WITH THE arrest of an active Cabinet minister and MP (who has since been fired as minister) the public has begun asking what to expect in the next general election scheduled for 2020.
The arrest of Marlene McDonald last Thursday (and the subsequent laying of charges) 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, also has to answer corruption charges. Glen Ram, chairman of the Mayaro Regional Corporation, is before the magistrates’ court on a charge of accepting a bribe of $1,500.
On the other side of the political divide, Darryl Smith, another MP, was relieved of his ministerial portfolio after discovery of the dismissal and payment of compensation to an employee of 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 people are selected, they are doomed to become backbenchers. An example of this is PNM public platform frontline speaker Shamfa Cudjoe who was transferred from 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 ONR which came to past 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.
In recent days Mickela Panday and Nikoli Edwards have offered themselves and their parties but there has been little or no attraction from the general public; certainly not enough to win a seat.
Then there are people who simply do not understand the political landscape, like leader of the People’s Empowerment Party, Phillip Alexander, who contested the PNM safe seat of Diego Martin West in 2015 against then opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley, now Prime Minister.
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 TT 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 articulate the concerns of the constituents and implement lasting solutions to their problems. This would limit the “friend and favour” parliamentarian loyal to financiers and other elements.
The second step is that these people must be trained by the experienced politicians who are well versed in policymaking and parliamentary procedures. Former speaker of the House 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 people who attract the attention of police officers. We should do whatever we can to avoid that at all costs.