Daly Bread: A basis for general election choices

At the end of last week’s column, I described the Opposition United National Congress (UNC) after the results of its recent internal election as “the Kamla Persad-Bissesar re-embedded UNC”.

In the week since that column was written, factionalism has broken out in the UNC. The governing People’s National Movement (PNM), may be tempted to take advantage of the factionalism within the UNC and to consider calling an early general election.

UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar celebrates an anniversary with her party members.
Photo: UNC

One indication of that temptation may be the strategic move of the PNM in the first phase of its screening process to open nominations for candidates in eight Opposition held seats that look most vulnerable to a Kamla turn-off-factor and possibly a split Opposition vote.

Current polling information would be interesting but our media and university budgets do not cater for that. No matter how vulnerable the PNM may currently look, a poll might remind vain persons currently looking for a spot in “alliances” against the PNM of the saying: “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”.

In our national electoral life, we have twice already been let down by alliances of anti-PNM political forces. Allied Opposition forces would now have a heavy burden to discharge.

(From left) Jack Warner, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Gary Griffith and David Lee at a UNC political meeting at the Centre of Excellence in Macoya on 24 July 2023.
Photo: UNC

In 1986, subsequent to the historic election victory of the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), the promise of “One Love” between the politicians of two dominant races turned out to be one of temporary seduction only.

The Ganges never met the Nile. They simply overflowed their respective banks nearly causing us to drown by 1990.

In 2010, Kamla led a so-called People’s Partnership (PP)—which was never truly free of UNC domineering—to victory over the PNM. Not long after that, the refinement with which the Kamla grouping was sold turned out to have an unsavoury aftertaste and her PP Government was defeated in 2015. Kamla lost again in 2020.

Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar (centre) prepares her troops for ‘war’ in Parliament during an extraordinary sitting of the House to vote on the impeachment of President Paula-Mae Weekes.
Photo: Office of the Parliament 2021

I am referencing these previous electoral disappointments and Kamla’s 2015 and 2020 failures because I sense the resurgence of the back-in-times question posed when things were bad: “Who we go put?”

While pondering this renewed dilemma, a writer of refreshing letters to the editor, Scarlet Benoit-Selman, gave this good advice which summarises what we desperately need:

“In retrospect, we have an amazing ‘bird in our hand’ in Trinidad and Tobago that’s good. However, there are aspects of her that aren’t too well and need our immediate attention.

Two spectators take a selfie during Trinidad and Tobago’s 2016 Independence Day Parade celebrations.
Photo: Chevaughn Christopher/ Wired868

“Collectively it can be done. However, a plaster wouldn’t work—she requires an intentional direct approach, one that is structured for each area without any trace of partisan politics.”

As frequently urged in these columns, we, the electorate, should have new policies placed before us and be subjected to less of the raucous clinging to what is obviously not working, the constant cussing out, repetition of blame for grand project failures in the past and the stupid personality contests.

Our general election choices should be based on what is being offered to take the country forward and out of the vice of violent crime, as well as proposals to deal with other hot button issues.

Police officers get to work behind crime scene tape.
Photo: AP Photo/ David Goldman

I therefore welcome Scarlet’s plea for “an intentional direct approach structured for each area”. With respect, I interpret the letter writer’s plea to eliminate “partisan politics” to be supportive of my urging to moderate how we do political business, which is always in the partisan tone—that if my side does or says something it is right regardless, and if the other side does or says something it is wrong regardless.

One hot button issue that has persisted is the future of the mothballed Petrotrin refinery, which some knowledgeable persons believe had a future, provided its employment complement was not unnecessarily bloated and capital investment was made in technology capable of reducing the refinery’s cost of production.

The Petrotrin oil refinery.
Photo: Stephen Broadbridge

A recurring concern among the citizens is the lack of transparency and accountability for government decisions. All of last week that concern was again evident in the controversy over the selection and appointment of lawyers to the rank of senior counsel.

Is the next controversy about what happens behind closed doors going to centre on the renewed attempt to dispose of the Petrotrin refinery by this coming August?

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