Moving into the ‘second half’
We have been slipping as a country—our version of a bad first half of a game—but we have all the resources and the talent to come back,” New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, wrote his recent book That Used to Be Us.
Assessing the state of the American economy and its “hyper-partisan” politics, Friedman, and Michael Mandelbaum, describe their country as at being at “half-time” with an urgent need to recognise, confront, and master its challenges.
Reflecting on President Anthony Carmona’s recent “performance and conduct” speech ten days ago, I noted implicit hints to the same point—our recent political experience has been a “bad first-half”; we now are at “half-time” in the naive May 2010 experiment—but fortunately with glimmers of a public awakening out of which there may be some formula to eventually re-build the Republic.
From its posturing it is obvious that the UNC government is locked in another realm, unable to sight those glimmers. After the thrashing of her party in its heartland, Chaguanas-West the Prime Minister appeared in denial claiming that there was no defeat, because her party remains in Government.
Distorted and questionable as those glimmers may be, they can be sighted—in part—in the sweeping mobilisation of Jack Warner’s “Green Machine”, which neither the UNC nor the PNM can now dismiss or even ignore.
Warner now boasts of recruitment of 106,000 supporters. This should not be seen, as some observers do, as a reptilian feeding-frenzy of amoral, “eat-ah-food” hangers-on to his deep-pockets, but more so citizens disenchanted with both parties and the system, and involved in a nebulous, yet subliminal, search for meaning to their political lives.
Despite the numerous allegations, Warner is appealing particularly to the political centre—an inter-racial mix of persons, who had the Congress of the People been a sincere, animated force, would have coalesced into a significant voice.
As much as I disagreed with the President’s removal of four Senators, whom I believe contributed significantly to the national agenda, and that he may have created further gaps on the Independent Senate bench, I believe that he raised real and practical points in address to the opening of Parliament.
For instance, his bold call for the Caribbean Court of Justice to be the country’s final appellate body, suggesting that parliamentarians be allowed to decide either through secret ballot, or there should be a national referendum on the matter.
His Excellency further called for campaign financing to be regulated, so that there would “transparency and accountability in the management of the electoral system.
He urged the Board of Inland Revenue to rise from its “slumber” to deal with the allegations of “profligate enrichment by persons in authority”, whose asset base is inconsistent with their income.
He reminded the Government that its role is that of the people’s “steward, not partisan benefactor”.
“The Government should ensure that the nation’s resources are evenly distributed, not based on how one chooses to cast one’s vote,” he reminded. To do otherwise is to make “a mockery of democracy”.
Suggesting that the parliamentary working day should begin at 8 a.m., the president also admonished parliamentarians that their conduct had sometimes fallen short, in and out of the chamber.
What the president identified was the disparity between the spirit of nation and the state of our politics, which, I fear, has been the cause of our pessimism and sense of futility. His address touched on some of realities that both the People’s Partnership government and the opposition PNM continue to ignore.
So if we are to re-build or a better a “second half” we cannot just stop at the areas that His Excellency identified. I will like to suggest radical surgery in at least three areas that immediately come to mind.
The Prime Minister is on recent record stating her commitment to equity in the distribution of Caroni lands to former sugar workers, who are mainly of East Indian descent.
To ensure that there is true equity in the process, should not consideration be given all those who historically laboured on those lands? If the PM wants a truly equitable spread, why not a Land-for-the-Landless policy, that will allow the dispossessed descendants of African slaves, the original labourers on Caroni lands, to benefit, also?
What about the Regiment? Is it time we re-think the concept of having over a 1,000-plus soldiers on standby? At the Independence talks in 1962, an armed unit was a seen as a necessity. Isn’t it time that we re-think the $1.1 Billion annual expenditure.
And what about surgery in our justice system? Last year the Magistrates Courts had a log of 116,903 cases, a management nightmare.
Shouldn’t our “Second-half” be a time of possibilities?
* Keith Subero, a former Express news editor, has since followed a
career in communication and