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A word to the wise...

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
September 3, 2019

Joy Cushman wrote that Barack Obama revolutionized his campaign "by putting his faith in hundreds of volunteers." She continued: "I was a top organizer in his 2008 campaign and trained thousands of campaign staff workers. If Democrats want to win in 2020, they must get back to investing in everyday people again" (New York Times, August 26).

If one replaced "the Democrats" with "PNM," Cushman's prescription is relevant to PNM's present condition. PNM does not need an expert to tell it where it has gone astray. It needs to listen to the whispers of ordinary people to understand the quandary into which it has found itself.

Here, then, is some free advice to the party:

First. The Prime Minister should stop attacking Kamla and the UNC, except where it is absolutely necessary (as in the case of Calton Dennie, Express, August 28) and concentrate on telling the people what PNM has done over the last four years and what it hopes to achieve in 2020-25 if it is reelected. It's useless to rehash the sins of the UNC.

Second. Every member of the PNM should be involved in getting the party ready for 2020. This effort should not be confined to an "A" team or a "B" team. Each party member should be involved in this exercise, especially those people we have chosen to represent us. Distribute the efforts and let everyone have a stake in the success or failure of the next general election.

Third. The members of PNM's legislative arm should meet monthly to discuss the issues that face the country. Each one should be involved in this mobilization effort. The same is true for senators, councilors, and party officers. The abilities and intelligence of hundreds of people are always more important than the purported intelligence and wisdom of any one person.

Fourth. The party should desist from believing that money (financial resources) alone can take it forward. Ideas (human resources and enthusiasm) are just as important in the drive to control government although "remaining in power" should not be seen as an end in itself. The PNM became a powerful party because its leaders and members studied diligently and discussed intensely national and international trends in politics. Knowledge is power. It is a requirement to guarantee political success.

Fifth. The party should not neglect its good and faithful members even as it seeks to encourage others to enter into its fold. New friends are good and important, but old friends are more precious than silver or gold. The party should think of the people whom it has discarded over the years and welcome them back into the fold.

Sixth. The PM should select competent people, not inexperienced and incompetent friends, to run the various agencies, corporations, and companies that the government controls. Results matter more than satisfying the egos of a few friends. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. In this context, people such as Louis Lee Sing, John Jeremie, and Terrence Farrell should be encouraged to render their expertise to the government once more.

Seventh. The avalanche of crime remains the greatest stain on the government's performance. The government must find new and symbolic ways to involve all of its citizens in fighting crime. I repeat: scrap the Toco-Manzanilla Highway and use those funds to make a frontal attack on crime. New weapons, new plans, and new rhetoric are not the most important ways to fight this monster. The government needs to take concrete actions to attack this problem. It must convince the populace that it is serious about fighting crime and that it cannot be successful without the help of our citizens. In this area, the UNC is not without blame.

Eight. The PNM (as well as the UNC) should come up with concrete programs to improve the lot of black youths. No other problem threatens the nation so much as this total neglect of "the nation's black, and in some cases, youth problem." The government should implement a mandatory "National Service Program" to which people between the ages of 18 and 23 must attend. I know of no better forum in which people of various ethnic, religious, and social interests can come together. In a service program young people from different backgrounds learn from each other as they work together. No young person should obtain employment without having done his/her national service.

Ninth. The PM should cease to ad lib when he delivers official speeches. He should read every major speech that he gives. There is no way to recover the spoken word that's gone astray. The PM loses hundreds of supporters through his careless and thoughtless words.

Tenth. Leadership requires "a combination of reflective intelligence and intuitive action" (Financial Times, August 17). Good politicians accumulate political capital and use it wisely; bad politicians squander political capital gradually and blame everyone else for its loss.

The PM needs to be careful about what he says and does.

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

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The Slave Master of Trinidad by Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
The Slave Master of Trinidad by Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe