Post 375.

Once again, so many voters looking for sanity and trustworthiness find themselves wanting. A PNM win was secured by the government’s deeply cautious, but extremely successful health response. It was also secured by the vast distribution of social and economic support to tens of thousands of citizens, and the millions given carte blanche to religious groups which constitute major voting blocs. Don’t expect these monies to be properly and publicly accounted for, of course. The PMN found the best way to use a disaster to secure gratitude in the voting booth. That’s just reality in an election year.

Fascinatingly, the Prime Minister made a lengthy speech about campaign finance reform. This sounded like a brilliant plan to spend billions as a party (in government) without the constraints of procurement regulation while cleverly limiting other parties’ (out of government) ability to spend on their campaign without oversight. Campaign finance reform, if passed, will be a double win for the PNM and cause some belly pain for the UNC as they are well aware that parties in government spend millions (and this year more than a billion) in state funds as part of their campaign and parties out of government straggle on what they fundraise.

All this cleverness now seems wasted, however. It’s clear that the PM and Minister of National Security Minister lied to the nation or maybe are lying to themselves or maybe they just open borders and meet sanctioned foreign elites on the fly. I don’t understand calls for Stuart Young to resign when the anancy story goes straight to the top. What does a voter do when the party in government is caught in a lie? Go back into a relationship without trust?

On the other hand, the UNC’s strategy has won no love. Moonilal’s ill-fated run to the US Embassy was simply to send the message that an election is coming and a change of regime would be in US interest. Threat of sanctions, which it almost seemed that the UNC was begging for, would help send that message to a population already hungry and fearful, and provide nice sound and fury to secure desperate votes on the campaign trail. Moonilal didn’t anticipate that the press would pick up the story, but kick dust in his face and it’s now clear that new bacchanal must be quickly found.   

The UNC strategy was despicable, though I disagreed with the PM that it was traitorous and I disagreed with Cudjoe that it was racist. Actually, I thought Cudjoe’s commentary on Moonilal, and Indians, was itself despicable and racist, or maybe he hasn’t read anything on Indians in the Caribbean published after 1980.

I understand why we have to remain under US policy rule as our major trading partner and neighbourhood bully, but to champion that position was to reduce us to colonial status and playing policeman of our own subordination, like little boys in khaki short pants.

There has been a global call to lift sanctions, particularly at this time, when they impose an immoral cost on the shoulders of innocents and the poorest and most vulnerable in Venezuela. Sanctions against Venezuela are also not CARICOM policy. As citizens of the world, we have a right to our own views on global affairs. We have a right to think for ourselves beyond US politics. We have to abide, or bears costs of doing otherwise, but we do not have to agree.

So, where does the last weeks’ political chaos leave us?

Over the last decades, the incumbent has had trouble getting back into government though a month ago the PNM could have called an election and, without even a campaign speech, immediately won. Today, if we vote the PNM back in, we will be showing that we accept degrees of dishonesty yet again.

The AG has the Commission of Enquiry into the Point Fortin Highway, which is racking up tens of millions and again constitutes campaign spending using state resources, in his back pocket to pull out whenever the UNC bawls corruption. If we vote the UNC back in, he will make sure it shows we are prepared to accept much the same.

As Iran bravely ships oil to Venezuela, and Caribbean waters heat up, an election season fight for credibility has begun. We will have to choose between two parties with questionable decision-making, many smart men and too little trust. As with hurricanes, we can only hope to weather the wrath of oncoming storms in our tiny teacup.  

Post 150.

That Anil Roberts remains a minister suggests that the legitimacy of the government has completely gone up in smoke. That the UNC continues to give him tomfoolery time on their platform explains why there is so much Cabinet skin teeth glinting through their paid political broadcasts. The joke is obviously on us.

Roberts, who for years never stopped yapping at full attack and pitch, suddenly has no comment, and no balls. No lawyers are required to admit to or deny what are plainly his own actions. The Ministry of Communication should never have provided a façade behind which he could cower. His spineless silence to the media should not have be filled by his shouting from the safety of hustings. The PM should have handed him the press conference mic instead of defending nonsense about one-year old videos. Everyone knows that is not the issue. Neither is it small time marijuana use.

It is the failure to choose truth.

It’s one thing to admit to wrongdoing, like for example rolling ganja while in official clothes and on state business. It’s another to lie. It’s an entirely additional category of smartman politics to refuse for weeks to answer a straightforward public question, to deflect from personal accountability by pointing fingers in every pointless direction, and to boldfacedly try to impose the pretense, like the emperor with no clothes, that everyone can’t see your backside. Dat is truth.

A government who will let a cabinet member avoid answering an easy, small stakes, yes or no question about a roll on, will also let all its ministers avoid honestly answering hard, deeply accountable questions about expenditure of state funds, disbursement of state contracts, and signed deals for infrastructural development. Dat is truth.

These are the big stakes we face, the ones that will push the same people shouting ‘ray ray’ in today’s rallies to someday switch parties, then later burn tires in the road, and finally make their living by the gun once oil and gas money is inexplicably gone. Party supporter or not, that’s why this matters for you.

Even if Roberts is finally fired, it will be too late, reflecting political expediency, calculated timing and public pressure more than any immediate principle. If, on some surreal basis, he’s left at the helm of his ministry, Cabinet might as well wrap the concept of integrity in some paper and strike a match because Campaign 2015’s real politik is fire bun honesty.

Anil Roberts himself is abundantly irrelevant, but corruption under his watch is not, and be absolutely sure that the failure to choose truth is also happening in bigger, and more costly and consequential situations. Responsibility lies fully with the PM and the Cabinet. Undeniable truth.

The UNC will invest in expensively packaged rallies to hide such repeated turns away from transparency, forgetting that watching shiftiness on the news is free. What politicians often don’t realize is how much petty corruption, mismanagement or scandal backfires when they hope these will pass unnoticed or forgotten in relation to the billion dollar issues. Voters also don’t like over the top attempts to treat them like fools, a lesson that should have been learned from Tobago, Chaguanas West and St. Joseph.

Public officials cannot refuse to answer public questions. Ask Roodal, champion of answering every question put to government in Parliament, a man who can boast of success at something that the PNM not once in three decades managed to consistently do. The best way to turn that widely hoped-for legacy to ashes is an ongoing, parallel failure to earn our vote through truth.