By Jack Warner
Four years have come and gone and you now are into the final year of your first term in office, and the question you need to ask yourself having fought so tenaciously to get rid of Patrick Manning, is whether after all is said and done the struggle was worth it.
After four years of having sat in the seat of power, directing and redirecting this country, could you really look back and say to yourself that you are pleased with your achievements? That you honestly worked for the development of your people? And, at the end of the day, you have left a legacy for others who come after you to emulate and follow?
Mr Prime Minister, you started your term of office on the right path. You said all the right things that the nation wanted to hear. And, with bated breath we paused, hoping and waiting for that leader of promise to arise. But alas! Four years have come and gone Mr. Prime Minister. What you need to do is provide an answer to the question as to whether you have stayed true to the promise you made to the nation on the election hustings. Tell the nation if, on your inauguration as Head of Government, you stayed the course. This is necessary and opportune because very soon you would be on the road again seeking the vote of the people. No doubt telling them, this time around, that you could not be more red and ready!
2020 (and even December 2, 2019) is not going to be as easy as 2015. In 2015 this country was seeking to rid itself of an allegedly corrupt administration you promised to jail; an administration which many thought was racially biased and self-seeking, and you were seen by the people as the liberator. But instead of getting better, the nation has gotten worse. And, instead of your government getting cleaner, it has become quite dirty. So it will not be as easy for you this year and the next as it was for you in 2015.
In 2015, the media courted you. The crowds followed you. Artistes wrote songs and sang about you. And the nation was drowned in a sea of red in expectation of that celebrant moment when you would be crowned. The people delivered as you asked, but come 2020 can you with all honesty go back to the people who voted for you in 2015 believing that you have done sufficient to earn their vote?
An act of benevolence or an act of betrayal
Mr. Prime Minister, we are less than one year away for the people to decide whether or not your stewardship was an act of benevolence to the people who gave you their vote, or whether it was an act of betrayal.
We are less than one year away from that fateful moment for the people to decide whether the Rowley of 2015 could be trusted to lead this country again post 2020; whether your stewardship was loyal to the commitment you gave and whether you could be depended upon to lift this country from the morass into which it now finds itself.
We are less than one year away from determining our destiny for the next five years. The things that we will consider would be your performance and the performance of those you told us could lead. The time is almost upon us when people will be asking whether they are satisfied that you have done enough to give to you, Dr. Keith Christopher Rowley, another chance. Many will be reviewing and asking if you should be given another term to undo the wrongs that you have committed against the people.
Your greatest sin, Mr Prime Minister, is failing to listen to the voices of your people, failing to lend an ear to the people who voted you into power and failing to hear the cries of the oppressed especially in the PNM constituencies. So, after more than four years in office, the people of this country want to know whether you will listen to them the second time around.
At the beginning of your term of office you told the nation that things were rough. You said that the treasury was virtually depleted and that the people needed to tighten their belts if they were to get past the depression that was facing the nation.
The people listened to what you had to say, stood with you, paid the price with the removal of subsidies on fuel, not once, but twice; suffered through increased transportation costs, moaned over suppression of social programmes and grants. The payment for their sacrifice was unemployment, inflation, increased taxes and penalties for simple infringements of the law.
The people who voted you into power thought that you were a leader of substance then, one who would have found ways to make their lives easier, one who would have gone after big business which had failed to pay their taxes over the years, failed to return their VAT returns and big businesses which had failed to be compliant with their National Insurance payments. But instead of going after the people who owed this country you never listened but went after the people who suffer the most.
What a paradox
The people warned you against listening to a minority group that boasted internationally about their wealth, a class of people whom many view as their oppressors but you failed to listen. Instead what did you do? You shut down the nation’s oil industry, opened three companies and put your chosen few to head them, and now that election is coming around you give back the same oil industry that you had closed to the union to rebuild, the same union that you claimed was guilty of running it down. What a paradox!
The people spoke to you about the Sandals debacle, warned you about getting in bed with that hospitality giant, told you that you should not give away their land and offer sweetheart deals without talking to them about what you were proposing to engage in. But again, Dr. Rowley, your greatest fault is that you do not listen to your people because you know everything. You have all the answers. You alone have a monopoly on common sense. You placed all your eggs in the Sandals basket and when that crashed so too did your plans for this country.
Not a single revenue stream has been developed under your watch, not a single industry has been birthed and not a single innovation has taken place. The hopes the people harboured in their hearts were destroyed because you failed to listen to those who supported you.
Look how many businesses you destroyed in Tobago. Look at how many people you left unemployed. You never listened to the plight of the ones who regularly use the sea and air bridge, so now what will be your cry come 2020?
The nation never wanted you to fail but you refused to listen. The media offered you full support, even Sunshine Today, despite your consistent verbal abuse, for the past four years has this column “Advice to the Prime Minister” hoping that you would take heed. But no that is too demeaning for you who came from Mason Hall to Whitehall. The women of the nation spoke to you about the way you offend their sensibilities, but Keith Rowley, you refused to listen and make a difference in our country.
Hit the streets
Now come 2020 what is it you are going to tell the people? Yes, what promises will you now give people for them to give to you their vote again? What is it Dr. Rowley?
My advice to you is to hit the streets and rather than begin from the standpoint of arrogance, criticising the Opposition, reminding the population of how corrupt the Opposition was and lying about how the PNM salvaged this country, begin from a standpoint of humility.
Go from village to village, from community to community, from constituency to constituency and ask the people what they think of your stewardship, what they believe you have done wrong, what they feel you should do differently and for once listen Dr Keith Christopher Rowley to the views of the people. After four years you have not even visited half of the nation’s constituencies, do so in the next twelve months.
In the 1960’s Dr. Eric Williams had visited 24 constituencies in two weeks. In 2019 you can’t even visit 41 constituencies in four years!
Ask the people how they feel about your administration not providing sufficient funds to remove waste from their communities. Ask them what they think about the overgrown water channels which cause their communities to flood. Ask them about the playing fields that their children cannot use. Ask them about their roads which have become the bane of their existence, their transportation woes. Ask the people, Dr. Keith Christopher Rowley, ask them and for once listen to the plight of your people.
Visit Tobago and apologise my friend, not on the platform but from the moment you disembark from the plane because it is your policies that have driven crime on the sister isle, your policies that have birthed a homegrown gang culture that is now plaguing the once peaceful tourist haven. Yes, Mr Prime Minister, your policy has caused many in Tobago to plunge below the poverty line.
To win in 2020, you need not simply reconnect with the people of this country but also to stay connected.
Up to this point in time, the nation believes rightly or wrongly that you are not only their only hope but their only viable option.
What the people want Dr. Rowley is not a great talker but a great listener. They want a leader who cares, not one who speaks down to them but one who is touched by their feelings. They want arrogance to be replaced by humility. They want indifference to be replaced by understanding. And, most of all, they want despair to be replaced by hope……hope of a brighter and better tomorrow!
If you want to win the General Election in 2020 Dr. Keith Christopher Rowley, take my advice to you, despite your ongoing public rebuke and criticism of it and go out there and listen to your people, the people of Trinidad and Tobago. Otherwise, crapaud smoke yuh pipe in 2020!
My advice to you Dr. Rowley, is meet with the people of Trinidad and Tobago, and listen, just listen.