With the arrest of an active Cabinet minister and MP, the public has begun asking itself what to expect in the next general election, scheduled for 2020.
The arrest and detention of Marlene McDonald last week Thursday comes a few short months after other known politicians were arrested and, in some cases, charges laid.
Former AG under the PP government Anand Ramlogan was arrested earlier this year and charges laid against him relative to corruption allegations. He is also before the courts in a separate charge, where he is accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Also, Gerald Ramdeen, former opposition senator, is possessed of charges as of earlier this year. Glen Ram, chairman of the Mayaro Regional Corporation, is before the Magistrates’ Court for allegedly accepting a bribe of $1,500.
On the other side of the political divide, Darryl Smith, another MP, was relieved from his ministerial portfolio after news of the dismissal and payment of compensation to Ms Carrie-Ann Moreau at the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs became public.
With the PNM’s history of recycling the same names and the UNC’s recent history of appointing parliamentarians-in-training, what can we expect to see in the next general election? Even in situations where young persons are selected, they are doomed to become back-benchers. An example of this is PNM public platform frontline speaker Shamfa Cudjoe, who was transferred from the Ministry of Tourism to Sports.
Arrested politicians can hardly be said to still be news, but that just leaves the country asking: who will be left in 2020 to offer themselves up for service? Calls for an untainted third party have been heard from a few. However, history does not give that option much hope.
George Chambers’ slogan against the Organisation for National Reconstruction (ONR) which came to pass was ‘Not a damn seat for them’. The COP in 2007 claimed zero seats; so too was the faith of the ILP in 2015 and generally the MSJ. Even in recent days, persons like Mickela Panday and Nikoli Edwards, both of whom have offered themselves and their parties but with little to no attention from the general public-certainly not enough to win a seat.
Then there are persons who simply do not understand the political landscape, like leader of the People’s Empowerment Party (PEP) Phillip Alexander, who contested the PNM safe seat of Diego Martin West against the nowprime minister and then-leader of the Opposition. Regardless, he too has found himself before the civil courts and in debt to Andrew Gabriel, in the sum of $775,000 in damages for defamation.
The end result is Trinidad and Tobago does not know who of value will be an option in 2020. Is it that we need a full overhaul of the old and only new blood? Or do we just choose the least evil of all the options when the time comes?
My personal recommendation is twofold. Firstly, candidates must be selected by the people. A candidate of an area should be from the area, or at least familiar with the woes of that constituency. He or she must be able to fully article the concerns of the constituents higher up the ladder, and implement lasting solutions to these problems. This would limit the friend-andfavour parliamentarian loyal to financiers and other elements.
The second step is that these persons must be trained by the experienced politicians who are well versed in policy making and parliamentary procedures. Former House speaker Wade Mark and current President of the Senate Christine Kangaloo are excellent examples on both sides who can train and mould young political minds.
It is unclear whether any real change would present itself before 2020, but one thing is for sure-as a country, we have a history of selecting persons to service who attract the attention of our police officers. We should do whatever we can to avoid that at all costs.