2018 – A YEAR OFCRUCIAL DECISION MAKING
The Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) takes this opportunity to wish all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago a very peaceful, happy and productive 2018. Consistent with our Party’s Vision, our hope is for a “better life for all of us now and in the future”.
New year’s resolutions and wishes, however, are most often just so much wishful thinking. What translates wishes and resolutions into reality is action. And actions themselves are the result of decisions. How we think and what we decide is how we act. 2018 therefore must be a crucial year of decision making for Trinidad and Tobago.
At one level important decisions will be made by those who wield political and economic power. These decisions will impact on the lives of us all, though we had little or no involvement in the making of those decisions. The very fact that we are excluded from the process of decision-making is the proof that our system of governance is fundamentally flawed and is in urgent need of reform. Some of these decisions that have to be made in 2018 are mandated by the Constitution and/or the law. These include:
• The election of a President for the 2018-2023 term. The decision as to who our next President will be has already been announced – Justice Paula-Mae Weekes. This is a commendable decision by the Government and we trust that it will receive unanimous support from the Opposition and Independent Senators.
• The selection of a Commissioner of Police which then has to be ratified by the Parliament. Given that there has been an acting Commissioner for the past 5 years, this decision can have a positive or negative impact on the morale and management of the Police Service, which is critical to addressing the crime situation in the country
• The selection of the first Public Procurement Regulator, which is to be done by the President. This long awaited appointment and the full proclamation of the Public Procurement law are necessary to instill some level of confidence that the award of contracts by the Government and state enterprises takes place in a transparent and fair process and that we as citizens receive value for tax-payers’ money. Our confidence has been totally destroyed by widespread corruption in the past and continuing today. The proper implementation of the public procurement law will be one, but not the only, measure required to combat corruption. Other measures include: giving real power to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU); party finance regulation; whistle blower legislation; and the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to go after white collar criminals – past and present.
• The future of the incumbent Chief Justice, allegations against whom have eroded public confidence in the Judiciary and the administration of justice. It is likely that the new President will have to appoint a new Chief Justice.
There are other decisions that are not mandated by law but are determined by government policy and political will. The country requires good decisions to be made with respect to:
• The Tobago sea and air bridge. The present situation is totally unacceptable. The Rowley Government has so far failed time and time again to make the right decisions about the transport links between our two islands to the detriment of Tobagonians, in particular.
• The fight against crime. Successive governments have failed to deal with the country’s crime problem. This is because neither the PNM nor the UNC really want to challenge the entrenched status quo – whether it is those involved in white collar crime and corruption or violent murders. Neither party has tackled reform of the education system; the prison system; the criminal justice system; or been concerned about the growing inequality of wealth and income and therefore of opportunity for all. Unless decisions are made to address these root causes of crime then we will all continue to live in a state of insecurity.
• Local Government Reform, which disappeared from the PNM’s agenda after the Local Government Elections of 2016. Unless we have proper reform of local government, there will continue to be major problems in our communities from garbage collection to drainage.
• Reform of the laws that govern the Tobago House of Assembly so that Tobagonians have the autonomy that they desire and have the right to.
• The economy. The Rowley Government has not demonstrated any plan, nor do they seem to have any ideas about how to transform the economy of Trinidad and Tobago. The result is that our economy is adrift, seemingly waiting for a tide of rising oil and gas prices and production to get it moving again. This lack of decision making is really just wishful thinking at its worst and will only take us to the point where the state of the economy becomes shipwrecked. It is to be remembered that the UNC when in charge for 5 years made decisions that took us close to being shipwrecked so we know that they have not a clue about what needs to be done. Clear and progressive decisions have to be made to address:
- The crisis of foreign exchange
- The government’s fiscal crisis
- The need to ensure sustainable and decent jobs for all
- How we generate growth
- The growing inequality of wealth and income
- The many outstanding issues affecting trade unions, workers and farmers
Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, these are but some of the major issues that require urgent and proper decisions by those who wield political and economic power. There are many more. The MSJ is of the very strong view that, based on the total absence of leadership and vision offered by the parliamentary parties, we cannot look to them to make the right decisions that will result in a “better life for all of us now and in the future”. Their track record tells us that we can expect nothing from them in 2018 to inspire trust, confidence and hope for the future.
The MSJ does believe, however, that the people of Trinidad and Tobago have the resilience and the ability to make the change in thinking – what we call the “revolution of the mind” that is necessary to bring about real fundamental change in the country. Without fundamental change the many problems that we now experience will simply get worse and therefore 2018 will turn out to be a very bleak year indeed.
For our part, the MSJ offers a Vision for Trinidad and Tobago, that of “The Second Republic” Why the “Second Republic”? Because the institutions of the First Republic, our current institutions have or are failing us. We just have to look at the state of the Judiciary; of our Parliament; the Cabinet; the Integrity Commission; the Police Service and Prisons and criminal justice system for the evidence of this failure of the institutions of the First Republic.
The MSJ has offered the proposals of the “Social Economy” to transform the economy so that wealth and income is created for the majority of citizens instead of the present colonial structures where wealth and large incomes only go to a few at the top. At the same time we propose a “National Reconstruction” effort to restore economic growth and generate decent jobs. This National reconstruction would tackle the huge problems of infrastructure; while addressing the threats of natural disasters and the failure of asset integrity in the energy industry.
The MSJ is the only party that does not only say that we need to challenge the status quo for the country to progress and for “all to have a better life”, we are the only party that is prepared to walk the talk. Indeed, our track record shows that this is what we are about. We are prepared and are not afraid to challenge the status quo whether it is:
• Those involved in white collar crime and corruption or those who commit violent crimes against citizens;
• The education system that routinely fails 40 or more percent of our young people; thus giving them little or no hope for being able to get a job, far less have a future;
• The health care system where the many suffer because they cannot afford to pay for private health care;
• An economy where thousands of young professionals and university graduates cannot find employment and that is not being transformed so thousands more are losing their jobs; and an economic system where wealth and income have become so unequal that we have persons who can boast of being in the 1% while others are barely able to take care of the basic needs of themselves and their families.
• The two parliamentary parties that seek to win or keep political power by using race, religion, geography to divide the people thus ensuring that the status quo remains intact.
We’re not about idle talk, or rhetoric absent of ideas and solutions. We do not believe in using the politics of personal attacks and name calling to grab headlines as that does not build the consciousness, the “revolution of the mind” necessary to bring about fundamental change in the country. As our Mission Statement describes our politics:
“With integrity and credibility, we listen and work with you, so together we will transform Trinidad and Tobago.
We will ensure that every voice and contribution is heard and respected; that everyone is treated fairly and justly, and that our economic system benefits all.
Our commitment to you is that we will all live in peace, and in harmony with our environment”
To this end our Party’s Executive together with our Activist Council will be meeting a day this week to decide on our plan of work – our action plan – so that our wishes for a “better life for all now and in the future” become more that just wishful thinking but reality.