“Responsibility implies a degree of maturity which recognises that there is far more long-term mileage to be gained from finding solutions and marching forward while the opposition remains mired in finger-pointing tradition. Even if the real motivation on the campaign trail lies in the lust to win power—actions thus far have suggested nothing different—and to remain in the position of power past the end of the stipulated five-year term, then, logically, there is action to be taken to achieve those goals.”
The following Letter to the Editor was submitted to Wired868 by Sheldon Waithe who is a freelance writer on politics, sports, business and tourism:
“The UNC/PNM (delete as you deem appropriate) is responsible for the failed economy, for crime spiralling out of control, for rampant corruption, for travel woes, for the lack of production, etc, etc.”
It’s the blame game, that unnecessary and dangerous descent into adolescence (“It wasn’t us, Miss; it was like that when we got here”) so beloved of politicians in Trinidad & Tobago, where the practice is taken to unprecedented levels. With no signs of progress nor any signal that we are seeking to move forward, our politicians continue to choose the easy option of the blame game.
We have reached the point of stagnation. The Treasury is empty, we are told. But John Public and his liming friends were aware of this prior to the 2015 election so surely those sitting on the benches of Parliament—on both sides!—knew that as well? Surely they knew what they were going to meet if successful in the election and were able to plan ahead?
Except that, in our political culture, planning is not high on the list of necessary tools; for the latest major example of forecasting faux pas, witness the ferry fiasco.
The current problems were not created post-election. Before the handing over in 2015, the PNM recognised them from their Opposition perch. They robustly campaigned for responsibility for tackling them and now, whether they like it or not, they own them. They must know that repeatedly referring to the perceived source of the problems facing the nation will not magically solve them. But they continue this sterile exercise because blame-gaming and buck-passing are embedded in the fabric of our politics.
Despite our relative infancy as a nation which should encourage breaks with tradition, we seek not to break from our stymieing political culture. Our would-be governments seek the power but not the responsibility and we all know that, as we are constantly reminded by a well-known web spinner, the two go hand-in-hand.
Responsibility implies a degree of maturity which recognises that there is far more long-term mileage to be gained from finding solutions and marching forward while the opposition remains mired in finger-pointing tradition. Even if the real motivation on the campaign trail lies in the lust to win power—actions thus far have suggested nothing different—and to remain in the position of power past the end of the stipulated five-year term, then, logically, there is action to be taken to achieve those goals.
It ought to be a relatively easy exercise, given the numerous low-hanging fruit of issues to be tackled in the country. But it requires leadership. Governmental apathy has to be broken by the steeliness of political will. But if the leader is one of the chief culprits of schoolyard politics, then we cannot expect the shift to occur. No one will own up.
At the halfway point of the PNM’s term in office, we have ample proof. We see a Prime Minister who espoused all the tenets of new governance in a victory speech designed to quell the doubts about his leadership abilities and tug at the hearts and minds of a desperate electorate, which had hoped their voting out exercise would yield the bonus of an abandonment of the status quo but who has done nothing.
Photo: Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg, who stepped up and admitted that mistakes had been made in Facebook’s dealings with Cambridge Analytica.What we in fact have is a reversion to type. Sadly, the same philosophy that informed the wait in the Opposition benches has merely been transferred to the government side: blame them!
In the wake of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica revelations, social media mogul Mark Zuckerberg owned the scandal, its sources and, most importantly, its remedy. The very ethos of being at the helm means that that is where the buck stops. It was no less than his country and his customers expected or would accept.
That is a type of ownership failing that the T&T public has to take some responsibility for. We, the public, have to force change.
Having assessed the situation, instead of pursuing the beaten path of new avenues of taxation and adopting the short-term view of awaiting a rise—any rise—in global energy prices, an ethos of ownership of the nation’s finances would have forced immediate diversification action, such as one undertakes with one’s personal finances.
‘Owning’ the country’s borders would mean public recognition of the existence mere miles away of one of the world’s greatest failing economies and the resulting exodus. Immigration and refugee- and asylum-seekers has morphed into a major issue internationally. It should thus mean the development of plans to address a matter that has serious potential to alter the long-term future of T&T; instead, our government gives it a casual wave.
If government staff cannot solve the basic issue of travel between the two islands that constitute the nation, then own the matter and get other staff able to solve the problem.
If crime spirals out of control to hitherto unheard of levels and continues its steady ascent year upon year, it is not time merely for expressing sorrow at the situation. It is time to implement an all-encompassing plan to reverse the tragic situation. And stand by it.
The stagnation of the country is clearly reflected in the sameness of the politics through the revolving door of elections. Strip away the defining factor of race and there is no indication as to whether the party leans to the left or to the right; the population simply can’t tell what any party in T&T stands for.
It is time our politicians define a position and act upon it. It is time they own the problems they identified in their campaigns. The country requires a political party that is willing to make responsibility the defining element of what they do, which will set them apart from the nonchalance and unresponsibility that has been the political culture of the incumbent for 56-plus years.
Because, simply put, the essential political question is this: if you take no responsibility for the problems, what genuine efforts are you likely to make to solve them?