January 11, 2004
By Raffique Shah
FOR Prime Minister Patrick Manning and his PNM Government, the solutions to the many ills that bedevil this country lie in a nebulous "Vision 2020". Hundreds of "visionaries" have been appointed to scores of committees to formulate proposals to take Trinidad and Tobago to "developed country" status by that year. True, the Government is not marking time in the interim. The business of running the country goes on, and we can expect more housing, improved highways, more investments in the energy sector, and so on.
But as law-abiding and patriotic citizens wait for "Vision 2020" to kick in, many are being kicked aside, and many more are kicked "upstairs" or "downstairs" (heaven or hell), some by the bullet, others by motor vehicle accidents, and yet others either by the inadequacies of the health system or by their own suicidal lifestyles. As we wait with bated breath for the manna of 2020, the criminal elements seem to be rushing to get there ahead of us, what with URP foremen owning fleets of vehicles even as they absorb bullets, and godfathers-in-gowns amass untold wealth at the expense of starving citizens.
For the UNC, the panacea for all our woes lie in two words: constitutional reform. Nothing can be tackled before this issue is addressed. And what exactly do they want by way of reforms to the Constitution? Proportional representation, of course. That, presumably, is the opposition's to our problems. I suppose if PR is introduced, our esteemed criminals (who have been embraced by both parties, let us not forget that) will at last be forced to divide their victims on a proportional basis, so not only shall we have almost equal numbers of Indo-and-Afro bandits and murderers, but their victims will also be shared equitably. Oh, what relief! As an aside, the gap between the two main parties in terms of numbers of seats in the House will narrow, which, really, is all that is important in PR as far as they are concerned.
Caught between waiting another 16 years to see Port of Spain turn into a Toronto, and being pushed into sharing the spoils of office a-la-UNC, what can the average citizen do? A big fat nothing, that's what. Because we are outnumbered by the mindless, by those who will continue to support the PNM because of race, or some because they believe it's the lesser of two evils. And on the other side of the fence, there are the equally mindless "UNC-till-ah-die" lot who live by the code of the chutney song applied to the their slogan, complete with bottles-to-mouths, bottoms-up.
I agree fully with Chief Justice Sat Sharma when he said we cannot wait for 2020 solutions to today's many woes. In the case of the San Fernando Magistrates Courts, it is nothing short of criminal that taxpayers will have paid a huge rental for God knows how long for buildings intended to replace the old courts, but which remain unutilised. And will anyone be charged for this wastage, money that could feed the hungry who live on the fringes of the city? In this country, except for a handful of hapless criminals who cannot afford good attorneys, no one pays for any such sins, least of all governments or public officials. Only taxpayers, ordinary citizens, are fleeced of their paltry earnings, and have to pay for everything, from golden-brown-rice to the paving-digging-re-paving-re-digging exercises that have become the norm.
Which is why I make my case today for a strong dictatorship as one possible solution to our problems. It's true that we already have a dictatorship. The Prime Minister presides over a Cabinet, but the latter, because of our system, is made up of toothless Pompeks for whom ministerial offices are so important, they will not even question the PM, far less disagree with him. What we have passing for democracy, therefore, is elected dictatorship. The PM is all powerful, and once he is elected with a comfortable majority, he has the power to ride roughshod over his colleagues and the citizens at least for five years. Only then the "voice of the people" comes into play. But with so many mindless morons out there, rest assured they will replace one dictator for another.
So why not consider real dictatorship as an alternative? Oh, never mind all the bull about George Bush and America not wanting that kind of government anywhere, least of all in their backyard. They already have it: Bush did not even win the last election fairly, but he has the power to commit that country to wars, to kill tens of thousands of innocent people a-la-Hitler, to impose death sentences on his own soldiers, to maim hundreds of them as they fight losing battles in victorious theatres of war. And even if Americans oppose the wars, or any other measures imposed on them by the man in the White House and his chosen few, they can do nothing about it. They must wait four years to have another say. So theirs, too, is an elected dictatorship.
Which brings me back to a position I advocated many years ago when I first deduced that what we have here, and elsewhere in the world, masquerading as democracy, is nothing but covert dictatorship. Since we have been in the privatisation mode for decades, why not privatise government? If the powers-that-be argue that private enterprise is always more efficient, more productive than state control, why confine these benefits to business? Why not to government? Is it that we are afraid to blaze a trail that others may want to follow? What we need to do is put together some of the finest minds in the country (many with minds so fine, you can hardly see them!), and let them come up with what is required of those tendering to run the country. They then invite requests for proposals (RFPs), evaluate them, and hire the best or "baddest" SOB and give him or her a shot at ruling the country.
Note well, I wrote "ruling", not "governing". Because I am convinced that what is required in T&T today, if we are to move a centimetre forward, is a "strongman dictator". We don't need wimps who will be afraid to have firing squads function early on mornings, liquidating elements who are either pathological criminals or inherently corrupt. We need someone who will grab every murderer that everyone knows murdered, but who escaped the gallows because of murdered witnesses, and put them up "against the wall". Shoot them first, then ask questions afterwards.