corrupt. But there have been too many occasions when I have felt that the whole thing smells to high heaven. And I can (like too many others) refer to a whole lot of matters that are extremely fishy, too say the least!

But despite having an Integrity Commission that was supposed to make it harder for persons in public life to take bribes, the truth is that from it's inception that august Commission has been singularly ineffective and ineffectual. This is partly, I suppose, because of a certain incompetence, but I suspect that even with the  most competent of Commissioners in place that the IC would still be ineffective.

The reason that I say this is because the IC is supposed to scrutinise almost every single person in public life ranging from Prime Ministers at the high end to "lowly" councillors at the other end. In between there are people who will never be approached to take a bribe, e.g., opposition senators. (Who would want to bribe an opposition senator, for crying out loud?! He has absolutely no power or influence over the administration of the public purse.) In other words, the IC spends an inordinate amount of time pouring over all of the forms that persons in public life must submit on an annual basis. (Once when I was an opposition senator I got quite cross with the IC who asked me a bunch of what I considered to be extremely stupid questions and which, on principle, I refused to answer. The whole thing was eventually settled when I met with the then IC Chairman John Martin who apologised and we came to a compromise that allowed the IC to save some face. But this little episode took six months and many letters passing back and forth. A total waste of everyone's time!)

And this is my point. I have a friend who is a councillor. He does not belong to the Party that controls his council. The IC called him in earlier this year to question him as to why his wife owned his company (the financial information of which he had provided although not legally obliged to do so)! My friend eventually walked out and contacted me for advice. There was nothing wrong with his return, the person in the IC just couldn't understand why he was not a shareholder in his own company ... which incidentally does no business at all with any government or state enterprise! Stupidity par excellence!!

In other words, there is quite clearly a good deal of incompetence in the IC. But there is also an inadvertant swamping of the IC with a whole lot of unnecessary work in pouring over the returns of persons who clearly aren't in the "please bribe me business".

So, why don't we revamp the IC? And in doing so, why don't we take a commonsense approach? After all, who is more guilty: the person taking the bribe (the "bribee") or the person giving the bribe (the "bribor")? Answer: BOTH are equally guilty! So, why don't we fix the legislation? We could keep the 'net' of persons that have to file declarations except that we wouldn't make them file declarations unless the IC for any reason asks them to. That would cut out a lot of unnecessary work. Then, we should make all persons, firms or corporations (from banks to contractors and everybody inbetween) that do business with the government or any state enterprise subject to the jurisdiction of the IC. In other words, if a situation arose such as, for example,  the present one where some $6.4 million was spent to retrieve a $2 million firetruck (an act that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and stinks to high heaven) then the IC could (and should) of it's own volition go into the books, records and bank accounts of the contractor. If, for example, those records showed a suspiciously large payment, say,  to Tief Man, Grabbit & Run Cayman Islands Limited, then the IC could follow that up to see who the Tief Man company belonged to.  It wouldn't be too difficult after that to nab the corrupt politician. Follow the money and you eventually catch the thief!

What do you think? Makes sense, doesn't it? But then, it only makes sense if the politicians really want to make it more difficult to steal. The question really is: do we want to make it more difficult for the crooks, or do we like it so?

Monday, June 3, 2013

SERVICE ... is just another word!!

For some time now I have been quietly objecting to the so very obvious deterioration in standards in Trinidad & Tobago, not the least being the absolute absence of even a modicum of understanding of what the word "service" means, especially in fast food restaurants and those restaurants that advertise themselves as "family" restaurants. I am not just referring to the total and complete lack of understanding of the concept of service in places like MacDonalds and Burger King ... in those places "service" is clearly something that obtains on Mars or Jupiter, not a concept that applies on planet earth! I am also talking about places like TGI Fridays, Trotters and Ruby Tuesdays. In those type of establishments (and especially in those establishments) service is so lousy and so inexplicably inefficient that you would be easily forgiven from coming to the conclusion that the owners and management care only about making a buck and couldn't care less about giving their customers any kind of value in return. It is one thing to serve lousy food (which they all do). And most certainly, it is also more or less the same thing to charge exorbitantly high prices for the lousy food. But it is really, really insulting to serve the lousy food at exorbitant prices and not just couple it with absolutely terrible service, but to charge the customer an additional fifteen per cent for the privilege of getting lousy service. Put another way, "service" is just another word that has absolutely no meaning in this little country of ours ... at least as far as they are concerned.

I will confess that from time to time I go to one or the other of these really bad restaurants. Usually it is because I am either taken there by a client or my two sons beg me and I can't say no to them... although they are beginning to realise that what I have been saying is true. Thankfully, we haven't been near any of those places since the beginning of this year.

But yesterday (Sunday) being the end of the long week-end, when my ten year old son asked me to take him to Hagendaaz in Ellerslie Plaza for an ice cream I readily agreed. After all, I reasoned, what could possibly go wrong in ordering a few scoops of ice cream? Huh!?!? Guess again! My wife, my son and I entered the little ice cream shop and sat down. After about five minutes a waiter came to us and took our order. Because we had to be somewhere else at 6pm I glanced at my watch to check the time. It was exactly 5:20pm! My son ordered two scoops of ice cream and my wife asked for a piece of apple pie with a scoop of ice cream on it. That was it! Now guess how long it took?

Twenty minutes later I got up and went and quietly complained to the manager that our order had not arrived. He very politely informed me that our order was coming "now"! Now, I don't know about you, but my understanding of "now" is "now", i.e. immediately! Not in five or even ten minutes time! Five minutes passed with no ice cream or apple pie. I got up again and quietly enquired as to why our order had not arrived. To my great surprise, the manager told me that as it was Sunday afternoon they were very busy and that three or four parties had come in ahead of us so we just had to wait our turn. But, not to worry, our order was coming "now" (that word again)! Incidentally, at that time, not all of the tables were occupied!

I had to ask myself 'how long does it take to get and serve a scoop of ice cream'? And the answer has to be less than a minute. You try it sometime. So even if there were, say, four parties ahead of us with, say, an average of three to a party (and most of the tables at that time were occupied by parties of two ... we were the only three person party at that time), then with four parties ahead of us there is absolutely no good reason why we could not have been served in ten minutes (or less). If we were in the States or Canada, for example, I know that the service there would have ensured that we would have been served in less than ten minutes!

I can hear you say 'but this is Trinidad. What do you expect?' And my answer is that I expect right minded citizens to refuse to accept such a lousy excuse and to criticise severely all those who would accept lousy service with a shrug. We didn't make a fuss. We just walked out of Hagendaaz. I saw the manager and a waitress looking at me with some surprise as if to say that I was being unreasonable, especially as they had told me that my order was coming 'now'. But up to the time that we exited the place our order was not on it's way to our table.

To wait twenty-five minutes for a few scoops of ice cream and a piece of apple pie is totally and completely unacceptable and the owners of that ice cream shop ought to be ashamed of the very poor service ... worse still because it purports to be a high class joint! But then, so do all the others!

It is time that we start to complain and refuse to spend our money in those places that encourage their staff to be rude, surly and inefficient. I know that this can be done. For example, there is a great little pizza restaurant in Victoria Avenue called La Cantina. The pizzas are the best in town and the service is superb ... first world in every aspect! And all the waiters and waitresses are Trinis to the bone. What do they know that the others don't? My guess is that the owners and management really care ... the others don't care a fig! But then, why should they? We continue to support them without complaint! And therein lies our tragedy!!

P.S. In addition to a service charge being tacked on to your bill at these places, you are expected to leave a tip. The whole concept of tipping has conveniently been forgotten. The word "tip" come from the acronym "To Insure Promptness". Ironic, isn't it!?

Monday, May 27, 2013


                    "Should a wise man answer with empty knowledge,
                      and fill himself with the east wind?
                      Should he run with unprofitable talk, or by speeches
                      with which he can do no good?"
                                                                     Book of Job - 15:2&3

I had sincerely hoped that we would be able to put this e mail scandal down by now (I refuse to be a copycat and call it "emailgate"? Can't we be more original than that?) and that the police investigation would be well on its way. Frankly, I don't see how this could take a long time. Experts are available and all of the major players have said that they will co-operate, so there is absolutely no reason why a matter as important as this one is cannot be dealt with swiftly ... and by 'swiftly' I mean first world 'swiftly' ... a week or two at the most. If the investigation is not done quickly then the acting Commissioner of Police will have to say what is the hold up and why it is taking so long. Experts do exist!!

But in the meantime, the whole thing gets murkier. I had said in an earlier post that I didn't believe that Dr. Rowley had sent the alleged e mails to teh President. I had said this because I couldn't believe that the then President had done nothing except forward it to the Integrity Commission, who also did nothing! And yet, at the end of last week former President Richards said 'oh yes! I got that package from Dr. Rowley and held onto it for about five or six days and then sent it on to the Integrity Commission before wiping my hands of the whole thing'.

Okay. The former President didn't exactly say that ... but that is the effect of what he said. So I now have to ask the ex-President why did he not call in the police? You see, included in the contents of the alleged e mails is a conspiracy to kill or seriously injure a citizen of Trinidad & Tobago. What, in the name of heaven, did the former President think taht the Integrity Commission was going to do about that? I can't believe that he was waiting to see if it would actually happen and then join in by saying 'gotcha!' What?

The only valid excuse that I can think of is that His Excellency having perused the documents came to the conclusion that they were so patently false that it was absolutely clear that there was absolutely no threat to the journalist whatsoever. There is no other valid excuse. The same thing goes for the Integrity Commission. I can't believe ...refuse to believe ... that the life of a human being could be so cavalierly treated by someone in that august Commission as being quoted as saying words to the effect that the Commission has a lot of work to do and that is why it hasn't got around to this matter as yet! Really? You have more important work to do than saving someone's life!?

I am not even going to bother commenting on Dr.Rowley's actions. Clearly, at best, if he really believed those alleged e mails to be true, he was playing politics with somebody's life! And that, in my view, is unforgivable. He should have gone to the police right away!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


A famous quotation from Sir Walter Scott (1771 -1832) reads:

               "O what a tangled web we weave,
                When first we practise to deceive!"

This quote came to my mind this morning as the continuing saga of Dr. Rowley's e mails unfolds. Let me say here and now and quite candidly that I now believe beyond reasonable doubt that the e mails are fakes. Whether Dr. Rowley knew that the e mails were forgeries is another question. Most certainly, from what we are now hearing and seeing on our television screens, that at the very least he is guilty of gross recklessness in doing what he did in the way that he did it. A more thoughtful person would have checked those alleged e mails much more carefully before publicising them in the manner that the erstwhile Leader of the Opposition adopted.

Since Monday's revelations in Parliament a number of PNM spokesmen have come out batting for Dr. Rowley. Leading the attack for his leader is the PNM's Public Relations Officer, Mr. Faris Al-Rawi, who also happens to be a PNM Senator. On television yesterday morning Mr. Al-Rawi waxed warm in defending and supporting his leader. When asked the obvious question as to why the PNM did nothing about these e mails which they had supposedly had since December, Mr. Al-Rawi said words to the effect that they sent them to the highest office holder in the land ... the President.  And then he went on to say that President Richards had sent them to the Integrity Commission! Why send them to the Police? They were sent to the very top!! You can't get higher than the President!

Well, all I can say is hold it sherriff! She's headin' for the strawberry patch! Really? You sent those e mails to the President? And by "you" I mean the PNM. So that means that not only Dr. Rowley knew about those e mails but others in the PNM knew about them too? And therefore President Richards knew about them in December? And the Integrity Commission knew about it also in December?!

You see, in those e mails are (amongst other things) some very, very serious threats on the life of a journalist ... a citizen of this country. So, leaving aside any "politricks" that the e mails are alleging you are also talking about major criminality here. Therefore, if Dr. Rowley and Mr. Al-Rawi are indeed telling the truth this must mean that our former President George Maxwell Richards knew that there was a threat to the life of a citizen and he did nothing about it! Further, the Integrity Commission also knew and it also did nothing about it! Further, others in the PNM also knew or believed that it was possible that a young woman might be killed! And nobody did anything to prevent that from happening!!

You see what I mean? This scandal is too serious to just let it go like that. Mr. Ken Gordon, the Chairman of the Integrity Commission,  is quoted in the press this morning as saying that if the e mails are true then that would be very serious. But I must ask Mr. Gordon directly, what if the e mails are forgeries? Fakes? Wouldn't that also be very serious? Have you also considered that possibility?  And also, did the President send them to you in December or at any other time before he left office? If so. what did you (Mr. Gordon/Integrity Commission) do about them? Did you alert the police? If so, when? Because Mr. Gordon's public pronouncement today suggests that he, like the rest of us, only heard about this when Dr. Rowley went to Parliament.

And if the Integrity Commission and the President knew about this way back in December, or whenever, and did nothing about it, the question arises as to why they did nothing? Did they believe that the threats were not real? That the e mails were fakes? Or were they waiting for an "Ah! Ha!' moment when the journalist got killed so that they could say to the Prime Minister and the Attorney General "gotcha!" In other words, were they too playing politics with the life of a citizen? Because the only reason that I can think as to why the Opposition was keeping quiet for so long was because they wanted the murder to take place and then they coud say "gotcha!". Can anybody give me another credible reason? This, of course, assumes that the e mails were real. If at all times those in the know knew that they were forgeries then obviously nobody was really worried. The threat was faked! So nobody had to alert the police.

Let me say that I do believe that neither Mr. Richards nor any member of the Integrity Commission (including Mr. Gordon)  ever saw these alleged e mails before Dr. Rowley dropped them in Parliament.  But if they did, as the PNM is alleging, then a lot more people other than Dr. Rowley have some real questions to answer. We'll have to wait and see, but Sir Walter Scott's words of warning remain as true today as they were some two hundred years ago when he first wrote them.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


In American football there is a play that is referred to as a "Hail Mary pass". What happens is this: a touchdown is worth six points. It sometimes happens that one team is behind by, say, four points, and there is only enough time on the clock for the team that is behind to make one more play. If the team scores a touchdown on that play it wins the game. If it does not score ... well, that's it! They lose! Usually the quarterback of the team that is behind at  this time throws the football to a receiver that is way downfield. If the receiver catches the ball a touchdown is certain. That is why it's called a 'Hail Mary' as when the ball is going through the air for those few interminable seconds you can almost hear the supporters of that team as well as the quarterback saying "Hail Mary, full of grace ...".

Dr. Keith Rowley's play in Parliament yesterday could be labelled such a pass because if what he said turns out to be not true he will have effectively sunk himself and his PNM team. That would be it! Finito! Kaput! On the other hand, if all that he has said is true the Government is sunk!

Dr. Rowley showed clearly yesterday that he understood clearly that he simply had to come with something new for the no confidence motion that he was bringing. A simple re-hashing of past issues was not going to cut it. So he came up with some e mails that, if true, are so serious that they would bring the Government down, as I said earlier. The e mails basically allege a criminal conspiracy between the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and the Prime Minister's special security adviser, Captain Gary Griffith over the section 34 issue. Further the e mails go further to suggest that the parties involved were planning serious harm to a journalist.

The problem here is that the e mails appear on their very face to be faked. For example, a lot of the e mails are supposed to have come from an e mail address: anan@ But it is not possible to create a g mail account with less than six characters. So, that e mail address would have to be, say, in order to be valid. (And as if to prove this my computer has highlighted and underlined the fake address that I just made up the way that it does whenever I type a real e mail or web address. It didn't do that for the "anan" address.) So, what are we to make of this? Then there is another e mail address that ends in ".coN "(I have high lighted and capitalised the "n" for emphasis). There should be an "m" where the "n"is. Then there is an alleged exchange of e mails between Captain Griffith and Mr. Ramlogan starting with Mr. Ramlogan allegedly e mailing Captain Griffith at 1:33am on a Monday morning and Captain Griffith replying at 1:40am! So? So these men don't sleep and are sitting on their computers at that time?! Really? I'm sorry. That doesn't make sense.

There are other things that lead me to believe that the e mails are faked, but hopefully you get the point. Then Dr. Rowley wants us to believe that he had this information for the last six months!? Really? So he is saying that he knew that there was a threat on the life of the journalist but did nothing about it?! What was he waiting for? For the woman to be killed and then he could say 'ah!Ha! Caught you!' In other words, scoring political points is more important than saving someone's life!?

(There are other things too. Did anyone notice, for example, that the Express published all the e mails with the adresses, except the ".con" address was deleted in their publication? I wonder why they did that? Hmmmm! Makes you think, doesn't it?)

But back to the erstwhile Leader of the Opposition. The accusations that he has made are very, very serious. The Prime Minister has quite properly referred them to the Commissioner of Police. If they turn out to be true the Prime Minister and her Attorney General will have to resign. There is no question of that! But if the accusations turn out to be false then Dr. Rowley should be expelled from the Parliament. This is much too serious to warrant a slight slap on the wrist or a mere suspension. No one should be allowed to make accusations like this in the Parliament ... the highest court in our land ... if they are not true. No one!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Competent Leadership or Rabble Rousing?

While it has been some 8 years since I was last privileged to be a member of the Parliament of Trinidad & Tobago and as a result my memory of the Standing Orders is now somewhat hazy, I seemed to remember something in them saying in effect that a member cannot "re-discuss" something that was raised in another debate. In other words, a member cannot regurgitate something that was already discussed in another debate.

Well, my memory is admittedly hazy, so I checked the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives and found that I was partially right. Standing Order 36(3) says in effect (my words) that a member cannot raise a matter which has already been dealt with in a current session. A session of Parliament is historically a period lasting usually less than one year when Parliament meets. At the end of the session Parliament is prorogued, but no general election is called, and the legislators have a chance to return to their constituencies until the next session is called.

But all this aside, the reason that my curiosity was piqued was because the Leader of the Opposition has filed yet another motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister (no confidence motions against the Government of the day are always filed against the Prime Minister of the day) and I wondered what was new from the last time he filed such a motion. Then I heard the public relations officer of the PNM, Senator Faris Al-Rawi, giving a list on television of all of the things that the PNM was going to raise in the instant motion. Of all the things that he raised on TV the only thing that was new (i.e., that was not included in the last debate)  was what can be called "the section 34 issue". Now I have already previously dealt with this particular matter when it was a "hot" topic and I don't propose to deal with it again. But, if the Opposition wants to have a debate on section 34 then it is perfectly entitled to do so.

However, I find it difficult to understand the logic in regurgitating matters that even if they were debated in the last session of Parliament and therefore technically falling outside the rules, so that we get the same thing all over again just in slightly different words. Is the Opposition really serious in suggesting that this is an efficient use of Parliamentary time? After all, isn't what was said in the last debate simply going to be repeated all over again? If so, what exactly is the point about this debate? Everything is already on the Parliamentary record. The Opposition on the last occasion put all of their members in to speak. Only Mr. Manning was silent. Is the same thing going to happen again?

Let me be clear: if the erstwhile Senator Al-Rawi mis-spoke on television or I misunderstood him and there are indeed new matters to place on record then I withdraw my criticisms completely. I would be the first to say that the Opposition has every right ... indeed, a responsibility ... to bring a motion of no confidence. But if nothing new is going to come out of the debate then I would have to say that the debate is going to be a tremendous waste of Parliamentary time and is not a proper use of Parliamentary resources.It also speaks volumes about the lack of real and competent leadership in what ought to be the alternative government of Trinidad & Tobago. And that is serious! There are many serious issues to be dealt with in this country and we simply don't need an Opposition that believes that the best way to represent the people is by trying to score political points ... and that is what the real purpose of this debate, quite frankly, looks like!

And if you say to me 'what about section 34'? My reply would be 'okay, that's new. Go ahead and debate it if you want'. But then it will be a very short debate for the answers to those charges have been on record for a long time and (conveniently) ignored by those opposed to the Government. 

I must confess that I really don't expect much from the upcoming debate except for a lot of predictable rabble rousing. Would that I be proved wrong and we could see some competent alternative leadership! The best government always comes when there is a credible alternative!

Incidentally, if you ask me what do I think are the big issues that the Opposition ought to be paying attention to, let me spell them out for you:
I would love to hear exactly what the PNM would do to solve these big issues. I don't need to hear any more criticisms. I need to hear solutions.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


As the Sir Anthony Coleman Commission of Enquiry (COE) into the affairs of CLICO and the Hindu Credit Union winds its weary way down after spending millions and millions of taxpayers dollars we are all left with the obvious question: so, what happens next? Because I doubt whether there is anybody who is going to be surprised that the Coleman report will be absolutely scathing in its criticisms of Lawrence Duprey, Harry Harnarine and the other members of the repective cast members in both organisations. Indeed, it would be mind boggling if the report was not severely critical of all of the actors on those two particular stages.

But the truth is that most people don't believe that anything will come of Sir Anthony's report. It is absolutely astounding that after all the time that has elapsed since the collapse of both institutions that not one criminal charge has been levied against anybody in either CLICO or the Hindu Credit Union. The Director of Public Prosecutions can hardly claim that he was waiting on Sir Anthony's report. He is on record as trying to limit the Enquiry because of his own investigations. So? What exactly is taking him so long to bring charges? What? And the mainstream media has been muted in its criticisms of the apparent footdragging by the DPP. Why? How many years does the DPP need to investigate these two matters? Two? Three? Five? Twenty? Because he has now had at least four years and not a single charge has been levied against anybody!! Incredible!!

That we aspire to live under a system of laws is a fact. That we deplore summary or what some call "Wild West" justice is also a good thing. It is axiomatic that persons accused of anything must be given every opportunity to defend themselves. No one can quarrel with that even when, for example, wealthy accused are able to drag out the cases over long periods of time (Ish and Steve come to mind). A man has an absolute right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

But for crying out loud, there has to be some justice available to the society. What has happened to the CLICO policy holders/investors and the HCU depositers is really, really, really wrong. I personally believe that crimes have been committed. Irregular salary and pension packages, golden handshakes and bonuses in the millions when the institutions were clearly bankrupt, over generous fees for attending meetings to rubber stamp decisions and dodgy auditors' reports all need to be dealt with and should have been scrutinised years ago. But they haven't been, at least not by those (e.g., the DPP) who could really do something about it.

There are reportedly some five million pages of evidence from the Coleman COE. Surely the DPP should have and could have been reading that evidence as it was unfolding!? What exactly is he (the DPP) investigating now? And who is he investigating? I am sure that most of us could give him a list!

It is high time that charges were brought ... and serious charges. Persons who were robbed in both debacles have died after being effectively bankrupted by the failures of these two institutions. No. Some justice is necessary now. And the tragedy is that although criticisms can always be levied against politicians in both the main political parties the truth is that it seems to be the fault of our non-political institutions that the debacles were allowed to happen in the first place and that nobody has been called to account in the second. And to be absolutely clear, I am criticising here the Central Bank, the Commissioner of Co-Operatives and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


In the midst of all of the political happenings in T&T we have not been paying any real attention to what is going on just a few kilometers/miles to the west of us. Our comparitively huge neighbour is in real trouble and only the most sycophantic Chavistas will not admit it. Real standards of living are in free fall and one of the world's potentially richest countries is in for the devil of a time. The immediate future facing Venezuelans is one of blood, sweat and tears.

Let me explain: when the 7th October 2012 presidential elections the total number of electors on the electoral list was 18, 854,935.  On 14th April, 2013 the total number of electors registered to vote was 18,904,364. So? What's the big deal? There is an increase in the list of registered voters by 49,429 new electors. I agree that there should be nothing wrong with this except that the authorities refused to allow any new registrations beyween the two elections. I know this because I know several people in Caracas whose children turned 18 after 7th October, 2012 and who were prevented from registering to vote! Nobody, they were told could register to vote for the new Presidential election. It was to be fought on the old electoral list!

Then, on the night of the 14th April presidential elections, the television stations started broadcasting that Maduro was the winner with 50.66 per cent of the popular vote as against 49.07 per cent for his opponent Enrique Capriles. The only problem with this broadcast was that they posted on television the actual amount of votes that each candidate had received: 7,505,388 votes for Maduro as against 7,720,403 votes for Capriles!! Got that? According to the TV stations Maduro had won with 215,065 votes less than Capriles had received. (And by the way, I personally saw the several broadcasts on this before they took the figures down, so I am reporting absolute facts!!) They later reported that Maduro got 7.27 million votes ... but it took a looonnngggg time to fix! What happened? I have seen no explanations for this.

There are unconfirmed reports of ballots being destroyed and about the army burning ballot papers. I have seen videos of this but cannot say definitively that they are accurate or entirely truthful. However, in light of the fact that Maduro refused a recount and has had himself sworn in and then has allowed a recount which is going to take more than a month I must confess that my suspicions have been aroused as to both the validity of the published results as well as what the result of the recount will be. In fact, I'll take a bet (one dollar to one doughnut ... and we'll decide later who pays the dollar and who pays the doughnut) that the recount results will "show" that Maduro has won.

Incidentally, the opposition in Venezuela says that Capriles actually got 53.5 per cent of the popular vote as against Maduro getting 44.3 per cent. Interesting, eh?

In the meantime, Venezuela, a country full of oil, gold, timber and other minerals is in serious financial trouble. The official exchange rate of the bolivar to the US dollar is about 6bs to US$1. The blackmarket rate is now about 24bs to US$1!!! There are shortages of the most basic commodities: milk, butter, flour, bread, and even women's sanitary napkins! Inflation is approaching 30% for this year which is not even half over. There already has been a 33% devaluation of the currency in February and another one is expected soon. Maduro's answer is that (a) it's not really happening and (b) if it is all the troubles are (you guessed it!) the fault of and caused by the United States! But Venezuela continues to supply Cuba with oil to the value of about US$2 billion per month and not get paid for it! Not bad for a country going broke! But then it's the Yankees fault!

There is talk of newer laws to come which will further encroach on the freedoms of the country's citizenry, which, if true, will simply add more layers onto a population already groaning under a tyrant's yoke. The latest move to say to elected representatives that they cannot speak in the country's Parliament unless they recognise Maduro as the duly elected President is yet another example of the real and galloping dictatorship. Well, Mr. Maduro, for what it's worth, I recognise you as being the duly elected President of Venezuela ... duly elected by a fraudulent process and a fraudulent result, but "duly elected" nonetheless!! Just be careful, Mr. Maduro, because I predict that sooner or later the  same guns that you have turned against your people will turn against you. Violence always breeds violence!
 What a tragedy!!

Monday, April 29, 2013


About seven or eight hundred years ago there was a character called Robin of Locksley who some how has morphed into a legend known as Robin Hood. According to the legend, Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor. He is supposed to have stood up to the injustices that existed under the rule of the Norman or Norman leaning Prince John, whose brother King Richard had been captured somewhere in France on his way back from the crusades and was being held for a ransom which his brother (Prince John) was reluctant to pay. As a result, the English peasantry as well as the English nobility was groaning under the tyranny of Prince John and his Norman cohorts.

Whether the legend is true or not it has certainly captured the imagination of the public down through the centuries. Just about everybody knows the story of Robin Hood and he is garlanded with accolades and regarded as a genuine hero who stood up against tyranny and fought for the little man.

But what if we could somehow go back in a time machine to the time of Robin Hood and sort out and separate for ourselves fact from fiction? I am almost certain that we would find that Robin Hood was not quite the character that history and legend has made him out to be. It is highly likely that we would find that the "establishment" of the period would regard Mr. Hood as an out and out criminal who deserved to be hanged at dawn ... if they could only catch him. And if there were newspapers around then (and there weren't) the press would almost universally be condemning Robin. You could almost imagine a typical headline: 'HOOD STRIKES AGAIN! BOLD CRIMINAL AND GANG ROBS SHERRIFF OF NOTTINGHAM'S NIECE IN DARING HOLD-UP. NOBLES RENEW CALL FOR LAW AND ORDER AND OFFER A REWARD FOR CAPTURE OF CRIMINAL AND HIS GANG".

I am also certain that Mr. Hood would not have given away everything that he stole but would have kept a (very) large proportion of the proceeds of his activities for his own personal benefit. The altruism that the legend attributes to him is normally found only amongst the saints and holy people who from time to time have walked amongst us.

In other words, assuming (but certainly not accepting) that every thing that his critics and detractors say about Jack Warner is true, then except for the names and a few other changes his story and that of Robin Hood is a very similar one. And one can understand why he (Mr. Warner) is so popular ... for the same reasons that Robin Hood was popular almost a millenia ago.

But there are some critical differences. And the biggest difference is that in our modern society it is becoming more and more difficult to get away with criminal activity if (and only if) the State wants to get you. Mr. Warner made a brilliant political move last week when he resigned his seat and announced that he would seek re-election. He put everybody on their backfeet. The Prime Minister was faced with a very real problem: if she allowed him to run as a UNC candidate and he won (which he would) then she would have a potential rival for leadership of the Party ... something that no leader can tolerate. If she sought to block him by preventing him from getting through the screening process and he ran and won as an independent then her leadership would probably be fatally wounded. Talk about 'ouch'!

The PNM also would be badly hurt. Mr. Warner could taunt them with their "voice of the people is the voice of God" mantra whenever they hurled any insults or accusations against him. Mr. Warner would easily have become the most powerful politician in Trinidad & Tobago.

But late last week, somebody in the police force threw something into the mix that could de-rail the ex-National Security Minister severely. Somebody in the police caused a file to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions relating to the possible breach of the Customs Act in what might loosely be called the Bim Hammam affair with the paper bags of US$40,000 in cash. Now, if the DPP decides to charge Mr. Warner with this matter it could effectively de-rail Mr. Warner's hopes of running for re-election as the UNC's candidate for Chaguanas West as the UNC's rules prevent it from endorsing any person as a candidate who is on an indictable charge before the courts of this land. Kamla gets off the hook as she would be prevented from allowing Warner's candidacy to go forward.

Mr. Warner would then be deprived of accusing the Prime Minister (or anybody else) from conspiring to de-rail him and keep him out. In those circumstances the UNC faithful would find it difficult to support him. In other words, he could actually lose the by-election. That would cause a big headache to go away for both the UNC as well as the PNM.

Ahhh! Life in the tropics! Never a dull moment! We shall have to wait and see what happens next, but you can be certain that this story has more twists and turns than a novella. The only thing that we can be certain about is that it ain't over yet! Not by a long shot!