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Demming: Trying to put pandemic in pan’s way is putting democracy at risk

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) is now run by a non-elected normalisation committee appointed by the sport’s world umbrella body, The Federation of International Football Associations (Fifa).

Led by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, our Parliament acted to override the collective will of Tobagonians when their election results said please lead us with a 6/6 split.

Photo: Robert Hadad is co-CEO of Hadco and board member at the International School in POS.
Hadad was appointed head of Fifa’s normalisation committee in Trinidad and Tobago on 27 March 2020.
(Copyright Gary Jordan Photography ©2017)

The Pan Trinbago Executive has extended its term of office by another three years.

What these three examples communicate to me is that we are pushing towards autocratic styles of leadership instead of seeking to ensure that people are allowed to exercise their democratic rights. The central idea behind democracy is to provide followers with an opportunity to validate leadership, which we do via the electoral process.

Elections provide an opportunity for officials to be held accountable and to seek a fresh mandate. Followers look to leaders to act in their best interests as well as to provide ACT: accountability, collaboration and transparency.

In the absence of these three intangibles, either autocrats will emerge or chaos will reign.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, our country has held two in-person national elections and we are currently preparing for a third, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Elections.

Photo: PDP political leader Watson Duke (centre) poses with supporters in Tobago.
(via PDP)

Banks, financial institutions, credit unions and voluntary organisations have all held their elections using technology and blended approaches. If collectively we have the wisdom, capacity and technology to hold elections, why is Pan Trinbago using Covid-19 as the reason for not honouring their constitutional obligation?

If, as reported, the majority of their members have supported deferring the elections, I wonder how this majority was measured. If it was done online, then it follows that you can certainly hold your elections online as well.

If it was done in-person, then the excuse offered is hollow!

If it is true that the majority of their members are unvaccinated, then isn’t this an excellent opportunity to come out in support of the national vaccination drive?

I expect that, as a woman in leadership, the Pan Trinbago president will act in our collective best national interest. That, I submit, means promoting the vaccination drive to increase the numbers of fully vaccinated citizens and assist in a direct way in the fight against the uncompromising pandemic.

Photo: Pan Trinbago president Beverley Ramsey-Moore (right).

It also means, I suggest, demonstrating that although she may not be an internet native and may be in an age cohort which is largely resistant to technological change, she is willing and enthusiastic to embrace technology to find solutions to our myriad problems.

A way to vote freely and fairly is just one of them.

The election of president Beverley Ramsey-Moore heralded a wave of hope for forward thinking and doing things right.

I hope she is aware that her reluctance not to say refusal to seek to re-validate her leadership can completely undo whatever good she may so far have done.

Please, madam, hold the elections.

Photo: A steelpan, as dazzlingly beautiful as the music it makes.
(via Carlos Lezama/Caribbean Center)

The following is an edited version of a response to the above, which was appended to the story as a comment under the pen name Fact Check. The contents make clear that the writer is speaking for and on behalf of the organisation:

Pan Trinbago Inc holds a convention which, according to its constitution, calls for 60% of its members to be present.

A lot of persons are giving their opinions not based on what our constitution calls for but based on what the minority of our membership is spreading through a negative narrative for their personal gains.

I suggest that our very public constitution be reviewed before we write on matters from a one-sided narrative.

I am a former student of Ms Demming and I would think that, even for an opinion piece, she would have reached out to Pan Trinbago for comment.

The convention is where officers are elected. It it NOT like the THA or the General Elections where persons can come, vote and leave.

According to the Constitution, unless there is 60% of the members PRESENT, the convention cannot convene. So before one member can vote, 60% must be there present at the meeting.

Photo: A steelband side in Trinidad and Tobago shows off its musical wares..
(via Ministry of Tourism)

It is unfortunate that the minority (because the Central Executive’s decision has received 70% endorsement from its member bands) is spreading this false narrative and persons are eating it up.

Of course, the convention will happen. And whoever informed Ms Demming that the decision was to extend the term of office by three years is also misleading her as the decision is for only a postponement until health regulations allow for us to meet.

If our members do not want to have the Zoom meeting, are we to ignore the 70% for the minority who choose to spread lies?

Our constitution is available for all via the Pan Trinbago website. Do not be dismayed by persons who want the organisation to breach its constitution, even with 70% endorsing the decision.

In the meantime, we have connected with the Ministry of Digital Transformation, which will allow internet in all our pan yards and will continue to ready them for the new world of technology.

In the meantime, we have already been in relations with the Ministry of Health and have partnered in a vaccination drive.

Photo: Shortly after taking his own shot, CMO Dr Roshan Parasram urges citizens to follow his lead and get the Covid-19 vaccine.
(via MoH)

In the meantime, we have sent out surveys to our members to discern their vaccination status.

In the meantime, we have hosted over ten virtual shows in the past year in keeping with the new technology.

Our members are important to us and we stand with the 70% of them who have endorsed the decision, not to extend the term of  office by three years, but to postpone the CONVENTION until health regulations allow for our 60% gathering.

Listening to the vessels who represent the minority and running with it does no good for the Pan Movement.

The convention will happen.

Editor’s Note: Columnists are well within their rights to write on the basis of the totality of the facts available in the public domain. They are under no obligation to go in search of more complete facts although, obviously, it is their prerogative so to do.

About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming
Dennise Demming grew up in East Dry River, Port of Spain and has more than 30 years experience as a Communication Strategist, Political Commentator and Event Planner. She has 15 years experience lecturing Business Communications at UWI and is the co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain. Dennise holds an MBA, a B.Sc. in Political Science & Public Administration and a certificate Mass Communications from UWI.

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11 comments

  1. Pan Trinbago Inc. Holds a convention which according to its constitution, calls for 60% of its members to be Present.

    A lot of persons are leaving their opinions not based on what our constitution calls for but based on what the minority of our membership a spreading through a negative narrative for their personal gains.

    I suggest that our very public constitution be reviewed before we write on matters from a one-sided narrative.

    I am a former student of Ms Demming and I would think that even with an opinion, she would have reached out to Pan Trinbago for comment.

    In the convention is where officers are elected. It it NOT like THA or General Elections where persons can come, vote and leave.

    According to the Constitution, unless there is 60% of the members PRESENT, the convention cannot convene. So before 1 member can vote, 60% must be there present at the meeting.

    It is unfortunate that the minority (because the Central Executive’s decision has received 70% endorsement from its Member Bands) is spreading this false narrative and persons are eating it up.

    Of course the convention will happen. And whomever informed Ms Demming that the decision was to extend office to 3 years, is also misleading her as the decision is only a postponement until health regulations allow for us to meet.

    If our members do not want to have the zoom meeting, are we to ignore the 70% for the minority who chose to spread lies.

    Our constitution is available for all via the Pan Trinbago website. Do not be dismayed by persons who want the organization to breach its constitution, even with 70% endorsing the decision.

    In the mean time we have connected with the Ministry of Digital transformation which would allow internet in all our pan yards and will continue to ready them for the new world of technology.

    In the mean time, we have already been in relations with the ministry of health and have partnered with a vaccination drive.

    In the mean time we have sent out surveys to our members to discern their vaccination status.

    In the mean time we have hosted over 10 virtual shows in the past year, in keeping with the new technology.

    Our members are important to us and we stand with 70% of them who have endorsed the decision, not to Extend for 3 years, but to postpone the CONVENTION until health regulations allow for our 60% gathering.

    Listening to the vessels who represent the minority and running with it, does no good for the Pan Movement.

    The convention will happen.

    • The constitution clearly states that any elected Executive SHALL hold office for three years from the date of being elected to office. Ms Demming is perfectly right that to disobey thst is to court anarchy and autucacy. Covid19 is absolutely no excuse to defer or suspend elections. The most important item of the triennial convention is ELECTIONS. All other items should be shelved and proceed to elections,as was done in the past.
      If there are concerns about large gatherings, then Pantrinbago is ideally suited to conduct the elections regionally since we have four regional offices. If people line up for vaccines, why can’t we do the same to vote.
      Pantrinbago operates on a delegate system,two to each band.
      Voting is a sacred and fundamental right to the membership.
      To deny this right when it is due is setting the wrong precedent and to court anarchy and unrest.

      • Because if you know the Pan Trinbago Inc. Constitution, then you would know that your regional voting idea is unconstitutional as the constitution clearly states that 60% of its members must be present before the convention can start.
        Let me break it down again. Before one member can go up to vote, 60% of the members have to be already there. Regional elections are a different thing.
        You are right. It is sacred to the membership and 70% of them have endorsed, stamped and signed as agreeing to postpone at this time.
        If you are part of the minority who do not agree, that is okay. But this executive was elected to serve Its membership and the majority of members have spoken.
        Respect their voice even if you have your personal negative feelings for the sitting Executive.
        The members have spoken.

        • The membership cannot officially speak through a petition. No matter how many members sign a petition, it remains a petition until it is moved in a meeting,debated and passed by a majority vote. The constitution must not be conveniently uaed by anyone to his/her advantage regardless of rank.

        • The constitution never states that the 60% must be in the same place. Therefore, the 60%can be verified regionally. Furthermore, the effort to get the claimed 70% to agree to postponement should have been spent in having the ELECTIONS. IF you claim to have majority support, what’s the fesr?

    • A perusal of pantrinbago’s constitution will reveal that the above remarks are not entireky true. The constitution clearly states when an election should be held. It is not up to the whims and fancies of the President or the Central Executive.

    • Thanks for your thorough response.

      My interest is in democracy and the entire world has pivoted to suit changed circumstances. Those organizations where a process is prescribed cannot hold onto outmoded forms. Today’s leadership must be nimble, flexible, and forward-thinking. Three years ago, the date for the election was known. Two years ago, the pandemic was declared.

      When the state of emergency and lockdown were instituted, the potential impact would have been obvious, giving the executive enough time to prepare for a different form of elections without going against the constitution.

      I have no skin in this game other than my interest in the national movement. The outcome of the elections is not in itself important to me but the process is.

      You should call the elections. Now.

      • It is evident that you do not comprehend the difference with our Convention and a usual election. I will explain no further.

        It’s okay to have written something and learn that what you wrote was incorrect.

        Our membership have spoken. If they are okay to postpone, you are saying we must adhere to what a non-member wants?

        We are here to serve our MEMBERSHIP. The information you wrote comes from the minority who, incase you are unaware are interested I’m serving and so continue to spread lies for personal gain.

        We are guided by our constitution and our membership.

        You are correct, you have no skin in this game. So to write something like this, without knowing our constitution, speaks volumes.

        Looking forward to seeing your SUPPORT when the organization has its events, both by patronizing and a lovely article.

      • Denise Demming, you are so right with your insight into this sordid affair.

    • The membership cannot officially speak through a petition. No matter how many members sign a petition, it remains a petition until it is moved in a meeting,debated and passed by a majority vote. The constitution must not be conveniently uaed by anyone to his/her advantage regardless of rank.