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posted 20 May 2010, 10:04 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 20 May 2010, 10:30 ]
by Cecil Paul 

Political Trickery and the Culture of Political Corruption
The people of T&T are being grossly disrespected by the politicians of the PNM and The Peoples Partnership. From the Airport feeding frenzy to the UDECOTT bid rigging; from the five Stadia to Brian Lara Complex at Tarouba and countless other acts of thiefry.

Leading Politicians of both sides have been involved in corruption and mismanagement of some say, an estimated TT$ 10 billion over the last 15 years, yet they shamelessly engage in an election contest among themselves to decide which Party will next plunder the Treasury.

They brazenly accuse each other of corruption and display utter contempt and disrespect for citizens. They refuse to admit that “all a dem tief". Our politicians openly boast that Trinbagonians have a short memory, so the politrikans hibernate for a while and resurface in a new name Party, recycle their policies and start all over again to serve their personal interests and that of their business financiers.

The leftovers go to the poor and middle income people. They are very good at promises but deliver very little to the people. They cannot supply water to many of our people, except the affluent areas. Our country is among the richest in the world in terms of earnings per capita. Poverty levels are over 10%, sick, mentally ill and homeless people occupy the streets of all our urban centres. Health Care is a hit or miss for many persons ending up at our Hospitals, while Criminal Gangs and Drug Lords control our Suburbs unleashing an orgy of increasing murder, kidnappings and robberies.

Our Food Import Bill is a National Crisis and unsustainable, yet no real effort is made to assist Small Farmers to achieve some level of Food Security. Most of our workers except those unionised receive low wages and inferior benefits, an estimated 20% of our workforce in the service sector work for minimum wages and conditions, resulting in poor living conditions: a sure recipe for crime.

Manning, Dookeran, Kamla, Rambachan, Rowley, Warner and others have all held political power and influence at varying times over the last 24 years. Have they made any fundamental changes to the lives of average citizens of this energy rich small country of 1.3 million people? They are nothing more than recycled politicians with recycled policies.

There is very little difference in their policies and corrupt practices moreso in seeking their self interest at the expense of the ordinary person who rightfully owns part of the national patrimony. An elitist group of politicians have from time to time been taking turns at stealing the National Wealth. If we look closely at the leaders of these political parties and their history of performance in Government and other areas of power, we realize the contempt and disrespect they have for us and their disregard for the future of our children and grandchildren.

Their better performances have been to share some low paying jobs, some education and training, some social welfare mostly to supporters, hosting big Conferences, erecting non-productive high rise buildings and a few handouts.

The fact is a large part of our patrimony is stolen, given away or misspent by both sides of the political spectrum. Our politicians serve themselves first and take most of the pie. If we continue to forgive them, to get caught up in the euphoria of their election circus, to engage in tribal politics (as provoked by both sides), practice tribal solidarity despite their continued mismanagement and display party loyalty with no voice in the party; so long as we put the interest of politicians before the national interest, so long will they continue to disrespect our intelligence.

Their Failure to put in place alternative economic policies and continue to rely on energy income will see an economic collapse when the wells are dry. Then all hell will break loose as the people finally see clearly that we have been taken for a ride by a cabal of corrupted, lazy, bankrupt and selfish politicians who have made a career of getting rich off the National Treasury.

Patrick's National Movement (PNM)

The absolute and maximum leader of the ruling party, Patrick Manning, got all the warnings on the dealings of his superman Hart: from Rowley, from Regis, from the public, local contractors and the calypsonians. The country's leader placed his super hero in the major public institutions in our country- NIB, NIPDEC, HMB, UDECOTT. It is said that he also ran the Ministry of Planning, Housing and Development through his surrogate Minister. Why did he make this unknown and recently naturalized person, such a powerful technocrat?

Coming events may reveal this unusual and foolish public policy decision. The blanking of local contractors and the importation of Chinese workers, showed utter contempt for the people and institutions in the country. People generally were vexed by the great powers given to Hart. He failed to heed the warnings and Hart has put him on the defensive causing an early election which he may not win. Perhaps Hart lacked the finesse to wheel and deal, as a result exposing Manning to rumors that the PM may, in fact, be the Mr. Big in the Hart malpractices.

The Prime Minister by giving Hart so many powerful jobs has exposed his abuse of political power and his disrespect and arrogance towards his party members, colleagues and the people of T&T. The misdeeds of Hart now rank No.1 among political corruption scandals in the country’s history and have caused an early election.

Manning has given a flimsy and unbelievable excuse for calling an early election (to prevent the scandalising of his name under Parliamentary Privilege) just over 2 years into his term. It is obvious that the UDECOTT exposé caused the PM to panic. His reputation was on the line and he feared a full disclosure would lead to his forced resignation, especially since his challenger Rowley was the initiator of the charges against Hart.

However the most shocking development was when the Arab financiers summoned our PM to a meeting in one of their houses in the presence of their management Guru, recently appointed to replace Hart. To turn insult to injury they tipped off the Media obviously to coerce him to accede to their request. Imagine that!

It is rumored that fearing the Government would fall, they advised him to step down and let Rowley (who is their trusted politician and substitute leader) and their lady Guru take over as leaders of the Government. Imagine such interference in Government. Why such a demand from the Syrian/ Lebanese business class?

They have always seen the Indo-Trinidadian Business Class as their last rivals and natural business enemies, having bought for a song some of the large Creole businesses in the 1980's downturn which gave them a monopoly over large sections of the private sector. They fear that the UNC in power backed by the Indo Trinidadian business class will always threaten their control of the major areas of the private sector, hence their permanent support of the PNM. Rowley is their back up if Manning goes. Who does Manning and the PNM serve? Certainly not the PNM faithful; surely not the people.

It is said that the PM ignored their advice; after all, they were suggesting his nemesis Rowley as successor. Manning then decided his only option was to call a Special Convention and call early elections. When some thought it was local election date or at worse his resignation over the Hart issue, he gambled on his only chance of survival a New Mandate from the People. After all the PNM faithful don't question their leader's wisdom. The question is: Why this irrational decision of an early election with a large majority and no threats from the No confidence Motion? Maybe Time will inform the people of T&T.

It is puzzling how Manning either refuses to act on the prevailing political climate or may be uninformed of the people's views. The Hart misadventure, the firing of Rowley and Penny were unpopular with rank and file PNM, yet he continued in the selection process to victimise popular representatives and refused to act on Hart. He calls an early election and takes no notice that he is likely to lose the marginal seats due to UNC and COP together getting more votes than the PNM in the marginals in 2007.

He also pays little attention to critical factors such as the UDECOTT scandal, "Kamlamania" in the country after the UNC internal elections, gender support for Kamla, the defeat of Panday which paved the way for a united opposition in an early election. All these developments militated against the PNM and created an unfavorable climate for Manning. It is as if he wants to purposely lose the election.

On a strategic point: one is left to believe that Manning is so despotic, powerful and feared that like Panday, he is unable to avoid his grave mistakes to the detriment of the country. The fear of losing this early election has created some measure of panic among the lumpen proletariat of the PNM who are fearful of losing their power and handouts in CEPEP, URP and in the communities they control. They openly curse Manning and question the reason for an early election referring to him as this "donkey head man".

The classic example of the PNM is the negative and self destructive result of absolute and maximum one person leadership. Panday and his demise is another good example, in that he never realized that the people had left him and when he thought he was raiding the ONR- NAR, they were in fact planning to transform the UNC into their own image and likeness.

The United National Congress (UNC)

The so called Change machine of Ramjack/G was in effect a movement by former NARites, Warner and Gypsy to "change" the UNC into an ONR-NAR type Party. The politics and economics of Panday's UNC Leadership (Panday, Mark, Ramnath, Moonilal, Indarsingh, Kernahan, even Ramesh) was too liberal and worker sensitive, which opposed the core principles of ONR-NAR. Ironically it was their intense campaign and the democratic principle of a vote for each member which facilitated their defeat of Panday and most of his team.

Ramesh saw himself as the leader of Ramjack/G but realized too late that he was being used by the ONR-NAR faction, but he had already done the job of fatally wounding Panday. He also fell victim to the Change Movement he created with Jack and Gypsy, as he, like Panday, was perceived as unfit for leadership by the members. He then played second fiddle to Panday but again he was too late. Kamla played it safe and was neutral in the Change Movement, still unsure that Panday was on his death bed. However she still inherited the mantle of leader as neither Gypsy nor Warner, like Ramesh, was acceptable and she had national and gender appeal and could be managed by kingmaker Warner.

The UNC is therefore under the total control of ONR - NAR oriented leadership of Kamla (an original NAR), Jack, Gypsy, Rambachan, et al. UNCites like Mark, Moonilal and Indarsingh who survived have no other choice but to behave and go along with the ONR-NAR leadership or suffer the fate of the Pandays. The Party of Panday, originally founded on the strength of workers, farmers and progressives, has been transformed over time to Party of Right Wing anti-worker professionals and business people, its ideological opposite.

This transformation of the UNC has caused the return of disgruntled members who went over to the COP (the next faction of the ONR-NAR) because of the refusal of Panday to unite the opposition in 2007. He is blamed in hindsight for splitting the votes and giving the Government to the PNM. This return to the UNC greatly reduced the bargaining power of the COP in the unity electoral accommodation. This scenario has paradoxically seen two factions of the Right Wing professional and business class negotiating for control of the State Machinery as they see a sure victory over the PNM.

The other elements such as a few progressives like Verna and Hodge, cultural nationalists (NJAC), opportunists and those claiming to represent labour are of no consequence and got only token and window dressing representation of one possible safe seat. The other 3 seats seem unwinnable, unless there is a sweep like 1986.

With respect to Tobago, the old DAC of ANR Robinson also returned to the NAR fold through the TOP and has a good chance of one seat or even winning the two Tobago seats if there is a sweep. ANR Robinson has even been taken from his sick bed by the business class to give an endorsement of sorts to Kamla. The New UNC has changed so drastically in a short time that it is attracting elements like Volney, Carlos, Assam and other right wingers who realize where the power lies and are looking towards redemption and amnesty from corruption charges. They are even tolerating McLeod, Abdulah, and Daaga, leaders they historically dislike and are openly saying that "all ah we is one" to justify the unholy Partnership.

They are also confident that these former radicals, with the exception of opportunist McLeod, will not win any seats but may bring a few hundred critical votes in the marginals. So that the new UNC of KamlaJack/G has emasculated the COP by ensuring the seats they could win will ensure a safe majority.

The Congress of the People (COP)

The COP is Dookeran's attempt to resurrect the NAR of 1986. Unable to transform Panday's UNC, after being given the leadership and then being run out of the Party by Panday (who read his play) and Ramesh (who saw him as a threat to his future leadership), Dookeran formed his own Party COP. With a fair amount of popular votes but no seats in the 2007 elections, the party saw good possibilities of growth and a bright future. He worked to forge a broad multi-base alliance of former NARites, UNC dissidents favoring opposition unity, environmentalists, even a few progressives (Weatherhead, Watson) and, surprisingly, NJAC.

Being an excellent neo-liberal political thinker, he sought at first to forge a loose working alliance with these elements, bide his time until Panday departs the political scene, which would facilitate a complete takeover of Panday's base. The core of his Party remained the nostalgic ONR-NAR elements of the professional class and the white Creole business class who finances his Party. But he never bargained for Ramjack/G's Change Movement, its success and the emergence of Kamlamania.

This development has forced the COP to adopt a lesser role in the Alliance and greatly reduced its bargaining power to the extent that he, as leader, was given a marginal PNM seat Tunapuna for 2010, possibly to to keep him from being a threat to the UNC leadership. The type of contemptuous and suspicious treatment of the COP by the Partnership has created a bit of dissatisfaction by a small vocal group in the COP who believe it's contrary to principles of Unity.

The former ONR-NAR core group's sudden public return to the political scene is an indication that they “smell the blood of the PNM". They are already speaking of Fiscal Responsibility, Policy Principles of Governance, Possible Empty Treasury, Transformation of the Economy and The Private Sector "should be" involved in Public Housing Construction (this is Kamla speaking to the Media).

The language is the same as in 1986. Dookeran and the COP elements despite having a lesser role in the Alliance are its leading ideologues. Dookeran is a Neo Liberal Constructionist who believes that the role of Government in the Economy must be reconstructed to only govern through facilitation, not own and operate key sectors of the economy which should be left to a more efficient Private Sector.

The major question is, how did this apparent NAR-ONR resurgence miss the Labor leaders and NJAC? Why did they allow themselves to be used as window dressing for the Frankenstein re-creation of right wing policies that attacked workers hard won benefits in 1986 to 1991? The Labor Movement had to fight for its rights to be relevant to workers against the ONR-NAR onslaught which ended with a Day of Resistance, shutdown of the country, massive protests and an opportunistic Coup in July 1990. This led to their defeat and the return of PNM in 1991.

The fact is, the Political Policy and Economic policies of both the COP and the new UNC are the same and have not changed. In addition the same elements have resurfaced and are ready for Reconstruction.

The Movement for Social Justice (MSJ)

Like the nursery rhyme Solomon Grundy, the MSJ which claims it is the representative of Labour on the People Partnership, 'was born on a Sunday, married on a Monday and died on the night on the same Monday' after selling out the workers to Big Business. McLeod, Abdulah and the others, who dreamed up this compromise of the vital interest of workers, proves the adage, that power or perceived power, makes power hungry and opportunist leaders transform themselves into the opposites of what they preach.

What has been clear to some of us (since the late 80’s and early 90's) in the Progressive Trade Union Movement and in Left Wing Politics was that McLeod was a self seeking individual riding the backs of workers for personal enrichment, power and fame. He had no philosophical outlook and advanced no progressive ideas. He always did what he thought George Weekes would do, even under different circumstances and environments. His aim was to surpass the greatness of Weekes. He survived and lived off the fat of the great OWTU, the Progressive leadership and operatives he inherited from Weekes and the militant workers who fought for their Rights and those of others at every turn of injustice.

Many of the ground breaking policies of the OWTU including the Profit Sharing Bonus were not the work of McLeod but others in the Union. In fact he opposed its initial implementation at NP in the early 90's and then falsely claimed the credit. Those of us who worked closely with him got to realize early on, that he was a ruthless leader who would send workers on a certain losing strike with no concern for their jobs and loss of earnings.

His bad disposition came to light on his assumption of leadership after George Weekes. Abdulah on the other hand uses Left Wing politics as a game to boost his upper class privileged ego. In one shocking self exposé during an open activists debate, Abdulah justified Stalin's murder of millions of people as necessary, because of the revolutionary and counter revolutionary crisis in the former Soviet Union. His class contempt and superiority complex for ordinary workers of all genders was strikingly noticeable in the Progressive Trade Union and Political Movements.

So it is not surprising to those of us in the know, that these ruthless careerists out for personal glory and power would opportunistically use the Trade Unions as bargaining power through a hastily formed group named MSJ and join the Peoples Partnership for a Seat and a Senatorship. They ignored the intervention of the Labour Progressives of NWU who warned against this suicidal move. They knew full well that in the event this Alliance wins the Government (and they are favorites to win) they would have effectively compromised the workers interest.

But the workers have never been a real concern of these two men. They have in fact joined a group led by known anti-worker elements the majority of whom were leaders of the ONR-NAR, corrupted former politicians. They have found common ground with a grouping in which they have no real power, but are being used merely to sanitise these historical enemies of Labour.

The workers are being enticed to put in power the same politicians they fought against on the Day of Resistance 21 years ago; the very same pro-big business, pay and COLA and benefits cutting-Dookeran, Rambachan, Kamla et al. It is not as if they were not there in the period of NAR rule or maybe their insatiable lust for power made them falsely believe the change of party name has changed the agenda of these neo-liberal agents of Big Business.

What will be the fate of say the State Enterprises, where most of the unionised workers are employed, given the Privatization policies of the ONR-NAR led Partnership? What of the Public Service where their policies are the same and in many cases worse than the PNM i.e. adopt measures to reduce the work force through VSEP and introduce Agencies? What of all the other anti-worker measures such as a Wages Policy, Reducing the size of Government, etc. Then, there is Warner, McLeod's and Abdulah's colleague in the PP.

That Jack, the International Operator sanctioned by FIFA for a ticket scam in Germany, selling non existing football seats in 1989 in T&T endangering lives and causing an Enquiry. The same Jack who National Footballers claim owes and has yet to pay all the bonuses due to the Soca Warriors since the 2006 World Cup, now the subject of Court Litigation. Perhaps they see similarity with him, he being like them, ruthless, arrogant and self serving. Jack who usually gives charity as town says to disguise his wheeling and dealing. Jack like McLeod in the OWTU, it is said, runs football in the CONCACAF region like it were his personal estate; Warner who as soon as he took over from Eric James at TTFA, saw the breakup of famous Community Clubs of T&T.

It is said by former footballers he refused to have these historical Clubs participate in the running of Football. Major Football was then suspended for several years. Privatization of the Football Association then took place by formation of a private company. That was not enough, with Warner as TTFA General Secretary, we saw over time the break up of every Top Class National Football Team of International Standard. From The team of Archibald, DeLeon, Cummings Texiera to the Strike Squad of Philbert Jones, Yorke and Latapy and recently the Soca Warriors. This is the type of individual “Labour” has forged an Alliance with and to make matters worse he is the Chairman and said to be the main Financier of the PP.

This act of aligning “Labour” with these corrupted individuals in the ONR-NAR make over, disguised as a Peoples Partnership is a Great Betrayal of Labour by McLeod and Abdulah and other Trade Union Leaders who supported this dangerous misadventure. Labour already faces many challenges and credibility issues like Annisette and UDECOTT; Duke being anointed by God and his Credit Card abuse; Indarsingh and the recent workers’ accusation of a sellout on the Caroni closure; the Housing issue with UDECOTT, SWWTU and NUGFW; The failure to remove Annisette as President of NATUC (having defeated Cabrera) despite his behaviour on the Revenue Authority issue and at UDECOTT.

These issues together with the negative policies of a victorious PP can affect workers’ confidence and impede their willingness to struggle against anti-worker measures by whichever party wins, particularly with a changing work environment of an increasing temporary and contract labor work force and a reducing unionised work place.

The Progressives of the Labour Movement are the ones that History will call upon to continue to deal with this Great Betrayal of McLeod and Abdulah which poses grave dangers for the strength and influence of the Trade Union Movement. It is therefore heartening to see that the National Workers Union has taken a progressive stance on the acts of betrayal and has distributed a pamphlet to workers on this issue, in addition to a posting on its Web Site

The National Joint Action Committee (NJAC)

NJAC is one of the most respected Revolutionary Organisation in our country. Despite the departure of most of its constituent parts in early 1972 (Trade Unions, Left Wing Groups and Radical Intellectuals), the remaining Cultural Nationalists (Black Power advocates) kept the Group going and developed tremendous respect among the people as they inherited the works and struggles of the former united entity.

NJAC is credited with forcing fundamental economic changes in the society, instilling black pride, and struggling to promote Afro/Indian Unity. In fact it's Chairman for many years was a radical Indo/Trini Trade Unionist in Oil and Sugar. During the early 1990's, NJAC was critical of the Trade Unions but changed its position in the late 90's and reestablished a loose relationship with some Unions particularly NUGFW. Most people in the country also see NJAC as an important moral, spiritual and defensive voice. Their ceaseless promotion of Local Culture is legendary and many young performers have been given an opportunity to stardom via their cultural promotions. NJAC's cultural nationalism has evolved to suit the conditions of T&T, in that they have become very flexible and accommodating.

While being Afrocentric to a degree they have accommodated Indo Trinis among their membership and there was even a member who is Chinese Trini. They are anti foreign domination of the economy but invites to their many functions, Ambassadors of European countries with investments in T&T. They are against corruption in Government but now in 2010 joins the PP with its legions of corrupted former government officials.

At first the group stayed away from parliamentary politics, with its slogan 'conventional politics or revolution' and some say, may have won the Government had it not boycotted the 1971 elections. During the course of time, NJAC changed its course on elections and in the 1980's participated without success, despite laboring in the vineyards and having the respect of many in the society.

They, then, withdrew from participating in Electoral politics. NJAC's respect was such that if one was ashamed of the policies of the Party they voted in to office, they would falsely claim when questioned, that they voted for NJAC. Comedians had a joke that, if so many people voted for NJAC how come they did not win the elections.

As I said earlier on, Dookeran despite his economic and political neo-liberal stance is one of the politicianwho understand the dynamics of Trinbago politics and the need for the broadest possible alliance to win power. For quite a while he has been engaging NJAC in such an alliance as well as the TOP, Environmental and Farmers Groups, Trade Unions and NGO's. He has stayed close to NJAC and attends their functions, precisely for the reason that we are seeing now, with NJAC surrendering their morality, ethics and spirituality for an alliance with the PP.

One is led to believe that NJAC despite being a progressive group that commands respect is an enigma difficult to understand, unpredictable and without a clear or visionary direction. If one can criticise this grouping, it can be said that they are a bit feudal; their leader is treated like a deity and displays an autocratic stance. But many of our leaders are the same. NJAC could well be the worst casualty of this unholy and immoral alliance of disparate and varying political entities led by the ONR-NAR right wingers. Their decision to be lured into the PP by Dookeran may well put a stain on their historically excellent reputation.

How will they justify, for instance, Warner's reputation, Volney and the freeing of Brad Boyce and his record as a Judge? Then, how would they react to the elements of corrupted officials in the PP who are playing a major role in the background and are likely to re-surface and gain positions, if the PP wins the elections. What about possible amnesty for those former politicians now supporting the PP who are facing criminal charges for corruption. The NJAC factor is perhaps the major issue which can prove problematic for the PP as Daaga is used to having his way.

Tobago Organization of the People (TOP)

I know very little of the nature of the TOP except that it is a successor party to the Tobago DAC of ANR and Hochoy Charles and was naturally going to be in the PP. Dookeran has been responsible for its entry into the PP and they seem to be strong in Tobago East.


The People Partnership seems to be on its way to winning this early election (unless some drastic development takes place) brought about by Manning's secret misadventures with Hart leading to the UDECOTT fiasco. If the PNM loses, Manning will have to go and interesting politics are in store with the PNM. Will Rowley now get the leadership? Remember he is the choice of the Syrian /Lebanese Business Class.

The danger however is the Governing policies of the Peoples Partnership and their known adherence to the Liberal Free Market policies. This Economic Model has failed and continues to fail throughout the World. We are seeing economic crisis after crisis in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Only recently some economists were touting the Chinese model as a new way, minus the undemocratic actions and policies of the Supreme Party. They only see Growth for a few but do not care for the majority in China. They strangely referred to this New Model as STATE CONTROLLED MARKET ECONOMY. Dookeran has been to China in recent times. It would be interesting to hear his views on this 'New Model'.

T&T has not efficiently used the Oil and Gas Rents to diversify the economy for the time when Energy resources are depleted. The Food Import Bill is an indictment to our Agro Policy. The utilities still are inefficient and Water for all is a pipe dream. Health Services are below standards and Education is still based on some bright children at our prestige schools which is fuelling crime via illiteracy. Poverty and Low wages belies the wealth of our country. Crime is still at epidemic proportions. We can go on and on the need for a New Direction for our society. The question is, not who will win the election but what will they do when they win?

The PP will certainly shift to the Right without resistance. As perhaps so-called labor may get one seat but McLeod may have no problem with neo liberal policies. Rudy Indarsingh will win but seems not to be one who rocks the ship. NJAC may not get any, unless there is a sweep. So that, as said earlier on, based on historical practices the PP dominated by the ONR-NAR will continue the practices of 1986 to 1991 albeit with some modifications and popular piece meal policies.

There is bound to be a struggle to defend the rights of workers. Will Labour’s hands be tied by the makeup MSJ? What of NATUC and FITUN? What of the progressives in the PP? What will be Ramesh’s and Panday's position? What of the Farmers, NGO's and Environmentalists. If the PNM wins, with what will certainly be a slim majority, how will Manning govern? Interesting political times certainly lie ahead for T&T.