Archive for ‘politics’

June 8, 2008

Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse

I work in news and when I have to produce a newscast on a weekend with my usual dream team of Ria, Nadine and the powerhouse that is Giselle it is normal to call before I head to the newsroom to ask if there were any overnight murders. What is not normal is hearing that one of the latest murder victims is a 5 month old infant. Things have reached a really sorry state in this country when a 25 year old father is getting out of a taxi with his baby boy and they are both gunned down. There is no indication the father had any involvement in anything illegal and by all accounts three bullets were pumped into the child as his father tried to shield him. Giselle did her usual excellent job on the story and we devoted 4 minutes to it but I am still shocked and most of all very angry that such an event actually happened in this country that is rolling in money and should be a tropical paradise. Knowing that the sorry excuse for a National Security Minister will sit there defending his performance at some future media event and the PM will tacitly show his own poor judgment by keeping him in office is more than I can reasonably comprehend.

 

We also had a late arriving story of Dr. Keith Rowley giving his latest take on the scandals involving UDeCOTT and the government’s continuing attempts to explain some decidedly strange accusations from the Opposition concerning alleged nepotism and tendering inconsistencies. As I have said before I have a begrudging respect for Dr. Rowley mainly because of his clear intelligence and spunk. He may not be taken very seriously since he was part of the administration for many years with nary a peep but I like seeing him speaking and I admire his bulldog spirit. Basically, in his hour and a half speech, he said I am not apologizing to anyone and the government is taking us all for fools. At one of the recent get-togethers at my place someone said the PNM has done some good work. I don’t deny it and I honestly can’t say any of the opposition parties would have done any better but I know that even an abject idiot with billions to spend would do some good. Hell…a gang of monkeys punching keys to spend billions of dollars would have accomplished some good. 

 

At this point I only know one thing – this country is in a sorry state and there is no cavalry on the horizon.

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June 6, 2008

Happy Together

 

 

It has been an interesting week thus far culminating with me sitting here nursing a sore throat and a fever. I don’t handle illness well and I tend to take a strange approach to handling it. When I woke up this morning convinced that someone had forced me to swallow a tennis ball coated with glass shards I went into my normal mode of action. I downed as many pills as I could drank several cups of coffee and headed to the shops. I bought every medication known to man, several gallons of gatorade and a slim volume of poetry by Rimbaud. My solution to such health dilemmas is to follow my Mum’s advice….over medicate and read something interesting. If this entry is a bit disjointed you can either blame it on medication or Rimbaud…much the same in the long run.

 

Wednesday I hosted a little soiree for Peggy which turned out rather well. I decided that I was not going to stress myself with elaborate plans and thus even the cooking was approached with little or no plan. I had purchased about $1,000 worth of stuff for the party the day before and basically tossed the whole plan out the window. Peggy and Steve arrived early and we simply engaged in excellent conversation ignoring the arrival of others. At some point Peggy managed to make a Rajasthan beef dish and I cobbled together a quick tiger shrimp and mussels balti and some basmati rice. It also learned that my cousin Satu Ramcharan was also coming over in addition to Alvin, Binky and Kavir. All I know was that the evening turned out to be a lot of fun with Peggy and Satu keeping everyone entertained. I had never spent any time with Satu before but apparently the gene thing makes for great company so the three half caste cousins fitted together perfectly. Things were so animated I never actually got around to serving the Haagen Dazs. Who knew that Steve would be so interested in  politics that he and Satu would almost have to step outside to have it out? I tell you he might be my friend but he is also a cameraman and they are a strange breed.

On Thursday, with my fever beginning to start I had my old friend Monique Tosello-Pace over with Peter and Naz for another smaller soiree. She is here from France and sadly my state of health and burn out from the previous night resulted in us just having roast beef and watching Hitchcock’s The Birds . Still, it was good seeing Monique again if only for a brief time. At least we managed to consume the Haagen Dazs that was unused the previous night.

 

Back to the murders tomorrow as I have to work ( I believe we have had 10 since I last wrote) but there may be changes in my work situation coming around the corner. I know that I will have to have both Peggy and Satu over again soon and, if I am lucky, perhaps I can have Peg do a short reading from Jahajin for us. I have said many times in this blog that I am not a family kind of guy (except for my immediate family) but having known for decades that Peggy was something special I am now wondering how I could have not noticed Satu. Are there other interesting half-castes in my family ( and we all are) that I could have overlooked? 

 

The final good but not surprising news is that when I bought the Rimbaud I asked the sales clerk how Jahajin is selling and she said “really well”. Apparently certain people in this country can still have great taste.

 

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 19, 2008

The Salmon of Wisdom

Crested Oropendola nests, Maraval

 

In my studies of Celtic culture at U of T I was always fascinated by the whole concept of the salmon of knowledge or the bradán feasa ,if you prefer, which  forms part of the Fenian Cycle. Sure, the christian world had the forbidden fruit but it takes much more imagination to come up with a fish that bestows unlimited knowledge because it ate from the hazelnuts that fell into the Well of Wisdom. That sort of creativity doesn’t grow on trees ( though the hazelnuts did). Sure, there are those who might wonder why not forget the damned salmon and eat the nuts directly but that would be to miss the whole magic of the thing. I can tell you that if I could get my hands on such a marvelous creature I would have it braised in a bit of parsley and butter and in my mouth faster than the nuts could hit the well. Working in my field and even just living in general makes me wonder how we even manage given the bits of information thrown at us when we have no sense of how they all fit into the bigger picture.Of course, they may not fit at all but even knowing that would be helpful.

 

This weekend passed generally uneventfully. I had Peter and Naz over for dinner on Friday and despite feeling a bit unwell managed to rustle up Peter’s preferred main course of roasted Cornish game hen and pureed squash. I also managed to make some Vol-au-vents filled with cheese, mushrooms and chopped shrimp and even made a spinach salad with walnuts, blue cheese  and  mandarins. As usual dessert was beyond me so I just bought some cheesecake which was quite nice.  The weekend news was fairly easy as there were quite a lot of stories and no need to “creatively append “ to what stories we had. Sad that a 14 year old girl has now been kidnapped and , once again, I  find myself fearing for the safety of a stranger and imagining the trauma the family must be experiencing. The murders continue and we are now well over 180 for the year. There is no point commenting because the murder count, the dismal detection rate and the even poorer conviction rate are there for the authorities to see but, being idiots, they seem incapable of any action whatsoever. I had Professor Ramesh Deosaran on the programme again last week and he echoed a sentiment I have voiced here in this blog. When I asked him why, given this government’s obsession with achieving “developed country status” ( whatever the hell that means) we don’t seem to be emulating countries such as the UK, Canada or even Singapore in dealing with crime, he responded that people in those government’s have shame which we lack. It really comes down to simple things like shame and humility both of which are sadly lacking in this regime and, even more apparently, in the opposition.

 

At times like this the only recourse for me seems to be to grab my Collected Works of William Shakespeare and fall into the magic of his writing. At least I can take some comfort in knowing that while I spend far too much time railing against storms there is zero danger of all my progeny dropping dead as I don’t have any.

 

 

April 26, 2008

Outcasts always mourn

 

(published on globewriter.com April 25, 2008 )

I have just  spent the last few hours rearranging furniture and generally beating out any trace of dust in my place. There is something about cleaning house that is enormously satisfying even though in a few days things will be pretty much back to the way they were…Swiffer Wet Jet or not. It seems our illustrious PM also decided to change around his political house a bit by casting his Minister of Trade, Dr. Keith Rowley onto the ever growing pile of  victims of his wrath. According to the PM in his Post Cabinet briefing today he took the action because Dr. Rowley behaved in an indecorous manner during a recent meeting with other ministers and the head of UDEcoTT, Mr. Calder Hart. The PM was not at the meeting himself but several little birds apparently chirped the details in his ear. Dr. Rowley, no stranger to outbursts but usually always quick to admit to them immediately thereafter, denies any such behaviour on his part and is calling on his accusers to have the decency to make their accusations in public. 

 

I am no fan of politicians but I have always had a grudging respect for Dr. Rowley. He tends to operate like a crazed steamroller driver in an effort to get things done and is normally unapologetic  if a few feet get run over in his quest. I would agree with most that he could stand a few lessons in the finesse department  but I would also say that unlike the majority of his former colleagues he tends to get things done and rather efficiently at that. I am not the only person who thinks that had Dr. Rowley been given the National Security portfolio we would most likely not be in the mess we are in today as a result of the ineffective and bumbling current minister. Frankly, were I a person with criminal ideas on my mind I would think thrice about doing anything knowing Rowley was going to come after me.

 

What happened to Rowley is just another symptom of the PM’s unwillingness to countenance anyone around him who does not follow his leadership with few or no questions. In the particular matter that apparently got Dr. Rowley into the hot water, he dared to question the actions of Mr. Calder Hart who is the PM’s point man for implementing all his grandiose construction schemes. Many of these projects are undertaken with little scrutiny and often using foreign contractors and labour ( primarily Chinese ). Mr. Hart apparently washed up on these shores a few years ago from Canada and nobody is quite sure about his bona fides. Despite many reasonable questions about his credentials the man’s background remains a closely guarded secret. Everyone is entitled to their  secrets, of course, but when the person in question is spending billions of dollars of tax money and getting a salary that a Saudi Crown Prince would be reasonably happy with – the matter is somewhat different. My gut feeling is that Dr. Rowley’s dismissal has more to do with him questioning the spending and methods of Calder Hart and daring to upset the PM’s blue eyed boy than any outburst he may or may not have engaged in during a meeting. Whereas Brown and Blair   managed to distrust each other and engage in numerous backroom disagreements our elected leader tends to have adopted a more Peronist approach…sans blood.

 

Whatever my problems..and depending who you listen to..they are myriad..I feel somewhat relieved knowing that I am unlikely to be cast into the political wilderness.

 

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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March 29, 2008

Food, vanishing food.

Part of a surge in global food costs, rice prices on world markets have jumped 50 per cent in the last two months and at least doubled since 2004. Experts blame rising fuel and fertilizer expenses, as well as crops curtailed by disease, pests and climate change. There are concerns prices could rise a further 40 per cent in coming months.”

The Canadian Press. 28/03/08

The rise in food prices here in T&T and worldwide  is undeniable and worrisome. Many price changes can escape our daily notice but the cost of the nourishment that keeps us going is something inescapable. Populations are able to tolerate all sorts of things but starvation is generally a major motivation behind unrest. A hungry people are unlikely to listen to reason and the fact fact such situations affect the poorest levels of society first- those already living on the edge – makes the potential impact even more frightening.

I am not living hand to mouth but I notice when prices change drastically in a fairly short time. As a single guy I am not prone to energetic spurts of baking and as someone watching my diet I tend to avoid rice so the price of such staples normally escapes me unless it becomes a news story but I buy  items such as butter. The cost of a pound of butter in my local HiLo is now just a bit more than $30 TT . By contrast, a year ago a pound of butter cost just under $10 TT. That sort of price change  is startling. The government figures ( presumably lower than reality) indicate food inflation is somewhere in the vicinity of 28%. Ironically, this country, that has ample arable land suiting any number of crops grows very little now and virtually all of our food is imported. The result of this is that any world price hike in either the cost of fuel or transportation is felt very strongly.  The cause of the food shortage could be global warming, a move away from agriculture, bad weather or any of slew of other factors the end result is the same. Thousands of people in this land of oil money are having a hard time affording food. The government seems content saying it is a global phenomenon and making vague promises to improve the agricultural sector. A country that cannot ensure its population has food is , to my mind, a failed state.

Today I interviewed Kumar Maharaj, the owner of several supermarkets. His view of the situation did not fill me with optimism for the future. His knowledge of the food situation ( over several decades) makes me take it very seriously when he says things might improve temporarily but  that he sees a serious crisis by September. He too was puzzled and concerned about the apparent lack of  action in the agricultural sector and thinks it is a major cause for worry as it leaves us with no buffer zone to protect us from the vagaries of the world market. It is also fairly obvious that small states will be in an especially difficult situation as we don’t have the buying power of richer and larger states.

I don’t know what the immediate solution to the looming problem is but I know that doing nothing about agriculture is only making the situation worse.

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March 22, 2008

Cop-ing out

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As I mentioned in previous blog entries the Congress of the People, the party that gave hope to many and ultimately fizzled out during elections is showing signs of becoming moribund. Since its defeat it has been drifting silently about like a great ocean liner that has lost its rudder and all power. Today Gillian Lucky announced her resignation from the party stating she was pulling out of politics altogether. Actually, she called me at home before I left for work to give me the news and I can’t say I was displeased with her decision. Her pullout marks what I feel will be the complete decline of a party that, despite starting out with a bang, has become a virtual political nonentity.

In a sense the decay was inevitable given the party failed to garner even a single seat in elections. Being in the political wilderness tends to limit how much exposure a party can get in the media ad thus it falls quickly of of the political radar. That being said, the COP had promised during the campaign that no matter what the outcome they would continue to be involved in steering the nation on the right course and remain actively involved in improving communities. Well, like a morning mist in sunshine those promises evaporated and turned into petty internal squabbling and the occasional press release commenting on national issues.

Even before the election loss Ms Lucky was being clearly marginalized in public. She was not invited to speak at the Women’s Forum and was also prevented from speaking at the final rally. That would be all well and good if there were time constraints or other high-profile speakers that needed to be heard but she was glossed over ( in the case of the final rally) for people that nobody had either heard of or cared to hear.

Gillian did not win her hotly contested seat but she has widespread public support and admiration for her straightforward approach and shoot from the hip attitude. People may say many things about political figures but nobody that i know questions her dedication to this country and her stubborn refusal to be bribed or placated into towing any line she disagrees with. He withdrawal from the COP is a major loss and, most likely, marks the beginning of the end of the COP’s credibility as a political party.

I wish Gillian all the best in continuing to fight the good fight and my humanitarian nature wishes the COP a fairly painless death.