Saturday, February 24, 2018

Leaders, take your parties forward

THE significant missteps in the last three years under the People’s Partnership administration raises several questions around their ability to positively manage citizens’ lives. Issues to which I refer are violent crime, corruption, abuse of office, a poor health system, lax customer service to the public, poverty, ethical compromises, favouritism and the list can go on and on.

Equally there were also similar governance and management problems under the People’s National Movement (PNM).

It may very well be the case that citizens have resigned themselves to the conclusion that no matter who is in office the main goal will be self-interest even if it comes at the expense of quality of life for its citizens. This is evidenced by the fact that there has been no government in the recent past that has given effect to law which dilutes their power into a legislative architecture capable of holding them to account by the people.

It is fortunate for the people of T&T that the media have fearlessly pursued and exposed indiscretions which transcend across all political lines. However, this needs to be supplemented by meaningful constitutional reform initiatives geared towards embedding power in the hands of the people, not every five years, but when pandemic circumstances call for it. I daresay if T&T had been a UK overseas territory, the result would have been a suspension of the T&T Constitution like that which occurred in the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2009 after the discovery of massive corruption and financial misfeasance by ministers.

While suspension of the T&T Constitution may not be an option, I strongly believe we have reached the stage where these issues are so material and pervasive that it warrants international interventions in several obvious areas.

The “old” PNM and the UNC in its current form may no longer be viable alternatives.

In teasing out the future, there may also be problems under other administrations, say for example, the PNM under Dr Keith Rowley or a single Congress of the People (COP) party under Prakash Ramadhar.

The question is how do we address this problem moving forward. It is incumbent upon the aforementioned political leaders to move their parties forward to give the citizens a chance to really have good governance.

Dr Keith Rowley needs to first of all ensure that the Landate matter is put to rest and reject persons from seeking political office who have had any material indiscretions in the past under the “old” PNM.

The COP on the other hand needs to move the party forward on the political philosophy left by Winston Dookeran or espouse a new party philosophy. David Abdulah is currently on the road to fast-tracking the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) which is an excellent move for a man who has taken a stance against the purported indiscretions he experienced while in government.

The UNC, with its short stint in office, needs to reinvent itself. Anything short of reinvention (shedding of politicians who serve only themselves) can only help the birth of a new PNM, a resurgence of the COP, increasing traction of the MSJ and the eventual desecration of the UNC.

Like other past administrations, the UNC has failed to effectively dilute power back to the people in the form of embedding strong and independent governance institutions, introducing measures for recall of non-performing ministers, establishing codes of ethical conduct, installing right of referendum on topical issues, setting fixed election dates and sufficiently exploring proportional representation as alternate electoral mechanism.

It may be hard to believe, but the political party most likely to secure power will be the one that must be prepared to give it away.

Anand Heeraman

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