I want to begin with a confession: I voted for the PNM in 2015 and would probably, all things being equal, do so again if an election were called tomorrow. But I am NOT “a PNM.”
Nor am I anti-PNM. I think of myself as a patriot. I am, however, anti-UNC. Indeed, it is the real reason why, after decades of deliberate none-of-the-aboveness, I voted for the PNM.
Last weekend’s Express gave me serious pause. On Saturday 20 May, that paper says that “Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is on one week’s vacation, which started on Thursday, the Office of the Prime Minister has announced.” The albeit small story, under the headline “PM attends New York Graduation,” does not appears on Page three or Page five but on Page 16.
How could one not wonder why?
Now, it is not that I begrudge our hard-working PM his vacation. And far be it from me to suggest that the proud father that the Express front page photo of Sunday 21 May reveals him to be ought to have considered not attending his younger daughter’s graduation, a once-in-a lifetime event.
I just wonder whether the combination of Saturday’s Page 16 location and Sunday’s caption might be the Express’ way of avoiding what seems to me to be a fair question. It is this: How many times already has the hard-working PM taken vacation since he assumed office less than two years ago in September 2015?
And since there are two sides to every story, the Express might also have found a way to ask a second question: How many times did the hard-working 67-year-old PM’s PNM predecessors take, as far as the public was made aware, vacation?
With, of course, no obligation to point out that all four of the aforementioned predecessors deceased before the age of 70.
Mind you, I am not anti-Rowley although the band of repeat bunglers that comprise the current Cabinet have already raised very serious questions about the quality of his leadership. If you don’t yet agree with me, go read Ralph Maraj (“Ostriches!”) and Lennox Grant (“Will Rowley/Imbert get back T&T’s ‘mojo’?”) on Page 13 of the Sunday edition.
I am, I repeat, anti-UNC. The simple reason is that I am a T&T lover while the leaders of that party are T&T haters; the evidence abounds.
That is why I am still making it a point of duty to submit my property tax form before the original deadline. And urging all who can hear me to work at least with the 5 June deadline.
The reason is simple: The UNC is urging citizens NOT to comply.
The Saturday 20 front page headline read, “TAX ON HOLD.” “OPEN THE HOSPITAL,” a large prominent placard proclaims while a smaller, more modest one asks us to “AXE THE TAX.”
That photograph is superimposed on a larger background one showing 2,500 marchers, oops, sorry, MP Padarath, a few dozen marchers on the Solomon Hochoy Highway making their way to the Couva Children’s Hospital.
“USE COUVA HOSPITAL” proclaims the headline on Friday 19 May. Beside the headline is a photograph of the Cuffie family, one of whose members had been admitted to the Bar the day before. I couldn’t work out what might be the national interest in the photograph but its more-than-dubious technical quality was obvious even to my untrained eye.
But it’s not all bad. Kudos are in order for the Express which asked itself the question of why would a former prime minister behave as Kamla Persad-Bissessar has been behaving as far as the property tax is concerned. And answered its own question in the editorial of Sunday 21 May, headlined “Let’s respect due process.”
Calling on her to “tone down her rhetoric,” the editorial writer comments: “As a former prime minister and lawyer, Mrs Persad-Bissessar should know better and do better…” than to make the “claim that Justice Frank Seepersad’s stay on the tax [is] a victory for the people (…) bordering on delusional.”
I want to invite you to examine the Saturday Express story headlined “Judge puts property tax on hold.” It contains this extract from former UNC attorney general Anand Ramlogan’s claim to the court on behalf of former UNC minister Devant Maharaj: “…for the sake of raising much-needed revenue from a financially beleaguered public…”
“Legal clarity on the tax,” says the Sunday Express editorial, “is urgently needed.”
Nobody told Ramlogan and his former boss that. The Page three story, headlined “Kamla, Anand cry ‘collusion’ over appeal,” makes clear that the UNC are making a song and dance about the Appeal Court’s decision to grant the government’s request for an appeal to be heard urgently.
And while acknowledging the parlous situation of the country’s finances, the caring UNC ex-government, led by its demonstrably caring former AG and the equally demonstrably law-abiding former PM, are zealously pursuing the ‘Axe the Tax’ and ‘Open the Hospital’ campaigns without any public acknowledgement of its part in bringing the country to its current sorry pass.
And enjoying front-page coverage in the media.
I want to end with a confession: My resolve to keep tabs on the media took a severe beating on World Press Freedom Day; after Dr Terrence Farrell’s measured macro-broadside, I pulled in my wings. I mean, you have to have very little sense of self to continue, after Dr Farrell, to be satisfied with the micro of pointing out i95.5’s anglicised pronunciation of “Guy Forget.”
Or calling attention to the fact that TV6 Sport repeatedly mutilates “meted out,” rendering it as “mett-ed out” instead of “meat-ed out.”
There is a Charlie Brown cartoon that begins with Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy lying on a mound looking up at the sky.
“If you lose your imagination,” Lucy comments, “you can see lots of things in the cloud formations. What do you think you see, Linus?”
And after Linus reveals his pithy visualisations of geographical, artistic and biblical images, she asks Charlie Brown for his response.
“Well, I was going to say that I see a ducky and a horsie, but I changed my mind.”
There are many political people out there who have less than no shame. And it is clear that they have similarly bereft allies in the media.
Thanks to the weekend editions of the Express, I changed my mind about NOT saying I see a ducky and a horsie.
Along with ‘caring,’ corrupt cronies and compromised collaborators.