Trinidad and Tobago goes to the polls sometime in 2015. Until then, we’re in for a long season of intense activity in the political sphere, as Government and opposition groups bitterly contest the space to define the national agenda and impress an increasingly sceptical electorate. The gloves are already off! Eventually, when the results are in, the triumphalism exhibited will be distasteful in the extreme; this is the way of the world. The prize is alluring—five years unimpeded access to the treasury of a country of some affluence; winner take all and devil take the hindmost!
Thereafter, the real winners emerge from the shadows. The political entrepreneurs, the grand and petty carpetbaggers, will hurry and harass to secure the return on their investment, openly and obscenely brawling over the spoils. Then we will come to know the preelection commitments, compromises and promises made. Good governance be damned! Is this mere speculation, crippling cynicism or the feckless ranting of a fevered mind? Far from it, recent experience dictates we shed our innocence and arise from slumbering complacency!
Only the vigilance, decisions and actions of an informed citizenry will make a difference come 2015! Information, communication and critical thinking will be indispensable to effect change! The assertions of those soliciting our support must be thoroughly analysed and subjected to due-diligence tests for conflicts of interest, false declarations, security risks, etc. After all, they will be our leaders, entrusted with stewardship of the nation’s wealth! We must check the bona fides of the messengers and scrutinise the content of their message. For there are too many charlatans—paid purveyors of disinformation and misinformation, public-relations agents! All sides of the political spectrum will indulge in chicanery, deploying a coterie of similar advocates and cheer-leaders.
Let those courting our franchise by professing to offer themselves in selfless sacrifice and service to citizen and country engage us in earnest conversations of coherence and influence, at national, regional and local/community level.
I support the call for a period of heightened political activism moderated by civil society, in which citizens seize the opportunity to define the development agenda; determine the issues undermining their well-being; instigate the changes necessary for improved service delivery and more equitable resource allocation; make substantial input in refashioning governance systems and structures to induce more inclusive decision- and policy-making and hold duty bearers accountable.
We need consensus on: feasible plans for the economy and the environment—energy sector development, diversification, food security and employment; concrete initiatives to address the underlying structural factors, and not simply the symptoms, impacting crime, insecurity and other social ills; innovative and practical interventions to transform mere provision of housing into the creation of sustainable communities; adequate measures to regulate campaign financing and public procurement.
These conversations are opportunities for assessing political organisations and the representatives they foist upon us. They must elicit from politicians commitment to a course of action, inclusive of monitoring and evaluation, directed to address concerns identified and accommodate proposals made. A manifesto thus becomes a meaningful mandate for dealing with citizen interests, a genuine social compact and less a hastily cobbled statement of banality.
We should seize the moment! Time marches on; the next 18 months must not be business as usual.
We deserve better, let’s aim higher!
Winston R Rudder