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In banana land

By Keith Subero

It is supposed to be an election for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), but the People's Partnership Government, very craftily, has re-shaped the January 21 poll into a referendum.

It is a charge that will not be acknowledged — but, in reality, the Government's introduction of the Constitution (Amendment) Tobago Bill 2013, for debate in Parliament, just days before the fixed-term THA election is another deceptive episode in its May 2010 political "revolution".

One could trace the roots of this episode back to Basdeo Panday's notion that "politics has a morality of its own". Fine-tuned, there is now the ethos that says: "We must win power, at all cost — so anything goes!"

The implicit creed is that: "Politics is no popularity contest; it is about power. And to hell with those who say otherwise!" In practice, it has been a relentless march, since May 2010, creating the heated politics of conflict, without room for compromise.

To date, the main feature has been the awkward attempts to shift our democracy to a kleptocracy, in which those in power seek to maximise their personal gain throughout their time in office.

One can see the evaporation of the principles of transparency and accountability. The resulting vacuum is being filled with schemes, shadiness and seaminess. At best, the "2010 Revo" has succeeded in giving Trinbago glimpses of the dangers of banana republic status.

Life in a banana state is dominated by driven, manipulative politicians who hold the belief that everyone has a price, and every state contract must include their personal percentage. It comes from the narrow politics of the "village mind", which cannot envision anything beyond its tribe and cult. And that "mind", when elevated to national status, can only demonstrate its insecurities through surprises and culture shock.

In "Banana Land" everything loses its meaning; what is sacred is determined by only the kleptocrats. Vulgarity prevails, the kind that allowed a senior Government minister recently to dismiss the President as "a puppet" without as much as prime ministerial censure. In summation, banana republic status is just one step lower than "the smelly politics" which BBC journalist, Andrew Jennings told the world that we practise in Trinbago.

Until the stealth of the Tobago "referendum", there was the stealth of Section 34, proclaimed last August during our 50th anniversary celebrations. The attempt by the cabal to hijack the Constitution to secure the release of party financiers has placed a blot on our national escutcheon which may take decades to remove.

Now in the face of an election, the Government introduces the Tobago 2013 Bill, piously claiming that it wants to right the wrongs of colonialism, and successive central governments. Former president Arthur NR Robinson, when he sat in the 1976 Parliament, moved a motion warning that those wrongs could lead to Tobago becoming "the Third World's Third World".

Today, peoples throughout the world continue to seek self-determination. Devolution continues in the Commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia and Kenya. Significantly, the United Kingdom government is facing further demands, after having yielded authority to assemblies in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Movements for devolution are also alive in Spain, France and Italy.

But here at home, every move by the People's Partnership Government has to be scrutinised thoroughly for its self-serving agenda. Once the decision was taken to introduce the Tobago Bill 2013 just days before the elections, there was no truth that could be hidden. The objective is a raw, naked grab for further power by the klepotocrats -- as their "2010 Revo" marches on.

The Government's attempts to deceive the nation in the Section 34 fiasco were unsophisticated. To state later that the then justice minister was solely responsible for the proclamation remains to me a sick joke, particularly since I was aware of the plot very early, and can detail the assurances that the plotters extended.

Should either Orville London, or Hochoy Charles emerge winner on January 21 one can expect that the Tobago 2013 Bill will go no further. The real dangers to the future of our unitary state will emerge, should the Ashworth Jack team win; it is there we see the crudity, selfishness, and narcissism of the "village mind".

But, even if the unitary state survives this threat, other threats to our well-being are still imminent. Jack Warner's plans to precept 1,000 soldiers i.e. giving them civilian powers of arrest, poses probably our most immediate problem.

Mr Warner, who obviously believes that politics has to be practised with a chainsaw, seems unaware that he is laying the foundation for the rise of the military as a powerful political force — which, in time, could turn on succeeding governments. Mr Warner should seek to understand the civilian versus military experiences in Pakistan, Egypt, Argentina, Brazil, and the African continent.

Already, Mr Warner has plans to utilise some 15,000 private security officers, the state secret agencies, and his recent $60 million allocation for surveillance equipment.

After the Tobago Referendum is settled, we need to focus on Jack Warner's plans for a militarised state.

* Keith Subero, a former

Express news editor,

has since followed a

career in communication

and management.

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