Running amok with power in Trinidad & Tobago

Given where it ranks on the scale of international concerns, we have never before found it necessary to devote consecutive columns to political goings-on in Trinidad and Tobago. Alas, a deplorable and deteriorating state of affairs there has beckoned us to step onto this untraveled terrain.

So after commenting, last time around, about the high probability of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her corruption-smeared administration embracing any and all avenues of deviousness in their determined effort to remain in office, we got slammed last week by yet another power-abuse wallop from them. And this pattern of using the privilege of a governing majority to ulterior effect, each time seemingly more sinister than the last, has set off alarm bells in the society, as well it should. Were it not so far-fetched, one might be tempted to suggest that in the hierarchy of Bissessar’s party is to be found a small knot of devotees of “Can You Top This?” which had its day on American radio back in the 1940s-50s. But Bissessar and her party masterminds competing to see who proposes the most outlandish and offensive course of action isn’t all that unlikely a scenario, in light of what their collective fondness for the seamy side of government and politics has so far laid bare.

When the government brought to the country’s Parliament a few weeks ago, notwithstanding the very ludicrousness of it, a motion of no confidence in the Leader of the Opposition Dr. Keith Rowley, Bissessar and company ran into a buzz-saw of condemnation after one of their members reduced the Parliament to a place of unprecedented moral decrepitude in a presentation that personally vilified Rowley with unfounded, scandalous allegations — allegations which, if made outside of Parliament, would have landed the perpetrator in court to answer serious slander and defamation charges. Bissessar, feigning surprise at what went down, talked about accepting an apology from a supposedly “atoning” transgressor, all of which was of course scripted nonsense which, we suspect, bamboozled no one. More importantly, had there been even a remote hint of principle resident within the government caucus, the unflattering fiasco that came to be the “no-confidence” exercise in bull-headedness would have been cue enough to dump the idea. But as Raffique Shah noted in the Trinidad Express, even at the risk of a pursuit of vengeance that ultimately strangles them, Bissessar and her cohorts would not allow their “Get Rowley” fixation to go unfulfilled.

So last week, trampling all over constitutional parameters and parliamentary protocol, the Bissessar government voted to censure Rowley and suspend him from Parliament. Justifiably so, from the opposition side, before the members all walked out, came charges of the government giving itself “kangaroo court” license. For starters, that move by the governing party seems curiously lacking in political savvy, for a group desperately trying to hold on to power. Bearing in mind the bottomless pit of resources we keep hearing about, to which Bissessar and her minions now reportedly have access, was a “Throw out Rowley” strategy the best counsel those deep pockets could buy? It doesn’t require Rhodes Scholar brains to recognize the back-fire potential in going that route. Which encourages the conclusion that maybe blind vengeance is indeed playing a role in the unfolding saga.

The government’s bull’s eye on Rowley has to do with his revealing in Parliament a couple of years ago what purportedly were copies of incriminating emails that came into his possession, that involved members of the government, including the prime minister. Supposedly under investigation by the police and other outside interests all this time, the so-called “Emailgate” has remained a bone of contention, with Bissessar predictably insisting that the emails were bogus — a claim that no official source has yet supported. But Bissessar’s punitive recourse in the “Emailgate” flap mirrors behavior for which she has come to be known and points up her propensity for demeaning opponents while conveniently ignoring similar or worse shortcomings of her own.

The prime minister should be told that the guise she so readily assumes — paragon of unswerving uprightness — is one that doesn’t sit well on her. It didn’t sit well long before she became prime minister and continues to be a misfit today. In the wake of her vitriolic putdown of Rowley for entering those emails into Parliament’s records, there’s been a revisiting of Bissessar’s going on the record in Parliament years ago with trumped-up charges made against two members on the opposite side, with nary a peep from Bissessar even after the courts cleared the men and their accuser recanted.

She’s that type of operator. She has shown that she will stop at nothing to retain her perch. And the need has intensified for an electorate perhaps more attentive than ever before.

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