Home / View Point / Akins Vidale / Scary Shamfa! Ex-FITUN official Akins Vidale on the iron fist inside the TDC glove

Scary Shamfa! Ex-FITUN official Akins Vidale on the iron fist inside the TDC glove

I can still remember the accolades coming in from many quarters for the impressive PNM candidate for Tobago West in the 2015 General Election. I refer, of course, to Shamfa Cudjoe.

It took one short month in office for the newly appointed Minister of Tourism to declare to the Parliament that “We in charge now. Deal with it.” That would be merely the first in a line of faux pas to come.

Photo: Tourism minister Shamfa Cudjoe (front centre) and the TDC board pose for a photograph on 12 November 2015. The members are (front row: left to right) chairman Dennise Demming, Frederica Brooks-Adams, (back row: left to right) Davlin Thomas, Eric Taylor, Tonya Laing, Sherry Katwaroo-Ragbir and Dennis Sammy. Missing is Richard Duncan.
Photo: Tourism minister Shamfa Cudjoe (front centre) and the TDC board pose for a photograph on 12 November 2015.
The members are (front row: left to right) chairman Dennise Demming, Frederica Brooks-Adams, (back row: left to right) Davlin Thomas, Eric Taylor, Tonya Laing, Sherry Katwaroo-Ragbir and Dennis Sammy.
Missing is Richard Duncan.

Given that the PNM chose to portray the outcome of the 2010 election as a mass hoodwink of the population, ignoring any role that the PNM’s actions might have had in their own demise, it is not surprising that a lot of the pre-2010 PNM approach to governance has been re-introduced post 2015.

It is therefore no surprise to me that the Minister of Tourism is now the focus of the ire of the Communication Workers’ Union. According to the Union: “At 1.14 p.m. on Thursday 9th March, 2017, the Secretary General of the Union, Comrade Joseph Remy, received a call from the Minister.

“She indicated that she was at a Cabinet Meeting and she was taking the opportunity to inform the Union before the Government’s Post Cabinet meeting that the Cabinet had taken a decision to dissolve the TDC.

“The Minister also stated that there would be a new regulatory body and in response to a query about the status of workers of the Bargaining Units, she stated that she would have to engage the Union in subsequent discussions; the conversation with the Secretary General lasted a whopping one minute and forty-eight seconds.”

As the issue unfolded, the CWU upped the ante with a call for the Minister to resign. Added to this, in a major show of solidarity, the trade union bodies (FITUN, JTUM and NATUC) simultaneously withdrew their participation from the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC).

Photo: Leaders of the All Trinidad General Trade Workers Union protest. (Courtesy ATGTWU)
Photo: Leaders of the All Trinidad General Trade Workers Union protest.
(Courtesy ATGTWU)

The casual observer might be tempted to surmise that the situation escalated quickly. That, indeed, is precisely what the Honourable Prime Minister contended had occurred when he chose to admonish the trade union movement for what he saw as a predictable knee-jerk reaction to the events.

But the PM clearly cannot be a casual observer and his disdainful dismissal of the objections to such a major decision is reminiscent of the behaviour of his immediate predecessor and a reminder of his party’s attitude toward the trade union movement.

In my view, the fundamental issue here is style of governance and the fact that the current imbroglio which involves the TDC is circumstantial. It could just as easily have been any other entity and we shall more than likely see others follow in short order.

When a new minister can so confidently declare to the Parliament that ‘We in charge now,’ we must question the origin of this statement and ask ourselves what are the circumstances that could lead a parliamentary neophyte to be so crass.

I maintain, for example, that what we saw from PP MP Vernella Toppin was an indication that that party had degenerated to a point that they had lost all respect not just for the Opposition but for the Parliament in which they sat as well as for the electorate at large.

Photo: Former Tobago East MP and Minister of the People and Social Development, Vernella Alleyne-Toppin.
Photo: Former Tobago East MP and Minister of the People and Social Development, Vernella Alleyne-Toppin.

And so what becomes critical is to consider the tone of the discussions that take place when we are not watching.

In a similar vein, it is naïve to think that Minister Cudjoe’s pronouncements were not endorsed in some other quarters, emboldening her to make such statements publicly.

I liken the Minister to a child who lacks the diplomacy of parents who find themselves in company they would prefer not to keep. That child will let your company know everything about them which you would have liked to keep private.

Just look at her sarcastic Facebook post in response to the Union’s call for her dismissal.

“Ooooh,” it reads, “I’m scared.”

When then Minister of Housing Roodal Moonilal told the trade unions in 2011 to “wine to de side,” there was no lack of condemnation for his outburst from quarters where there is now silence. No doubt the rules are different when the transgressor is “ah we girl.”

We do have standards in this country; unfortunately, however, they are far too often double.

Photo: Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe responds on Facebook to threatened union action.
Photo: Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe responds on Facebook to threatened union action.

What of the response to the former PM’s statement that the Constitutional Amendment Bill should proceed because there were no riots when weighed against Minister Colm Imbert’s more recent pronouncement that, since previous fuel price increases had not caused a riot, he might increase the price again?

The bottom line is that the PNM has now been in office for 18 months and what we are seeing is all too familiar. Nothing has changed. Dr Rowley and his team have simply not delivered in accordance with the legitimate expectations of the population.

The only ‘knee-jerk reaction’ in the TDC affair has come from the Cabinet. How could you announce the closure of one entity to be replaced by another or, as in this case, three others when there is no clarity on what the new entity is likely to be? Clearly there is deliberately to be no transition.

So, the Cabinet has many questions to answer as there seems to be more in this TDC mortar than just the pestle. The CWU has already pointed to the award of contracts as one potential factor and, given the poor handling of the affair by the PM, one is tempted to assume that there is some validity in this claim.

But it cannot be that the votes have already been cast so there is no longer any need to listen, no need to appear to be all accommodating and no need to say all the right things.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures to supporters at Balisier House after the election results on September 7. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures to supporters at Balisier House after the election results on September 7.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

No. If we are to believe in meaningful change, the current PM must do what no previous PM has done. He must keep his word!

AboutAkins Vidale

Akins Vidale
Akins Vidale lectures at the Cipriani College of Labour and Cooperative Studies and is a UWI graduate with a B.A. in History. He has served as the president of the Trinidad Youth Council and is the General Secretary of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (FITUN). Read his blog: http://akinsvidale.wordpress.com/

Check Also

Daly Bread: Fake oil, true analysis; inside the belly of the State enterprise system

Fifteen years ago, shortly before becoming a columnist—as a guest speaker at an event organised …

30 comments

  1. Couldn’t wait for them to close down TDC. corruption galour! Can’t wait for them to tell us about the mismanagement

  2. Who else in that Cabinet can be Prime Minister??????
    Class seems to be in session n all are getting failing grades.

  3. nevertheless many boards members are jst as corrupt in their dealing , and it depends on which BOard you are sitting on, Anyway you have the choice to refuse the position, but people accept it still Also when you accept the position people they are fully aware thta they have to divulge info to the Integrity Commission (who also lack Integrity) and many have sat on Boards and still have not done so. Yet we paying members of that same Commission. For what? Corruption everywhere.Not only is government corrupt TRINIS are corrupt in general . I believe everyone in T&T know what politics is about andwhat these offerings are about, If you say yes, you know what to expect.People who stand for what is morally right and ethical are ostracised, and made fun off, because it about 5 % still honest, The rest, if not corrupt themselves support these practices because they re party hacks and faithful. We must remember politicians come from among us , its people like ourselves who have been corrupt long before getting into government, so it is anorm and sad to say its endemic in this country, Grease hand for everthing a passport, a visa, license, the piper come to you home with stolen goods and you buy from him, steal the paper and pen, pencils from the office, laundry from the hospital and the list goes on and on,Trickydadians

  4. and they sure to sully your character at the end of it all, so there is no thank you.

  5. just for info-no-one serving on a board is paid handsomely and the responsibilities are onerous, including exposing all your personal bus. to the integrity commission , other people may be benefiting from perks and salaries not boars, hence the reason qualified persons are reluctant, and there is another reason, once yu on a state board yu are labelled ppm or uncle . in this country there is no word like national, trinidadian, i have ability to give back.

  6. Why don’t we get real. This is not about Shamfa, We like trivialites, in T&T.This was a Cabinet decision. We were informed that an investigation was undertaken. Tell us the public what was found. telling us it was ineffective says what,then many other organizations should be shut down also in T&T because they are failing . All these state boards an committees members are being paid handsomely at the end of the month. who is being held accountable? When will the farce end? This is not about personalities. We elect governments to office, our job is to demand good governance, transparency and accountability. over 40 years is the same ole, our frustration has led us to change government every 5 years, but what are we getting in return, greed and corruption with recycled politicians.Time to stop politicking and say a spade is a spade

  7. Serious talk …. if dem in charge now what the ass Shamfa in charge of other than Soca on The Seas?
    If you playing ball and are a shit-hung, you are the last person on that team who should be talking smack.
    Tigheten up yuh game, then talk trash!

  8. I beg to differ, Name an entity which has made profit over the last decade. How much write off and bail out has the government done.This is another method of thiefing money, pay back to party hacks. Look at what took place at FCB, NLCB, Pan Trinbago, Petrotrin. Sahadeo removed from the Port and everything hush hush, is we money, why the secrecy Chaguarams fiasco, Invaders Bay under the PP, Afra Raymond went to the courts agaianst PP Tewari (Principle of fairness) and won, PNM in power now, why no revelation, why secrecy, Who friends name there, same ole same ole. I know as a single mother if i don’t get up to make adollar no government giving me anything. As afriend said to me in T&T you have to network. Having degrees (BSC, Post grad , MSc and unfinished MPhil ) says nothing . It’s a pc of paper. Trinidad is contact and incompetence has become the norm. So i do what I have been doing trusting God and doing what I enjoy. Giving back to the youths by private Teaching. Trinidad is a corrupt country and this didnt happen overnight but was allowed to fester and grow, because of the failure of us the citizens and the politcal sycophants. I continue to pray for my country

  9. it was frustration that led PNMites to vote for UNC and PP in government on two occasions. ON both occasions they raided the Treasury. But have they learned? They are the same ones cussing out DR Rowley now. NO government owe us anything. We elect them to govern, but democracy is not voting every 5 years, but holding them ACCOUNTABLE, instead , the dependency syndrome is so endemic we waiting for handouts. PP dreged the boat. Which government ever took a country”s taxpayer dollars to build a road , the money done,road unfinished. They go to CDB or IADB for that , but (what did Trinis do) NOTHING . when KPB move to conduct the country’s business form her home (what did we the citizens do)Absolutely nothing. Trinis stand for nothing. our mindset has to change.

  10. Two separate entities in the ministry of tourism will not lead to an increase in its budget but there will be a more action oriented programme of works.

    • Earl Best

      Mr Paul,
      I think you mean that having two separate entities SHOULD NOT NECESSARILY lead to an increase in the budget. In T&T politics, there is ZERO xchance of that happening. ZE-RO!

  11. I think this government is accounting

  12. Cleaning the mess will take another year.

  13. agreed,but i hope you get the gist of what i shared, Now you putting two organizations for one sector. duplicating work and two sets of monies for those at the helm. Case in point NHA changed to HDC and its still racket with thousands still waiting on homes and successive governments gave to party hacks and now many not paying their mortgages. LIDP, CEPEP, URP millions stolen.State Boards and statutory authorities and millions down the drain. When will it end? Citizens have to stop polticking and make governments accountable Its the same over and over .

  14. Are we satisfied with the analyses of what the unc has done to this country?

  15. Power in the hands of an apprentice = loose canon.

  16. Shamfa did not decide to disban cabinet did. They are cowards for not facing the real person behind this Dr. Rowley

  17. I agree with Dan, however I stand with Mariano Brown here, we changing names of institutions but not the structure, so we getting the same results. Many ministries don’ t have a policy unit for years for operating vie-ki-vie. Furthermore with no accountability and transparency what do you expect? More than than we putting incompetent friends and families at the helm. Putting them in charge of millions and no oversight. Man getting $200,000 (NIDCO); 197,000 (Hassanalli at Petrotrin) and the list goes on. they all received more money than the PM. to do what . Pray tell. So what you think is the outcome? .Sad though NO ONE MAKINJJAIIL, the i competent TTPS cannot finish an investigation,solve no murders with an actor at the helm for over 6 years. We have the largest number of jokers in a pack, but TRUMP give us a reprieve the US take over first place from T&T

  18. Sorry. There is nothing wrong with saying “we in charge now”. There are legitimate grievances against the PNM government and against Minister Cudjoe but that is complete nonsense. Honestly? People really have nothing better to complain about? Seriously? This is just pettiness.

  19. Scary.. No.. Incompetent.. Yes

  20. Earl Best

    Akins,
    I am disputing your claim that “No previous prime minister has kept his word. George “Party over, back to work” Chambers did not have the luxury of a buoyant economy or of a hugely supportive Cabinet so that he could make extravagant promises.

    Please remind me of what promise(s) he made that he did not keep. Thanks.

    • Akins Vidale

      Hi You are no doubt challenging my reading here. Chambers is a unique case and I give way in that regard. I do submit though that he never made the kinds of promises synonymous with the others because he was never out of office trying to get in and his rhetoric no doubt reflected that. He had a strong position on corruption but the subsequent defeat in 1986 has to be part of his measure when discussing if he met expectations.

  21. The myth of the power elite?

  22. Since d start she’s been foolish

  23. A senior female member of the Cabinet with many years of political experience had earlier said much the same in only slightly different words.Perhaps Minister Cudjoe was following this very bad example.This is what happens when there is no one who can teach noblesse oblige to the younger ones.This was not happening prior to 2010 across Governments/political parties.

  24. This comment “In a similar vein, it is naïve to think that Minister Cudjoe’s pronouncements were not endorsed in some other quarters, emboldening her to make such statements publicly.” Very telling