Archive for ‘Parliament’

May 12, 2012

Add All Three

ieTV’s coverage of a bold and historic protest in Port of Spain, Trinidad calling for the Equal Opportunity Act to include age, sexual orientation and HIV status to its anti-discrimination protections.  The reporter, like most of those who covered the event, included same sex marriage though that was not one of the calls that CAISO was making at this time.

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October 1, 2008

Burning down the house

Our Parliament is never a place for the quiet and dignified exchange of ideas. It exists somewhere in the murky region between the UK Parliament and the Korean Parliament. We don’t actually have fisticuffs but we have been known to have the odd teacup tossing  during the break. This past couple of weeks has been something of a thrill for political observers such as myself. It all began with the doze worthy laying of the 2008/2009 budget last week and has been a virtual amusement park ride ever since.

 

We had the opposition response presented rather well by the always animated Kamla Persad Bissessar and the subsequent debate. Basically the opposition ripped the budget apart and the government spent hours saying what a great job they are doing. Frankly, watching the National Security Minister standing up and lauding his accomplishments and the government’s vision in the face of a 400 plus murder toll was a bit too rich for my blood…but I am sure it had a certain macabre dramatic value.

 

The highlight of the week of parliamentary shenanigans was undoubtedly the stellar presentation of  Dr. Keith Rowley, the maverick PNM member for Diego Martin West and former minister. As I mentioned in an entry way back when he fell out of favour with the PM and was cast into the political outhouse. He came out swinging on Monday with what amounts to one of the best moments I can remember in the Parliament for the past twenty years. Speaking from the government benches he called the PM to task for a lack of accountability and for questionable practices. It was gripping and resulted in surprising desk thumping from both sides of the house.

 

In his closing of the budget debate the PM lashed back yesterday. After convincing the Speaker to suspend the standing orders for him to speak for an unlimited time – unheard of and most peculiar – he went on to attack Dr. Rowley in what might best be described as unstatesmanlike and at worst as mean spirited. He even suggested that $10 million had gone missing from the Ministry of Housing under Dr. Rowley’s stewardship. Why he waited for over a year to make the accusation or how he failed to notice that as PM at the time he was also accountable I have no idea. I am looking forward to the fallout in the coming days.

 

I am now watching the finals of America’s Got Talent and as soon as either Eli Mattson or Nuttin’ but Stringz wins I will post the result and hit the publish button. If anyone else wins I will shake my head and wonder before pushing the publish button.

 

Ah well they picked Neil E Boyd..the one who breaks into tears every 3 minutes. God help them. Eli will get a recording contract in 2 seconds and much more than the million dollar prize.

Oh God…if they vote this way in the elections the world will shudder….oh right…Dubya got in with them too.

September 22, 2008

The Atacama Budget

 

Just a short note today as I only just got home from broadcasting our analysis of the 2008/2009 budget that was delivered today. It was supposed to be the first budget to be delivered by a female Finance Minister and also one of the shortest budget speeches . I will freely agree it was delivered by a female Finance Minister but at 3.5 hours it was surely not even competition for the 35 minute speech during the UNC regime. Worse still those of us enduring it in the newsroom had to reapply facial moisturizer several times because we could feel the dryness of the delivery dehydrating our faces. The entire presentation was ineffably boring.

 

I had my views and our panel basically just reinforced my beliefs that this budget was just a rehash of last year’s. Nothing new, nothing exciting, nothing original. The only new ground this budget broke was in managing to spend $50 billion dollars of taxpayers money. Maybe it is just me expecting miracles but I think when large amounts of money are involved those spending it should be visionaries. I am used to Steve Jobs at Apple who, despite his almost innumerable faults, gets people excited about plans. Surely, when it is a country involved, people should feel involved and look forward to the future. I honestly don’t feel even interested in what is being planned. There must be something wrong when $50 billion is spent in a country of only 1.3 million people and I can see no immediate tangible benefit. Indeed, the government says that agriculture is a priority and is still spending less on it than it is giving to Tobago with 80,000 people. Feeding a two island nation of securing Tobago votes …. I guess the government has made its decision.

 

On a side note it was an interesting day for family today. I hosted the budget discussion with my cousin Gillian Lucky being part of the panel since I was actually using her time since she normally hosts Just Gill ..her programme …in that time slot. I love Gillian so I was fine with that. Even more interesting, while Gillian and I share the fact we are both fully Lucky family members ( mine changed their name) I was shocked by a comment I received today from the only true bearer of one of my family   names . Blogs are a minefield of surprises. It seems that my cousin Johnny found this blog while in Switzerland. I didn’t even know he had moved to the land of ridiculous prices and ridiculously high mountains …oh..and Heidi.

 

So basically..it was a really boring and expensive budget and I got closer to two family members. A mixed bag but to my mind a really good one. And I will freely admit I would love Gillian as Prime Minister.

 

Wait a minute…that wasn’t short.

July 5, 2008

A brick short of a load.

 

I seem to be getting into a once a week entry habit. I hope this is not a sign of blogitis setting in although I am aware my entries do not in any way enhance the planet.I suppose we all pass through ebb and flow periods in terms of communication so , as with all things in life, I will wait and see how it plays out. I am now handily heading out of depression territory but still not feeling all that great physically – I hope it is nothing trivial so I can have a legitimate reason for thinking gyms and personal trainers are a waste of time. When I think of how much I spend on the gym I cringe and since I can see no improvement I am led to wonder about my own sanity. Thankfully, as I have mentioned before, I am living in a country where sanity is not really an asset.

This week was the usual assortment of murders and political intrigue keeping the newsroom buzzing. Melissa Williams managed an exclusive on Thursday when I was producing news so that added a bit of excitement. T&T is currently without a permanent Police Commissioner as the previous one retired ( early) and the service commission given the task of finding a replacement had the ruling party turn down their candidate in parliament. The man chosen was Senior Superintendent Stephen Williams who has spent his life in the police. He is 47 and by all accounts a highly competent individual. Unfortunately for him he was not the man the PM wanted in the post so despite rigorous interviews and passing the polygraph test ( which some of his competitors did not) he was doomed from the outset. Mind you, he probably didn’t help his case by speaking to the papers after his name was announced as the chosen candidate by the PSC and he declared that his ambition was to own a BMW X5….note to future candidates…say “world peace”.

 

On a side note I am rather shocked to notice that my blog has crossed 14,000 hits. Since I assume I am writing to an audience of just North of zero even that modest figure rather shocks me. Even more puzzling I had occasion to search for the headquarters for the ruling PNM the other day at work and noticed that my blog comes up as the second hit on Google…right after the official web site for the PNM.  I have no idea how that happened but if you have come here after searching for Balisier House on Google looking for a positive experience….I apologize. 

June 2, 2008

Pretty in Pink

 

Amazingly, it really doesn’t feel like a full week since my last blog entry but the calendar doesn’t lie I suppose. It has been a busy week and , despite the two public holidays, I have been working 7 days a week but the end is in sight so I am un-frying my mind to upload a quickie here. Not much point talking about the latest in homicide as the murder count keeps shooting upwards and we are now well over 200. There was a disturbing development over the past week involving 8 year old Hope Arismandez. She went missing and upon interrogating her mother’s boyfriend he confessed to killing her and led police to her body. The tragedy is sufficient to not require comment from me. One wonders what was going on in the mind of Sunil Ali that would have led to the event. I may lose my temper from time to time but I tend not to give in to my more unpleasant instincts which explains why members of parliament do not have bruises on the backs of their heads.

 

The aberrant mind is largely a mystery to the rest of us and sometimes there is at least some good to be gleaned from such incidents in that we are able to get valuable clues to help us protect society in the future. Sometimes, of course, there are no clues to be had and no lessons learned but there is always the hope for some insight however vague. In the case of Mr. Ali we will never know. He was charged  and placed in a cell under a suicide watch but was found dead less than 24 hrs later. The details seem to vary from one source to the next with one newspaper saying he hanged himself with a clothesline that was ( conveniently) in the cell in addition to slashing his wrists with a razor blade. Our sources at ieTV suggest that , while he had some lacerations on his wrists indicating he tried to cut himself he actually hanged himself with bed sheets. The papers were, naturally, replete with headlines about him taking “the easy way out” but I think any sensible person must be led to ask some questions. Ignoring , for a moment, my complete lack of comprehension about how suicide could possibly be an easy way out of anything one wonders what sort of fools we have working in the prison system. If someone is on a suicide watch I assumed they were to be supervised constantly and not given access to anything they could use to do themselves in. Now if we are to assume that the custodians of our prisons are not complete imbeciles then we can only conclude that someone decided he should be either given the means of killing himself and conveniently allowed to do so or else his demise was somehow assisted. Neither possibility sits well with me. We have an inefficient justice system in this country but it is still there for a purpose. People are entitled to their day in court and, presumably, justice prevails. When incompetence or some sort of warped vigilantism supplants the law then we have a serious problem. 

 

The prisons have announced that an investigation will take place but I would bet top dollar that nothing will be forthcoming. As is usual here the perverting of justice will be swept under the carpet and everything will go back to looking glass normal. This is not about defending an apparent killer…it is about due process and about lessons that could have been learnt to prevent such incidents in the future. Of course the same idiots who keep electing idiots of various parties are the ones now telling the TV cameras..” He saved us the trouble..I’m glad he did it”. I can only shake my head and hope that the next generation is a little more circumspect. Mind you it may be a misplaced hope since as far as I can gather many UWI and UTT graduates cannot even spell “circumspect”.

 

In other more pleasant developments Peggy’s interviews on my programme got a lot of very good feedback and quite a few calls asking when we are going to air them again. She has been busy using her time to explore the Trinidad she has missed for 10 years and, no doubt, collecting more fodder for her next literary foray.  I am hoping to have her over on Wednesday night to meet some of my friends and there has been something of a demand for invitations. I will try not to break my rule to never entertain more than 6 people for dinner as I find anything more than that prevents good conversation. I may not be Sir Noel Coward but I will look for a cigarette holder and try my best.

 

It would be remiss of me not to mention that I also attended one of the strangest events of the year on Thursday night – Peter’s Pink Party. Peter Sheppard, having turned a certain age, decided to hold a party for himself a month after the actual event. The only rule was that everyone wear pink t-shirts emblazoned with the logo of the party on them which he thoughtfully provided via special delivery. It was the usual fun combination of people and Naz pulled all the culinary bits together well ( though much of the food was made by the excellent Wings Restaurant)  including such thoughtful touches as pineapple chow and pink champagne. The diversity of their friends never ceases to amaze me and yet everyone gets along perfectly. I am sure if crabby old me had such a party I would be safe with my six person limit…in fact even that might be a stretch.

 

May 28, 2008

Face to familiar face.

 

Now that Peggy is here to promote her book Jahajin it was inevitable I would have her on the programme for a little tête-à-tête about her visit. It is never an easy business interviewing a family member much less someone who has always rather awed me with her multiplicity of talents. Like the cat that she has always used as a metaphor for her personality one must simply approach it and hope for the best. As it turns out it was a very pleasant interview and Peggy even consented to do two interviews back to back. The logic of this was not simply to maximise the nepotism potential ( and, yes, I mentioned she was my cousin) but also to be able to get her on before the book launch tomorrow and to also have a programme with her insights for Indian Arrival Day which is this Friday.

 

Both interviews were enjoyable for me and Peggy is nothing if not an intelligent raconteur. She discussed the book candidly and was able to give insight into the genesis of the idea and her motivations for bringing it to press. I thoroughly enjoyed her discussion of what it is like to have adopted India as her homeland and the unique perspective it gives of Trinidad. I think I came away learning something but then again I am never in Peggy’s company without learning something. To this day i carry around bits of trivia and even opinions that were planted into my young head many years ago. I am not one to go about admiring people but I am happy to admit that she has played an unusually ( and ,I dare say, unintentionally) large role in shaping my mind.

 

We went to lunch at the Arabic food place near work which she hailed as serving the best food she has encountered on this trip in between befriending the entire Syrian staff…one of whom refused to believe that we are not Arabic. Over our meal she gave me some insights into her next planned books but her mind and thought processes are such that I have not yet quite absorbed all of her ideas and concepts. One does not listen to Peggy and digest what she is saying but rather one stores the bulk of it for later processing. Her mind runs like a Maserati on an Alpine road so it is sufficient to hang on for dear life and then ponder the trip in due time. I don’t think i have the full capacity to follow her thought processes fully as her vast array of talents leads her to think about literature in musical terms, of narrative in visual terms and of reality in conceptual terms. I just sit and talk to people for a living so you can see my disadvantages in that area. She is an accomplished painter, musician, linguist and now writer so I will say that were she not family I would hate her instinctively. 

The only other news today other than road blocking, an 8 year old girl murdered and raped by a family member and more accusations about UDeCOTT was the Prime Minister dismissing the notion expressed by..oooh 90% of the public that he is an arrogant jackass ( ok…I added the jackass part). All I can say is that when you decide to follow some harebrained scheme for becoming a developed country while ignoring human welfare, spending money like a high-rolling gambler on crack and build yourself a palace as a priority when work hasn’t even started on a new hospital  you have to be pretty damned arrogant not to spot your own arrogance.

 

May 9, 2008

The Ministry of Shame

Nosferatu  - F. W. Murnau

Another day another blog entry. Make that several days but I have begun to think it is better to build up something to say rather than just saying things for the sake of filling space on servers. There are a few things that have been on my mind lately and they really have no connection to each other. I am still very perturbed that Ms Talma is still being held by her kidnappers. This is the first time this year ( to my recollection) anyone has been held for more than 2 days. While being held for 2 days is horrifying enough I can only imagine what trauma the poor woman must be enduring after almost a week. It stands to reason that the sort of scum that would perpetrate such an act are probably not exactly concerned about her comfort. Her kids and the rest of her family have probably not had a night’s sleep since the ordeal began. The police are doing their usual thing arresting people and releasing them but as far as I can gather have made little progress in her recovery. I am sure we can expect the usual twaddle from the ersatz National Security Minister at some point as he explains that this is just another minor glitch  and the country is, in fact, safer now as we implement his “crime plan”. If I am ever held by unspeakable elements and Joseph is in charge I think my best bet would be to pray for a cyanide pill.

I have spoken to a number of people and the consensus ( if 100% counts as a consensus) is that were they a minister with his track record the PM wouldn’t have to fire them as they would step down in shame. Then again, the PM put him there and seems perfectly content with his performance despite an out of control murder rate, kidnappings and the fact it is much easier to get drugs than water in many parts of the country. I imagine the idea of stepping down in shame is fairly meaningless when those in

question seem to have a limited quantity of that particular commodity.

Rather than let me blood pressure reach clinically dangerous levels I have been trying to think about  other subjects for the last few days. A few of these, however, have also had a deleterious effect on my BP. The government recently announced it was stopping live broadcasts of the Joint Select Committee meetings. These meetings/hearings were designed to ensure that there is oversight in the operations of certain state corporations. Seeing the heads of these corporations such as Calder Hart  of UDECOTT being questioned about how they spend our money was an excellent example of a healthy democracy. Apparently, though, the discomfort of some of these officials in being grilled has been deemed more important than the public’s right to see accountability in action. Sure, the media is ( apparently) still allowed to cover the events but the live broadcasts allowed the public to see the proceedings without having it filtered through the media first. If someone is being paid a handsome salary from the public purse and is spending a lot of tax money in order to do something on our behalf they should certainly expect to be asked questions in full view of the public. This is a great step backwards in transparency and not a good sign for the future. I am not sure what precedent there is for a government allowing proceedings to be public and then changing the rules of the game but I would love to know.

On a different note, I went to the gym today, ostensibly to do a little cardio but really because I was running low on Haagen Dazs Chocolate, Chocolate Chip ice cream  and MetroMint Water, and I was marvelling at the ethnic mixtures in this country. Of course there are people of African descent and Indian descent but it was the mixtures that really caught my attention. Men and women with unusual and often beautiful features whose ethnicity would be almost impossible to guess. I certainly tried to see if I could figure some of them out but given the sheer number of groups in T&T the possibilities left me totally frustrated. The best I could manage was “well African and maybe Spanish..but there might also be a hint of Chinese or Carib in there”. It is amazing the things one does to ignore the fact one is running like mad and not actually getting anywhere – allegedly in the name of health. After a couple of post-gym cigarettes I was much better able to handle my inability to make definitive guesses.

And since I mentioned shopping I have been examining my food shopping habits of late. As someone who has grown up..as they say..elsewhere…I tend to go to ridiculous lengths and spend far too much money to get certain things that I consider essential. The other day I found myself spending the equivalent of $9 US  to buy two parsnips. To be honest they weren’t even healthy specimens but they are so rare here that I felt it a reasonable price to pay. Never mind the fact I could have bought a bushel of them in Toronto for that price I just knew I had to have them and , frankly, the aroma of them boiling brought back so many memories it was well worth the price. Somewhere I also developed an obsession for Metromint Water ( www.metromint.com) . This is something I cannot explain. The good people who make it describe it as “pure. Simple. Mintwater” as if it  is something that occurs in nature and they just harvested it from a mint spring that emerged from some vast underground mint water aquifer. Basically it is purified water with a bit of natural mint ( or spearmint ) flavour added. It is beautifully packaged in a tall cylindrical bottle but it also costs twice as much as the local bottled water or even Gatorade. For some reason I cannot get enough of the stuff which is only sold in a few shops here ( and only one in Port of Spain). I have been known to grab the entire stock on the shelf and gleefully rush to the cash register waving my debit card. It has reached the point where visiting friends express concern about the row upon row of mintwater in my fridge and even my gym trainer  is wondering if it has some narcotic properties I am not telling him about. I suppose there are far less healthy taste obsessions to have.

March 30, 2008

Remotely Interesting

Just when I think this country could not get any stranger something comes along to remind me that there is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of strangeness lurking in the shadows. Yesterday Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday was forcibly ejected from Parliament for ..heaven forbid..using his Parliament issued laptop. It seems the house speaker sent a circular last week outlining his position that only people who plan to participate in the debate may use their laptops. Now one would think that those who didn’t plan to do so would need to fill their free time..but such is not the case. The speaker, confronted with the horrifying sight of the 70 year old Mr. Panday peering at this laptop screen, asked him if he was planning to participate in the debate. The redoubtable Panday replied that it really depended on what the government had to say. In my mind, that was not an unreasonable response to a rather silly question but the Speaker deemed it otherwise. He instructed Panday to leave the house. Panday retorted with something on the order of  “you’re not the boss of me” at which point the police were called and Parliament adjourned.


Frankly I think any 70 year old who is able to use a laptop for anything but a footrest is to be highly commended. That the Speaker would choose to throw him out of the house for something so trivial speaks of his luddite ways and shows someone who is obsessed with trivialities. The fact that the matter to be discussed was rising food prices makes the Speaker’s actions even more unspeakably stupid. As I said, the strangeness just keeps on coming…funny if it weren’t so sad.


I have been treating myself to a few new tech toys lately including a new iPod ( i know..nothing wrong with the old one) and a new Bose home theatre system. The latter also required buying several hundred dollars worth of cables and switchers to accommodate my various devices. The iPod is great for the gym and for watching movies at work and the Bose adds a whole new dimension to my classical and jazz collection which I now find myself listening too all the time. The only downside of all of this, and indeed modern life, is the plethora or remotes. Yes, some  of them are allegedly universal remotes but they never seem to be able to control all the functions of the device in question. I now have seven remotes occupying an unseemly amount of space on my coffee table. I suppose if I were in a relationship with an Italian they would be great for pelting but as it is they just sit there causing me stress when i try and figure out which one I have to grab at any point. I am considering taking up juggling so as to put them to a more amusing use.

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