Disappointment and impatience cloak our land in the run-up to the Local Government elections. Oh, Gorm Man! When will we get serious about our life, children, and future?
A Lloyd Best quote captures our dilemma, which is the appalling lack of imagination and gravitas to tackle our nation’s problems:
“[…] We’d be hard put to explain our current predicament without reference to what might be described as the Moses conundrum. How does a nation revise the perspectives of the desert so as to form fertile empirical judgments of what is required by the Promised Land?
“Over and over, I’ve been minded to ask the question in terms of the need for the heritage of culture to find ways of escaping and breaking away from itself…”
We keep spinning top in mud because we lack “fertile empirical judgments about what is required to move us forward”. We see the problems but cannot analyse them to decipher the way out of our mess.
Leadership is an enormous piece of the puzzle, but institutional reform is another. We have leaders who live by the proverbial village standpipe and cannot help us imagine a better life. They refuse to do the hard work required, opting for platitudes to rile up the uninformed masses.
Let us look at Dr Keith Rowley. With his sidekick Stuart Young, the Prime Minister appears to be steadily making ground in the critical US relationship needed to monetise the Dragon and Manatee fields to secure our future.
If we ignore the local noise about the viability of the effort and peruse the international press, we will see the progress being made. We will see that Dr Rowley’s strategy of ignoring the hysteria of running to Marli Street by the Opposition is bearing fruit.
Young has been in Miami and now in Suriname while courting the Venezuelans. Dr Rowley has played a steady hand in corralling an initially weak position into a place of influence.
Dr Wayne Frederick of Howard University played a shrewd game with the bestowing of honorary doctorates on the US President, Dr Rowley, and Congressman James E Clyburn all in one fell swoop.
Do we remember Clyburn’s role in securing President Joe Biden’s victory? Forget the yapping crowd; do we understand what that networking opportunity means for our country?
Listen to President Biden’s fulsome praise for Dr Rowley: “[…] Thank you for being a strong partner in the Caribbean and addressing climate change, and supporting democracies across the Western hemisphere.”
Vice-President Kamala Harris followed up with a visit with the Caricom team. Note the essence of the Caricom statement:
“The Caribbean leaders stressed the importance of reform of the global financial system to mobilise short-term liquidity for crisis response and long-term funding for sustainable development, as proposed under the Bridgetown Initiative. They acknowledged the progress made to include Climate Disaster Clauses and noted that support is needed to finance Global Public Goods that address mitigating their vulnerability.
“Leaders recognised that to address the challenge of energy security; there must be a balanced approach to develop the region’s hydrocarbon resources and to maximise renewable energy potential. They agreed that the Caribbean-US engagement must continue to examine areas for deepened collaboration where opportunities exist.
“In the context of the bilateral relationship with the United States, Caricom Heads of Government urged for the removal of sanctions on Venezuela to allow countries in the Region to benefit from the PetroCaribe initiative and for progress on the exploitation of cross-border natural gas fields between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela. The leaders also reiterated Caricom’s consistent call for the removal of sanctions against Cuba.”
While we may quibble about the US role (and that discussion is essential), we should note that all but one of these issues are Trinidad’s talking points.
Why, then, does this Prime Minister descend into a village standpipe spat about Farley Augustine and his unfolding mess? Why the childish “I will not speak to him alone?”
Are you not the Prime Minister? All that is needed is to execute your desire to have a witness. Not a word is required.
Why injudiciously get sucked in when the Opposition trolls provoke?
Hear the two-term Prime Minister: “I have seen people make reference to my skin colour as if it is something that disqualifies me. That should not bother me…”
This is an old charge being recycled. Selwyn Ryan spoke about it. Let it go! Rise above the fray! Oh, gorm, man! Lead, nah! Be the statesman!
We have a bunch of desperate card dealers trying their tired three-card confidence game to see who can be suckered. They do not appear to appreciate that a Local Government election is not a General Election!
First, the Leader recycles a Mayaro plan from the last General Election campaign. Then we have the old tired saw of the property tax being trotted out. Oh, gorm, man!
Is it that the Opposition does not intend to win the next General Elections, and so can spout divisive populism? Is it that they do not make a connection between the crime, roads, and health problems and our dysfunctional local government structure?
Do they honestly believe the local corporations are about “building box drains, fixing potholes and cleaning watercourses to prevent flooding”?
History tells us that the colonial governor had wardens looking after the various districts. Lougheed (2021) details how it worked to ensure performance at the local level.
Do the elders remember the “Pupil-Teacher” system? That was a county council-level education initiative from the Colonials! The objective was to align our education efforts with their view of the world.
What are our goals? How will we achieve them? Central Government in its present format is not the answer. The power must devolve.
Yes, there is a risk of corruption, but at least the people can talk to their representatives directly. We missed the opportunity to have a robust public discussion.
The current local government system is not working. The civil service has long been emasculated. Everything must flow to the top and then come back down (if it does.) Nothing gets done. We create an opportunity for thieves and corrupt men to act as gatekeepers.
The TTPS’ current execution of town-hall meetings exemplifies how local government can and should work. Let the Divisional Commanders engage the public and work out the problems. “The town hall meeting style forum is a mandate from Police Commissioner Erla Harewood Christopher, who asked that each division meets with the public at least once per month.”
The police commander cannot hide. The people would gain trust. Therefore they could collaboratively tackle crime. Can we not see that?
Our brilliant leaders cannot “revise the perspectives of the desert”; it is too much work. It is easier to get on a platform, lie about anything, and frighten Tanty about all sorts of things instead of teaching her how we could have a better execution at the Corporation level.
How is this helping us to get to the “Promised Land”? It is the Government’s job to propose these things, but is it not the Opposition’s job to offer us an alternative to encourage us to vote for them? Oh gorm, man!
When will our leaders grow up and lead? Years after Lloyd Best, we still refuse to do the ‘hard wuk’. Oh gorm, man!
We all need to conceptualise the journey to the Promised Land.