FAR TOO often the young are excluded or overlooked as participants in the political process. While politicians hold large youth rallies and mouth platitudes about engaging the future generation, they are slow to appoint youth as candidates. Politics is seen as a space for big men and women.
The young are marginalised because of their supposed lack of experience. But by openly flirting with the formation of a new third party, Mickela Panday has underlined the role of youth in Trinidad and Tobago politics and opened a much-needed debate about diversity within the two oldest political organs that currently have a grip on our democracy.
Still, let’s not get carried away. Sunday’s meet-and-greet exercise was just one event and can hardly be described as a game changer. We need to hear more about policy and plans to tell if anything genuinely new is forthcoming.
In this regard, though Panday sought to “inject a dose of adrenaline into the political bloodstream,” what we got was a serving of familiar rhetoric coupled with some of the same old, same old faces, including her father Basdeo, and figures like John Humphrey, Selby Wilson, Adesh Nanan, Subhas Panday, Louis Lee Sing, Ganga Singh. Some of these were present merely as observers. While one of her biggest assets is the fact of her being a daughter of Basdeo Panday, this is also one of her biggest liabilities: it runs counter to the idea of a new vision.
Be that as it may, Mickela Panday must be praised for doing what many others all too often fail to do. She has stepped up to the plate once more, offering to serve – even if the precise form of that service is yet to be delineated. In the process, she has invigorated the idea of youth playing a more active role in shaping our politics and she has reminded us of the importance of not only speaking up but also stepping up.
The style evinced by Sunday’s address at Gaston Court, Chaguanas, also sent a strong message. At first glance, Mickela’s query to the crowd about their appetite for the formation of a new political party appeared as disingenuous as it was predictable.
Ironically, in posing the question of whether she should form a new political party to attendees, she harked back to a long-standing feature of our political rhetoric: the idea of ochlocracy. However, this simple move also demonstrated a willingness to be led by the people and not to speak down to them. Which is the ideal often lost in our sometimes forbidding political life.
For now, all must be congratulated for an exercise which enhances our democracy by encouraging diverse views to be heard as well as cross-party dialogue and deliberations. Whatever the goal of Sunday’s meeting, the younger Panday has already achieved at least that.