Issues of trust are fast becoming a major liability for the Rowley administration.
Over the past month or so far too many issues have eroded the credibility of his administration. It is, therefore, best that he follows his instincts and call that early General Election rather than wait until the Christmas Season when the election results could very well be a ton of coal from that other red master, Mr Claus.
As much as the Prime Minister wishes to hide his shenanigans, this Team 23 is nothing more than a select group of persons brought together with the hope that their recommendations will be the platform upon which the PNM’s Manifesto for the 2020 General Election will be crafted.
This is a contravention of the Campaign Finance Reform Legislation tabled in the Parliament by Prime Minister Keith Rowley last Friday, May 4, 2020. The legislation which the Prime Minister stated would regulate “an incumbent Government’s access to State resources before and during an election campaign period.” However, this seems to be exactly what the Government is doing because it is the State that is paying a team to design a way forward for our country that will be represented in the Manifesto of the PNM.
It is difficult to comprehend how this is not the case or since why after paying such large sums of money to the team, the government, as the party in power, is going to reject what is presented and come up with a different formula to advance this country.
Not a matter of coincidence
It is therefore not a matter of coincidence that Team 23, paid by the State, was brought together at this time to chart a way forward. This is a well-orchestrated plan to benefit the Party in power which will also reduce on the expenses that it will normally incur to develop such a document for a General Election.
Barbados does not seem to have these trust issues because of what Mia Mottley, its Prime Minister, has brought to the table. A long time ago, Barbados began to roll out its “Way Forward Strategy” while Trinidad and Tobago is now playing catch-up and only recently appointed a team to chart this way forward. It is not a coincidence that it is only now, after almost five years in office, that this Rowley administration is bringing Election Reform Legislation to the Parliament and talking about election date, suggesting Christmas to be a good time.
Even though Barbados’ general elections are not due until 2023, Prime Minister Mottley has already rolled out Barbados’ Economic Recovery Stabilization Plan for a two-year period and a Barbados $2.3 billion budget. No one could accuse her of conveniently appropriating State funds for party use because the content of her Plan will not magically end up in her manifesto paid for by the State.
Dr. Rowley must recognize that when the date for the General Election is called, it is not only his performance, as poor as it has been, that will be under scrutiny; not his ability to stem the flow of murders which he has failed to do; not his failure to reduce crime and catch the “Mr and Mrs Bigs” in our society; nor will he be judged by his intimate association with the one percenters to the detriment of the rest of society, as embarrassing as that has been. All these transgressions will contribute to his demise. However, the final nail in his coffin will be his credibility and whether or not the people can believe he will do what he says he will do.
His own party members are not prepared to work with him
His current track record is replete with too many instances where his own party members are not prepared to work with him. During his stewardship there have been too many occasions where men and women of higher ilk have abandoned him for his lack of vision and his inability to understand what this country needs to take it forward.
One can understand the human capital deficit that challenges him to find a team within his own party to develop anything of substance for the PNM. Remember how his Economic Advisory Board abandoned him? Remember the stupid decisions he made which he thought would have taken this country out of its economic woes? Decisions like the shutting down of Petrotrin? His partnership with hotel giant Sandals? His fawning and lying prostrate at the feet of the one-percenters? There is so much more!
Given this Covid-19 pandemic he should now be happy that the national community exploded in protest, forcing Sandals to renege on its plan for a Tobago Hotel.
Team 23 is really not about a way forward for the people of Trinidad and Tobago. It is about designing a way forward for the PNM. It is a bit disheartening that Vasant Bharath did not see this coming and feels that his contribution is for red, white and black rather than only red.
Dr. Rowley knows that he has made many economic blunders, one critical one is placing the restoration of historical buildings before the welfare of people and two, starting and then abandoning a highway to Toco. He knows that to right these wrongs he has to come up with a plan. He is hoping that Team 23, with its creative and divergent thinkers, will help. At the end of the day, it is the State that is paying for the PNM Manifesto. The question to be asked is whether it is right for Dr. Rowley to use the platform of Covid-19 to make the country pay.
All the actions taken are about elections. All the signs portend that election is near.
When Rowley and his administration are eroding the Heritage and Stabilization Fund that was set up to take care of future generations; when loans are taken with no effort at Parliamentary oversight we know that the General Election is near; when road works continue with paving on perfectly smooth road surfaces, at a time of lockdown, we know election is near.
As the potential election date draws nearer there will be many other excesses and we must be vigilant. The national community must examine carefully how every cent is spent since we need to be assured that State funds are not being siphoned to support the PNM and thereby ensuring the Rowley administration a second term in office. Citizens must take serious note of how money is spent. It must be spent in the interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. and not for PNM campaigning.
We have to be our own watchdogs
We must be our own watchdogs because this Rowley administration has lied to us before and they will do so again, if given the chance. The Prime Minister was economical with the truth regarding profits for the revised oil sector. He has been careless in his conversation about Delcy Rodriguez’ presence on T&T soil, and each time he speaks on the issue he digs a deeper hole for himself and his government. Up to this day he is still silent about the collapse of the Sandals deal. He has taken this nation into dark and shady territories then tries to shift the blame on our public servants hanging them out to dry.
These are trust issues. They may have corruption splashed all over them. In the end, the question that we must ask is if we can trust Dr. Rowley to do the right thing even when we are not watching, engrossed as we are with Covid-19.
These are trust issues and the bringing together of Team 23 may be a good idea for national development. We must, however, ask whether an ulterior motive was the catalyst upon which this group of professionals was brought together. Team 23 is raising more questions than answers. If one examines the Prime Minister’s behaviour recently, it is clear that too many things being done by him and his administration seem to place us in grey areas of discomfort and leave us questioning whether we could trust the Prime Minister and accept what he says at face value.
Even his response to a journalist who raised a question for a Tobago resident on having a sea bath on that island has elevated to levels of distrust. We are not even sure about the genuineness of Dr. Rowley’s advice to “call Gary” because given the recent spats between the TTPS and his administration one gets the feeling that the response was to ridicule the Commissioner of Police.
The least Dr. Rowley could do is to tell us what it is going to cost taxpayers to wine and dine Team 23 so that we can determine whether the PNM Manifesto was worth it. This might be the platform upon which he can start rebuilding trust before Election 2020.