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Ode to a Tea Bag

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
August 14, 2016

Heard the one about the tea bag? It only works when it is in hot water? Listening to such wisdom, I couldn't help but think about my PNM government and my country. The prime minister is in California looking after his health. When a man takes his entire family (the old and the newly acquired) to be around him on such an occasion, then something may be amiss. He has asked the nation to pray for him. I think we should do as he asks.

Then there is a parallel situation. The attorney general is on vacation while the prime minister is away. While the prime minister is taking care of his physical health, the attorney general is taking care of his social well-being, presumably, a deserving respite after an election battle and eleven hectic months in office. To complicate matters, the president and the chief justice are taking their vacations at the same time.

This brings up the question: If it takes a prime minister and an attorney general to form a government, is a government "unformed"—or rendered illegitimate—if its two essential pillars are out of the country at the same time?

Does it follow that a T&T government does not now exist or that we have an acting government (a contradiction of terms) since the two foundational blocs are missing in illness and in vacation? I almost said, "Missing in Action" which, in other walks of life, is called desertion of duty.

I do not know where my party is going but I know it is not performing at its inspiring best. At a time when there is much unrest in the island; when the society is plagued by a spate of killings, the least the government, both elected and nominated, can do is to demonstrate they understand the pain the people are undergoing.

The president and the chief justice were not elected directly by the people even though they came to office through their elected officials who nominated them to those positions.

Is it too much to ask that there be a more coordinated effort among officialdom, both elected and nominated, when they plan their escapades?

In their absence, Stuart Young is the new poster boy. I know nothing about his or the AG's political experience or philosophy, but I wonder how do Marlene McDonald, Camille Robinson-Regis, Fitzgerald Hinds, and other PNM stalwarts feel about all of this?

I am concerned about the undisciplined way in which the PNM has conducted itself in office. One only has to see how President Obama conducts himself to understand how a leader rallies his troops. Listen to President Obama's address to the last Democratic convention or his speech at the Dallas Memorial Service in July to understand the power of rhetoric to help his nation overcome threats to its liberties.

President Obama has a constant message. He calls upon his people "to perfect the union;" that is, to continue working at the job their founding fathers began.

Our nation has fallen into a malaise. We suffer from a grandiose amnesia in face of the ever-present danger to our way of life. No nation can be free if its citizens cannot walk its streets without the fear of being assaulted or killed, even as its leaders go on vacation.

Our PM has allowed too many opportunities to pass when he could have tapped into our patriotism and asked us to reach beyond our selfish concerns. He missed great openings at Mr. Manning's funeral service or even the PNM's Women's League to speak to our national aspirations and civilizational goals.

I do not know the political philosophy of Faris Al-Rawi or Young so I do not know what their new prominence means. I do know, as George Orwell reminds us, "Nothing ever stands still. We must add to our heritage or lose it, we must grow greater or grow less, we must go forward or go backward" (Why I Write).

The PNM is in danger of going backward if it cannot inspire a passion for justice, self-responsibility, and national pride in its citizens. Must the party wait until it finds itself in hot water, like the unpretentious tea bag, before it assumes its leadership role in the society?

The PNM has been in office for eleven months. I am not concerned about how empty the Treasury is, how the new leadership looks, or how much the UNC stole. I am concerned about the ineptitude of the present government and its inability to stimulate our people to dream of a better tomorrow. I wonder if, like the tea bag, its desire to inspire our people will only go into gear when the country is in hot water?

The ANC's recent performance should be a warning to the PNM.

Professor Cudjoe's email address is He can be reached @ProfessorCudjoe.

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