More inkblots to interpret
The signs of heightened public agitation were so visible that initial reports of a remarkably low voter turnout for the local government elections were perplexing. Where those figures came from and why, remain equally perplexing.
The right figures, we are now told, are rather high for LGE, and are being interpreted as portents of things to come. Somehow it doesn’t seem odd that we would go from an all-time low to an all-time high. We are extreme in that way.
The impetus has been gathering for next Monday’s vote for the St Joseph constituency, which will add some definition to the big picture taking shape and colour.
As someone from the constituency in question, I have heard quite a few music trucks from the various parties, some with messages in between songs. All have one thing in common: they rattle windows and burglar bars, and cause car alarms to trip off. A couple weekends ago, around mid-afternoon, there was a constant droning sound overhead, which turned out to be a small plane dragging a banner that invited a vote for Ian Alleyne. On the ground, a megaphone blared: Vote for Ian Alleyne as your next Member of Parliament. That is one hell of a chilling sentence.
I haven’t seen any of the candidates yet, but that is not surprising. In all my decades of living in that area, the only time I ever saw a candidate was when Carlos John walked down my street. Herbert Volney came and went his zigzag way without ever once showing his face. One MP’s office was located on the Eastern Main Road, a minute’s walk from two streets that were plastered with abandoned, overgrown lots housing rotting cars, household appliances, refuse, and of course, vermin and mosquitoes. True, the closer street was almost impassable because one of the inhabitants had a garage of sorts and used the narrow street as his garage. Now that he has closed up shop, the other street, the one at the corner with the Bushe Street traffic lights, has taken over because people also think it is okay to park on both sides of the road, from the traffic lights all the way down to Maloney Street.
These two streets were the ones closest to the constituency office of the time and they were the worst eyesores—smelly, nasty, dumps that brought great distress to the community. Did it matter to the parliamentary representative?
It doesn’t matter how pushy our MPs are to have their faces plastered on TV screens and newspapers, most constituents will tell you that negligence is the norm. That is why Jack Warner was able to woo Chaguanas. He was an exception—because this neglect does not apply only to St Joseph. Remember the Express series which went all over the country and reported that most citizens complained that they never saw MPs, or councillors, except perhaps for election times?
I am not sure that citizens expect any great improvement on the service they get from their elected representatives, at any level. I honestly cannot think of any time I felt something had improved because of the work of anyone from that category.
So what really galvanizes people to come out to vote?
Clearly, among the factors are issues that have to do with power, and control of resources, and the promise of jobs and other perks. Social scientists must be busy analysing this sort of thing.
I listened to a discussion which quickly turned emotional over the general political landscape and I was struck yet again by how much people invest their faith in politicians. The conversation had begun over the local government results, which everyone interpreted as a win for the PNM, a loss for the UNC, a nod to the ILP and a spit-out for the COP. It went like this.
In just three years the People’s Partnership has lost a lot of goodwill was one comment.
They are too corrupt was the response.
Yes, but they’re all the same. You think the PNM any better!
This came out so sharply that there was a momentary hush.
The PNM feel they own this country! Now that they smell a victory, they walking around already beating they chest!
The rage was coming from a woman in her late 60s, who seemed consumed by the vision of a triumphal PNM. And though it was not said, the tribal instincts had surfaced.
Her pragmatic argument was that if they were all the same; all expected to be corrupt, indifferent and self-serving, then what was the value of relinquishing the tribal upper hand currently held with the Partnership/UNC in government?
One response was that even if none of the candidates in this by-election has shown any attractive traits, the message can be sent via polls that the people are vigilant and always ready to vote them out.
That provoked another round of discussion about whether the idea of the one-term in office was the reason politicians went so greedily at the trough. Would they deliver more if they thought they had a longer shelf life?
Look at the history. The longer they stay, the more they feel the country is their back pocket.