A case of wrongdoing run amok

Our columnist to Bissessar: Stop kidding yourself.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Election day is Sept. 7 in Trinidad and Tobago. If on Sept. 8 Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her troops find themselves turned out of office it will, without a doubt, be attributable to the regime’s predatory take on the role of government.

For five years the Bissessar administration made it clear that it subscribed to operating principles and practices that considered routine flouting of established norms — and laws — a privilege of governing authority. The administration’s seeming indifference to the sheer weight of pervasive abuse and corruption resulting from such an outlaw culture is what, more than anything, would precipitate a downfall.

Having “fixed” itself handsomely over the five-year term, the regime’s collective head was that it was too well heeled for an effective snow job on the electorate to be trumped by the outsized dimensions of its wrongdoing. Being awash in ill-gotten gains, along with scant regard for conventional parameters of governmental reach, apparently can propel you into that fantasia-like comfort zone. We’ll find out whether the electorate has other ideas.

Tainted Jack Warner of Fédération Internationale de Football Association fame and former Bissessar ally, with whom we don’t normally have much reason to be in concurrence, recently put in context, while on the campaign trail, the administration’s ongoing preference for the underside of by-the-book procedure.

While there may have been individuals in previous governments, he said, who became known for miscreant behavior of some kind, in the instant case going rogue was emblematic of the entire crew’s M.O. — a captain-to-cook identification with perfidy. Which, the Bissessar report card reveals, is just about right.

For some reason, though, a feeling has persisted among her party brethren, and evidently their campaign advisers, that even if the rest of the party headliners are generally perceived as crooked, Bissessar is untouched by the surrounding sludge. Impractical as this may be to even a slightly savvy observer, it apparently was determined to be solid enough strategy for Bissessar and company to make it the basis of some all-or-nothing wagering on the election. Considering the party’s blanket advertising in all media and across the landscape, exhorting folk to “Vote for Kamla,” you would think, rather than electing members of a 41-seat Parliament, Trinidad and Tobago was about to elect a president. The ruse prompted Warner to wisecrack that he had begun referring to the prime minister as “Kabama.” We’re inclined to think here that the “Bissessar is clean” gambit, whether or not it ever had traction, is by now devalued to a state of expired shelf life.

Really, the notion of Bissessar attempting to distance herself from her government’s seedy image is beyond ludicrous. It is a classic illustration of the arrogance of power, that she, her minions or her hired “experts” would presume to ascribe to the public a degree of cluelessness, good for making that nonsense easily saleable. It means asking the people to buy her not being party to the tidal wave of nepotism and tribalism in hiring and firing and awarding of contracts that has enveloped the country throughout the Bissessar administration. It means trying to have people swallow her innocence in the government’s finagling with the legislative process in order to protect from extradition two party financiers facing criminal prosecution abroad. It means attempting to convince folks that Bissessar wasn’t privy to arranging the personal scandalizing and slander in Parliament of Leader of the Opposition Dr. Keith Rowley. And so much more that insults people’s intelligence about an allegedly unstained Bissessar.

If the government does lose this contest, one of the lingering curiosities about its campaign will be the quality of professional expertise the party had at its disposal. Supposedly, this has been the domain of an in-house campaign manager and some imported heavy rollers from Britain. So much of the strategy seemed wrong-headed, one cannot but wonder about the respective track records of these so-called pros. An emphasis on “dirty tricks” tactics unfailingly came to naught. The muck intended to smear the other side seemed each time to fall back on the perpetrators and more likely hurt, rather than helped their cause.

One can’t help giving a thought to how different these five years should and could have been for Bissessar and her crew, had they foresworn the reckless, graceless path they aggressively opted for. She replaced as prime minister a man whose hubris knew no bounds, who incomprehensibly chose self-destruction and the sacrifice of his own party when the clear message from vox populi was that his was an offending presence. Patrick Manning knew he was no longer welcome. And in spite of weighty evidence to the contrary, Bissessar insists it’s a joyful noise she hears from the people’s jury.

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