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Memo to Dr Rowley: Somebody’s watching you, PM

The new Government deserves time to settle in. Dr Keith Rowley is a first time Prime Minister, he is leading a team of wide-eyed inexperience and it has been a long, tense campaign getting here; we are all tired and bruised.

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

Alas, after eight years of Patrick Manning and Company followed by five years of Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Company, I have no patience left to offer. So I signal here, in this first post-election column, that I have started to watch the new administration with eagle eyes and will move with the swiftness of a hummingbird to denounce any act or word that is off kilter.

I have no more ‘blighs’ to offer any government.

The People’s National Movement (PNM) is a known quantity and some of what citizens know they hope never to see evidence of again. Under the political leadership of Dr Rowley, the party has demonstrated willingness to change but change at the centre does not automatically or immediately translate into change throughout.

So I wait to see evidence that the majority of the “Red Army” has drunk from the same fountain of progress.

In its recent occupation of the corridors of power, arrogance found a flag bearer in Colm Imbert. So well known is Imbert’s condescension that the media fraternity, Imbert’s most frequent target, must have released a collective sigh at the new reality: Oh gorm! Him again, bwoy! Wayyyy!

I expect he will continue to be himself—a competent parliamentarian and a formidable debater with a dismissive attitude. But there is one thing that must change.

Photo: Minister of Finance Colm Imbert. (Courtesy Power102)
Photo: Minister of Finance Colm Imbert.
(Courtesy Power102)

Imbert sat in a Cabinet with Manning and was among the many PNM Cabinet members and parliamentarians who said not a word to limit the illusions of their leader. Maximum power was allowed to run uninterrupted to the detriment of country and party. I have not forgotten Imbert’s role in feeding the Manning illusion.

When Manning fired the current Prime Minister, Imbert had nothing contrary to say. Instead, he aided and abetted Manning’s demonisation of Dr Rowley in his testimony before the Uff Commission of Inquiry on the Cleaver Heights project.

I hope he has learned as I hope Dr Rowley has forgiven but not forgotten.

Camille Robinson-Regis, I suspect, will have the Prime Minister’s ear. When Penelope Beckles was removed from the Senate where she served as leader of the Opposition’s senators, Dr Rowley replaced her with Robinson-Regis and not Faris Al-Rawi.

It was not long after that Robinson-Regis delivered her “rat” vitriol directed at those of us who opposed the generous increases to parliamentarians that accompanied pension increases to retired judges.

Forced by public opinion to apologise, Robinson-Regis engaged in a performance of back-handed contrition. Shrill with a tendency to reach for the lowest denominator to make her points, Robinson-Regis is a known quantity: Oh gorm! She again, bwoy! Wayyy!

Photo: Minister of Planning and Development Camille Robinson-Regis. (Copyright Elections.TT)
Photo: Minister of Planning and Development Camille Robinson-Regis.
(Copyright Elections.TT)

Marlene McDonald, who is immortalised in Parliament TV footage for desk-thumping as Manning delivered his broadside against Dr Rowley, facilitator of the worst version of the draft national gender policy and philosophically backward-looking on all major contentious issues, is again in the Government:

Oh gorm! She again, bwoy! Wayyy!

I fear for the fate of the gender policy under this administration as I feared for it under the past three. Parliamentary debate on the Adoption of Children Act (2015) in March this year put on exhibition women parliamentarians of both the UNC and PNM; it turned out to national unity superfluity.

Given that debate, Robinson-Regis’ abortion swipe on the platform, the absence of focus on family violence and the large number of children-need-licks references, a few from the current Prime Minister himself, I fear the country will be led backwards on some of these issues.

So I watch.

I watch to see whether this Attorney General will be any less verbose than Anand Ramlogan. Good looks and an athlete’s body played well during the campaign but now what is on the inside of that coveted physique is where my scrutiny is directed.

Photo: Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.
Photo: Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.

Thus far, the Prime Minister, like those before him, has been making the right noises about ethnic harmony. But he is right; the proof of the matter will be the living, not the wedding.

I wait to see how the Government executes that vision of Indian/African trust. Trinidad and Tobago is being torn apart by ethnic mistrust and suspicion. Rather than getting better, relations are deteriorating and the Prime Minister must make enough room for his own thoughts to acknowledge that, while budget preparations are pressing on his agenda, the vote has been taken, an election has been won and his Government installed, the bitterness and resentment aroused have not gone back to sleep.

Somebody needs to soothe it and soon.

AboutSheila Rampersad

Sheila Rampersad
Dr Sheila Rampersad is a member of the current MATT executive and the Women Working for Social Progress. She is a veteran columnist.

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50 comments

  1. Even though I was initially apalled at the appointment of Colm Imbert as Finance Minister, I do believe PM Dr. Keith Rowley chose his people wisely, he didn’t choose the said Ministers on the eve of appointment day.

    Going back to when his party was campaigning, the now Prime Minister gave the public hints as to who would be Ministers in the respective Ministries and each time he gave solid reasons for his choice.

  2. Ms Rampersad is, in my opinion, right to point out that there are certain people in the cabinet who are known quantities and we should watch them very carefully. Dr Rowley has said that the “buck stops with me”. He is the leader and if things go well he will take the praise. Accordingly if the reverse should happen, he will have to take the blame. Giving a ” Bligh” or not to me is not the point. The majority of us voted Dr Rowley and his team in in our pursuit of good governance of our affairs. We fired the last lot for what we thought was the mismanagement of those affairs. We expect high standards from our new employees, and we have every right to expect transparency, honesty and integrity. I expect mistakes to be made, but I do not expect opaqueness, dishonest behaviour and lack of integrity. We should all in my opinion not give any government a Bligh on those matters. Many thanks.

  3. everyone watching him he is #1 …

  4. We are ‘our worst’ enemy……….good Lord how long has it been 1 week??????most have not even seen the inside of their ministries….there is a grace period for one administration to move out and another to move in…give me a break!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Just another frustrated sycophant.

  6. Give it a break! Stop the speculations and bad mouthing! Everyone should get a chance, there is a new PM in town, may he do what is right!

  7. Everybody talking and knows exactly what our new prime minister and his government should do, these same people what are they going to do to help make this country a better place all of all yuh who talking only waiting to find fault and not help take responsibility as citizens for this country they only sit down waiting for failure most of all yuh from the gimme,gimme gang, what have you all achieved in your personal lives. Mr Samuel yuh vote out panday, manning,kamla and waiting to vote out Rowley who’s gonna vote you out when you fail

  8. Look how much Bligh kamla get,,over & over & over so many bad appointment’s, let me prime minister settle & do his job

  9. Mr. Prime Minister, Dr. keith Rowley you are blessed in your going out and your coming in, no weapon formed against you shall prosper, goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life, no good thing will God with hold from you once you walk uprightly, your steps will be ordered by Him, with long life and good health will He satisfy your being and to let the world know IF GOD BE FOR YOU ,IF HE IS ON YOUR SIDE WHO CAN BE AGAINST YOU? Sir I declare that you are blessed without limits.

  10. The largest Guyanese daily,today headline Dear Editor some serious Caricom goodwill selling have to be done , choose your minister of foreign affairs wisely PM Rowley,
    http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/…/a-good-governments-pun…/
    If you get to read each the memo send by Tim Stew MBE to the UK , Margaret Diop to the US State Dept ,Gérard Latulippe to Cdn Foreign Ministry, Gauri Shankar Gupta to India Foreign Office , Coromoto Godoy to President Maduro and Huang Xingyuan to China overseas dept , the Jamaican newspaper is the kindest to your goodself and party
    http://m.jamaicaobserver.com/…/With-this-new-Keith-Rowley-C…
    PM Rowley meet each of the above collectively with a state dinner , then private audience asap as one of the top five things to do in the next 10 business days, especially Coromoto Godoy!!!!!!!

  11. I don’t understand this talk of a bligh. It is an unwritten convention in the western world that newly-elected governments are bestowed a kind of grace period to get their bearings, as it were. It has always struck me as the civilised thing to do. Trinidad and Tobago has done this for each new regime. It certainly is no bligh. Any major fumble during this time will be dealt with accordingly. But the citizenry has the right to expect the government to hit the ground running. They asked for the electorate to put their faith in them, and that implies their readiness to govern. So no blight needed here just respect and and a little grace period. By the way, the honeymoon usually lasts about 6 months.

  12. I don’t understand this bligh business. What bligh should a government get anyway?
    From the moment Kamla swore in Jack Warner, I was on her case. So I don’t recognise honeymoons to be honest. If you make a boo boo in the swear-in and I have time on my hands, I will let you know about it! 🙂

  13. The PNM’s first responsibility is to its manifesto which supporters promoted,rallied around and which gave it victory at the polls.

  14. I vote out panday, Manning and kamla. So if Dr Rowley fail this country, I will vote him out also

  15. Keep the eagle’s eye out Sheila. I am watching and following you.

  16. I want to give Rowley a bligh on the basis of his gender and origins. As a man from Tobago he has special needs and we should respect that and give him some lee way. #sarc

  17. It’s sad that…the ink is barely off of the index fingers of thousands of voters around the country and various ‘columnists’ are already casting dubious aspirations on this new government. Then these same people would expect that they are regarded as objective critics. Such is the state of the current discourse.

    But I shouldn’t be surprised, on Monday night a UNC blogger blamed the lack of water in Arima on the fact that the PNM won the elections. I suppose if you cry wolf now, when the inevitable mistakes are made these same columnist can shout “ah ha! I told you so….”

  18. Why shouldn’t they get a bligh they have plenty house cleaning to do before they really settle in. If a bligh was accorded to the PP then the same should apply to the PN M.

  19. Well it seems to me that this is more than just not giving a bligh…..writing off Ministers before they even start……wait until there is something to talk about …..I find she has been objective this far (albeit late in making out the UNC), but please, the UNC had much more than a bligh…they were almost sacred in the early MONTHS……We know this is never accorded to the PNM, so nobody expects it.

    • The PNM never gave the PPG a Bligh. They were hounded from day ONE

      • Of course I was not referring to the then Opposition…It should have been obvious that I am commenting on comments by a journalist. ….The opposition in 2010 was the lone vice in the wilderness in those early days …….as any review of the 2010 newspapers can clearly attest. Dr Rowley was largely ignored when he raised the issue of Jack Warner and the country’s reputation.

        • Furthermore, if the PNM pulls a Reshmi I expected the UNC to raise hell (notwithstanding they did it over and over… a la false papers scandals etc)….but nothing is wrong in that. The Opposition is supposed to call out wrong doing and I expect that now they are not in power they will suddenly be able to recognise wrongdoing

          • And btw, no one had to hound the UNC Government…….they created their glaring atrocities on an almost weekly basis. If they hope to regain Office they must look inward and not blame others….they created their own demise……. ..superbly executed…..lessons in what to do to lose office in T&T

    • Of course I was not referring to the then Opposition…I am commenting on comments by a journalist. ….The opposition in 2010 was the lone vice in the wilderness in those early days …….as any review of the 2010 newspapers can clearly attest. Dr Rowley was largely ignored when he raised the issue of Jack Warner and the country’s reputation.

    • Furthermore, if the PNM pulls a Reshmi I expected the UNC to raise hell (notwithstanding they did it over and over… a la false papers scandals etc)….but nothing is wrong in that. The Opposition is supposed to call out wrong doing and I expect that now they are not in power the will suddenly be able to recognise wrongdoing

    • And btw, no one had to hound the UNC Government…….they created their glaring atrocities on an almost weekly basis. If they hope to regain Office they must look inward and not blame others….they created their own demise……. ..superbly executed…..lessons in what to do to lose office in T&T

  20. I read and re read this column. I really like it. Well written. Well said And will be done .

  21. If our institutions work … Eg auditor general … Tenders board Etc etc I don’t think we need rely on a journalist or any civil entity to expose any instance of wrongdoing. Right now we need to prosecute the past government … We need to get the priorities straight.

    • Thank you Christine. Reading this I was beginning to wish that we did not place the burden of straightening out our Nation to Dr. Rowley and the PNM. Thinking that perhaps Trinidad truly deserved the corruption and squandermania of the past five years for I can’t remember a single article by Dr. Rampersad attacking the open corruption and squandermania that was very obvious in the last five years. Lord give Dr. Rowley the patience of Job with our people, please. My heart goes out to him as he takes on the mantle of leadership in this nation.

    • And what if they don’t work? Because they are not working now, which is in part why we have had no choice but to tell Kamla bye bye. And even if they do work, without the media can we be certain that they will keep working the way we want them too? No, Christine, no, Richard, no, all who suggest implicitly or explicitly, that Sheila, being Indian, is anti-PM or anti-PNM. The truth is that Sheila, being Trinidadian, is pro-PROBITY, pro-T&T, and we should all stand shoulder to shoulder with her in that rather than strive to shoot her down or stab her in the back.

    • The institutions may work-the AG did point out shortcomings in ministries. But what is the penalty. Moreover, it is because of journalism that issues such as lifesport came to light. Everyone needs to do their part.

    • Yes Nerisha Mohammed point taken but right now … In the present moment the country is too loud we need to tone down our rhetoric and garner as best as possible a little grace and taste. The writer’s words are devoid of kindness and we need that in big measure. Not giving a new government just configuring itself a ‘bligh’ is not what we need right now

  22. I hope this lady and others will really be vigilant and expose any instance of wrong doing by the new administration.They are human so mistakes may be made, but as someone else said,keep them honest.

  23. Sheila, you speak for a large proportion of the patriots, not the pusillanimous ones seeking to overthrow Kamla without identifying themselves but the ones on all sides of the political divide who put T&T first and party after. And I feel the members of the government will read this column and say to themselves “Oh gorm! She again, bwoy? Wayyyy!” And you’ll know that you struck the raw nerve at which you were taking aim.

  24. She needs to calm down. if there’s ANY govt in the history of Trinidad and Tobago that has earned a ‘bligh’, its this current govt. The same ‘bligh’ im sure she gave to Kamla should be given to Rowley plus more. We all know what this govt is up against.

    • Strongly disagree, Richard. I think you misread Sheila’s meaning. For me, a ‘bligh’ does not mean no space to manoeuvre, no room to make mistakes but it means that we shall be looking closely at you and calling on you to account and explain and justify. “Do what you think you must,” I think she is saying, “but don’t expect me to turn a blind eye. I shall be alerting my readership whenever I think you have deviated from the straight and narrow.” And who can reasonably be against that?

  25. Did anyone read Sat Maharaj’s article from The Guardian September 10th?

    • Yes. I seldom pay attention to anything Sat has to say knowing his “preferences” but parts of it seemed to want to keep the elements at bay so to speak

    • I actually just read the article. I read some comments somewhere to the effect that he could keep his congrats. Now to be fair to the man, he had/has a personal grouse to which he admitted. Moreover, for him to offer such congrats in a public forum to ppl he probably does not like may have hurt him more to write than for you to read I suspect. I would just take it for granted the issue with ‘popular vote’ came as the article probably was written before thw official figures were out.

  26. Absurd…! “Every word…every action”??? How graceless can we get ? Disgrace

  27. Absurd … “Every word … Every action… ” Wth … Are We in Soviet Russia or wha?

  28. Thanks for the full article Lasana Liburd. And her realistic expectations, even skepticism, reflect what many feel but are afraid to articulate

  29. Yes. Thanks Sheila for the reminders of what that party stood for, and allowed to take place. I too am extremely wary and vigilant, as we all should be.

  30. But good journalists do pay attention when citizens sleep the sleep of politics. And they even catch them sleeping too – in parliament.

  31. Excellent article, no free bligh from me either. The PNM must be kept in check.

  32. We cannot depend solely on journalists to keep politicians honest. It is all of our jobs. Start there and you will see the difference in how our country is run.

  33. Good work Sheila. Stay on it and keep them honest at all times.

  34. Nice shirt.:-) They all come with baggage, as do we all. But glad that good journos like Sheila are on the ball and know that the citizens of T&T depend on them to keep the politicians honest, if that is at all possible.