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The rigging question: Daly muses over the UNC internal elections

By this morning the 2015 UNC leadership contest should be history. As it was proceeding, the usual bland salutation “may the best person win” did not seem appropriate.

“May the best rigger win” came jokingly to mind.

Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar celebrates victory at the 2010 General Elections. (Copyright Frederic Dubray/AFP 2015)
Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar celebrates victory at the 2010 General Elections.
(Copyright Frederic Dubray/AFP 2015)

High profile figures in this internal election and others associated with their party had suggested that these internal elections might be rigged. If there were any truth to this then did they rig things to suit themselves when they were recently in Government?

This morning the winner is faced with the question: How will you dispel the aura of rigging when proceeding to seek a renewal of the public’s trust and confidence in your party?

It was a spectacle to witness persons who mere months ago were together in Cabinet, and then presented themselves as a team for re-election, attacking each other on character issues as they now fought for party leadership. In addition to the allegations of rigging, the spectacle revealed some troubling motivations for political service.

Kamla, the former Prime Minister seeking to retain leadership, railed against the ingratitude of “the hardback men” who rode all over the country “with blue lights” clearing their way as a result of her “giving” to them the opportunity to be in Government. For example Tim Gopeesingh, she said, was “given” a safe seat.

Photo: Reshmi Ramnarine (far right) shares a drink with former Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh (centre). Ramnarine was controversially appointed as a Security Intelligence Agency (SIA) director in 2011. She subsequently resigned after media reports that her credentials were fraudulent.
Photo: Reshmi Ramnarine (far right) shares a drink with former Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh (centre).
Ramnarine was controversially appointed as a Security Intelligence Agency (SIA) director in 2011.
She subsequently resigned after media reports that her credentials were fraudulent.

The two other teams contesting the leadership elections—each led by one of the hardback men and having others of the hardback men in the front bench of the teams—both attacked Kamla on the grounds that she tolerated no dissent. Yet they were good with this for five years and loudly sang her praises every time they opened their mouths.

All three teams indicted each other as being responsible for the failed 2015 General Election campaign and, in particular, for the “no Rowley” aspect of the campaign, that is to say putting excessive focus on alleged flaws in the character of the then Leader of the Opposition and now Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley.

There is another thing they all had in common, or rather lacked in common. They did not tell us much about what any one of them might do differently in terms of policy or governance from what they did when they were so recently in Government.

Co-incidentally making the atmosphere more feverish, right at the start of the week leading to yesterday’s leadership election, came the Court of Appeal’s ruling that the judge to whom hearing of six marginal seat UNC election petitions was assigned was right to give permission for those petitions to proceed to a full scale trial.

Photo: PNM supporters poke fun at the outgoing Prime Minister on September 7 at Balisier House. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: PNM supporters poke fun at the outgoing Prime Minister on September 7 at Balisier House.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The Court ruling added to the bizarre nature of the spectacle because the internal election contestants had been battling furiously about why the election was lost and which of them was to blame with scant reference to the disputed extension of the voting hours.

I hope that the Elections and Boundaries Commission will very soon tell us whether it took legal advice on the true ambit of its powers before it decided to extend the voting hours and, if so, from whom.

Did it otherwise consult or receive representations? We must have full disclosure of the basis on which the Commission acted.

Returning to the grounds on which the UNC leadership contestants attacked each other, one troubling motivation vividly exposed was the importance of glory to those who acquire political office.

One of the mistakes that we have repeated and compounded over the years is the provision of extravagant vehicles, entourages and even hotel suites for Ministers of Government, suitable for overlords rather than servants of the people.

Photo: Ex-Sport Minister Anil Roberts (left) pays his respects to then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Photo: Ex-Sport Minister Anil Roberts (left) pays his respects to then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Overlord tendencies are a related troubling motivation, exemplified by travelling in vehicles rigged with the notorious blue lights, flashing as a signal to us ordinary mortals to get our tails out of the way of the important personage being conveyed at our expense in an oversized, gas-guzzling, vehicle.

Kamla implied that this perk of office induces the easy co-operation of the persons who are permitted the use of the blue light rigging.

Those former Ministers, who complained that Kamla tolerated no dissent, but formerly sang her praises, have effectively confessed to being yes men. Saying yes was apparently okay once it kept them in office suitably rigged.

Flashy perks of office have been made available to those who do not even hold constitutionally enshrined office. Over-sized, gas-guzzling vehicles are provided even for the use of clerks to make document deliveries and to park otherwise than in accordance with traffic signs.

The stamp of arrogant government is everywhere.

Given these revelations of how some members of the last Government ticked and some of the excesses of the preceding Patrick Manning PNM era, we need to encourage the present Government’s initiatives in self restraint.

Photo: Then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) shakes hands with her successor, Dr Keith Rowley, en route to Nelson Mandela's funeral in South Africa. (Courtesy News.Gov.TT)
Photo: Then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) shakes hands with her successor, Dr Keith Rowley, en route to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa.
(Courtesy News.Gov.TT)

And in seeking independent advice outside of a bloated, self indulgent, self-perpetuating system, as it is proposing to seek from the recently constituted Economic Advisory Board.

About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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25 comments

  1. KPB’s election/leadershiip strategy:
    1.Mess up and do what you want, then a couple days before the election, say sorry.
    2. Take all the glory for yourself when things seem good, and blame everyone else when something goes wrong
    3. Never take responsibility for anything said or done, but always say, “I am advised” so that you can blame someone else if you are caught wrong.
    4. Try to convince fanatics that you are a female deity
    5. Surround yourself with persons who will not challenge anything you do, but just praise you.
    6. Destroy anything and anyone that could challenge your hegemony.
    7. elevate puppets and not professionals
    8. Make yourself out the be the victim at all times
    9. Always try to get sympathy, even in your choice of projects
    10. Bury disidents in a political cemetery

  2. The fact that these ballots were discovered dumped in a river tells me that the UNC did it.
    http://www.tv6tnt.com/sevenpm-news/Ballot-Papers-Found-in-River–360742261.html?m=y&smobile=y
    Like dey make ah lil lime foss

  3. I wonder if it was Rowley saying that to Kamla after the general election results, if Tanty would have been receptive.

  4. ““I will say to him that those matters are to be raised with the election committee, but it is very hard to see that a resounding victory like this is being questioned. If the results were close in the numbers, then there would be cause for concern but I believe they’re really landslide numbers. It really doesn’t give cause but they are free to raise it with the election committee and where else as they see fit,” Persad-Bissessar said.”

    http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2015-12-07/win-margin-speaks-itself—kamla

  5. Although he expressed little confidence in the new executive, he said he would give his support. As for his role in the party, now that he is no longer an executive member but continues as the Oropouche East MP, he said, “I continue to represent my constituency in Parliament. I continue my parliamentary work. I have been in the party for many years as an officer, so that type of work will cease but I continue to hold on as a UNC member and supporter as much as I can.

    “You have to give the new members of the executive, however unfair the process was to put them there, the space and the latitude to contribute as best they can. We don’t have confidence in this new executive, but they have gone through a lot to be there and they must be given the latitude to make a contribution if that can.”

    http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2015-12-06/ballots-dumped-unc-elections-papers-found-it-river

  6. The ballots could be found fling away somewhere in City Gate, I don’t think it matters. I don’t know how the UNC will ever be able to convince the East West corridor to vote for them again…

  7. That investigation still ongoing.
    Hold strain!

  8. Hahaha. Tssk, tssk Vernal Damion Cadogan… The police even had a video with Jack Warner telling Caribbean football delegates what to do with the bribe money they got from Bin Hammam. And they ent solve that case yet!

  9. I’m sure the perpetrators left behind smoking embers, bones, soiled Styrofoam plates and cups as well as discarded empty puncheon bottles with their fingerprints on them.

    This is easy to solve! Hahaha

  10. Not even environmentally friendly.

  11. Martin,
    “May the best rigger win”?
    Are you happy now that you have got your f-rigging wish? Or does Kamla’s victory merely underline the UNC’s unmistakeable rigger mortis?

  12. I’m really pleased that I was able to read this as it was only available as a snippet in the Express.

    Good views Mr. Daly! I look forward to reading more.