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Politics With Honour; Sunity explains how to replace the PP with People’s Power

So the Extempo King has fallen victim to the extempo politics of an extempo party—and he’s vex? Really?

Winston “Gypsy” Peters should know that he can’t play mas and ‘fraid powder. He has been lucky to enjoy five years on the biggest extempo stage in the land and now that the MC has cued him off, he should simply doff his hat, collect his change and walk.

Photo: Former Minister of Culture Winston "Gypsy" Peters. (Courtesy News.gov.tt)
Photo: Former Minister of Culture Winston “Gypsy” Peters.
(Courtesy News.gov.tt)

Instead, with the pique of a sore loser, he has decided not to go quietly. Clearly, somewhere along the road since 2010, Gypsy has confused himself into thinking that he is a real politician in a real government.

For the record, real politicians have real constituencies, and real platforms that extend far beyond how much they “do” for the leader.

Still, it would be very interesting to find out what, precisely, Peters has been “doing” for the PM these past five years for him to accuse her of being “ungrateful” for ditching him.

His confusion might deserve some sympathy, though. In the politics of maximum leadership, where loyalty to the leader counts for everything, it was probably reasonable for him to expect a little in return.

What he didn’t grasp, however, was what others already know: that loyalty to the leader must come with a water-tight guarantee, including a willingness to offer your neck when it is needed. Deliver that and the promise of life after death with a chance at political re-incarnation awaits.

Check Anand Ramlogan. He seems to have it all figured out.

Photo: Former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan. (Courtesy HeritageRadioTT)
Photo: Former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan.
(Courtesy HeritageRadioTT)

In the universe of maximum leadership, loyalty to the leader, not truth, is the only principle of honour. It binds the team around the leader and ties everyone to the leader’s cause.

In this world, there is no room for debate or reasoned differences. If the leader requires that shirts be changed from white to yellow, the only question is ‘what size?’ It is what makes logic out of the illogical and reduces government to extempo.

All this, the Gypsy would have known had he been paying attention before it happened to him, too.

The ugliness that has poured out with the break of loyalty by one member or another of the PP administration raises serious questions about the insides of this government. What the public has been told—and, in some cases, has been able to verify—describes a sordid standard of public behaviour that should not be allowed to pass without expert investigation.

We have been taken down a path so far from our assumptions that even those charged with the responsibility for integrity in public life—a task not confined to the Integrity Commission—have no ideas about how to navigate a way back out of it. But knowing is always far, far better than being kept in the dark.

If nothing else, the political ruptures within the PP government have given us a vitally important glimpse into the dangerous nature of our political system where Power can do anything and remain invisible to us in doing so.

Photo: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) and Leader of Government Business Roodal Moonilal. (Courtesy Baltimore Post)
Photo: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) and Leader of Government Business Roodal Moonilal.
(Courtesy Baltimore Post)

Today, we no longer have the excuse of our innocence. Now that we know better, we must do better.

We have to bare government and make it open to the people. To do this, we should return to the scenes of the most recent crimes, including the appointment of Reshmi Ramnarine as Director of the SIA, the passing of Section 34, the hundreds of millions paid in questionable fees and so on, and track every single detail to understand how it all came to be, so that power can be held accountable and systems can reformed so that whatever went wrong is put to right, for all time, if possible.

It goes without saying that this is not the first government to have committed egregious wrongs against the public interest. But the scale is what should give us pause. Where the system has always lent itself to the occasional chip and crack and outright break, these would now appear to have been pushed wide open, unleashing a flood upon us and threatening even those on the inside.

At no time in our history has the need for constitutional reform been so stark to the public at large.

Admittedly, much of what has passed for constitution reform until now has been cosmetic and patchy. After all, it is never in the interest of Power to bring itself under the control of the people.

Photo: COP political leader and Minister of Legal Affairs Prakash Ramadhar led the People's Partnership push for constitutional reform.
Photo: COP political leader and Minister of Legal Affairs Prakash Ramadhar led the People’s Partnership push for constitutional reform.

But now, experience has provided a clearer understanding of what constitutional reform should be about. It is not some legalistic, esoteric matter, but the absolute requirement for designing a political system that makes government fully accountable to the people.

It is an instrument for passing power from the hands of the Maximum Leader to the hands of the people.

After 53 years of political Independence, the time has come when we must anchor our independence in institutions that put the people at the centre of power. This won’t happen until we are each ready to declare ourselves willing to take responsibility for what is done is our name and to take responsibility for governing our country, from our community up to the cabinet and parliament.

On this Independence Day, let us claim our place around the table of power.

Photo: The Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) takes to the streets in protest against State corruption.
Photo: The Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) takes to the streets in protest against State corruption.

About Sunity Maharaj

Sunity Maharaj
Sunity Maharaj is a journalist with 38 years of experience and the managing director of the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies. She is a former Trinidad Express editor in chief and TV6 head of news.

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  1. Mr. Live Wire is a patriot Lasana so I expect him to tell the truth regardless. If others choose to find issue with that, they weren’t worthy to be in this forum in the first place.

  2. At a business seminar I attended we were told your best customer is your worst customer-if you can satisfy your most difficult customer you would satisfy everyone. The point being that it is important to get feedback on your weaknesses- don’t surround yourselves with yes-men. When a certain group forces their followers to think alike under threat of expulsion we call them cults. When others do it we call it government.

  3. That Cadiz thing. That CoP thing. That NAR thing way back. Shows that there is potential for a more mature politics. Lots of disaffected people. But it will take a great effort to resist the two party charm and really build up a truly vibrant citizens forum. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that so many people clam up at this time because they feel that asking important questions which affect them might somehow be betraying their favourite party. But we really owe it to ourselves and the country to keep asking policy questions of the politicians. That we should just wear the jerseys, chip along, eat, drink and then go home pleased that we did our part; that is just depressing. Keep asking those questions, people.

  4. Many do I suppose. Can’t stop trying though. Maybe the best way to avoid that is to have a strong group as opposed to just a strong leader.

  5. The problem with Civic groups is that they ALL eventually get to love politics and power…Perfect example Stephen Cadiz ( Keith Noel 126 committee ( i think)…He had a nice following. He advocated for right to recall MPs, he marched against the murder rate ect…became apressure group…then turn into an MP..pressure group cancelled.

  6. Yeah. We have to make country first priority rather than party. Even though that sounds cliched.
    It will be interesting to see the views of Live Wire’s satire if the PNM is in power.
    But if we set different standards for different people, we would be hypocrites.

  7. Yeah. We have to make country first priority rather than party. Even though that sounds cliched.
    It will be interesting to see the views of Live Wire’s satire if the PNM is in power.
    But if we set different standards for different people, we would be hypocrites.

  8. What has depressed me the most Lasana is seeing intelligent people on both sides acting like rabid die hards, unable to see the ills of their respective parties. I have been called a PNM and a UNC for daring to question the actions of both sides.

    In these people’s minds, to question anything is to be branded a member of the opposing parties and thus to be dismissed out of hand. It is sickening and unbecoming of a democracy. No constitutional change will fix that.

    • Correct, Kendall. No constitution reform will fix that. Only public education will – and not in the short term. Rowley’s choice, Anthony Garcia, is certain to be a better Education minister than Tim who discusses education exclusively in terms of numbers but I don’t know that there will be any deliberate effort to improve PUBLIC education under the PNM. I don’t know if Garcia, a devout Catholic, has the openness of mind to deliver what we really need.

  9. Kendall Tull, I agree. Doing nothing or throwing your hands up should never be an option. We have to do our best regardless of the difficulty.

  10. We need more civic groups to rise up. There is a lot of skepticism about groups like Fixin’ T&T. I don’t know if some of that is justified. But I think we should all aspire to have more of a voice than is the case at present.

  11. They was talking about all the the time in the he know they was doing it he waited on till they kick him and I am so hurt to see how they treat people.

  12. The fact that some members of the PNM seem to want to embrace him is another sign of how poor our selection of choices for politicians is at this time.

    • Kendall, The PNM reaction has to be contextualized; Mayaro is going to be a close run thing and the priority now is surely to win the election. Your conclusion may just be a little overstated.

  13. Pamela – I never said it was easy. My problem is that supposed intelligent people are following in this path. We have to do better as a people.

  14. If they did not kick Gipsy out he was never coming around the pnm . He can’t love pnm so quick

  15. Kendall Tull I understand what you are saying but it has been like this before I was born .that race thing will never go away no matter how hard we try. And I am saying this I can never forget them extempo.never

  16. What we need is a change in mindset of the electorate away from race and ‘gimme gimme’ politics. No constitutional system of government can save us from the darkness that dwells in our hearts and the shallowness of our choices.

  17. Brilliant ! Now how do, we the people, move on this.

  18. Extempo for someone else now. not the pnm. when they say Rowley mother was rape you said nothing

  19. Andrea Ali constitutional reform is a redistribution of power, but history has taught us that those who hold power NEVER redistribute it willingly …….. EVER.

    True constitutional reform is forced on the powerful by the sheer will of the powerless masses, that is why I was shocked to see folks actually put stock in the government’s (the powerful) unsolicited offering of constitutional reform.
    As responsible citizens and adults we should have all recognized that offer as disingenuous!

  20. I don’t think the break with Nello was as simple as it is being made out to be. George Padmore and CLR were way more left wing than Williams. Cuban crisis, Kwame Nkrumah’ s increasingly totalitarian tendencies, backed by CLR, all these things have to be taken into account

  21. We knew that proper constitutional reform was needed, we said it when we saw what Manning had become, people lived through what Williams was, Robinson and Panday too! Whatever happens next, we the people must insist that Ramadhar did not do a good job recently with the constitution as he only pandered to the UNC!

  22. And no matter how many times it’s said Vernal it’s not heard by everyone….. When they running for election they is Trini’s but when dey Start playin de ass they become POLITICIANS… or dem kinda ppl… anything else but Trini’s…

  23. Nerisha that’s why I always try to explain that a government is ALWAYS a reflection of the governed.

  24. With respect Sunity, ‘maximum leadership started with Dr W. He was a marvellous historian. But his dissing of intellectual giants like CLR James and ANR Robinson when they disagreed with him was part of our political coming of age. he brooked no dissent. No excuses for Kamla and Co, of course. Can the damage be undone. Its hard to say. Seeing that we like music trucks so much. Sad.

  25. Couldn’t put it better, Nerisha.

  26. And therein lies the rub. We are a mentally lazy society willing to be led rather than take an active and informed interest in our governance. And if our politicians had any respect for us, they would not expect that passing in music trucks, picong in parliament and choosing johnny come nevers off the street would get votes. But alas we continue to accept this standard of conduct and allow our precious votes to be taken for granted.