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Politics with hurricane force winds rules
Politics, as practised in T&T, is as destructive a force as the hurricanes which annually blow through the Caribbean. Defined as the search for and acquisition of power to govern in the interest of the society, politics as practised here, damage and distorts the social, economic, and political capital of the country. It is a politics which prevents the real human potential of the people of T&T from emerging.
Moreover, the political culture prevents us from making the best use of our human talents and physical resources.
Yes, we have discerned in a general way the negatives of politics; but we have not stated the negatives in very stark terms, and have not sufficiently analysed our condition to appreciate how the plaque-forming blockages of politics are clogging the arteries and weakening the sinews of the body politic.
This column puts in focus a few of the destructive and obstructive elements of the political culture that has evolved since the 1950s.
• Political mobilization and organisation along ethnic and racial cleavages have poisoned the system and large numbers of those who participate in politics.
• The politics of inequity in education has kept groups of people from achieving their full potential.
• After an election, the resources of the State are too often distributed along the lines of race and party, the in-party feeds its constituency at the expense of the out-of-power group.
• The under-utilization of the best human talents in the nation results from partisan political appointments.
• The politics of campaign financing and its destructive and distorting ways have maintained and expanded colonial privilege, skewed income distribution, and diminished the value of the franchise.
• The politics of nepotism and its concomitant corruption have facilitated destructive outcomes, inclusive of antagonism between and amongst groups of citizens.
• The practice of politics aimed at the destruction of institutions to achieve political objectives has retarded institutional and national development.
• Unprincipled politics has exaggerated and expanded unethical behaviours in the society.
• The misallocation of land resources to create and shore up political constituencies has resulted from partisan and incompetent politics.
• The decades-long undermining of local government has retarded the possibilities for rural development, and so too the much needed renewal of our urban centres.
• The failure of Parliament to achieve its full potential for progressive lawmaking has resulted from partisan politics, the structural dysfunction of the Parliament, and the refusal of the parties to makeover the institution.
• Cabinet as a decision-making body is hobbled by political bias.
• Attempts at constitutional reform are focused on capturing the power to secure the Treasury and to retain the political advantages in-built into the outdated Republican Constitution.
• Obstructionist politics blocks initiatives that can achieve advance–whichever party is in opposition condemns legislation and policy measures, often measures which they initiated when in power.
• Partisan, racial, and obstructionist politics has locked the legal system into colonial hankering after the Privy Council while the Caribbean Court of Justice remains underutilized.
• Political considerations take precedence over sound economic thinking and planning, and overpower economic logic, planning and implementation.
• The politics of obstruction has prevented the election/selection and appointment of a Commissioner of Police for more than five years.
• The politics of obstruction has restricted, and in certain instances, prevented the successful dismantling of criminality.
• The politics of race, of overvaulting desire, of political “bad mind,” and the incapacity for progressive leadership have crippled every effort at the creation of a national government.
• Fictitious political campaigns which major in bacchanal, “mauvais langue” and avoid the real issues facing the economy, polity and society, preserve electoral politics as farce.
• The politics of self-marginalization—we have allowed ourselves to be manipulated and controlled by the politicians, their dysfunctional parties and political practices—has “chained us up” while the politicians and parties run away with the power.
Judged against the above failures, shortcomings, and malignancies, the politics practised here has placed the society and economy in intensive care. The remedies put forward and administered by the parties, governments, and opposition parties have not been able to revive the ailing body politic.
New remedies are ours to prescribe and follow if we are to break out of this self-imposed incapacity to intervene to recapture the power.
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