Saturday, February 24, 2018

Kamla’s proposed seismic constitutional shifts

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain

I have made no secret of my tremendous admiration for the strength, stick-to-itiveness and political foresight of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar. 

Since she started her sojourn as Prime Minister in May of 2010, she has demonstrated that she has little tolerance for corruption and incompetence, especially among her Cabinet ministers. Mrs Persad-Bissessar has resisted the temptation to turn a blind eye to misdeeds in order to secure political loyalty; this is a characteristic seldom seen in Caribbean political leaders. The political culture of seeing the beam in the eye of political opponents, particularly when they have State power, but ignoring one’s own political cataracts when power changes hands is one of the greatest hindrances to economic and political development in the region.

Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar’s actions since taking office in May 2010 are testimony to the fact that she leads and does so from the front. She is not a Shaggy, Scooby-Doo type leader. 

As I have said in an earlier article, “Leaders who are afraid to make decisions, because of uninformed fear, rabid political opportunism, self-aggrandisement, corruption of conscience, political Angina Pectoris, or unwillingness to be unpopular are the scourge of the earth.”

In a story in the Jamaica Observer on March 26, 2014, entitled ‘Record 11 ministers fired from Trinidad’s Government’, the clearest indication of Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar’s “statesmanship” or, if you want to be politically correct, “stateswomanship”, gave details of who was dismissed and why.

I have said previously that in Mrs Persad-Bissessar, “we have a leader who is not worried about leaving a legacy of election victories as her major accomplishment, but is much more concerned about the kind of country she will bequeath to her children, grandchildren, and the people of Trinidad and Tobago. Evidently Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar is not dwarfed by realpolitik that is influenced by a process of what I call “regional political osmosis”. 

She has shunned the description that PJ Patterson attached to Jamaica’s politics— “a fight for scarce benefits and spoils carried on by hostile tribes which seem to be perpetually at war”.

Her most recent project to inspire foundational changes to the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago again recommends her as a leader of tremendous grit. 

For those who would want to go off on a tangent to say that she is only trying to preserve her own political fortunes, please be guided that the recommendations for constitutional changes are not her personal wishes. 

As veteran Caribbean journalist Rickey Singh points out: “The draft legislation, which coincides with arrangements to celebrate the country’s 52nd anniversary of Independence on August 31, is based on wide-ranging recommendations from a team of consultants, among them lawyers and constitutional experts.” (Jamaica Observer, August 10). 

Doubtless they would have had exhaustive consultations with the people; hence the lack of widespread support for demonstrations at T&T’s Parliament on Monday of last week—possibly organised by the main Opposition People’s National Movement and other political interests. 

Mrs Persad-Bissessar is evidently not on a personal frolic.

Some of the proposed changes are music to my ears, among these term limits for the prime minister and parliamentarians. 

The professional/career politician is the scourge of Caribbean party politics. Many of the politicians across the Caribbean have never owned or operated a business, developed a project from scratch and single-handedly or otherwise burnt the midnight oil to make it succeed, taken calculated risks with their own money, or made revolutionary changes in their own lives to ensure that they stave off bankruptcy. 

Indeed, too many of the people we have in party politics in the Caribbean have never succeeded at anything except winning State power. 

—Courtesy Jamaica Observer 

(Concludes tomorrow)