26 Years ago Trinidad and Tobago was under the leadership of another hard-nosed Tobagonian who was insistent that the population needed to sacrifice for the mistakes of the political elite.
It’s simple, regardless of whether or not the policies of the PNM are superior to those of the UNC is not the issue, such is already a given, the fact is that the wastage and corruption of the UNC/PP and the austerity measures of the PNM all culminate to hurt the average citizen. Furthermore, couple this with the inability of the two major political parties to deal with crime, mainly because it's highly likely that criminal elements fund their parties behind close doors places the average law abiding citizen is in a quite precarious position. Where do we turn, who has the answers? Talking to the average citizen, one may hear the fatalistic approach which I've heard since my days as a youth: ‘what else should we expect, all of them corrupt’, or the more religious tone of: ‘these are the end times, Jesus is coming soon...’ I could assure my fellow citizens that Singaporeans for example aren't as pessimistic or fatalistic when it comes to their own affairs, the Swiss, or Norwegians for example are quite comfortable. Regardless of whether or not Jesus comes soon, they would be found having made the most of what they have had on earth. Norway for example – an economy thriving on oil and natural gas similar to Trinidad and Tobago - has planned well, prioritized in the prosperous times, and are now much more comfortable in these difficult times of low energy prices. Even our African brothers in Tanzania are making strides in the right direction; with an optimistic and no-nonsense leader in the form of John Magufuli, they are making much with very little.
Given the two recent developments of Dr. Rowley’s proclamation on the populations over-dependency on the government and the recent announcement by the Jamaat al Muslimeen for greater legitimate participation in public affairs – which would surely go unanswered simply due to the political quagmire that their involvement with any political party would mean – Trinidad and Tobago is therefore in a unique place. Purely on the political end, Trinidad and Tobago is ripe for a well organized and dedicated third party which is prepared to build a long term ground game. That itch to get into office ought to be replaced by an itch to prepare for office. Meaning, that neither the upcoming 2020 election or the following 2025 election ought to be seen as potential years for positive results at the polls, rather a third option ought to be an avenue for a growing disgruntled segment of the population to pour into. The case of the Congress of the People is one that could be simply described as a lost opportunity. The fact that the Congress of the People was able to gain more than 100,000 votes in an election showed that there was a great deal of support behind a ‘third party option’. There eventual lust for a seat at the power table forced them to capitulate and align themselves with a corrupt and lost coalition in the PP. There went a third party option for possibly another decade. The ILP, if organized well, could however change this.
Nevertheless we are where we are, with a PNM which has historically been well organized and sensible policy-wise but have lacked the necessary ‘show of compassion’ to ease the fears of the electorate and population at large, - thus leading to the expected anti-PNM vote every so often-, and the expectant cash grab by a consistently greedy Opposition bogged down in racial politics and too busy filling their pockets to compete on the battlefield of policy and ideas. What Trinidad and Tobago is lacking is a third party which could legitimately represent the interest of the Indo-Trinbagonian and ‘Hindu-fundamentalist’ who have legitimately held fears of being marginalized in local and regional politics, while simultaneously being able to compete with the PNM concerning policy. Without this, we’re doomed to the continuous back and forth of a UNC party which is obstructionist at best in Opposition, simply awaiting the opportunity until the general populace tires of the PNM – which as a party is consistently held to a higher standard – and again begin to rob us once more.
The best that could be done is that the PNM must institute checks and balances which would ensure that another wave of corruption as taken place from 2010-2015 would not happen again. If there is not a greater understanding on the part of Prime Minister Rowley of where the last six years has left the average citizen – through no fault of our own -, and more compassion on the part of his government, there is the risk of leaving a greater segment of the population of Trinidad and Tobago, angry, unemployed, disenfranchised, potentially violent, and with easy access to guns.
Mikhail E.D. Byng was born in Trinidad. He is the author of Off the Island and a graduate student at the University of Belgrade. He speaks Serbian and English.
Trinbagonian. Traveler. Believer in God. Believer in Creation. Life long Student. Sports enthusiast.