THE HOPE Party is here to stay and is unfazed by the PNM/UNC duopoly of TT politics, its political leader Tim Hamel-Smith told Newsday, in a recent interview also attended by his party colleague Louis Lee Sing.
HOPE – standing for Honesty Opportunity Performance Empowerment – will hold its South Trinidad national launch on December 9, from 2-6 pm at Paria Suites, San Fernando.
Newsday asked why another party, and what was special about HOPE.
Hamel-Smith, a former senate president under the Peolple's Partnership, replied, "That's a fair question. I'm sure a lot of people have that in mind.
"You put it in the context of other parties, some of which have dissipated.
"We think of HOPE as putting down the foundation of an institution that will be here for hopefully for generations to come. Even though we've been around for a couple of years, we took the time to put the roots down, and the structures that we feel will stand in good stead for many years to come, for a new generation of leaders to emerge."
He said the party's current leaders felt the most important thing was to ensure new leaders would emerge in succession to them when the time comes.
"I think therefore that the structure of a party is very important. If all you've done as a party is to say 'We want to win an election,' I think that – because it's not easy out there – when the rains come and the storms blow, you will – as many of our predecessors have found out – flounder and sink."
Hamel-Smith said the first thing HOPE did was set down its vision, mission, principles and values, so anyone joining would be aware of these.
Newsday asked rather than HOPE totally reinventing the wheel, what positives could it learn from other past/present parties.
Hamel-Smith replied, "One of the first key things the PNM did – and in a way we are establishing something of that nature – is to set down political party groups. They were your roots. If your roots don't go down, your tree will fall."
He said PNM party groups, when first established, were not just an assemblage of people, but had real influence via their delegate system.
"We looked back at old constitutions of the PNM in trying to come to where we are. We recognised that pivotal to your staying the journey over the long term is to have these grassroots with your party groups, who were then allowed to send delegates."
He said delegates believed they had a say and could make a difference.
"Not only are we a force in ourselves, but could make a difference at the top level."
Lee Sing, a former PNM member and Port of Spain mayor, felt the PNM was now no different tfrom the UNC.
He alleged the PNM's focus was now on picking up votes but not on the party's internal health.
"How many general council and central executive meetings were held this year? What's the education committee up to ? And the labour committee?"
On the proliferation of parties, he said you wouldn't say there are thousands of lawyers, so you won't become one.
Hamel-Smith said HOPE will have representatives in each community to gather local people to exert influence within the party.
"Our assessment is that people don't have hope in the PNM and UNC. They see the country sinking, crime taking over and the gangs in charge.
"HOPE feels we can make a difference. HOPE arises at a time that the country is crying out for change."
He said the country could soon see a "1986 moment" again, referring to the NAR beating the PNM overwhelmingly.
Saying a sense of corruption has permeated the society, he said this must be tackled before crime.
"Each person should get the opportunity to fulfil. TT has potential. We are playing far below our potential."
Hamel-Smith lamented that people meekly put up with the SEA exam.
He said lifting TT society would not be easy and would take a generation.
Asked if the PNM/UNC duopoly of TT politics was daunting, he said yes. But he added, "If you are just tribally aligned, performance doesn't matter. We demand nothing of our leaders."
He urged this be changed.
"If you are content with the status quo, HOPE is not for you. The status quo is taking TT to hell in a handbasket."
Alleging corruption, he said there was no reason for the PNM or UNC to want to change the status quo.
Lee Sing said, "To all the good people out there: if they don't get up and demand a better TT, when the anarchy comes we'll just have to accept it."
HOPE has come together, he said, because TT needs it now.
He said many parents with children studying abroad now tell them, "Don't return to TT." Hamel-Smith added that 20 per cent of UWI graduates are also moving abroad.
"We (TT) have the raw potential, but by itself that means nothing."