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wid our backs against de waal
to de right everthing so tight
prices outta sight
to de lef' de IMF
like dem born ah dem deaf
we need foreign currency
ah whole bag ah money"
FREE THE WEED'/1978.
Check out Lovindeer on You Tube. I consider it a classic in presentation in the way it summarises how the present PNM regime is preparing us for IMF intervention. We have to remember what happened in '80's when the IMF went for direct intervention. There were food riots in many of these countries as the IMF imposed their conditionalities.
The package was and remains standard: privatisation, removal of subsidies, wage cuts, cuts in public spending, review of labour legislation, currency devaluation. That's where the tag line of the IMF asking for workers to tighten their belts and the workers responding by asking for belts, came from.
One recalls a visitor from Benin, William Tanifeani, at an OWTU Book Fair, angered by the fact that food riots were taking place in Algeria when that country used to provide food exports to France as a colony. How many of us know that UWI was once the home of England's "Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture''? VAT, then, was not a 'withering tax' but the age and name of a rum and one was not forced to face it.
Trinidad and Tobago was lined up for the same treatment that the PNM is preparing the working class for in 2016. Ken Gordon, without one day's campaigning, was brought in as Minister of Trade and Industry and was running the programme. We were not signed up yet but conditions were being prepared. Many revisionists like to forget that Yasin Abu Bakr was leading hunger marches in this country at that time.
The strategy adopted in response to the numerous uprisings was no longer for the IMF representatives to visit the member country and direct the Check out the OWTU library for Budhoo’s book Enough is Enough, first published by the OWTU).
It is necessary to note however one significant difference then. The ANR right wing cabal had to face a united labour movement in which the Committee for Labour Solidarity (CLS) provided significant leadership. The CLS was also able to influence community groups and other people's organisations. Even the defection of George Weekes to the other side did not derail the fight back. This led to the formation of the umbrella organisation Summit of People's Organisations (S.O.P.O).
The leadership of the movement today is its opposite. It could not be bought or fed in high places. While NATUC correctly defends itself against the brazen incursions of the present Minister of Labour it is not seen to be mobilising its units. FITUN as a fighting force does not exist. The Movement for Social Justice is, for all intents and purposes, part of the PNM People's Partnership. Liberation theology where the 'church exercises a preferential option for the poor'' seems dormant in the traditional church, never mind the efforts of the new Pope to promote “authentic” social justice.
So where does that leave the man/woman in the street after Ash Wednesday has exhausted so much of the energy with a crying need to "Organise the unorganised'
Why are we allowing scalpers to brazenly prostitute the Panorama by selling tickets at cut-prices to the detriment of Pan Trinbago unless, of course, there are officials of this said organization in on the take? I am simply asking why?
Why is TTUTA (Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association) allowing our primary school children attend school as beasts of burden with undeniably overloaded book-bags on their backs? I am so disgusted that I feel to swear and turn violent. TTUTA if it is one national act you can do, it is save the children from eventual physical damage. I am simply saying have a heart nuh!damnedest public display of them all. I bluntly refuse to go to another Calypso Fiesta semi-final held every year at Skinner Park in San Fernando. It is sickening to see what everybody knows and nobody in this ‘fool’s paradise’ is doing anything about. I refer to the vexatious, mob-incited toilet paper haranguing of any artiste who does not subscribe to the underlying view that calypso is exquisitely African and being black then (ipso facto) you are PNM.
Therefore, if the artiste is too fair in complexion, like Plummer, or attaches him/herself to another (Indian) political party, like Gypsy, or curry favour like Aloes – the artiste must be heckled even before emitting a note. This has been going on for years, especially when the PNM is in power, so that marginally talented calypsonians would ingratiate themselves before their turn on stage by hugging and high-fiving the known instigators who normally queue in front.
When it’s their time to compete it’s invariably ‘nation-building’ songs with trite references that with the return of the PNM all corruption will stop. The end result is what lovers and students of the art-form have been experiencing over the last decade or more – tuneless, puerile, rehashed monologues.
Now, don’t get me wrong, all past regimes deserve condemnation, none more so than the last one. What I am objecting to is the underlying theme that we seem to believe black people cannot be racist since over time they or their foreparents have been victims of racism. But the point must be made. Culture could only reflect what the society throws up and our society is projecting endemic corruption; urban violence; child and domestic abuse and vapid politicians.
But there is one bright spot, an enigma of sorts. It is really an evolution of working class attributes – the pan-yard. There have been hundreds of steel-bands since the decade of the 40s when Pan, as an instrument, was fashioned. Some died, others frag
mented and still others produced satellite bands. Over all these decades, tens of thousands of people, mostly young and increasingly female have been, and are still being drawn into the pan-yards by the mesmerizing pull of the music.
In the pan-yards, people form bonds of friendship, practise teamwork, express creativity and engage in hard-work through discipline. Yet, with this fusion of people there has never been any taint or perception of violence, abuse or gang
formation. It means, therefore, that within this same ‘blighted’ society, these are oases of learning shaping
youth into adulthood driven by an accepted management team which is largely unrecognized.
If these nurturing spaces are allowed to wither then as sure as night follows day, all hell will break loose in our country. It would be the last straw and barbarism will stalk our land.
If what we are reading in the one of the dailies is true then there may be a torn ligament in the Joint of the trade union movement. Ligament is the connective tissue which holds the limbs together and any tear or impact tends to affect mobility. Now these limbs have been affected before by attending political physicians. First it was Dr. K.P. Bissessar who attended to the client in Fyzabad in 2010 leading to the appointments of Errol, David and later on Lambert as interns on her staff. This, in spite of Lambert being an irrevocable fool according to Errol who nevertheless ended up sharing office with him so to speak.
When Dr. Persad was debarred from practising in 2015, regenerative tissue, aka the Hyatt accord, bound the limbs of the joints of the ailing labour movement. It was in fact the same patients who lived to see Dr, Bissessar simply ignore their wishes for better treatment. e.g..no Recognition Board, attempts to limit medication to 5%, failing to follow prescriptions for domestic workers.
But at the moment history, always full of irony, seems about to repeat itself. In spite of a new $15m programme to treat with the Joints, some seem to be calling for the incumbent head physician to be debarred from practice over distribution of benefits.
Intern Lambert of the NATUC joint is calling for the head of newly appointed Dr. Jenny, braids and all. Without going into detail the news report suggests that a contention arose over the appointments at Cipriani Labour College. Why should this cause a fissure and a lesion? One must appreciate that board appointments are part of the palliative and sedative treatment applied to the leadership of certain trade unions to weaken their effectiveness as limbs of the trade union movement.
What is the echo effect of all this 'koochoor'? Immediately affected are interns Ozzie and Ancil who promoted themselves with the JTUM as President and General Secretary. Since the JTUM, unlike NATUC, is not a duly constituted and recognised body, these operatives were administering and prescribing without a license. Something like a local folk medicine doctor whose claim of miracle healing frequently Sayers the airwaves.
One suspects that a lot of calumny will be hurled on the hoary head/skull of former intern Lambert. Since we are speaking of joints, please remember the skull is a fused hemisphere of two bones called a non-moveable joint. In this season of Carnival and stick fighting some of his colleagues must be singing ‘Bois for James' in their hearts.
Could all of this have been avoided? Sure, if rather than looking for snake oil remedies for passing politicians the labour movement had looked within and built up its own strength. But that approach eschews free passes to Geneva and the United Nations and additional monthly stipends from serving on boards and a chance to participate in a $15m closed government lottery.
Meanwhile, outside Parliament on Wrightson Road...
"The world won't get no better
If we just let it be
We gotta change it
You and me"
Harold Melville and the Blue Notes
When the corpses of 2 students (it was a week ago so events have overtaken them i.e. fresh murders) clothed in character assassination by the daily media - "thugs, gang members, school drop outs" - even before the understaffed forensic centre issued its report, I suggested to some members of TTUTA's leadership that red armbands be worn in Port of Spain if not in all of the school system; that a TTUTA representative speak at the youngsters' funeral and that the General Council meet in emergency session since teachers had to go work in the schools and communities where these young men studied and worked.
I suggested that the pious Dottin-like platitudes would do nothing but cloud the issue (and the statements of the relevant Minister have borne out my view). They were NOT gang members, were bright in school and played sport; so we could lose the 'duncey' head ones who are in gangs and bend their arms Narine-like too much when bowling.
Speaking of gangs 6 policemen were simultaneously arraigned on kidnapping and robbery the week before the murders of these 2 young students. Were they fighting crime or fighting on behalf of crime? If 6 policemen most of them under 30 are behaving like that I want somebody to tell me please whether that is NOT gang warfare. Reminds of the saying in Africa “the army is the tribe with guns”. Is the police service becoming the gang in uniform?
I must say that the Teachers Union did meet in emergency session...to discuss changes to the Continuous Assessment Programme. Rapid response in yuh "pweffen!"
I am suggesting that teachers, amongst the most vulnerable, are in a key position to move this issue beyond the pious platitudes and nauseous 'cries de coeur' emanating from those charged with making us 'secure'. The military response is not working. The defence budget has been increased with no visible impact on day to day life. The Prime Minister sees the answer in increased military presence in 'hot spots' and stops just short of saying 'who doh like it get to hell out of here!'
I am suggesting that sooner rather than later teachers will literally fall victim to this madness simply because, like Jamaica in the mid-70's, guns are in the hands of susceptible teenagers who imagine a gun is a great leveller and protector. And they are in the schools bringing elements of culture that is carefully crafted for them. Peter Tosh sang "When Merry Christmas come yuh buy the boy a toy gun'' Well Peter bwai, somebody ain't waiting for Christmas. Every shadow has a gun.
So I am suggesting since the JTUM cannot do it, and the government is taking us down the road of Guatemala, Honduras and Columbia of previous decades where para-militarism became the model of governance; I am suggesting that the leadership of the union be MADE TO ADDRESS the issue by the membership and give some sense of direction before another student or teacher falls far, far away from Laventille.
We express hypocritical horror at the story of a 14 year old girl who from age 8 has been a victim of rape, incest and abuse; now pregnant not knowing if the child she is carrying was fathered by her daddy or her uncle. This has been going on in our midst for years and many of us continue to be friends and protectors of the perpetrators.
We run our mouths on a four year old baby boy killed by bullets on the Beetham. Through our eyes a photo of him bedecked in the family gold makes him a potential criminal.
In the face of a number of young girls reported missing, for many of us they just hot and looking for man therefore looking for them is a waste of police time.
A 13 month old baby brutally raped by two named men: we mouth platitudes for the victim; we prescribe death for the abusers, curse and blame the mother. Then we rationalize that when ‘these things’ (child abuse) happen in the home there is nothing the government can do about it. Really? Of course it depends on whose government is in office!
Two children, yes children, on their way home from school are dragged out of a vehicle and shot, brutally murdered in full public view. Expressions of sympathy seem shallow as public response concerns itself with whether they were guilty or innocent victims.
Justification resides in rumours that they did not attend school that day and one never knows what they were up to.
We were not spared the sickness of race baiting; after all it was PNM black hen chicken killing one another. Offended Africans return with their own racist fire. For many it is a Laventille problem and not a national one.
The dynamic of these conversations require our attention. In the midst of a mother’s shock and grief, persons argue whether she called Karma or Kamla a bitch. One or the other will determine their response.
The Parliament is no different. For the opposition VAT on books will cause more murders. The government grieves that the murdered boys were good students who had bright futures. I guess the death of bad underperforming students would be easier to accept.
A press release reads "The Honourable Prime Minister and Minister of State are saddened by the reports in the daily newspapers concerning the safety of our nation’s children…”; well if it is just the reports that sadden us then perhaps we should just ban newspapers. If our concerns are deeper then we cannot simply inject police and soldiers. There is so much more that we can do and that needs to be done. The big question is: do we really care…enough?
Anthony Wilson, is one of those persons who articulate the views of the local and foreign capitalists in the Business Guardian, from time to time and as usual, he was true to form, as was evidenced in an article he wrote, on Sunday 24, January 2016.
He, like Dr. Terrence Farrell and Dr. Hosein of U.W.I. fame, are the ideological storm troopers who are assigned the mission to attack all ideas which are advanced against the State's decision to dispose of profitable assets, such as those which as it has already indicated a certain percentage will be sold through an initial public offering (IPO).
Why has Mr. Wilson decided to use the examples which he chose for his article at this time? Clearly, it is because the establishment believes that the leadership of the trade union movement is not entirely opposed to privatization as long as they could benefit from the disposal of assets owned by the people. And if that is the case, now is the time to launch the offensive.
We cannot forget that it was because of class struggle waged by the working people of this country that we can boast of these industries today. The government was forced to nationalize a portion the oil industry and other entities. In so doing, the state was able to realise revenue which it was unable to realise before. Since then the state sector has expanded. But because there are those among us, including some trade unionists, who believe that the state should not get involved in business, there is this haste at this time of recession to sell out our profitable assets.
Mr. Wilson must say how a few employees who own shares in a state enterprise will help to keep the jobs of those who are terminated. In advancing his very selfish argument, he chose not to mention that the sale of shares to employees is but the transition phase to those shares ending up in the hands of big business. The individual worker makes a few dollars at the expense of his comrades and the tax payers, who are the real owners of those entities.
What Mr. Wilson is advocating is the beginning of the transfer of assets owned by the working people and the broader masses into the hands of a few. While the approach of this government is different, the intention is the same. The Peoples Partnership Government, was prepared to raid the treasury, to make themselves and their friends wealthy, while this government is prepared to say up front that they are going to sell out state assets. I have no doubt that when the smoke clears, the financiers of the party are going to be the main beneficiaries.
What we have to understand, is that this is class war which the ruling class is preparing to wage on the working people. The first stage of the assault is to set ordinary people against each other. There are many persons who are unable to purchase shares from state companies which they own collectively with other citizens of the country. The question they are entitled to ask is: why should the state transfer much needed funds away from the people and into the coffers of a few. Is the interest of the individual far greater than those of the majority? How is the profit earned by the individual going to be translated into benefits for the majority? The answer is in the negative. It will not! The only beneficiaries, will be the middle class and upper middle class who are aspiring to become capitalist.
Notwithstanding the road along which Mr. Wilson wishes to take the working people of this country, it is not too late for the trade union movement to begin to mobilise its forces. We must begin to take steps to arrest the situation now. In that regard, we must begin to weed out all those who pretend to be fighting alongside the working class when, in fact, they have been agents of the ruling class all along. All I need to say, is by their deeds ye shall know them. Those who are currently close to them and those who have known them for years will be capable of recognising the damage which they have done to the development of a strong workers movement.
If the movement is to make any positive strides forward, it cannot continue to have within its leadership such persons. Already, we are witnessing the damage which the leading unit has suffered at the hands of that element. The time has come for the leadership of that unit to make some hard decisions.
The strategy is to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. That is why trade union leaders must begin to watch their backs, because the PNM is cleverer than the PP. And they already know how to play them. So we better take heed and come out and support the stand taken by the CWU not only by calling press conferences. We must begin to prepare for war. Anthony Wilson's assault is just the beginning. The privatization will be fast and furious and will be done under the cover of retrenchment. Don't say I did not warn you!
The document attached below was sent to Anil Gosine, CEO of the South West Regional Health Authority, on January 18th 2016. You may download the document, click on menu VIEW and click on ROTATE VIEW to flip the document
It appears as if everyone enjoys bashing today’s young people and their music. But so-called art forms are not abstract inventions
So let us attempt a return to the source. When it comes to Carnival and its offshoots such as calypso we must turn to Canboulay: that vital claiming of the road of the post-emancipation energy articulated in the nation architecture; our matter-in-motion.
Here took place the emergence of the African as it is carried by people in the encounter of nations of traditions, such as Congo, Yoruba, Rada…and from different Caribbean territories. But it is the field and frame that is a constituting aspect of wider nation architecture: “Africa” along with India and Europe.
It is the master template that is landscape itself. Hence calypso is born of this vitally emerging African community in the very energy of the road – Canboulay. Yet here is being constituted the landscape’s total cultural ethnic architecture but not merely as fragments but as possibility of wholeness.
Yet this is resistance/affirmation struggle. Being is never neutral. It is always directed for and against. Here in our space, “Self” affirmation means such struggle against the structures, the very forces of oppression, which indeed brought what we call a society into being. Or we may fail to so resist.
Yes, compromises were made. The contending forces find not balance but a sort of equilibrium; a stasis. It is a stasis that oppresses. Not only African and Indian, not only social practices not deemed acceptable and of course political practices seen as subversive, but the space in its entirety. Here a range of vibration feeds the street, disclosing people as vitally kinetic. Calypso here emerges as the music of the street. This is the first phase, the generations pre-1900
In the first decades of the 20th century led by the Lord Executor calypso morphs into a lyrical art form. Here in the midst of conflict there is rendered more pronounced a presence more middle class and more Euro-oriented, not that the two are to be identified. Yet even as this ballad form is being articulated, there is still pulsing African rhythm, energy, musicality and vital vocal style, the vital Afro
traditions of storytelling narrative. There is protest, social commentary and analysis rooted in the masses. And yes we may here speak of the masses that define the landscape as a whole even as there is a discernible Afro presence at work. The art form is vitally embodied as such community, for while an African working class community is here located, it cannot be abstracted from the landscape in its totality, in its cultural diversity and with its contradictions.
This has been called a Golden Age and it gave us the normative “Executor template” of the calypso. Other key names include Chieftain Douglas, Attila the Hun, the Roaring Lion. This second phase takes us to World War II. Phase three, enter the “youts” the generation of the Young Brigade (led at first by the Lord Kitchener) musicality, humour, sex…entertainment and not a little violence: calypso as seeming full blown business.
But the powerful lyrical traditions continue. All this is embodied in the genius of Sparrow. Powerful and ambiguous. Nationalism. And here we often speak of Williams. But we fail to recognize that The Mighty Sparrow is indeed an equal architect of the independence project. And here he unleashed an unrelenting, one may even say revolutionary, assault on the ethos and aesthetic of hegemonic respectability.
Let it be clear that this is no obscure “sub-altern” speaking. Rather, in Sparrow, subaltern ethos becomes nationalist mainstream. Here perhaps is located the very core of his genius.
However that which has been thus obliterated has been replaced with nothing. Moreover the nationalism of Williams, gesturing notwithstanding, leaves the colonial structure of oppression intact.
Black Power. The new generation of the 1970s here announces itself against the nationalist betrayal: this in its struggle against class and race oppression and the calypsonians are here the mouthpieces with lyrical power: Valentino, Duke, Black Stalin, Chalkdust,
Maestro, Mudada, Explainer. However, with the assistance of an oil bonanza, the PNM manages to subvert this over the course of the 1970s. Is blockorama and petrodollars flowing like water! Nationalism marches on.
Soca is born: music for the fete (not that it can be so easily dismissed). A great deal of the original soca music is substantial and lyrically substantial. Just look for example at Shadow, Shorty and Maestro and later Blueboy/Superblue. Canboulay asserts itself. However as Sparrow put it – capitalism gone mad!
With Rudder there is apotheosis: lyric and music intersect in their radical ontological point of ancestral origin; brilliant re-creation signalling a possibility of transformation on a stage native and global. But sadly our materiality could not actualize it. So we now have in this fifth and latest phase the apparent degeneration of calypso - what the youths now call “soca”.
There is now a construction of “traditional calypso” that clamours for special attention as it is supposed to be the source, demanding a million dollar. But it is similarly degenerate…or worse.
Even this the youth are now taking over but successfully reviving it will prove to be quite an uphill task. So let us look at the movement of this art form, born of the creative chaotic musical fire of Canboulay.
The genius of Executor and the “Golden Age” calypsonians (distinct from the Golden Age Generation that came after) establishing the lyrical template. A template nevertheless rooted in and carried by the vitality of the music.
Then comes the Young Brigade (the calypsonians representing the wider Pan-Caribbean Golden Age Generation). Here vitality, humour and musicality are prominent even as the Executor template is sustained. Indeed the general movement of calypso from World War II to the mid 1990s is this: the unfolding of the innate musicality indeed the very foundational “vibe” within the Executor lyrical template.
So here has been a vibrant interplay of musicality and lyric within this template: note Sparrow and Kitchener. And yes lyric was always asserting itself: Spoiler or the Black Power social and political commentary of the late 60s and 1970s. Indeed, the original soca unfolds in this interplay even as it signals a musical ascendance and Rudder the crown of the Black Power/soca generation shows that word and vibration is one and the same: sustaining Executor in his transformation.
But with our present youth soca generation led by Machel Montano, we may also mention Bunji and Iwer; it is precisely this template that collapses; apparently leaving in its wake musical chaos framed by the violent global capitalist machine. So the question is asked – What is kaiso? And at core it seems that the true true calypso is still considered to be the Executor template where musicality may or may not be attached.
But soca and the market having carried away the musicality we are left with a supposed traditional calypso that when compared to the work of the masters past is inferior. Even lyrically it has lost its way entangled in the PNM-esque nationalist system and its ethnocentric – or as we term it “racial” – politics. It is moribund and degenerate; as moribund and degenerate as the very political system of oppression that keeps putting it on the Dimanche Gras stage.
Furthermore they say that soca comes out of this supposedly traditional calypso: a remark even more pathetic than it is funny. Not only is what passes for traditional calypso now only a distorted rump of the Executor template, but the youth in their claiming of this raw energy have gone back to the very roots of calypso, the core that is Canboulay. This is also evident in the overtly “African” rhythmic
power of the lyrical “rapso”. We may mention Brother Resistance, Ataklan and Three Canal.
I also want to mention the blooming of powerful lyric and musicality, ancestral tradition and world beat in the diaspora evidenced by Drew Gonsalves and his band Kobo Town; perhaps the best contemporary calypso available today. Hence it may be argued that this 21st century generation is in essence more traditional than those of the 20th century. A re-claiming of the source that gave birth to the “rotation’ that is the Executor template.
Here, very interesting: women are once more coming into prominence: witness for instance Faye-Anne and Destra. Or even that at one level they seem set to take over the so-called traditional form. This is also a return to the Canboulay where women were prominent.
The real tragedy is that a great deal of this reclamation takes place within the violent distortion of the framework of contemporary capitalism: the oppressive system that constitutes the reality of criminality, bloodletting, the destruction of community, the vile globalized commercial machine running amok that now seems to own soca itself; this in the midst of its decaying nationalism.
This is the world that our young people today inhabit and, at the end of the day, the soca is merely revealing the reality. Is this not what calypso has always done?
So the music of the Montano generation is thus lurching toward annihilation or so it seems but so is the society itself. But the door of return always remains open.
But instead we are all complaining: condemning the music and its generation. Yet no one seems to be prepared to stand up against the monster that’s producing the disruption, the ongoing system of oppression. We hate the soca but we love we capitalism.
The Central Bank has always been a politicised institution and, therefore, has always been compromised; if not corrupted. But the Jwala fiasco has raised questions which are a challenge to all of that. For that he will be remembered and that honour was not earned, it was given to him by the unforced errors of those in Power.
I would declare here that my interest in all of this is to seek to ensure that our servants in the public sector start to serve our interest and not theirs. So far in this matter I am not seeing where or how this is being done – indeed I am seeing the opposite intent in what I shall hereafter call the Farrell Doctrine.
The parties affected by the supposed breach of confidentiality and secrecy by the Central Bank have the resources to seek redress in the Courts. I know of many normal citizens who have similar issues with the State and have had to do so. For example the State owes citizens some $700m for lands it has taken from them without compensation. In some instances the land was taken more than forty years ago. Those who are still alive have to take the State to Court in a long and arduous process to get their money and most, if not all of them, have far less resources than those parties who are the beneficiaries of foreign exchange. Those big boys just have to get off easy street and learn to suffer or do what most of us have to in Law in order to get justice.
Having dealt with that matter the others are:
Who owns the money earned from the oil and gas that is the patrimony of the people of the country? If the answer to that is it doesn’t belong to the citizens the question that necessarily follows is to whom does it belong? It has to be the State because they are in control of it, and if it is the State, it follows that it is owned by the citizens of the country.
It is on this simple logic that Farrell failed his acolytes. Abdulah is following him down that road to perdition. I thought he had learnt his lesson. We have a problem of making oracles out of persons who excel in a narrow field of expertise/knowledge and those who may be good researchers.
If we are to agree that the patrimony belongs to the people, does the public have a right to know all the facts associated with how this is earned and spent/distributed? Neither Rowley nor Imbert has as yet unequivocally answered this question but they have both inferred by their actions that we have no such right and have even communicated it through their economic advisor Terrence Farrell.
If that argument is allowed to stand then it can also be applied to all transactions by public officials involving public money and property. That would be giving public officials licence to be legally corrupt. I want to see if the Public, the Press and the supposed enlightened will follow their lead through the hard times to come – given this declaration.
If the public disses the Farrell Doctrine and decides that it has a right to know, the question arises as to whether the State has the right to keep information such as the type made public by Jwala, secret and confidential i.e. i) Whether the State has an obligation or duty to account to citizens for his stewardship/trusteeship regarding public funds and property? ii) Whether the State should be placing the rights of those to whom it secretly gives public funds/patrimony above the right of the public to know how its funds/patrimony is spent and generally how the State is managing it?
Both Rowley and Colm publicly stated that they would like to know where the foreign exchange is going. There is a record of this from the meeting at Piggott’s Corner and elsewhere. If they are telling the public this, is that a right that is theirs alone and not also one they would acknowledge belongs to all citizens?
The US has instituted laws that require nationals to declare funds which they hold in foreign banks - and to pay taxes on such funds. In many instances these funds would have been earned by these parties, unlike our local banks and merchants whose foreign accounts are filled with public money given to them by the State. Is there learning in this for “Rowley, Colm and them” that can be applied immediately before all these funds migrate to “safe places”.
There can be no dispute that the decision to discontinue the use of planning as a tool with which to guide economic development was a mistake. The P.N.M. government, led by Dr. Eric Williams, adopted that course of action in the wake of the first oil boom, because of the failure of his third five year development plan in the middle to late 1960s.
That attitude betrayed the existence of a certain degree of mental laziness which infected the ability of the Williams regime and informed the behaviour of every government which came into office since then. The position was: well we have oil and gas and as long as the prices of these commodities remain healthy we don't need to worry about anything. I think it necessary to remind ourselves of that history and that the attitude which was cultivated clearly left us unprepared to confront difficult economic times.
So when the international economic climate began to show signs of turbulence in the oil market in the 1980s, and public servants were offered a six percent increase in salaries they revolted against a government which they held dear to their hearts for many years before.
Dr. Williams died, and George Chambers succeeded him as Prime Minister. Chambers was then faced with the task of taking some hard decisions because of the steep fall in the price of oil. The recommendations which were supposed to guide his action was the Euric Bobb report of 1980 and the William Demas Task Force report. Of the two the William Demas report was the more draconian because of the nature of the measures which it recommended.
Chambers chose not to be guided by the prescriptions proposed by the Demas report. Instead, he chose to implement recommendations from the Euric
Bobb's report which suggested cuts in subsidies. Chambers won the elections in 1981 but failed to do so in 1986. He lost those elections to an amalgamation of parties which contested the elections as the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR). Clearly this was because, the sympathy which the party was able to harvest, following the loss of the founder of the party and the man who led us into independence had diminished.
But the entry of the NAR into government did not create the necessary atmosphere conducive to the development of the people's confidence because of the high handed manner in which Prime Minister Robinson chose to treat with the trade union movement and the working class as a whole. Without talking to the unions he went ahead and took away public servants’ cost of living allowance and cut their pay by ten percent.
An examination of the political and economic landscape since then will suggest that we have not learned anything from our past. From 1981 to 2015 all the governments which came into office failed to focus on the bigger picture which Mary King has been clamouring about, that of developing the on- shore economy. That is her way of talking about planning the economy in order to ensure that we are less vulnerable to the uncertainties of a one crop economy. But nobody is listening.
Now we are in a difficult situation which is not the result of our doing; but because of our short sightedness, we are now caught in the vortex of an oil and gas war caused by the international players, who have the ability to manipulate supply and demand in order to squeeze competitors out of the market.
The producers of shale oil are the target but other producers in and out of OPEC are also affected. What are our options in the medium to long term? That is what the Prime Minister in his pre-recorded address should have addressed in the main. I say this because the PNM is not a party which is new to government. Some of the members on the government side in this administration are new, but the party has a history on which it can draw. In addition, we must ask the question: is there anything useful which can be salvaged from the plans which the last government, through its Minister of Planning, had announced?
The excuse that it has only been in government for a few months and because of this it was unable to put forward a comprehensive development plan is unacceptable. That, apparently, is the narrative which is being peddled in some quarters. So that the measures which he proposed to adopt by way of cuts in government spending in Ministries and State Enterprises and the House of Assembly and the decision to draw down on the Stabilisation Fund in 2016 and 2017 to the tune of $1.5 billion US dollars, could generate some economic activity, but that is a short term solution.
That is why we must insist that whether this government continues in office or whether it is replaced by a new one of whatever complexion, conscious steps must be taken to put the country on an economic footing which is not susceptible to the vagaries of the international oil and gas markets. We cannot and must not continue this way.
What then do we make of this new PNM government? How do we analyse its strengths and weaknesses? On a scale of one to ten, I see more weaknesses than strengths. It seems to be void of new ideas. During the election campaign what was projected by Dr. Rowley were past plans from previous PNM administrations such as the Vision 20 20, which was to be renamed Vision 30 30. That approach seems to suggest that mental laziness is contagious and it is genetic because it seems to run in the PNM family.
That attitude seem to have been transmitted to the Government Information Services Department and Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) in that it led to the situation, where the broad cast was delayed for one hour and the quality of the transmission clearly suggested that it was not recently recorded. In addition, to an alert observer it left room for speculation about the health of the Prime Minister, having regard to the fact that one would have expected a less distant and more intimate delivery of that first address, notwithstanding the fact that he was the bearer of bad news at a time when the country was in a festive mood.
If the Prime Minister is having difficulty health wise, then the public must not be kept in the dark. Because the flimsy screen behind which the reasons for his recent travels have been hidden betray the existence of certain health concerns. It leaves us also to speculate, as to whether the rigours of the election campaign might have exposed the fact that health concerns which he should have focused attention on had escaped him and, as a result, he is now confronted with the reality of his deteriorating health condition. We need to know what the true situation is. Is he healthy or not?
If the trade union movement is to involve itself in tripartite discussions it must be aware of all the facts. From where I sit all that I am seeing are the plans laid out since the Robinson administration, which had as its central objective the privatization of state enterprises. While the Prime Minister sought to give the assurance that there will be no cuts in the labour force in the public and state sectors, that is only a short term assurance since he
has no control over how the private sector both local and foreign will treat with the situation. We must not forget that ArcelorMittal has already provided the example and over the last year, hundreds of workers in the energy sector have been dumped on the breadline.
The reality is that we are at a place where what is required is less political banter between the champions of the established Syrian old money and the Hindu/Indian new money groups who are all intent on ensuring that their respective parties are in control of the Treasury. That is what both the PNM and the UNC represent.
On the one hand, the Syrian group which are the financiers of the PNM seems to have come to the point where they believe that they are capable, financially and technologically, to take over some state enterprises, while on the other hand the Hindu/Indian group, who are the financiers of the UNC, needed more time in government to hone their skills in the art of government; specifically with regard to the science of deception and corruption in which the PNM has proven to be very skilful. It is that struggle between these two groups which is largely being played out in the public domain as if it is simply about some infraction committed by the Governor of the Central Bank.
The real issue seems to be allegations of discrimination levelled against the Governor, relative to the alleged inequitable distribution of foreign exchange. That explains the decision of the Governor to name some of the companies, who have been in receipt of what he described, as the largest slice of the forex. Clearly, he was defending himself against an accusation of discrimination. Then we have this question of his alleged decision to relax the rules, as a result of which, the last government was able to max out its limit on its Overdraft with the Central Bank.
But even on that point, he cannot be held culpable since, in the view of some elements that are defending the government's decision to terminate his employment as Governor, he is not and cannot act independently of the Minister of Finance. Therefore, if we follow that line of thinking, then he acted on the instructions of the then Minister of Finance.
The Governor has since announced his decision to take legal action against the government over his dismissal, claiming that he was not afforded due process as he believes that he was entitled to such. But this issue of the alleged infractions committed by the Governor is really a smoke screen behind which the government has chosen to hide because of its fear of the current bleak economic conditions, which a PNM government will have to face for the first time.
Previous PNM governments escaped the consequences of the last economic crisis. That is why they intend to use the weapon of the blame game as a distraction, especially if the leaders of the trade unions, some of whom are themselves members of the PNM, are prepared to sing in the choir of the party in order to align the members with the call to make sacrifice when the business community is not prepared to do so as well.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with the tripartite process, what is required is that the trade union movement must prepare well before engaging in such forums. It must ensure that it is engaging in those discussions from a position of strength. A demonstration of strength requires the movement to engage its members in discussions at workplace and Branch and Section levels, at the General Councils and in Conferences of Branch Officers and Shop Stewards. At all these different levels decisions must be taken which should fortify the contributions of the leaders in those talks.
It will also ensure that the leaders’ positions are informed by the decisions taken by the membership of the movement and that they represent a force not to be trifled with. Sadly though, some of the leaders of the movement also appear to be under the influence of the PNM “C “ team whose movement was allegedly demonstrated on the casting couch and as a result it may be difficult for them to be rescued from under that spell.
That fact will obviously make the task of those who are inclined to agree that the movement needs to prepare for battle, more difficult. Because as we all know, it is difficult for persons who are hooked on the wine of their own self importance to break the habit. In the case of the country, let us hope that the working class will soon find a solution which can be applied to prevent the capitalists from deepening the exploitation of their labour through these fabricated schemes.