To be honest, it is not my intention to get involved into the politics of the traditional political parties, but I do feel the sense of apathy experienced by voters by simply looking at the selection of candidates to contest this year’s, General Election.
I have carefully listened to the voices of protest and I have conducted analyses on the points raised simply to understand whether the value is only predicated on the platform of ageism. But sad to say, there is a lot of merit in the arguments being presented and if one were to look at this PNM administration and their performance over the past five years, there is validity to the discontent currently being expressed.
I have no difficulty in elevating youth to positions of power because youth can be compelling agents of change. To quote the 32nd President of the United States of America, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, it is our responsibility to “build our youth for the future.”
In my mind, youth represents vision, innovation and new opportunities. As adults, we need to develop and establish direct protocols to involve the youth in our decision-making processes if we are to harness their true potential and ignite their leadership skills.
We elevate them to positions of power.
Globally, youth have brought the issue of rights, the crucial need for gender equality, climate change, social injustice, economic inequality and human rights to the table in a way that has redefined how society is now paying attention to these ills.
It took a 16-year-old, Greta Thunberg, to shock the world into reality with her view that humanity is facing an existential crisis arising out of climate change and pledged to leave a cleaner and purer environment for our global posterity. There were others like 18-year-old Emma Gonzalez of Florida and 20-year old Malala Yousafzai of Afghanistan, just to name a few.
There is no doubt in my mind that we could harness our youth and convert their energy and creativity towards solving today’s challenges. What disturbs me, however, is not the decision to select young persons into the national political arena; it is the quality of those selected.
Many who are selected as candidates for the two major political parties bring to the table little or no substance. They have almost no knowledge of the challenges facing the global village nor can they preface even a measure of respite to bring about a resolution to these problems. Yet without any mentoring process and training, we elevate them to positions of power way beyond their competence and ability.
The vulgar use of our young people
Another most disturbing act is the vulgar use of our young people as nothing more than political billboards because they are aesthetically pleasing to the eye and still possess a measure of charisma which the political parties use to secure votes but after which, they disdainfully cast them aside.
This is the problem that I face. These are the challenges that irk me; the abuse of our youth; the social raping of these gentle flowers. It is more than our duty to protect them. We must mentor them, to train them, to guide them and to strengthen them so that after just one term in office they will not be abandoned in any political wilderness never to be remembered.
As we face the General Election of 2020, my heart bleeds for Nicole Olivierre who arrived on the scene the last election with so much promise and was elevated to the position of Minister of Energy and Energy Industries, but because she lacked the training, unmourned, she was discarded, never to represent the party for whom she won the seat in 2015.
I think of Darryl Smith, Member of Parliament for Diego Martin Central who was entrusted with the portfolio of Minister of Sport but was railroaded by his indiscretions which could have been avoided if he had been properly mentored and guided. Today, he is no longer available to contribute to our national development and his firing means that he is lodged somewhere in the political cemetery where aspirations for leadership simply die.
I could look within the UNC – the gifted and brilliant Stacy Roopnarine and Mickela Panday among others, children of so much promise, whose future as leaders died before they even got started. Therein lie the pain and hatred of a system that destroys potential rather than builds it.
When I survey our landscape and see history repeating itself with impunity, the pain extends not just for the youth who are bound to be discarded at the end of it all, but also for the people who voted to plunge these youth into the abyss of shame and disrepute.
I could identify with the residents from the Toco/Sangre Grande constituency who vehemently registered their disgust and annoyance when Mervyn Dillon was being touted as their candidate for the 2020 General Election.
The challenge for most of them was not personal although there are skeletons in Dillon’s closet which would have affected his chances of securing victory in this constituency. The greatest challenge had to do with competence, with representation, because even though Dillon possesses star power as a former West Indian fast bowler, in his constituency he is not known for making any major contribution to its development. Party groups were not familiar with him. He may have the image and the stature that would woo others to him but for the people who have spent their lives seeking to ensure the best for Toco/Sangre Grande, Dillon’s good looks and star power meant nothing.
Many asked what does he know about politics. How will he help the people in Toco/Sangre Grande? What qualifications does he have? Appropriate answers were not forthcoming so he was discarded. Because selecting youth just for the sake of selecting youth was not accepted by the people of Toco/Sangre Grande.
The people want a representative of substance and the PNM Screening Committee had to kowtow for fear of losing the constituency because of an unpopular and ill-prepared candidate. Fortunately for Toco/Sangre Grande change was forthcoming, but when one considers the residents in San Juan/Barataria; as a citizen of this country, the pain is real.
Look at what is taking place in San Juan/Barataria with Jason “JW” Williams who got the nod to contest the seat for the PNM. Why was he selected? What does he know about politics? about Parliament? About protocols?
These are relevant questions. Just after he was sworn in as a Senator, he was placed in Parliament’s naughty corner for 10 minutes because according to him, he was opening an app on Google which made some noise.
Is this going to be the norm if he wins the San Juan/Barataria seat? Should the people expect him to be palancing on his phone, opening apps in Parliament when discussions about national development and the people’s business are taking place?
At the age of 41 JW is no youth, yet young in politics; and if his knowledge of politics is limited to his “Rum and Pork Bonanza” to buy votes for the PNM, then the people of the nation in general and San Juan/Barataria in particular, are in serious trouble.
The first thing JW should do is, to be honest with himself and let Dr Keith Rowley know that he is not going to be used, and let the party search for competent young people who will assist in planning for their future. Port of Spain South has the opportunity to demonstrate once and for all that their voice and their lives matter. If the party groups in Port of Spain South are being forced to accept American Cleopatra Borel of Mayaro as their candidate, then they should ask Borel the hard questions before they vote for her as their representative and that is even if she eventually renounces her American citizenship.
Very little comes the way of the Port of Spain and Laventille constituencies under the PNM and it seems as though Dr Rowley believes that in this modern day and age if you put a Balisier on a crapaud, the crapaud is sure to be elected by his party’s sycophants.
Constituents need to demonstrate that they have come of age and that they are different.
Youth should be given a chance but they must deserve it. They must be competent and their only value cannot be their good looks and star power.
If that is the new direction for politics in Trinidad & Tobago then our country is in a bad, bad state because we are heading for a Parliament with fully incompetent people who will be elected to serve us.
What a pity!