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MEDIA MONITOR: Property tax and personal positions before patriotism?

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.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (centre) with fellow People's Partnership leaders (from left) David Abdullah, Ashworth Jack, Prakash Ramadhar and Makandal Daaga during their term in office. (Copyright Trinidad Guardian)
Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (centre) with fellow People’s Partnership leaders (from left) David Abdullah, Ashworth Jack, Prakash Ramadhar and Makandal Daaga during their term in office.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

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.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Look Loy (second from left) and Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro (right) dance to calypso after a meeting at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on 5 December 2016. (Copyright AFP 2017/Federico Parra)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley (second from left) and Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro (right) dance to calypso after a meeting at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on 5 December 2016.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Federico Parra)

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.

Photo: Princes Town MP Barry Padarath. (Courtesy TTonline.org)
Photo: Princes Town MP Barry Padarath.
(Courtesy TTonline.org)

“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.”

Photo: A satirical take on property tax.
Photo: A satirical take on property tax.

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.”

Photo: A satirical take on the media.
Photo: A satirical take on the media.

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.

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)

AboutEarl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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45 comments

  1. Partly responsible? I say wholly responsible

  2. Do the people have nothing to do with the current state?

  3. Our country had been doing well with oil/gas revenues for several years.
    It’s our patrimony and we deserve to benefit. So no property tax is a great notion which I support.
    We are in harder times – but there’s MUCH OVER-SPENDING, MIS-PRIORITISED spending, and CORRUPTION STILL.
    The money which gov’t hopes to collect in property taxes could be found if they work on better MONEY MANAGEMENT.
    ($10 mill on a Sea Lots walkover which will NOT be used, for example).

  4. I’m beginning to think SC means “Stupid Cow”.

    No evidence of any legal thoughts, or training.

  5. I wonder what do people see when they look back at the UNC.
    Do they see increases in the relief of needy.
    Do they see an economy that was healthy and showing growth.
    Do they see the tremendous infrastructure works done throughout the country.
    Do they see a good vessel servicing Tobago. Lol
    Do they see a Govt that was concerned with people’s problems.
    Do they see signs of corruption without proof, just like any and every pass regime.
    Do they see the tremendous wastage that was symtomatic of the PNM between 2010 to 2015.

    Do you see anything better or worse under this clueless duncey snobbish PNM. LOL

    • Earl Best

      Mr Seeram,
      I dare not presume to speak for “people” but I certainly will speak for one person, me.

      I do see a “clueless duncey snobbish PNM,” which for me is emphatically NOT a laughing matter.

      But I do NOT see “a Govt that was concerned with people’s problems” but I do see a govt that was concerned with self-enrichment and enrichment of a few people, party financiers and other supporters, which, in case you’re not certain, is emphatically NOT the same thing.

      I do NOT see “tremendous infrastructure works done throughout the country” but I see tremendous contracts sums paid to people who were supposed to be undertaking “infrastructure works (…) throughout the country” which, in case you’re not certain, is emphatically NOT the same thing.

      I do NOT see “increases in the relief of needy” but I do see tremendous increases in the sums of money spent on relief of the needy which, in case you’re not certain, is emphatically NOT the same thing.

      And I do NOT see “the tremendous wastage that was symtomatic of the PNM between 2010 to 2015” but I do see tremendous wastage between 2010 to 2015 which, in case you’re not certain, is emphatically NOT the same thing.

      Thanks for the opportunity to set you right but I have no illusions about persuading you to change your mind about voting for the UNC the next time elections come around.

      After all, seeing the light and doing what’s right are emphatically not the same thing, particularly, I make bold enough to say, for those who habitually vote for the UNC.

    • No
      No
      No
      No
      Yes
      No
      No
      Poorly framed question. But Yes to tremendous wastage 2010-2015.

  6. Good write. Sums up the UNC very well.

  7. “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.” He is not a PNM, he’s not anti PNM, he is a patriot and anti UNC at the same time. I wonder why since the same accusations leveled at the UNC are applicable to the PNM under Patrick Manning.

    • Earl Best

      Mr Johnson,
      You are usually a perceptive reader and much too even-handed a commentator to imply that I voted for the UNC. Between 1976 and 2015, I voted for no one party at any time (“decades of deliberate none-of-the-aboveness”) although I voted in all but one of the general elections held.

      Suffice it to say that I abandoned my stance to vote against the UNC, which was demonstrably simply not capable of disinterested governance.

      As for the accusations levelled against the PNM, the most damning ones came for Keith Rowley. That may explain why he has surrounded himself with a bunch of sycophants who are only able to bungle their way through somehow, perhaps until the next elections are constitutionally due, perhaps not…

  8. Gov’t should ban Grey goose so you could think clearer.

  9. I am calling for a full investigation into all aspects of the invitation, awarding ,the building and the outfitting if the contracts for the Couva Hospital before any operational move.

  10. Thank you for summing up the lack of patriotism seemingly imbedded in the UNC administration, so well. Unfortunately for them, Trinis no longer have short term memories. Their criticism of decisions by the current regime to dip into the Heritage and Stabilistation Fund suggests to me that they would rather we suffer the same fate as Venezuela.

    • Trinis do indeed have short term memories.

      We conveniently forget the enormous wastage and lack of progress in this country between 2001 to 2010.

      Now the country have the same clueless, no plan, regime and people still do not remember.

    • So basically you are saying before the UNC, the country was well run, and it’s been well run after?
      The fact is that NEITHER party are worthy to lead us.
      We need to be a TRINI first, and cut out this nonsensical sycophant behaviour.

      • Earl Best

        “…you are saying before the UNC, the country was well run, and it’s been well run after…”

        Sorry, Gregory, you’ve got the wrong man; I am saying no such thing as any reasonably literate reader would be able to discern. What I am saying is that, under the UNC, the country was NOT well run. Quite the contrary, in fact! Kamla and her cravachous minions ran the country into the ground.

        So much so that, when I had the option, in orderto ensure that we would at least have a chance of being well run, I voted for a party which I did not then and do not now support.

        In the event, we got exchange instead of change. But I am resolved to go with the deep red PNM sea any day if the alternative is the yellow UNC devil.

        I think you should join me but I won’t hold my breath.

  11. I want a clean community, well policed, garbage collection etc, so I will pay my Property Tax.

  12. Who paying the property tax on the mansion next to the pink palace?

  13. Who have cocoa in sun looking out fuh rain

  14. You have truly conceptualized our very thoughts. Their love for us is outstanding. Their acceptance for our downfall clearly went cleanly over their heads. What a caring bunch they are

  15. They are partly responsible for what the country is going through right now. You all really feel they care about the citizens of this country? They are only concern about their personal gains.

    • Surely most people see that. Although you can argue that is true of most politicians, no matter the party.

    • Why you say “partly responsible”?

    • Well it wasn’t paradise before either. And there is a reason why govts have changed regularly in the last three decades.

    • Lasana Liburd the fact that the last Prime Minister we had complete two full terms was Eric Williams should indicate how thorny our problems are. We can’t seem to break out of this middle income trap.

      • Earl Best

        I’m not sure, Dan, not sure at all. Might it not be increased political sophistication among the elements that make up the electorate? Alternatively, might it not be comparatively much less sophistication among the elements that make up the political leadership? It it also possible to attribute that outcome to the subsequent political leaders’ inability or unwillingness to tackle causes rather than symptoms, is it not?

        Or it might quite simply be that Albert Camus is right and every country – and every century – gets the political leaders it deserves. The fault, to quote Shakespeare, is not in our stars but in ourselves.

  16. The idea of a sitting Opposition Leader and former Prime Minister openly calling on citizens not to comply with the law is yet another example of the fundamental unfitness for office of KPB.

    Not defending the (flawed) property tax, although I think it is a good idea. But this is disgusting. Challenge it in court, fine. But the law is the law. And you are a legislator. What is to stop people from calling on citizens to refuse to comply with laws she would enact if (God forbid) she returns to power? She would have no standing to contest this.

    The fact that the PNM did not vociferously condemn those statements is also irresponsible. The authority of duly enacted laws should not go undefended against demagogic rhetoric.