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When a ‘local’ seems like a ‘general’

Before I start pounding on my keyboard to write this column, I want to make it abundantly clear that I hold no brief for any political party. Since 1961 I have voted my conscience and in so doing have voted for all parties at different times. What I voted for was always good governance for the betterment of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

We are in the heat of the political (read silly) season and the parties are all making last-ditch efforts promising the moon, the stars, road-paving exercises, filling long-existing potholes—and there are thousands of those all over the country, proper drainage, even free water tanks and oodles of other promises to bring out their supporters.

Of course, all the relevant ‘in-charge’ persons deny that these are election gimmicks or ‘buying votes’, as they say locally. The kind of nonsense that passes for politics in this country and the mamaguy with which we are fed ever so often, are unfortunately avidly swallowed by a large swathe of the population.

Result: Continuing governance that has removed the people from the process. Our leaders therefore are at one level, while the population remains victim.

Remember when we used to have a term called ‘rum and roti politics’. Time and technology have changed that narrative to ‘Barber Greene politics’.

Road paving is continuing apace in Sangre Grande, but both political heavyweights Rohan Sinanan and Terry Rondon insist that the exercise is not for the elections.

In an interview Sinanan interestingly said he had all confidence the citizens would make the right choice when they vote.

In Port of Spain, Mayor Joel Martinez has come up with the novel and brilliant idea of giving away water tanks “to the needy”, an idea which the City Council voted on in August, but which purchase was dated some six months ago.

And so, citizens have to deal with the planned reopening next year of the Red House; Whitehall, the Prime Minister’s office and his house at Blenheim, Tobago; a new foreign company to run the Magdalena Grand; the Home of Football in Central Trinidad, although it is rumoured it does not have any insurance. All these things happening just before the elections. It’s simply puzzling to me.

All the ribbon-cuttings, bridge and road openings cannot happen just so—they must have been carefully planned to show that the government sincerely cares for the people of this country and they stand for good governance. All these activities, as I see it, only expose the shallowness of the ruling party and predecessors.

What about our poverty problem? What about the number of homeless? What about our spiralling crime rate? What about the many local contractors who are owed millions for work done and cannot get paid?

What about state lands and squatters? What about our seniors and their pensioners? What about a proper health service? What about proper service at the many public institutions in the country? What about timely transportation? These are just some of the things we don’t hear anything about at election time.

So, let us hope that tomorrow, when our citizens go to the polls, they think carefully about who they pick to represent them.

We must remember that whoever we choose must have the public’s interest as their highest priority and as such be able to substantially improve the quality of life to all who live here.

We must be careful because what we are seeing today is that the government’s campaign for tomorrow’s Local Government Elections has all the elements of a General Election for the first time ever.

The population which doesn’t seem enthusiastic about Local General Elections, the regular turnout being historically in the low 30s, seems to be a dry run for the General Elections, due in a year, to test the government’s popularity.

Having said all that, the population must remember it is their fundamental right to exercise their franchise and go out to vote.