Home / View Point / Guest Columns / Lead, or shut up! Raffique challenges Rowley to lift his game as T&T prime minister

Lead, or shut up! Raffique challenges Rowley to lift his game as T&T prime minister

I don’t know what plans he has for his vacation, but I strongly recommend to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley that he spend all of it in solitary self-confinement seeking guidance from whatever deity or deities he believes in regarding his leadership capabilities.

I don’t care whether it’s an ashram, a monastery or Papa Neezer’s shrine, I honestly believe that Keithos can benefit from a mega-dose of divine intervention to help him determine whether he has what it takes to lead this cussed country out of the morass it has been mired in for decades.

Photo: PNM political leader Dr Keith Rowley (centre) gives his victory speech at Balisier House on 7 September 2015, flanked by his wife Sharon Rowley (right) and daughter Sonel. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: PNM political leader Dr Keith Rowley (centre) gives his victory speech at Balisier House on 7 September 2015, flanked by his wife Sharon Rowley (right) and daughter Sonel.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

By now, he must recognise that his leadership of the nation has fallen short of the expectations of most citizens. That after almost one year at the helm his Government has nothing tangible to show.

So much so that, if it continues in this mode, it would be stricken with rigor mortis and, rather than mark its anniversary with a celebration on September 7, it should hold a wake.

This Government has not cleaned a drain, fixed a pothole, installed a street light, brought water to the thirsty, reined in galloping crime, created new jobs, built or completed a new school…

The only thing it can boast of is that, thus far, none of its ministers or top officials has stolen from the public purse. And that might be more because the coffers are empty rather than any moral rectitude on their part.

To misuse a scientific term, the inertia in governance is explosive.

Look, those of us who are not sycophants of one brand or other know that Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her gang raped the country every which way and blew close to TT$300 billion in five years with precious little to show for it.

Photo: Former Sport Minister and Central FC chairman Brent Sancho (second from right) is flanked by ex-Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and former World Cup 2006 star and Central coach Stern John during the opening of the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia in 2015. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Former Sport Minister and Central FC chairman Brent Sancho (second from right) is flanked by ex-Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and former World Cup 2006 star and Central coach Stern John during the opening of the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia in 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

They borrowed money to increase the public debt, and owed every dog and his brother more billions when they were booted out of office.

In fact, their abuse of power and misuse of money were what caused the electorate to kick them hard in their butts one year ago.

We also know that energy revenues fell precipitously since the PNM took office. For example, it dropped from TT$6.15 billion to TT$1.67 billion between October 2015 and January 2016—and possibly worse between February and July—rendering management of the economy a nightmare.

But you know what, Keithos? We are fed up hearing what Kamla and her gangsters did or did not do.

The only time you and your Cabinet colleagues should mention their names henceforth is to announce their arrests, detail the charges against them, and to tell us what cells they occupy in prison.

Failing that, I’ll say like CLR James used to: shut up!

While money is important to do most things a government needs to do, there are many more things that a good leader can say or do to inspire or motivate his or her people. Britain’s economy and its war machinery were inferior to Nazi Germany’s when Winston Churchill rallied his countrymen to make immense sacrifices, millions of lives included, to turn the tide and defeat Hitler.

Photo: Then Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley (second from left) and MP Donna Cox (centre) walk through Troumacaque, Laventille. (Copyright news.gov.tt)
Photo: Then Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley (second from left) and MP Donna Cox (centre) walk through Troumacaque, Laventille.
(Copyright news.gov.tt)

But to achieve such goals, one must lead by example—drive ordinary vehicles, eliminate lavish receptions, eat local and let people see you do that. And, most of all, ensure that you, your family and Cabinet colleagues are above reproach.

I know the ideals I’m setting out are tough on a people who have grown accustomed to living the good life. But if you want to change people’s work ethic, their lifestyles and adjust their expectations during harsh times, you must first change and adjust yours.

The motto at Sandhurst, the military academy where I was trained and from which I graduated exactly 50 years ago, is simply: “Serve to lead”.

What am I asking of the Prime Minister? Example one: runaway crime, especially murders, is of urgent and critical concern. Inspector Michael Seales, president of the representative association, is reported as saying to a call by Minister Edmund Dillon for an intensification of joint army-police patrols, we’ll cooperate—but pay us our money first.

In other words, your money or your life, which is preposterous, coming from a senior police officer.

Photo: Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams. (Copyright 103FM)
Photo: Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams.
(Copyright 103FM)

As leader of the nation, the PM should address police officers directly and rally them to engage in a massive, sustained assault against the 10,000 or so criminals who are terrorising the nation.

With no apologies to General Dillon, this is no time for “architecture”, this is a time for war, a fight to the finish.

Likewise, the PM must “ground” with public servants, daily-paid workers, teachers, energy sector workers, CEPEP, URP, farmers—in other words, everyone from whom you are demanding productivity—and motivate them to rescue the nation from the brink of becoming a failed state.

This is not about micromanagement, this is about leadership of a calibre we’ve never had in our history.

It’s a tall order.

Keithos either has it, or he doesn’t.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. (Copyright News.Gov.TT)
Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(Copyright News.Gov.TT)

Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read Raffique Shah’s follow-up column as he offers an apology and expresses concern for the health of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley; and opens up on his own life with Parkinson’s Disease.

About Raffique Shah

Raffique Shah
Raffique Shah is a columnist for over three decades, founder of the T&T International Marathon, co-founder of the ULF with Basdeo Panday and George Weekes, a former sugar cane farmers union leader and an ex-Siparia MP. He trained at the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was arrested, court-martialled, sentenced and eventually freed on appeal after leading 300 troops in a mutiny at Teteron Barracks during the Black Power revolution of 1970.

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324 comments

  1. I see nothing wrong with the statement… In my humble view someone’s seems to be pulling the strings and the PM has not been assertive when required… More reaction oriented rather than proactive… Value for money… Why not… Up your game…

    • Certainly its true in this crucial days we need a PM who will think of the entire nation…. Not women… Not his race of ppl ….. Not ppl of his religion…. But all of us…. Children of trinidad and tobago…. We should come first before building painting vacation he criticize Kamla but doin the same thing….. Whats up with, that? He should be doing better than kamla not tryin to give her competition in the travel department.

    • Angel Singh Did you tell Kamla that.

  2. Hmm, these words from Raffique Shah, PNM journalist? Well look at that.

  3. It’s like licensing office. The reason it is inefficient is because it benefits a select few.

    • I spent 8 years as a contract worker in 2 different public service entities. It is inefficient because we are a country with zero leaders. We seem to be children of slaves and indentured servants not children of massa. Take our police officers who beg us to follow the law instead of them enforcing the law. We blame workers instead of management, children instead of parents..

    • So basically things will only change considerably when those old minds die out..I know that’s cold but many don’t like or agree to change.

      • There are ample 20 and 30 something year olds with the same useless mentality. And they are “highly qualified”. This coming from someone that abandoned public service in 2 entities after 8 years.

    • No. There are people already waiting to take their places.
      The system won’t die. It has to be killed. There is a difference.

  4. The status quo benefits a whole set of very powerful people who are wizards behind the curtain.

  5. I think politicisns can never be adequately encouraged to implement real improvement when society is too country bookie to know what real improvement consists of.

  6. Glenda. That will only work if the powers that be are ignorant and not malevolent.

  7. Rishi Maharaj has done some excellent work on public sector reform. In the long term, we need that and an overhaul of the judiciary to be a proper functioning nation.
    In the meantime, we just need to stop the damn rot, which is corruption and lack of transparency.

    • The first step in changing the judiciary is to put its budget in the Consolidated Fund. I’ve said before: “How a judiciary can be truly independent if the finances are squeezed at the neck by the administration, controlled of course by the legislative Parliament, via the Cabinet?

      One only has to remember Patrick Manning and his mere pittance of $42.5 M allocated to the judiciary in 2009, a direct attempt to ‘muzzle’ the judiciary. Never mind that the request to pay salaries and other expenses was for $349 M.

      Essentially, every year the judiciary is strangled for the want of funds, making it dependant on the administrative arm of the State. This is completely against one of the fundamental principles espoused in the rule of law (a term conveniently bandied about by Moonilal, Rambachan et al when it suits them) as postulated by Dicey, Unger, Raz and lately Tom Bingham in his excellent book, “The Rule of Law”.

      If a judiciary is dependent on the administration financially, then it can never be truly independent, hence in the UK, where the judiciary is the most mature (oldest) in the free world, the finances are paid out of the Consolidated Fund.

      “Certain expenditure is by law charged directly to the Consolidated Fund and is not subject to Parliament’s annual budget process, ensuring a degree of independence of the government. Services funded in this way are known as Consolidated Fund Services and include judges’ salaries,… In the case of the judges, this is to ensure the judicial independence introduced by the Act of Settlement 1701.”

      “I point out that this procedure is followed by countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius etc… and therefore no reason can be put forward why it should not be implemented in Trinidad and Tobago. Lack of political will is no excuse.

      “Perhaps it is time that the relevant change is made and the judiciary stops begging every year for the scraps fed to it by the central government. The judiciary is not a stray dog.”

  8. I guess I’ll be making a very controversial observation by asking that of all these brilliant minds on this thread – and I really mean brilliant, is any of you willing to volunteer your recommendations and suggestions to the ‘powers that be’? I feel sometimes like just taking a huge shovel and cleaning up everything and starting back from scratch. There are a lot of issues to be tackled and I know the government can’t tackle just one at a time, but if they could establish a document to list all the main issues and establish a task force to handle each one, I think we’ll see some real success, not fast, but real! We know it’s going to be difficult to change the ‘Trini culture’ but surely there must be a ‘workaround’. Just look at all these great ideas on this thread! What will it take to put some of them in action through the right channels?

  9. Timmy you giving us your whole manifesto breds. Keith, look the third party. Lol

  10. How could u lie so real PNM style. You know a lot of things were done in the last five years unlike PNM promises of many years that never materialised year after year same promises you forgot that? Change came the last five years and now it is time for Rowley to continue one year is coming soon

  11. Make us a more attractive tourist destination by decriminalization of Marijuana use.

  12. Take carerra and do a deal with a major casino chain and do a major gambling haven. Relax laws on drug use and prostitution on the island and tax the hell out of it

  13. Have the ministry of trade be used to facilitate trade agreements with chambers of commerce in other jurisdictions to aid locals

  14. Build a business website portal like ebay where allllll citizens will be encouraged to sell their goods and services.

  15. Some simple things to do to increase revenue and Crack down on big crime. Let nlcb control allllll casinos

  16. Campaign finance reform is the most pressing issu. Who pays the piper calls the tune.

  17. Vernal Damion Cadogan, I’d start with campaign finance transparency, an independent watchdog body to investigate ministers and MPs, give DPP its own investigative team, release info on clico, not hire ministers or advisors with dodgy track records, review the speed limit and not just the fines, instigate economic growth in your budget, be transparent in your financial dealings… That’s off the top of my head. I would probably come up with more if I thought of it.
    But why not start there?

  18. i wanted to call Raff after reading this to say right pn point!!!

  19. Patrick manning and kamla rode another energy boom and in 2016 we still TALKING about diversification.

  20. In response to the recent spate of murders the authorities said it was unacceptable and launched joint police army patrols.

  21. Before 2010 election gg said he had a 100 day crime plan.

  22. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

  23. I agree only that crime is a pressing issue. In my view the rest is premature, and in not sure about the statement that no drains are being fixed etc. Just as the call is for leadership we’ve never had before, Raff must bear in mind that the inherited conditions have never been the same before either. It’s difficult to ask a frustrated population to be patient, but perhaps that what we need to be- except for crime. Id like to see action on crime yesterday.

  24. I wasn’t going to comment eh, but how about someone list the most urgent improvements that needed to be made the Rowley administration when it took office, then list how many have been made in their 11 month yenure thus far.

  25. Even if Keith Rowley said: Vote for me, I will just slightly better than horrible. I don’t see that as justification to say: Well he never promised to be good.
    Criticism comes with the post of prime minister and people have a right to expect a certain quality. If anyone not able with that, they shouldn’t run for office.

    • But the thing is as well, its not like they just dropped out of a spaceship and has no idea what the country needs.

    • I’m not sure what passage you’re quoting. And I actually don’t agree with everything Raf said. I don’t believe the police will do a better job at curbing crime with a pep talk for instance.
      But I do agree with his general theme.

    • Oh yea, this same article… in addition to pep talk to officers there’s an entire paragraph making reference to Churchill and Hitler, plus ‘he must ‘ground’ with public servants etc’..that’s a critique about ‘style’.. leadership style…and he confirmed it in his last line. “Keithos either has it, or he doesn’t.”. I’m saying the electorate did not vote for him because of the ‘it’ factor. They have their expectations of him and they are going to judge him whenever he decided to call the general election. I don’t think the electorate realistically expected much more in 11 months given the circumstances.

  26. OK. I’ve read this for a fourth time. (Yes, It’s a slow day in the office.) It also seems to be a slow news period and Raffique needs to write something, but he should reminded of a couple things.
    Keith Rowley did not campaign as an inspirational or motivational leader of the PNM. He never portrayed himself that way. It’s not his style. His leadership of the PNM has been in the style of a pragmatist; Trinidad and Tobago saw this since 2010 and decided to elect him to office. That’s who TnT elected, they knew who they were getting.
    I ain’t expert on Trinis, but I don’t think he knows them any better than I do. He is selling trinis a little short on their understanding of the tough economic times ahead and the path they recently came from. People want things better, but they DO understand the current economic realities. Though he dismisses the fact that no snr official has ‘stolen from the public purse’, that does not play lightly with the average citizen. They respect that and though he was highly disrespectful and insulting in suggesting they probably havent stolen because there’s nothing to steal, maybe he should also infer that this was as a result of the careful consideration taken in selecting individuals to serve in government. Mr. Shah may not see it that way, but that’s LEADERSHIP. And if ‘slip’ like Marlene did, you’re out. Again, LEADERSHIP.
    So let him hold his pontification on ‘leadership styles’ and let the public decide. If there’s corruption, report it, but let the electorate give THEIR judgement on what type of leader they want.
    Fyi, you should know that cabinet ministers do not announce or get involved in arrests. That’s for the DPP and the TTPS. (There’s a good story for next week.)

  27. I can concur with Raf on the disappointment of what has been done so far to control the incidence of crime. I think that this Government as well as past and future Governments are all doomed to failure, unless and until we make the Police, the Judiciary and the DPP accountable to us the people. The separation of powers, although commendable, is not working for us and is allowing these agencies to become lethargic and highly inefficient, and dare I also say apparently very corrupt. In order for any Government to control crime, fundamental changes have to be made in the operations of the Police, the Judiciary and DPP.

  28. Maurice, the problem with Singapore’s “War on Drugs” is that it allows the police to decide who lives and dies. Can you think of many policemen who you would be happy to give that power to? Not for me.

  29. Thanks for mentioning Singapore we could learn so much from that model, but our leaders are afraid to look that way.

    • Singapore cannot work here. It works well in an Asian culture. Why that is so difficult to comprehend. Not saying that we cannot be more disciplined but telling me I cannot chew gum is not how I want to live my live.

  30. Why do we expect change when we ourselves do not want to change and more importantly want to maintain the status quo. I am firmly of the view that we like it so. Now does that not sound familiar?

  31. Who is more blight than khamliar you people have no respect was khamliar any kind of leader Keith Rowley ‘s head is always on his shoulders not on a bottle

  32. After a while, you are able to spot the duck at the first quack. You don’t need to see it make three laps in the pond to be sure. Lol

  33. Shah this is not 1970……

  34. well damn…thought I was cynical lol

  35. ..Allyuh too busy listening to allyuh self to understand what somebody else saying. Say what? Trini life. I gone..

  36. Yes. But I’ve been down this road before. As they say you can’t turn a “hoe” into a housewife.

  37. Well as dey say…its the first year….HOPEFULLY and literally…there IS time for them to “buck up”..so we’ll see

  38. went and blight Jamaica 7 dead , the last major storm 20yrs ago GILBERT and 2 person died

  39. I won’t describe it as buyer’s remorse either. Because I was voting out a bunch of scamps that could not be left in charge for a minute longer.
    At the same time, I would like a particular behavior and vision from a political leader and his or her gang. And I’m not satisfied on that score.

  40. Honestly couldn’t be bothered with de lot of dem to be honest Lasana Liburd…very cynical I am…voted for the very first time in my life in Sept 2015…for the PNM….and YES almost one year later….I quite literally would do it again!…lol…no buyer’s remorse here…and very little expectations overall

  41. Nath Johnson you saw something that I didn’t in the COP. Clearly.
    The COP launched at the controversial Centre of Excellence after Jack Warner convinced Dookeran to go it alone.
    So, for me, it was very easy to spot the quicksand that the COP was built on.
    It was never an alternate party. Some people just were not looking closely enough.
    No Animal Farm business there at all. More like the Big Bad Wolf wearing granny’s nightie.

  42. Nah never me!! lol…saw right through em…and as you say maybe not YOU…but this discussion isn’t on an individual level is it?…I’m talking about the general idea of those opposed to the present two party donkeys as you referred to it waiting or expecting a different “party mechanism” (or otherwise) to solve the problem of the two dominant ones…you self mentioned something coming from “the left”…no?…I’m just more cynical than you lot I guess, our malaise is reflection of us…nothing more or less

  43. Yeah right….come on MAGICIAN Keith..bring it on, wave your magic wand!

  44. ..Who talked about any “Super Party”? AND who says the COP convinced those who would like a!third force that they were it? You maybe. Not me. Yet another version of the other two. All I am saying is the two donkey race we have always had is a waste of time. Now whether a third force could really arise, who knows..

  45. We as a people need to think for our selves logic smh

  46. Nolder PierreI couldn’t agree with you more. When Kamla was travelling all over the place via helicopter where were the voices. Everybody has suddenly been cured of laryngitis. Smh.

  47. You’re majoring in the minor…sir, my overall point remains the same…there is no “super party” waiting in the wings to “save” us….like I said watch how the “moral” conscience of the PP (the COP) fared in governance and that’s ALL you need to know…they reminded me quite firmly of Animal Farm