Anals of Achievement #8: Prostituting Our Values

Somewhere between 1995, the great Bas, creator of quotations and quips, coined the phrase "Politics has its own morality" and it seems that with each news cycle the People's Partnership Government has taken it upon themselves to make that statement their mantra! Much fanfare was made of the signing of the Fyzabad Accord because the then UNC was anxious to show the country that it wasn't trying to get into government alone, it was doing so as part of a partnership that would keep each other in check. The UNC was only too aware of the impression it had left on the population after its first and only term in office that ran from 1995 into 2001, until President Robinson made that other historic statement and decision about morals and principles, that saw Patrick Manning's PNM getting the edge over Basdeo Panday's UNC after yet another hung election campaign.

During the intial 5-year term the country was treated to scandals involving:

  • Vasant Bharath's shipments of pet rice, one that actually landed and the other that is apparently still lost at sea....maybe it's in Davy Jones' Locker;
  • Hansraj Soomairsingh's (a local government councillor) body being found in a Mayaro Beach House;
  • Dhanraj Singh, Local Government Minister, who slapped an Assistant Police Commissioner in the face and was eventually arrested on 27 counts of corruption and murder. 
  • Kamla Persad-Bissessar's hurried implementation of secondary education for all that led to children being placed in rooms above bar and in windowless warehouses in downtown Port of Spain
  • Tim Goopeesingh's alleged creation of ghost doctor gangs, misuse of public equipment and state funds.
  • The Airport fiasco involving Brian Kuei Tung, Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson.
  • Corruption at Wasa that fingered Ganga Singh as being involved.
  • Large household expenses under Gary Griffith's tenure as head of household.
  • An undisclosed London bank account in the name of Mr Panday's wife, who seemed to be a housewife and a London apartment.
  • Frequent travel and shopping trips.

In light of the bitter aftertaste that these incidents left in the mouths of many citizens, the UNC realised that it would have to clean up its act. It did two things: got rid of Basdeo Panday as leader; and joined up with several other political entities that were not linked to corrupt governance the way the party was.

Under the guise of a partnership that would show collective responsibility for the country's affairs they won a landslide victory and here is where the ole mas start!

The People's Panchayat soon put in place a moral and value system that relied on unaccountability, opaqueness; blame-throwing or simply ignoring the issue until it goes away.

Right after election the PM moved into the house of the Gopaul's, claiming that it was safe and easier for her to do so. It would turn out months later that this Gopaul family have more than Seepaul Luck...they have everybody luck because they were benefitting from large contracts from the government. When questioned about the rightness of her association with the family and their receiving of plum government contracts such as the Pt Fortin Highway, the PM, ever the woman of integrity, put in place a committee to oversee the granting of contracts. Then she made herself chairperson of the committee. Accountability and transparency in procurements accomplished!

Not a murmur was heard from any of the other members of the partnership!

The next scandal that would rock the government and the country was the appointment of Reshmi "Sashi Rekhma" Ramnarine, a junior clerk, to the position of Director of the SIA. Ramnarine's appointment was approved by a Cabinet that consisted of Dookeran, Ramadhar and Errol McLeod (COP and MSJ members who the citizens of the country were convinced had principles and integrity). The appointment was also signed by acting President Timothy Hamel-Smith, yet another COP member who campaigned for good governance, accountability and transparency. When news of Ramnarine's appointment broke John Sandy and Prakash Ramadhar took to their feet to defend Ramnarine's appointment and to declare that she was suitably qualified to be the SIA Director. They even cited Ramnarine's possession on a bachelor degree in IT from the UWI that Friday evening in Parliament. Only to have the mark buss the following week that Ramnarine had no such qualifications. Ramnarine would not be the first such state appointment to have no qualifications, yet be in receipt of a high paying public position. Eventually what would be revealed to the country is that qualifications are unnecessary for jobs under this regime....all that is required is common sense!

With mounting public protest over the appointment Ramnarine did the right thing and resigned. Then went into hiding, then changed her name, and as rumour has it, now works in a special security department set up within the Ministry of Education. Throughout the entire SIA/Ramnarine debacle not a word of condemnation was heard from the other members of the partnership. But Prakash Ramadhar, caught with his pants down, after blindly endorsing her in the Parliament would be quoted as saying in a post-cabinet interview, "I know not the woman." It would be the start of his internship as a Baptist Minister.

There would be a virtual clusterfuck of scandals after the Reshmi Ramnarine Affair in December 2010. There was Mary King giving herself a contract from within her own ministry, there was Nizam Mohammed accusing the Police Service of ethnic disparity and racism, there was Sat Maharaj blatantly announcing on television that he had to fire a young On The Job trainee because her pantylines were visible. No member of the Partnership asked Maharaj why his eyes were on the young woman's posterior; no member of the partnership came out and roundly condemned Mary King's behaviour. What we got was a quick firing, even though King insisted that the PM knew that she was awarding contracts to herself; and a quick condemnation of Mohammed's statement by the PM, but he was never fired for making what was clearly a racist and divisive statement.

But things started to pick up speed in August of 2011, and since then we've been on a fast track to a total prostitution of our value system. It's almost as if the People's Partnership has decided to ass with what the country thinks, we here for one term and we will do as we like. I can't possibly think that anyone in this government expecting a second term.

The SOE occurred with the full support of the Partnership, to date we have no idea what the clear and present danger we were avoiding by suspending constitutional rights and shutting the country down for 107 days were. There was talk of gang warfare between Trinidad and Columbia, that never happened.

Then we heard that Beetham residents had an underground diesel bunker and cache of date there were no guns under Beetham and the diesel bunkering was being done by people who definitely don't live in the Beetham. I think TV6 journalist Mark Bassant found a number of them in south Trinidad.

Not a word from the partnership against the SOE, in fact they rose to their feet as one for 3 days in Parliament to support it as a worthy cause.

The PM claimed there was an assassination plot against her, had 17 men arrested and at the end of the SoE there was no evidence of a plot to assassinate her, no evidence of anything at all....just a false alarm and a hoax. By December 2011 it became pretty clear that Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer and Tom Clancy were writing the PR for this government. We were Clear and Present Danger meets Pirates of the Caribbean going down a road that was Too Fast and Too Furious!

January 2012 saw Gibbs appointment as Police Commissioner, the Crop Duster Plane Rental for $.9m, the $800m trip to India that we paid for, Kamla's sister as paid travel assistant, Kamla's family living in the PM's residence, the AG hiring his nephew as his personal assistant, the Minister of Transport hiring the Minister of Finance's cousin as chairman of the board to the state airline and insisting that airline experience was needed, just common sense. We  have had past chairman of T&TEC resign because it was discovered that he had 2 fake degrees on his resume. Two ministers abused the Government Travel Card to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars and then said they did nothing wrong. One minister refused to apologise!

The list goes on and there are too many to get into. What remains constant is that the other member of the Partnership either remain mum on these  issues, excuse them or turn a blind eye. The COP only finds its voice when it is being denied plum government positions, a la Marlene Coudray. Suruj Rambachan has described the Prime Minister's blatant nepotism as good family values. Whenever the Prime Minister lies, it's now called misspeaking, or a misstep. If the PM get's caught in a lie she doesn't apologise for it, she merely brushes it off by saying she was advised. In short, it's not her fault she lied, it's the adviser's fault. And so, she doesn't have to apologise....because to apologise is to admit guilt...and this government is guilty of nothing except loving this country until it hurts!

De Vice Cyah Done!