Carnival is a time when Trinidad and Tobago unites in revelry, but when the mas is over the unity must continue with politics of connectivity and inclusion, says former PNM MP Pennelope Beckles-Robinson.
Speaking to the Express by phone yesterday, Beckles-Robinson said although the People’s Partnership Government promised unity and change, this was not delivered and there was still division in the country.
“Connectivity and inclusion—these are the pillars of a house of unity. Right now, Trinidad and Tobago is a house divided against itself.” she said.
“You can’t build a society unless ordinary people feel included in the decisions which affect their lives and their livelihood,” she added.
Beckles-Robinson, 53, will be battling Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley for the post of political leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM) in the party’s internal election scheduled for May 18.
The former senator said she has been an official party member for more than 20 years and served at various positions--including Arima MP, head of the Women’s League and member of the general council--and believes the PNM has difficulty in expanding from its traditional base.
“That has not prevented us from being a truly national party or from attracting people of Indian descent and professional people. But, in politics, perception is crucial, and the PNM needs to work on its image,” said Beckles-Robinson.
She sees inclusion as the greatest challenge for any political leader and is of the view this was her core advantage as a potential leader of the PNM and as a future prime minister.
Beckles-Robinson said if she becomes the PNM’s political leader, that process would automatically be in train.
“I have always been about consensus, I will work with anyone in order to achieve worthy goals, once the other person has the same objectives and standards.”
Inclusion, she said, was only the first part.
“It’s useless to get everyone on board unless you also have the practical methods for reaching the goals. How does the ordinary citizen make their problems known to the body which can help? And how does the government ensure that the people who are supposed to help are doing that job in a timely and effective way?”
The answer, she said, lies in democratic communication.
“Technology has now made the constituency meeting possible at a national level. We have to build on that. That’s one major change I would like to bring to the nation as a leader. It can be the foundation for making T&T a truly developed country.”
Beckles-Robinson said there must be community involvement in the political process.
“When I was a little girl, the community meetings used to take place in my family’s home. I saw democracy at work, with everyone who came giving their views. We have to create systems and mechanisms to reproduce the community meeting at a constituency and national level.”
This, she added, was the foundation for tackling national problems like crime and child abuse.
Beckles-Robinson notes that such crimes affect women of all races and class.
“It’s not an issue that you can deal with through partisan politics. And you don’t lose any political advantage by taking a unified approach to such an issue. The same thing applies to child abuse. What conscientious adult would put political bias before saving a child?” she said.