Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 12th 2015 Contents A22
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt July 12, 2015
Leon Trostsky once reportedly
told CLR James (and if you
don t know who he is, look him
up) we ought to have streets and
statues named after James, so
vital was he to who we are today
that spectator sport was a substi-
tute for political action.
So we are gearing up for elec-
tion on September 7. So what is
at stake? Do we know what the
issues are? Do we care? Or are
we gearing up for the spectator
sport? Are we going to vote for
someone because they look like
us or because we respect him or
her? Are we educated enough to
know the difference? Will we lap
up the propaganda of the
imported spin doctors and give-
aways sponsored by companies
hoping to get wuk once the
person they support is elected, or
are we smart enough to know
that an election is not about a
spectacle but about the quality of
our life. What does each party
including The Third Force offer?
Are you going to vote for some-
one because they are of your
race? Or are we going to grow up
and demand that candidates treat
us with respect? If we use the
British elections as a reasonable
template for elections, for a
working democracy, we can take
some cues from them. The Sun
which is considered the most
right wing tabloid of British
papers, a paper that some believe
caters to the lowest common
denominator, demonstrates that
the British public has an expecta-
tion of performance from their
politicians that we can t even
Just before their May 7 elec-
tions, this tabloid paper pub-
lished a double-page spread out-
lining the issues the British really
cared about. Was it about who
thief what, about who want to
put who in court, about this vote
of no confidence, about who is
Indian and African and white?
No, it was Issues. 1. The Econo-
my. 2. Immigration and Europe.
3. National Health Service. 4.
Security and Defence. 5. Educa-
tion. 6. Energy and Environment.
7. Crime and Justice. 8. Housing.
9. Foreign Aid. 10. Britishness. 11.
Freedom of the Press.
If we had to adapt it to our-
selves, I would add 11. Oil
dependency 12. Make-work
dependency 13. Crime 14. The
drug trade and gun control. 15.
Plummeting transparency index.
The first thing we have to do is
tell ourselves we are not going to
treat our nation as a spectator
sport. That allows us to ask
questions and ask for accounta-
bility. I want to get the ball
rolling. I know that crime and
corruption are meaty subjects,
but healthcare affects us all. We
are among the most obese
nations in the world, with among
the highest rates of heart disease,
diabetes and hypertension. That s
mostly because we are ignorant
of how to eat nutritious meals.
We are ignorant because some
400,000 of us (that s a conser-
vative number) are functionally
illiterate because our education
system does not give teachers
respect, training or wages
according to the value they pro-
vide to our society. We are also
ignorant because the Government
uses its stations to air propagan-
da rather than educational pro-
grammes. They misuse funds so
that instead of having billboards
telling people how to practice
preventive health, they pay chut-
ney dancers and soca singers to
do nonsense during Carnival. Yes,
In the run-up to the Septem-
ber 7 election, I have some ques-
tions for the Minister of Health.
1. What is the state of public
healthcare in T&T in general?
2. What are some of the key
problems facing health profes-
3. In your opinion, what
changes has the health minister
made to improve or worsen the
4. What are some of the most
common health issues facing the
people of T&T based on the
patients who access healthcare?
5. Do doctors, in your opinion,
follow a code of ethics?
6. Is there a bill of rights for
patients? Are they aware of these
7. It is understood by the pub-
lic that doctors rarely testify
against their colleagues in cases
of malpractice and this prevents
patients from taking legal action.
Is this a correct perception?
8. How do the medical board
and medical association elevate
9. Do you think medical pro-
fessionals (senior) have enough of
a say in the manner funds are
used in healthcare?
10. There are reports that
interns are poorly paid, that con-
ditions at the San Fernando Gen-
eral Hospital and POS hospital
are appalling---reports of cock-
roaches, lack of beds, poor nurs-
ing care. To what extent is this
11. What is your opinion on
doctors who work in public
health but also have private prac-
tices. Is this ethical? For instance,
a patient who is put on a waiting
list for a heart or kidney opera-
tion can be given the option by a
public healthcare doctor to get it
done quickly in private care. Is
this a kind of hostage taking?
I would be grateful for a
response from any health profes-
sional at any level, from the
Minister of Health to cleaners
working in public healthcare. I
would encourage you, the reader,
to ask your own based on your
experiences. If we want spectacle,
let s go to the cinema. If we want
our lives changed, let s start ask-
ing some questions and demand-
Jamaica s murder total hit
572 in the first six months
of 2015. If killings continue at
that daily rate, there will be 1,153
by the end of December, or 15
per cent more than last year.
That means a murder rate of 42
per 100,000 population.
And it s not just the slums of
West Kingston: the body count
was 102 in St James, the north
coast parish around the tourist
capital of Montego Bay.
Opposition leader Andrew
Holness has no doubt who to
blame. He said a week ago, that
when Portia Simpson Miller s
People s National Party is in
power, bullets fly. When his
Jamaica Labour Party runs the
show, peace blossoms.
Wait a moment: that s the
JLP? That s Bruce Golding s
Same Bruce Golding who
waited nine months before mov-
ing on a US extradition request
for Christopher "Dudus" Coke,
the leading gang lord in Gold-
ing s own Kingston Western
Andrew Holness says the mur-
der rate soared when Michael
Manley s PNP was in power in
the 1970s. Yes, it did. That was
because of politically-linked gang
warfare in Kingston and else-
Eddie Seaga s JLP, then in
opposition, was mixed up in the
mess---as deep as his opponents,
if not deeper. Lester Coke, father
of "Dudus," ruled supreme in
Tivoli Gardens, the heart of
Seaga s constituency.
Since the 1970s, Jamaica has
been a world leader in economic
stagnation and gang murders.
That sort of trouble is easier to
start than stop.
So far, 2015 has been a bad
year, right across the Caribbean.
In the Bahamas, 76 were killed
up to last week Sunday. That s
on track for 149 before New
Year, and a murder rate of 40
per 100,000---22 per cent worse
than last year s.
Little St Kitts-Nevis is once
again a regional and world
leader. They had 18 murders by
July 6; so we can expect perhaps
35 killings by year-end, for a rate
of 65 per 100,000 population.
In Guyana, Kaieteur News
reports a body count of 80 by
July 6. That is on course for an
annual 156, or 21 per 100,000.
By Caribbean standards, that s
not too bad a figure---but it s
appalling by any other measure.
I don t have the numbers for
Belize, but it s the same story.
There were four murders last
weekend. A promising young
journalist Kareem Clarke was
assassinated early Monday
morning, hit by five bullets,
close to a gang hotspot in Belize
City s murderous Southside.
For T&T, the Guardian report-
ed 208 murders up to Wednes-
day. If that daily rate continues,
there will be 402 by the end of
the year---a miniscule improve-
ment on last year s 403, but still
up there internationally at 30
Police commissioners are
sometimes keen to take credit
where little credit is due.
Jamaica s Police Commissioner
Dr Carl Williams, PhD, was
asked to grade his performance
last week Monday, after just ten
months on the job. "Ten out of
ten," he said.
Jamaica, at the end of 2014,
and Belize a year earlier, were
quick to trumpet a drop in the
murder rate which was then
immediately thrown into reverse.
Politicians like to promise easy
answers. Over the five years of
People s Partnership government,
monthly murders have averaged
a little over 32.5. When the
PNM was in power from 2001 to
2010, it was 30.5 per month;
less at the start of Patrick Man-
ning s spell in office, and more
at the end. In the big picture,
there s not been much change.
The blame game is slick and
easy. On June 8, less than one
month after Guyana s new gov-
ernment took office, the Guyana
Times was stirring up ethnic
panic: "since the new adminis-
tration was fraudulently elected,
criminals with a sense of entitle-
ment are having a field day... 90
per cent of the victims are East
Indians." Just one minute: that s
based on what, exactly?
Governments must be held
responsible---but in the right
way. On the front line are the
judiciary and the police. Politi-
cians provide resources, pass
legislation, set the social context.
If they do the right thing, there s
a pay off---but that is the reward
after years of hard slog, not a
quick media blitz.
ASK QUESTIONS AND DEMAND ANSWERS
SIX MONTHS OF MURDER
For T&T, the Guardian
reported 208 murders up to
Wednesday. If that daily
rate continues, there will be
402 by the end of the year---
a miniscule improvement on
last year's 403, but still up
there internationally at 30
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