Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 6th 2015 Contents A22
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt September 6, 2015
By now you must be set. You
don t even have to ask for
time off work. It s understood
you need the time to cast your
vote in private for the candidate
you have chosen to represent you
in Parliament. You know it s a
two-way race, and you know
who you are backing. You have a
feeling that the party you are
backing is going to win. You will
take a drink on that.
There are a great many things
that annoy you about Trinidad,
like the back-to-school traffic,
like having to wake up at four
am to cook and pack lunch kits
before dressing and going to
work, like the months it takes to
renew your passport, like the
stench of the Beetham dump, the
rising cancer rates at the unregu-
lated Point Lisas estate, or the
prostitutes at Curepe Junction or
the children making babies, like
the need to buy an affordable
home for your family, the latest
shooting, or the feeling you have
pushed to the back of your head
about wondering why every day
there is a murder or two or
You even wonder, looking at
the waste, the ghostly Napa
building or the Life Sport cor-
ruption, how will they govern
when the money runs out. You
may briefly acknowledge that
neither party has produced a
manifesto that takes into account
falling oil prices. That doesn t
affect your everyday life, except
you are anxious when you park
at night or when you lie wide-
eyed till four am waiting for your
children or spouse to come home
safely from a lime or work.
You think once again about the
party you support. The choice is
simple. The UNC or the PNM.
Your choice brings out a feeling
inside of you: tribal belonging,
rage, disenchantment, fear, hope,
Most of you don t know your
candidates. They ve been busy, in
government or opposition, fired
or brand new. But you know your
leader. You love her or him. Yes.
He or she will be prime minister.
You will put him or her there.
And the money will flow from
Either way, you are damn vex
or not taking on former senate
president Timothy Hamel-
Smith s call for voters to spoil
But wait, you, yes you, might
not feel like voting this year. You
may be older, and you tried a
thing with NAR which seemed to
break the mould of tribal voting,
which ushered in a mature, more
transparent, more inclusive poli-
tics of transparency, of develop-
ment and issues. You tried the
COP, which tried the same thing
as the NAR and disintegrated
under the weight of the pull of
the treasury and tribal politics.
You might be thoroughly disil-
lusioned. You may plan not to
vote. You may be inclined to lis-
ten to the call by Timothy
Hamel-Smith on Whatsapp
groups to spoil the ballot by
writing None of the Above
(NOTA), to send a strong mes-
sage to the incoming government
that we need constitutional
reform that moves away from
winner takes all and we need it
Many citizens are annoyed at
Hamel-Smith. You can see the
antagonism against him growing.
Voting is a constitutional right,
and the core of democracy.
But you, you who are unde-
cided, you who ve longed for vig-
orous debate in the interest of
the people, you who want pro-
curement legislation instead of a
mommy or daddy state, you who
want constitutional change so
our society is not split in the
middle between the gloating and
the deeply disenfranchised---you
may be tempted with NOTA.
Voting NOTA may feel like an
act of recalcitrance, but in fact, it
may not be.
The people have been kicked
about like a football between
parties since independence,
abused, rewarded, neglected, but
never empowered to stand on our
own two feet, never encouraged
to learn skills that will make us
independent, never been properly
educated, either in literacy, or our
rights, or what it takes to be a
healthy people. Hamel-Smith is a
lone voice. It threatens our col-
lective sense of security. We fol-
low the big bands. His is a lone
Hamel-Smith wrote: "Strange
there are countries in which
NOTA is actually an option on
the ballot paper because parties
want to know the extent of dis-
satisfaction. What is being said is
that there is such a huge
groundswell of dissatisfaction
that it can actually make a dif-
ference to election outcome. That
is only one more reason why the
time is right to vote NOTA.
"Unless there is a preference
for a different type of protest.
Strangely not a single person has
ventured to suggest first-past-
the-post is fair but still want the
status quo. If you cannot get
parties to listen now when will
they listen? I have promoted fair
vote for five years. I hand deliv-
ered to every parliamentarian a
paper in Making Every Vote
"Not a whimper and it is being
suggested this is wrong time. It
is the only time to start the
process to bringing back T&T
into being a Democratic Nation.
Vote NOTA to save the soul of
It s true, the idea of voting
NOTA feels like an act of intran-
sigence, undemocratic. Also, we
like to join big bands. But then
again, how democratic will
tomorrow s results feel when
more than half the country will
be plunged into gloom?
Ican see why they re vex with
Timothy Hamel-Smith. But
he has a point.
Thursday s Nigel Henry poll
gave a clear lead to those who
thought neither party could deal
with crime, the economy or
Crime and economy, maybe.
But traffic? That s real despair
The weary Greeks are about to
vote on another round of auster-
ity. The Guatemalans meanwhile,
with an election scheduled for
today, last week honked horns to
celebrate the start of their out-
going president s corruption trial.
Come tomorrow, a good slice
of T&T s listed voters won t
make it to the polls.
Some are too lazy---though
they will probably snatch the
two hours off work. Some have
died or migrated. Some are
bored with the whole process.
And some are plain angry with
A spoilt ballot at least makes
it clear which is which.
The Greeks invented democra-
cy: for them, it s illegal not to
vote (though as with buggery
and tax evasion in this country,
prosecutions are few.)
Their election is two weeks
from today. The previous one
was in January, plus they had a
July referendum on the EU s
The Greek campaign is bliss-
fully short. Alexis Tsipras of the
radical-left Syriza party resigned
on August 20, after losing one-
sixth of his MPs.
Greek voters could be forgiven
for taking a Nigel Henry view.
Tsipras was elected to reject
austerity. The July referendum
gave austerity a massive "No".
Tsipras may win again on Sep-
tember 20. But the Greeks are
stuck with austerity. Full stop.
Their full painful package kicks
in from October. Meanwhile,
there s a daily limit of €60 on
cash machine withdrawals---
around $430 (TT).
With oil dipping below US$44
last week and gas "curtailments"
ticking along, we may soon have
to swallow some of the same
When? Maybe not October;
but unless something big
changes, it looks like trouble for
the next five-year term.
Anthony Wilson s well-
researched piece in Thursday s
Business Guardian highlights the
off-balance-sheet fancy footwork
which keeps the surface numbers
I spoke last week to a security
guard who says he s being paid
$250 (TT) a throw to wear a
party jersey at the rallies---could
be either party. His economic
forecast is pretty much the same
as Anthony s. He has less back-
up, less detail, but essentially the
same message. Where s his vote
going? Either side, or none.
If there s a chance of bad
times just around the corner,
nobody s talking about it. From
both parties, there s a deathly
silence. Which is a pity---because
in bad times, there are policy
choices to make; about which,
voters might have strong feel-
ings. More VAT, or bring back
property tax? Keep Gate? Cut
the fuel subsidy?
So that s us and the Greeks.
That country has a few miles
of Caribbean coast. And a truly
Caribbean sense of drama. After
months of nationwide protests,
outgoing president Otto Pérez
Molina is on trial for corruption.
Last Tuesday, loyal supporters
formed a human chain round
Parliament, in an attempt to
stop MPs removing his immuni-
ty from prosecution.
On Wednesday night, he
resigned, with an arrest warrant
already out. The former vice-
president, who would have been
his successor, was arrested a
fortnight ago, and is now in
She and Molina are said to
have profited from bribes paid
by importers to evade customs
duties. Both deny the charges. A
dozen ministers and senior offi-
cials have also resigned. Prose-
cutors apparently have 89,000
phone intercepts to play with.
On Thursday, Guatemala City
erupted with celebratory fire-
works. Blue-and-white national
flags waved everywhere.
Who s next for president?
Guatemala s two-round election
(remember that idea, anyone?)
goes to a run-off in October.
Molina is not standing; presi-
dents have a maximum four
years in office.
One candidate---Sandra Tor-
res---is a former first lady who
went to school in Belize. Anoth-
er, Jimmy Morales, is a jolly
comedian who, like Molina, has
tight links with the un-jolly mil-
itary. Half of the constitutional
court last week wanted to delay
Guatemala s history is bloody;
perhaps a quarter-million indige-
nous Maya were killed in the
civil war of the 1980s.
Belizeans watch closely.
Guatemala claims their territory.
For our Caricom partner,
Guatemala does not play for
TIM, GREEKS AND GUATEMALA
Many citizens are annoyed at
Hamel-Smith. You can see the
antagonism against him
growing. Voting is a
constitutional right, and the
core of democracy.
But you, you who are
undecided, you who've longed
for vigorous debate in the
interest of the people, you
who want procurement
legislation instead of a
mommy or daddy state, you
who want constitutional
change so our society is not
split in the middle between
the gloating and the deeply
disenfranchised---you may be
tempted with NOTA.
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