Home / View Point / Earl Best / Dear Dale Enoch: Who we go put?! NOTA is not a serious option for responsible citizens 

Dear Dale Enoch: Who we go put?! NOTA is not a serious option for responsible citizens 

I know I have a strong stomach. In my almost five decades as an adult, I have attended countless political meetings and have never once, as far as I remember, thrown up.

I almost did this morning.

Had I already broken my fast when I saw ‘50,000 NEW JOBS’ sprawled across the top of yesterday’s Express front page, I feel certain my breakfast would immediately have come rushing back into and out of my mouth.

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

The headline instantly put me in mind of a sentence I had read in Sunday’s Daly Bread column here on Wired868.

“I have repeatedly asserted,” Martin Daly wrote, “that the fundamental and unchanging practice of our politics is the persistent electoral battle to gain access to and control of the national cash register and the state enterprise sector.”

How true! Daly didn’t say it but he might have added ‘by any means necessary.’

Ask i95.5fm. What was on offer on that station during its Morning Show programme was a persistent reminder of the now time-worn phrase from Jean-Paul Sartre’s Les mains sales.

As if by accident, in the i95.5fm studio on the morning after the night before Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s new jobs announcement, was former would-be UNC political leader Vasant ‘Water-more-than-rice’ Bharath. He had come to reveal the formation of a new political grouping, Citizens’ Assembly. He told listening T&T that its members included old, familiar names like Stephen Cadiz and high-profile ex-PNMite, Louis Lee Sing. Their campaign of public education sessions, Bharath further revealed, ‘will start in the marginal constituencies.’

Oh? Yuh don’t say!

When asked, Bharath admitted that he remained a card-carrying member of the UNC. That, let us not forget, is the party which, in any general election, can campaign seriously or just twiddle their thumbs, jump high or jump low, lie, tief and stab would-be candidates in the back and still win 15 of the 39 Trinidad seats hands down.

Photo: Former UNC Agriculture Minister Vasant Bharath.

Do the math. There are seven so-called ‘marginal constituencies.’ Pluck a few hundred, a couple thousand feathers from PNM wings in the marginals and hey presto, what have we here?

Later, Lee Sing called in ‘to represent the Citizens’ Assembly.’ The chance telephone call—or so we are supposed to believe it was— began with a long, uninterrupted opening statement. This was followed by an even longer interview of the former i95.5fm boss by his two deferential, not to say obsequious, former employees. More than half a dozen times, the lips of Tony Lee and Dale Enoch parted to allow ‘Mr Lee Sing’ to roll off their tongue.

As my late mother would repeatedly warn, it’s not what you say but how you say it.

Earlier on, Enoch had been bellyaching about the parlous state of national politics and refusing even to consider voting for either of the two major parties. Lee had sought—in vain—to get him to see the obvious point that not to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea is in fact to make a choice anyway.

And, ‘holding my nose,’ Enoch had shared with the i95.5fm listenership his musical choice for the morning, Gypsy’s 2019 Calypso Monarch Finals offering, ‘When elephants fight.’

“This govament blame the last govament,” the lyrics say, presumably to Enoch’s great satisfaction, since I think he thinks they bring great grist to his none-of-the-above mill, “and then the last govament blame the one before. And then the next govament going to blame this govament and so the cycle continue on and on once more…”

Full disclosure: I was a committed, practised None-of-the-Aboveist. In the 1976 elections, given my first opportunity to exercise my civic right—it is NOT a civic responsibility—I voted for the candidate of my choice in Tunapuna. Whenever I voted in any of the nine subsequent general elections before 2015, dissatisfied with what was on offer, I registered a vote for every candidate listed on the ballot paper.

But after the collective experience of 2010-2015, I am very certain that such noneoftheaboveism is NOT an option we can afford.

Photo: PNM supporters poke fun at the outgoing Prime Minister on 7 September 2015 at Balisier House.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Mind you, I hold no brief for Dr Keith Rowley and his bunch of bunglers. The most cursory examination of the events of the last four years, even prior to the closure of Petrotrin, I submit, will show that we have been pretty badly served.

However, I am quite convinced that the People’s Partnership Regime that was deservedly rejected by the country in 2015 is easily the worst government T&T has ever had; in the finish line photo of that race, no other administration is even in the frame!

Not the cowering, pusillanimous ‘All ah we tief’ group that allowed Williams to walk all over them, not George ‘Duncy’ Chambers’ cabinet of innocents whom the country unceremoniously consigned to the dung heap of history, not Basdeo Panday’s rapacious ‘Is Indian time now’ troops nor Patrick Manning’s ‘collateral damage’ foot soldiers.

In government, KPB’s UNC redefined service as self-service. For them, politics was always preceded by the verb ‘play,’ an expression the ODE defines as to ‘act for political or personal gain rather than from principle.’

In opposition, they continuously give meaning and substance to their erstwhile political leader Panday’s assertion that it is not the responsibility of the opposition to make the government look good. They remain obsessed with electoral politics and their current political leader, she of the reckless 50,000 new jobs promise, signs off virtually every speech, no matter what the occasion being marked, with ‘and call elections now.’

“Once the electoral battle is won,” Daly comments in closing, “the winner takes care of its party financiers, faithful supporters, sycophants and those trading on tribal affiliation. This practice will continue whether we put the PNM or the UNC in power.”

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures to supporters at Balisier House after the election results on 7 September 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Daly, Dale, doesn’t dare say it but, like much of the education in this country, it’s merely a matter of degree(s).

So we would all be well advised to choose the lesser of the two evils lest our default lets the greater one sneak in the back door…with a little help from their friends!

And then we have to hold we nose and throw up fuh a nex’ five years.

Editor’s Note: Click HERE for a rebuttal from former journalist Siewdath Persad who tries to explain why Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar can deliver her promised 50,000 jobs.

About Earl 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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23 comments

  1. Earl Best here presents a persuasive-enough argument on the imperative for a ‘responsible citizen’ to cast a ballot for what he terms the lesser evil. Leaving aside the thorny issue of how our electorial system actually operates, however, I’m not entirely convinced by the reasoning presented. It seems to me that the very valid point raised aout the failures of every single one of our former governments could just as easily be an advertisement to adopt a NOTA position. Furthermore, if all our governments have been failures in one way or another, doesn’t this logically suggest that (not to be too cliché) our systems of governance are fatally flawed? (Either that or we’re just inevitable producers of an inept, selfish, opportunistic and venal ruling class.) Again, it seems to me that to denigrate the NOTA position to suggest that we ought to keep on voting for parties that you ‘hold no brief’ for is an argument for maintaining an unhealthy status quo that ironically only benefits the same political parties we apparently are continually disappointed with.

    Rather, we should diagnose the deficiences in our sytems of governance and assiduously seek the rectify them so that when elections occur they are more likely to result in a fruitful outcome as it pertains to the actual progress & development of our nation on the whole and not just for the well-placed parasitic oligarchy (to borrow a term). Not an easy undertaking, certainly, but no one should believe that governing ourselves responsibly would be. How Best manages to simultaneously reference, endorse and even extend Martin Daly’s pseudo-exposé on our eternal fight-to-gain-access-to-the-national-coffers brand of politics whilst arguing for rejecting only ONE of the offending parties is disappointing and lends itself to easy accusations of PNM propagandism. This piece may have been constrained by its particular focus but I would still have appreciated more analysis (however cursory) of the inadequacies of our systems of governance that inevitably lead to failing administrations and maybe even a plea for better alternatives to the dominant political parties (but again, the alternatives that have arisen from time to time tend to failure too, don’t they?) This I think in the long run is more valuable than remonstrating with citizens who might dare to look at the options and say “None of the above for me”.

    After all, shouldn’t a ‘responsible citizen’ refuse to cast a ballot for any candidate (or in this case apparently, any party) they do not believe is fit and therefore deserving of their vote? Doesn’t that sound like the considered actiions of a citizen who truly cherishes their individual right to vote? Nevertheless, I admit that the crux of Best’s argument is the notion that the present UNC as demonstrated in their previous tenure is simply too unfit & too potentially harmful to our nation to be allowed to gain office again. (Note how this argument readily positions the PNM by default as the party-in-waiting for government – practically their divine right, as many of their agents tend to insinuate.) Fine, but if this is your position, my take is instead of focusing attention for this possibility on the NOTA consituency maybe direct your arguments to the UNC’s possible voters (sounds crazy right).

    Which brings me to the curious matter of ‘responsibility’. Not, of course, the much-asserted responsibility to vote as opposed to the actual right to vote, that Best correctly notes, but the assignment of responsibility to the electorate for the party voted into power. Specifically, the electorate of marginal consituencies, and especially those inclined to the option of none-of-the-above. According to the math, these are the few who hold the power to decide the outcome of an election and elect a party (apparently) because, you see, all other constituencies are pretty much decided and the ballots of the balance of voters in the marginals are set in stone, you know. Leaving aside, yet again, the notion of whether this concentration of actual electoral power is desirable in a supposed democracy, the implication throughout is therefore that the responsibility to elect a worthwhile government rests solely with the NOTA constituency, as does the blame if a disastrously unsuitable administration were to gain office. Curious indeed! So voting is a right, not a responsibility, but its exercise is implied to be supremely imperative; to not choose wisely by deciding not to choose is worthy of special pleading lest these few should imperil the country with their not-choices. But nothing is said, because I suppose their blameworthiness is obvious enough, about the many who would happily cast real ballots for the author’s literally nauseous option. See what I mean about the curious burden of responsibility?

    Anyway, I’ve probably prattled on for too long.

  2. Earl Best

    “The dilemma in voting for the lesser evil means you’re still voting for evil.”

    Agreed. Dilemma it is. Because will evil not still be elected if you don’t vote? So until the system allows us to say that we want no government at all (as implied in Kevin Baldeosingh’s early comment), what do you suggest we do?

  3. Artículo 233. Serán faltas absolutas del Presidente o Presidenta de la República: la muerte, su renuncia, la destitución decretada por sentencia del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, la incapacidad física o mental permanente certificada por una junta médica designada por el Tribunal Supremo de Justicia y con aprobación de la Asamblea Nacional, el abandono del cargo, declarado éste por la Asamblea Nacional, así como la revocatoria popular de su mandato.

    Cuando se produzca la falta absoluta del Presidente electo o Presidenta electa antes de tomar posesión, se procederá a una nueva elección universal, directa y secreto dentro de los treinta días consecutivos siguientes. Mientras se elige y toma posesión el nuevo Presidente o Presidenta, se encargará de la Presidencia de la República el Presidente o Presidenta de la Asamblea Nacional.

    Cuando se produzca la falta absoluta del Presidente o Presidenta de la República durante los primeros cuatro años del período constitucional, se procederá a una nueva elección universal y directa dentro de los treinta días consecutivos siguientes. Mientras se elige y toma posesión el nuevo Presidente o Presidenta, se encargará de la Presidencia de la República el Vicepresidente Ejecutivo o Vicepresidenta Ejecutiva.

    En los casos anteriores, el nuevo Presidente o Presidenta completará el período constitucional correspondiente.

    Si la falta absoluta se produce durante los últimos dos años del período constitucional, el Vicepresidente Ejecutivo o Vicepresidenta Ejecutiva asumirá la Presidencia de la República hasta completar el mismo.

  4. Give David Abdullah a chance

  5. The dilemma in voting for the lesser evil means you’re still voting for evil.

  6. This bit of nonsense hardly deserves a comment. Earl Best hardly needs KPB to bring up his breakfast, as the bile and bitterness that consumes him as a product of Afro-centric politics will do just as good a job. He adds nothing to the debate. I am sure he feels better getting that load off his chest.

  7. David Abdullah,and Kafra Kambon are men of integrity and we need to return some semblance of interity to our political process

    • you wasting time with them fellas. is a whole new crew of independant candidates, people who represent their own communities , and NOT a conglomeration of interests.

    • “Men of Integrity”

      Men of Integrity don’t blackball and blacklist people because they refuse to patronize their BS.

      Nor do they fail to service citizenry on promises IF in fact they seek national service.

      We promote people based on PR, and the establishment. When areI wee gonna stop.

      Plus too, like Spencer said, its 2019 for crying out loud.

      Some of these guys have grey in their eyes.

      Jah.

      Is us citizens holding the country back yes.

      The men and lack.of women we still call and cite says everything about our growth and preparation

  8. Well articulated and succinct.

  9. Best’s argument is based on two false premises: (1) that one voters makes a difference to the outcome – in fact, the marginals means that just a few 100 votes decide which party gets office; (2) that government is a necessary institution for a society to function.