Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 7th 2013 Contents Amidst the obvious dissatisfaction
with and the failure of mass
political parties to deliver quality
governance, this column is advocating
an experiment with relatively small
cadres or political groups putting for-
ward ideas, plans and programmes to
restructure and manage the society,
polity and economy.
The electorate would be asked to
select from amongst the set of plans,
programmes and assess the capacity,
integrity and commitment to truth by
the cadres to take the country for-
ward. On those bases, the electorate
would vote for one or more of the
The most appropriate constitutional
framework can evolve a system which
will make it possible for the elec-
torate to choose from a combination
of the best policies and programmes
The case for the failure of the par-
ties and the need for some other for-
mulation are very obvious. After 30
years of unbroken governance by the
People s National Movement, the
party of the black lower and middle
classes, with groups of Indos mainly
from the Presbyterian community, the
Muslim and urban sectors and led by
the charismatic liberator Eric
Williams (Massa Day Done), the elec-
torate experimented with the National
Alliance for Reconstruction.
That alliance combined the Indian-
based party from Central and South
Trinidad, the Tobago tribe, the dissat-
isfied blacks and those who wanted a
change from the tribal parties, inclusive
of the French-Creole business elite.
After gaining power by the largest
majority ever, the alliance officially
broke up; but the evidence indicates
there was "vomiting on the deck"
within one year of the coming
Without listing the details of the
elections, there have been eight of
them in 24 years when in fact there
should only have been five polls,
given the five-year constitutional
time frame for general elections.
Moreover, the electorate deemed it
necessary to change the government
on five of those eight visits to the
poll. In one instance, President
Arthur NR Robinson effected change
on one of the occasions and in only
two instances, the electorate returned
a party/government to power: 2000
(UNC) and 2007 (PNM).
It is also of significance that on
three occasions (1991-1995; 2001-
2002; 2007-2010), the parties and
government did not, could not, last
the stipulated five-year constitutional
time frame. It is also instructive that
on the second occasion he called an
early election, then Prime Minister
Patrick Manning expressed concern
that if his government had continued
in office, there could have been social
The constant changing of
parties/governments in power by the
electorate has been attributable to a
number of factors, all of which have
to do with the failure of the party
system of government.
On occasion it has been internal
conflict in the parties; mass and
demonstrated dissatisfaction with the
quality of governance, inclusive of
obvious corrupt practices perceived to
be aided and abetted by the party
and government in power; poor gov-
ernance, with nepotism and tribal
loyalties practised at the expense of
the rest of the society and polity;
squandermania and the inability of
governments to grow and transform
the economy; poor representation of
people in their constituencies; politi-
cal arrogance with the acquisition by
the leader of an aura of godlike sta-
tus. These are but a few of the severe
shortcomings of the party and gov-
ernment system so consistently voted
against by the electorate.
The non-party cadres would have
as the central rationale for their exis-
tence the production of ideas, plans,
programmes and initiatives to achieve
In a society the size of ours, the
need would be for a critical mass of
such a group to number approxi-
mately 500 to 600 people.
Each group will include people with
the expertise required for governance
of the society; they will not merely be
platform speakers and rabble-rousers
for whom jobs are to be found after
the election and the party wins.
Included amongst the groups must
be people with deep roots in the
community; those from the artistic
and cultural quarter; the environmen-
talists; the business community;
labour and from all other areas of
human endeavour and civilisation.
The formulation has the potential
to completely transform the approach
to party politics now based on appeal
to tribalism, ie, naked racial politics.
It could move the polity away from
the garrison-like geographic enclaves;
escape the politics of emotionalism
and hero worship of an individual, a
messiah, "doctor politics"; and dis-
mantle the system open to political
investors who spend tens of millions
to have a party elected and then
benefit from billions of dollars in
contracts while they manipulate the
puppets they put in office.
How so? With the cadres being
required to base their appeal purely
on a programmatic approach to gov-
ernance with integrity of the individ-
ual and the cadre being at the centre
of the scrutiny of the groups, election
campaigning will eliminate the mass
rallies and entertainment spectacles
for which mass funding is required.
The Independent Liberal Party is
said to have attracted 91,000 mem-
bers in the two months of the party s
existence. What are the bases for
such enthusiasm? To be continued
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, August 7, 2013
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AN ALTERNATIVE TO PARTY POLITICS T&T at forefront of
In September 2010, at the
United Nations in New York, Hon-
duran President Porfirio Lobo
Sosa and Palauan President
Toribiong signed a declaration
challenging world leaders to ban
shark fishing. Shark numbers
were plummeting and the world-
wide harvest of 100 million
sharks per year has resulted in a
90 per cent decrease of some
species. That's one shark killed
every three seconds. According to
the International Union for Con-
servation of Nature (IUCN), one
third of all oceanic shark species
are at risk of extinction, and we
humans are the ones driving
them to extinction.
Four sharks were killed since
you started reading this.
Sharks are so vulnerable to
overfishing because they ma-
ture slowly and they have long
gestation periods, just like hu-
mans and whales. Take the
great hammerhead. It matures
at eight or nine years of age, giv-
ing birth every two years, after a
gestation period of 11 months.
The dusky shark is another
resident of our patch of the
ocean. It takes 20 years to ma-
ture, has a super-long gestation
period of 22-24 months and a
one-year resting period be-
Traditionally many sharks
were caught as by-catch by long
liners or drowned after entangle-
ment in nets. More recently
sharks have been targeted for
their fins and this is where it be-
comes interesting for us.
In 2010 T&T was the No 19 ex-
porter of shark fin to Hong Kong.
By 2011, a year after the presi-
dents of Honduras and Palau chal-
lenged the world to protect
sharks, we had risen to the No 6
spot. We are at the forefront of
shark extinction. That's not a posi-
tion we want to be in.
T&T exported 332,396 kg
(732,808 lbs) of shark fin in
2011. Shark fin is two-five per
cent of the weight of a shark
carcass. If we take the conserva-
tive figure of five per cent, then
6,647,919 kg (14,656,152 lbs)
shark had to be killed to supply
that amount. That's enough to
fill one shipping container every
working day of the year. That's a
lot of shark.
This data was collected from
the Census and Statistics De-
partment of Hong Kong, be-
cause it is unavailable in T&T.
There's little scientific data
about sharks in our coastal wa-
ters, but we know that our local
pirogues can't catch that much.
However, T&T is home to an-
other fishing fleet: Asian owned
long liners. This fleet works the
Atlantic high seas fishery where
there are almost no rules. They
land their catch in Trinidad,
where our government has pro-
vided them with a free zone
from which they can export to
the world, and to Hong Kong.
They pay no duties. They are un-
accountable at sea, and unac-
countable on land, and we, the
people of T&T, are their en-
We are at the forefront of
What can we do? Ultimately,
the buck stops at the Minister
of Food Production. The minis-
ter should forbid the landing of
all endangered sharks, particu-
larly those protected by CITES.
These include the great ham-
merhead, scalloped hammer-
head, oceanic whitetip and the
porbeagle sharks. The Fisheries
Division needs to receive extra
resources to fulfill this interna-
This Government protected
turtles in 2011, it can do it for
sharks in 2013. T&T can be at the
forefront of shark conservation.
We must exercise individual
responsibility. When you see a
product listed simply as "Shark",
ask yourself if you'd buy it if
there was a chance that it was
turtle or elephant or rhinoceros.
Demand that sellers label their
products properly so you won't
end up eating an endangered
Thirty sharks were killed
since you started reading this.
Marc de Verteuil
Director, Papa Bois Conservation
be sent to the
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