A REPUBLIC DAY ASSESSMENT OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

COMMENTARY BY JUSTICE HERBERT VOLNEY

In just about one year power will for a short while return to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. We will return to the polls to elect our representa­tives at a constituency level and whomsoever commands the sup­port of the majority of members so elected will be requested to form a government.

2010 a chance taken to be rued

In 2010 the people took a chance electing a coalescence of forces opposed to the then govern­ment of the late Patrick Manning. I offered myself to this movement after much prayer and soul search­ing. I was successful at the polls. I was appointed as Justice Minister. For 27 months I gave it my all.
I remained in the House of Rep­resentatives until my right to speak and vote for the constituents of St Joseph was taken from me by the later disgraced Wade Mark, the unelected Speaker. I had stayed for one year after my ministerial ap­pointment was revoked over mat­ters relative to the proclamation of section 34.

The quest for self-destruct

By September 2015 the Partner­ship had dissipated and the UNC was defeated at the polls. Knowing that it was about to lose the elec­tion, the UNC Government adopt­ed a slash and burn policy spend­ing money it was forced to borrow to sweeten the national mauby. It failed at the polls because of un­answered allegations of corrup­tion, firings galore, and fixing their supporters at the expense of fair­ness and justice dispensed among citizens. The government was first disgraced by the campaign and then humbled by its rejection at the polls both in Trinidad and in Tobago. Many high level issues of government behavior remain unre­solved and some of them have also made it into our courts.

A resurgent PNM

The People’s National Move­ment Government has somehow survived the last four years. It has taken often unpopular decisions to rescue the economy and our way of life. These measures have not been particularly austere but were necessary to maintain balances that have allowed our country to proceed through very trying and challenging economic circum­stances inherited from the last ad­ministration.
Any sober citizen would be aware of this and be appreciative of it for what has been seen in the last four years has been respon­sible government charting a way out of a mess left by the last UNC Government.

Epilogue

The problem with this Row­ley Administration, however, has been the apparent absence of any real plan it professed to have had as a central theme of its 2015 cam­paign. It is not enough that you have a plan to tighten our collec­tive belt in order to stabilize the economy. What we need is growth and not stagnation. We want job creation on a massive scale that absorbs the twenty thousand high school graduates each year. We want good sustainable jobs created to take in our university graduates.
JOB creation is the number one failure of this government. We want a more responsive and reli­able public health care system. The absence of a junior minister in the Health Ministry suggests a dogged failure to appreciate that the task is well over the head of the incumbent.
The problem of CRIME is being addressed between the Attorney General and the Minister of Na­tional Security. Support seems to be given to the Commissioner of Police at long last, and one senses a reduction on the runaway crime affecting the country at the last change of government.
The Prime Minister needs to have a new minister of EDUCA­TION if he is re elected to govern­ment. Much more was expected of the incumbent given his history in the education sector. The policy of this minister is his way or the high­way and consultations seem not to have impacted the way forward.
I have been more than a silent observer these last four years. I’ve written about it with only legal re­straint but I’ve let my true feelings known.
This Republic Day moment, I salute the government for its effort and while there is much still to be done to grow the economy on a sustainable basis, I am impelled to call it in the positive for the Row­ley administration.
Democracy, however, requires that the people have a real choice at the polls when the elections are called. Our Opposition has failed to fire at fair throttle. It remains en­sconced in a failed past and leader­ship. I would not vote to elect it as the next government much as its supporters will say that I am sour grapes. I won’t stop speaking truth to the politics and suggest that the Opposition UNC has done little to attract the coalition of voters along the East/West Corridor to support it as it had the Partnership in 2010.

Trini Life

Life in this country remains rela­tively nice, not the best, but at least one of inclusion for all Trinidadi­ans and Tobagonians. Everyone is getting a little of the pie to get by and this is because the national pie has shrunk. This is not the gover­nance exhibiting runaway buying of Range Rovers for south of the Caroni, eating a good food by sup­porters of the UNC ‘Partnership-style’, and abuse of the Treasury. Corruption led to the loss of two succeeding governments and the Rowley-leadership is aware that unanswered allegations of it are like fire to gasoline.
So far, it has seemingly passed the litmus test and with the award of the Petrotrin refinery recently to a local bid, it has, given the Op­position reaction, exposed if not thwarted other plans of the UNC for the refinery, sinister possibly, but not limited to campaign fi­nancing. God don’t sleep as we say, and let’s celebrate life none­theless in this Republic.

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