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let’s talk about the issues

Published: 
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
TONY FRASER

Forget the mushrooming of political parties wanting to “eat ah food,” the razzle dazzle of campaigning and empty but dangerous rhetoric, the most promising political/electoral development in this campaign is the emergence of a number of citizens-type groups ostensibly to promote voter education.

Resett62, a group, non-political in nature, is said to be here for the long-term with an objective to engage citizens in open discussion on the issues facing the country. Names of well known public figures such as Reginald Dumas, Michael Harris and Dr Merle Hodge are the ones behind the initiative. 

Then there is the Disclosure Today. This group has a shorter-term objective that being to persuade political parties, notwithstanding the absence of legislation and new rules on how parties accept funding from business organisations, to make it clear to the electorate who is funding their campaigns. 

The presumption here must be that such a declaration would inform the taxpayer of the connection between funding and the award of contracts. It is a means of having the entire polity keep an eye on insider trading in politics. It is about having the electorate make a link between those who invest heavily in the campaign of parties; and those who get an inside track to big contracts, if the party gets into power.

Fixin T&T has been around for a few years at times fighting a lone and lonely battle sticking its fingers in the eyes of governments: corruption, nepotism, favouritism in appointments, constitutional and financial governance issues being the sources of their contention. Kirk Waithe seems to be a solitary soldier, at least at the front of the battle, maybe there are backroom officers.

The leadership of the Movement for Social Justice, the party which started off as being a partner in the Partnership, has teamed up with Ramesh Maharaj to more directly influence voters away from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. This is akin to what the labour movement did in previous elections against an incumbent government.

Then there are the individuals and groups which are engaged in special-interest advocacy. The likes of Peter Permell, Afra Raymond and the Joint Consultative Council and inclusive of the Contractors Association are inside there giving information and lending perspectives. Dr Wayne Kublalsingh has risen from his fast to join the group. 

Such individuals and groups have been prepared to stand on stage and say to the electorate “you need to examine the politics, policies, track record, character and more of these politicians and parties who/which are coming forward.” 

Incidentally, when I listen to Black Stalin of 1981, Vampire Coming, he sent the same message to the electorate to be informed and wise to deal with politicians and their parties. 

The same is the stated objective of today’s citizens groups.

“Vampire with Phd, HD, AAC, vampire from in the university, vampire with dashiki, jacket and tie, vampire telling you dey doh lie; just ah little a bit of blood would do, dey taking some sweat and tears too, and from de time you join up you in pain, yuh ent seeing dem de next five years again.”

And of course the Black Man true to his faith advises his brethren to “keep de chalice smoking vampire passing, weird vampire, hang up yuh stale bread, turn round yuh bed head,” traditional folk ways of dealing with evil spirits. 

Inside the chalice of today’s groups and individuals are information packages and historical perspectives on the behaviours of the parties and individuals. 

The objectives of the groups and individuals are to stimulate in the listening electorate a resilience to politicians; those who set out to entrap voters in the ideology of race and party fanaticism.

Ultimately, the hope is for the emergence of a mature and sophisticated electorate who will not be open to manipulation along fanatical party and race lines. Ultimately, the expectation must be that there will emerge from this incubation period, an electorate that will demand that parties and individuals seeking their franchise be respectful of their intelligence and come to them with policies, programmes and time lines for implementation to transform the economy and society. 

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