THE EDITOR: In this pre-election period the average TT citizen has an immense responsibility to demand that we participate in drafting election manifestos together with our likely representatives.
My personal concerns are health, education, the environment and, of course, crime and security. I don’t think we the citizens will go anywhere unless we have face-to-face discussions with the candidates. After all, it is our country and we pay taxes.
The media, as prime opinion makers, have their role to play by properly informing both the public and those who want to be elected. Not just the newspapers but also the radio, TV and social media.
The intervention of the citizens is necessary because we have allowed elected officials to determine what we think and do about our conditions, not realising that up to now elected officials have been paper tigers, powerless in the face of the unseen manipulators, financiers included.
As I have said, health is critical. Let us look at diabetes, because this is Diabetes Awareness Month. A blog by Sunil Boodram noted:
“Early back in March 2012, the Guardian published an article titled ‘Diabetes in TT ranked No 2 killer.’ Dr Claude Khan, president of the Academy of Diabetes Clinicians of TT, compared TT to several developed nations.”
According to the Guardian, Khan said: “This country’s figures triple those in the United Kingdom and almost double those in the United States.” He said “the adult diabetes prevalence in the UK is between three and four per cent and between seven and eight per cent in the United States.”
There were 117,400 cases of diabetes in TT in 2017.
Boodram also wrote: “In April 2017, the Trinidad Express published an article titled ‘Deyalsingh: $8 billion lost every year to diabetes, cancer.’” The article points how much money diabetes, hypertension (blood pressure) and cancer costs TT every year.
The cost of diabetes: $3.5 billion.
Education, about which many have written, is in shambles. One article, headlined “Committee concerned about school dropouts joining gangs” (Newsday, November 2), reports about a recent Joint Select Committee on Human Rights inquiring about male performance in public primary and secondary schools.
It was revealed that over a three-year period, 3,121 students dropped out of school. Evidence offered was that they have joined gangs or are imprisoned.
Likewise the environment. We have increased flooding everywhere. Mt Lambert, Aranguez, El Socorro and adjacent agricultural communities have it particularly bad.
Crime is in our faces all the time. Enough said.
None of these problems are insurmountable. Between those of us who live here and the brain power in our TT diaspora we can conquer.
The problem is that we the citizens are not encouraged to work on these matters, which have all reached crisis proportions. Unless we protest in some form we are not heard. So why not change the paradigm?
When the canvassing brigades are going from house to house, when they hold their cottage meetings, we have to “hold them and jam them,” until they listen. The rhetoric at public meetings has to change completely.
Election manifestos are pointless unless people are actively involved in their preparation. In other words, manifestos must start with draft proposals for public discussion. Then, on the basis of follow-up consultations, each party must offer a final plan to the electorate.
It is not a new idea. NJAC had proposed it a long time ago. In the long run people will benefit from heightened participation in national affairs. However, citizens will also have the immense responsibility to monitor what has been agreed on, to tweak recommendations as the occasion demands and thereby place a hold on the elected officials.
It will not be easy but it is a path to mobilising for national salvation.