Engineering dirt and flinging it into interesting patterns on the public wall aren't anything remotely new to politics; and certainly not new to ours. As early as 1961, our electoral process was plagued with ethnic tensions that led to questionable behavior. Rudy Capildeo, then leader of the DLP, overwhelmed by the tensions plaguing the elections, in a fiery call to arms in front of the Governor's Residence in Port of Spain, announced to his supporters, "You will be called to arms. Wherever the PNM holds a meeting, you will have to break it up." Throughout that election campaign there was the persistent rumor of a group of black men roaming the country looking for women to rape. Sound familiar? Echoes of Hulsie X?
In the course of the campaign, violence broke out and limited states of emergency had to be declared in St Augustine, Barataria,Caroni East and Chaguanas.
In the post-Williams era there was the infamous gun hoax created by ONR candidates Surujrattan Rambachan (Oropuche) and Unanan Persad (Caroni East). Rambachan and Persad claimed to be driving along Gaston-Johnson Street, Chaguanas, when shots were fired at their vehicle. Rambachan blamed the Panday-led ULF and accused the Prime Minister, George Chambers, of encouraging violence. Shortly after reporting the incident to the police, and making much of the attack at political meetings in Diego Martin, it was discovered that the shooting was a hoax. Rambachan and Persad had shot bullets into their vehicle themselves and made a false report to the police. Neither was charged for wasting the Police's time or discharging a fire arm. The Trinidad Guardian of November 3rd, 1981 carries the story. Feel free to check it out.
Between 1981 to the present, there have been numerous attempts at mud slinging, smear campaigns and conspiracies. During the May 2010 election campaign there was an alleged assassination attempt on the life of then Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Since then it seems assassination attempts on the PM, whether by tins of Matouk's peas, random Muslims or ghosts are the order of the day. These attempts are meant to encourage empathy and sympathy for the Prime Minister. Look at this poor, beleaguered, hard working woman. Everybody wants to kill her, even canned food.
Two nights ago (June 5th, 2014), at a public meeting in San Juan, a rare thing happened: Camille Robinson-Regis revealed the details to a smear campaign by the UNC against Opposition Leader Keith Rowley in the midst of its very failed execution.
The emails revealed a group that comprises government ministers, the Canadian High Commissioner, the former UK ambassador, advisers to the PM, media and public relations specialists and everybody's favorite Facebook racist:PEAnuts.
In an email dated Friday, May 16, 2014 12:02:25PM, sent from Rodney Charles to approximately 17 people, he says:
"We propose launching a full scale attack on Keith Rowley come the morning of May 19th 2014 ie the morning after his expected landslide victory. We absolutely need to bring down his polling ratings."
Then on Saturday, May 31 2014 in an email whose subject is, "Make this Happen and everybody wins", someone by the name of Roodal is enthusiastic and responds to an email sent to him by someone called Phillip Alexander by saying: "This is a great idea."
The idea Phillip Alexander has pitched to him is:
Every evening from six to seven on CNMG there could be a one hour show called "Equal Time" hosted by yours truly..."
Apart from the concept of the show, what struck me about the e-mail exchanges are the time stamps.
Phillip Alexander sends his original message at 9:58 am on Sat 31st, May. Roodal responds at 11:23 am. And by 13:18:06, the emails have been sent to someone who has PNM sympathies. Chris Brown was right....these hoes aint loyal. Is this a case of surveillance and interception....or does the UNC ship have some major leaks in its very inner cabal?
If the final message forwarded came from Roodal's email, who did he forward the messages to?
An election is constitutionally due by September 2015. The UNC/PP Govt has not a chance in hell of winning it, despite Kamla's sustained popularity. There are simply too many scandals and missteps to sidestep during next year's campaign.
Usually an incumbent party campaigns on its track record. Boasting about its achievements with regards to new legislation and infrastructure.
This Government has a dismal track record with legislation. From Section 34 to Soldier Bill, to DNA Bill to Dangerous Dogs, no one is happy with how inefficient a Cabinet filled with lawyers are at drafting legislation. And in terms of infrastructural development, the SNC Lavallin fiasco colors one planned hospital and the Point Fortin and Debe to Mon Desir Highway routes are riddled with protests and accusations of corruption.
We need not even go back to their 7 Pillars of Sustained Development Manifesto to know that every promise made remains unfulfilled.
What is patently obvious is that they are extremely aware of their poor track record, but will stop at nothing to return to power.
Their strategies though, have not improved with time.
1. Circle the wagons of support around the leader and have the party base lash out in a wild, incoherent frenzy at anyone who dares to criticize her. Go to any of their support pages on FB - True Trinis Discussing Real Issues or even the UNC Group administered by Allan Karim. See what passes for debate and idea exchange there.
2. Raising the race bogey - a topic i intend to touch on in a later blog. Despite the numerous acts of race-baiting by Kamla herself and members of her government, her party has now started a campaign that seeks to paint the Opposition as racist. The hope is that their support base will continue to support them.
3. Target and smear the leader. In 2010 it was Manning. Manning's Squandermania, Manning and Calder Hart, Manning and Juliana Pena, Manning and Duprey/CLICO, Manning and the Guanapo Church, Manning's secret love child, Manning, Manning, Manning. It's simple really. You need to give the electorate a focus. A symbol of what they hate or resent about their governance. Because the UNC is now the government, the focus will be on Rowley and all of the secret racial tensions and fears will be played upon: a black man in power will mean suffering for Indians; blacks in charge will mean less access to resources, rape, violence; we can't put back a black Prime Minister. Already the messages are there, subliminally and overtly. And unfortunately, most of our electorate will make no effort to separate truth from fact and examine issues.
What needs to happen during this campaign year is that the focus must be kept solely on performance and track record. We, the electorate, must rise above the noise and examine the UNC/PPs track record from 2010 to whenever an election date is called; and we must examine the PNM's track record, specifically Rowley's achievements and skills, because Manning has been removed from all leadership positions and has stated he won't be running in the next election. Compare the track records of the two leaders before us: Keith and Kamla.
Let's make 2015 about performance, not smear campaigns against personalities.