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Thinking the Impossible

October 04, 2001
By Selwyn R. Cudjoe

Here's an intriguing possibility. The President asks Patrick Manning to become the Prime Minister and thereby to form a government. Manning, in turn, pledges to ask Ramesh Maharaj to remain as the AG. To make his government as representative as possibly, Manning also grants ministerial positions to Ralph Maraj and Trevor Sudama. In this new dispensation, as many interests as possibly (business, ethnic, religious, NGO, etc.,) are represented. Even Lloyd Best and Errol McCloud can be included if need be.

The first task of such a government shall be to root corruption out of the society and bring the guilty, even this includes the PM, to justice. In this way, we can be assured that for the next decade the society's resources shall be used to make T&T a better place for all rather than for the few. Just think of it, one does not have to take one's sheets to the Port of Spain General Hospital (my mother had to do that recently) or beg for a ten days. In this new arrangement, doctors would have to work an eight-hour day, teachers would teach our children and contractors would be liable for any shabby work they do for government. Think of the boost that such an arrangement can give the country.

Such an arrangement will also improve ethnic relations in our society. Admittedly, part of Maharaj's concern is that UNC has been taken out of the hand of its original founders (read Indians) and thrust into the hands of interlopers or Johnnies-come-lately (read Duprey, Gillette, Yetming, John and others). None of the original members of the UNC is a part of the G13, the clique that runs the UNC. This means the original members of the UNC were frozen out of the running of the society. Thus, Ramesh's inclusion in a new coalition allows him to push forward the interests of the Indians and, in the process, the interest of the country. In a change of face, Manning gets a chance to re-present the interest of Africans who, under his regime, got a raw deal. In fact, under Manning, Africans were seen as outsiders. Under these new arrangements, the goals of the Three Musketeers, Africans, and the general society, are all represented and given a fair shake.

In this scenario, the interest of neither group prevails. What takes precedence is the building of a better society for all although the interests of each community must be represented, understood and appreciated. Since the interests of the other groups in the society have always been re-presented there is no need to feel that they would suffer unduly under this new dispensation. Manning has always shown a propensity to look out for the interest of other groups (remember his pronouncement after the 1993 elections: "We do not have enough Indians") and it would be in Maharaj's better interest to be cognizant of the interest of all. His political future depends on his being evenhanded.

This new coalition government can also give the society a new start. It opens up spaces for open dissent within varied political groupings. Keith Rowley might be free to prosecute his more liberal line of thinking within the PNM without being seen as an outcast and treated with suspicion. Panday can lambaste Maharaj as a nemakaram even as he sides with the parasitical oligarchy. In this new dispensation, there can be maximum discussion of political affairs without feeling that somehow one is disloyal to one's group. In other words, maximum discussion replaces maximum leadership.

In my arrangement, meritocracy is likely to prevail. It is to Maharaj's credit that he fought against Ish's contract at the airport even though he was not successful. In those halcyon days, he could not afford open war with the maximum leader. He still felt that he would be rewarded with the top political plum (deputy PM) if he stayed silent. Given our desire to get the best, we would to have rely on international competition to select the best (be they contractors or academic leaders) rather than engage in a national shakedown to reward the worst. Here, quality shall replace favoritism and we will be given a new chance to form a new society. Think of how many nationals would rush home if they felt they had an equal chance to compete and to serve based almost exclusively on what one knows rather than who one knows.

It is to Manning's credit that he ran an efficient, progressive government. I'm convinced he will be a good chief executive if he does not allow hubris to prevail. Maharaj is a good lawyer and a conscientious worker. Where prior to he crafted legislation to carry forward the interest of his group and his party, in his new position he might tend to think more about the needs of the society as a whole. Working with the PNM he might be able to clean up ancient statues that have little to do with our present circumstances.

As Panday departs, he must be credited for bringing Indians fully into the political process and giving them the space to be conscientious Trinbagaonians. In so doing, he has done more than anyone to transform the way in which Indians see the state and their capacity to identify as Trinbagonians. His picaresque(ness) has brought dynamism to the society of which neither Williams, Manning or Robinson was capably. He has also created a space in which there can be a more fruitful discussion about ethnic issues and that is all to the good.

Panday has taken the mask off Africans conception of themselves and allowed them to recognize that they must always be aware of and promulgate their self-interest. Painfully, he has taught them to understand that neither he nor Manning, in their capacities as Prime Ministers, nor the PNM or the UNC, in their roles as political parties, can really look out for African interest. Regardless of who comes into power Africans must build their own institutions so that a Sat Maharaj can never ask, as he did two weeks ago, where are the African schools, African museums, or the African temples.

Although there might be little to these suggestions, my gut feelings is that we can find room for a dynamic, forward-looking experiment from which the entire nation can benefit.

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