PNM reveals vision for 2020
By ANNABELLE BRASNELL
With a projected economic growth of 2.7 per cent, the PNM has created an national vision document that promises T&T developed nation status by 2020. The document, the party’s election manifesto, mentions very few revenue sources. But party sources confirm it is the closest thing to the PNM budget they country will see before election. The “vision 2020” document, which was released yesterday, envisions “citizens would enjoy a high quality of life based on the highest standards of modern human development” in all areas of life. Apart from the regular generalisations on health, poverty eradication and housing, the manifesto is chockfull of details on the issues. The recent spate of kidnappings seemed to have triggered the planned establishment of an “aggressive Order Maintenance Policy, including the Confidential Crime Unit which will continue to implement strategic strikes as needed.” There are also planned upgrades in the neighbourhood watch programme, police human resource management and expansion of community policing.
Some of the health measures mentioned were repetitions from last year’s manifesto, but the “action plan 2002-2007 also promises
• Subsidised cardiac surgery at private and public health facilities for the poor.
• Free prostate and cataract surgery for the poor at private and public health facilities and
• $55 million in diagnostic equipment for hospitals by the end of 2002.
The plans for health also include the provision of 20 new dialysis machines by October 2002, along with an improved emphasis on provision of the service for patients, 50 new ambulances by 2003, a national health insurance programme by 2003, state-of-the-art cancer centre at EWMSC by 2004 and a new public health laboratory. Home ownership is expected to get easier and the document outlines wide plans for the party’s Home Ownership Made Easy (Home) programme. This includes loans of up to 97 per cent and 6 to 8 per cent financing. This, it said, is in addition to approximately 10,000 houses over the next 10 years. The PNM said it expects a decline in unemployment to 10.3 per cent, from 10.9, and promises the “development of a small and micro enterprise sector to create an average of 5,000 new jobs over the period 2003-2004.” This should be funded by $30 million from a small and micro enterprise development fund, and will be in addition to employment under the PSIP, URP and other specialised programmes. Other plans include the construction of an overpass at the Uriah Butler/Churchill Roosevelt intersection, the establishment of a light industrial manufacturing estate at Wallerfield, implementation of the Accelerated Land Distribution Programme for farmers and the establishment of an environmental protection and enhancement programme to preserve and upgrade the environment.
EBC dismisses 1,970 voter objections
By DARREN BAHAW
THE Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) yesterday announced that out of the 2,188 objections filed against voters in four marginal constituencies, only 218 were valid. The announcement followed a historic two-and-a-half hour meeting with representatives of five political parties—the People’s National Movement, the United National Congress, Citizens Alliance, the National Alliance for Reconstruction, and the Democratic Party of Trinidad and Tobago, at Hilton Trinidad. Following investigations, the EBC dismissed all the objections filed against persons in the constituencies of San Juan/Barataria and San Fernando West. But the EBC struck off 165 voters for the Ortoire/Mayaro constituency and 53 in Tunapuna. However, EBC commissioner Mark Ramkerrysingh said despite the findings, the commission was going to allow those persons struck off the list another opportunity to challenge their objections. “What we did was provide to the political parties a list of the names (of persons) whose registrations are cancelled pursuant to the investigation,” he said.
“There is a process whereby they can re-instate the registration of someone who may have been cancelled if they can show that (the person) was actually living at the address shown,” Ramkerrysingh said. EBC commissioner Raoul John added, “If we made an inadvertent error...there is recourse available to get them on the supplemental list”. “We can’t pass judgment on the objection made as being frivolous. People are allowed to object. The important thing and one of the things that was very wrong in the media was that the objections did not originate from the EBC,” he said.
John said no person would be allowed to vote if their name was not on the revised list or the supplemental list.
He said the EBC was going to adhere strictly to that regulation on polling day. “There are a lot of emotions in elections and people are going to make all kinds of allegations. That happens all the time...we have to deal with it fairly and freely and continue to look at our political neutrality and independence,” he added. John also welcomed the government’s change in position as it related to the appointment of a strategic adviser at the EBC. Manning has said that the EBC would be allowed to select a candidate for the contract post and the government would provide the funding. “That is a change of the position but we would have to look at it in terms of the Constitution,” John said. Peter Popplewell, who has been retained as communications specialist with the EBC, said following the meeting the political parties “are now satisfied that the EBC has gone through a very stringent programme of training for the people who would be working during this elections”. He said that an electoral list was “a very dynamic thing...people turn 18 every day, people move everyday, people die everyday A list is as good as the last set of information that we got”. Also attending the meeting was EBC commissioner Lance Murray, Chief Election Officer Howard Cayenne, Deputy Chief Election Officer Laurence Thomas, and acting Public Relations Officer Zilpah King.
anday: Two issues in this election — The economy and crime
“Which money? You are assuming that there is money?”
This was UNC leader Basdeo Panday’s response to questions on whether he planned to explain the source of the funds in his London bank account.
“So you assume that there is a ten million dollar (account). It is money which I maintain my children with. You have any children? he asked the reporter. “Don’t let them do to yours what they have done to mine, okay?” Panday said before walking away.
Earlier in the interview Panday said it was not the first election he would be facing with charges hanging over his head. “But I suppose it might be the last,” he quipped.
He said he believed that history would repeat itself and he would once again become Prime Minister, and be cleared of all charges. “The Lord has a way of laying my table before my enemies,” he said. Panday said the two issues in this election are going to be the economy and crime and on both counts the PNM would have failed miserably.
Panday said he would not seek to get international observers since he is a nobody. He said Prime Minister Patrick Manning needed no official request from him, but could have brought observers on his own volition. “If he wants to have transparency, he’d do that on his own. I didn’t receive any requests from him (when I was Prime Minister and brought international observers)”, Panday said.
Panday, who attended a meeting with officials of the Elections and Boundaries Commission said the UNC had some concerns about the way elections were conducted on polling day at the polls.
This was because, he noted, different officers appeared to have different rules and there was sometimes police interference with the mock (polling) stations. He also raised the question of intimidation of voters at registration and on electoral day.
Bakr: Robbie and I now friends
By Darryl Heeralal
DECLARING that he and President Arthur NR Robinson are now “friends”, the leader of the group that tried to overthrow the Robinson regime in 1990 publicly launched a verbal asault on the Syrian community and a “bald headed uncle Tom politician” at a meeting in San Juan on Friday night. Noting that there have been calls for him to apologise to the nation and to Robinson following the Muslimeen’s attempted coup twelve years ago, Imam Yasin Bakr said: “Mr ANR Robinson, the President of this country, was a combatant. He fought me and I fought him. The battle is now over and we are friends again,” Bakr declared, adding, “I am a gladiator.” Bakr was in the news again last week when he revealed that he and Prime Minister Patrick Manning had held talks and that the government had agreed to hand over State lands adjoining the Jamaat to his organisation. One of Bakr’s lieutenants who also spoke on Friday night, Kala Aki Bua, threatened the media over its reporting. “Write what is true. Write what not true and you will feel the full force of the Jamaat-Al-Muslimeen.”
In 1990, the insurgents had taken over state-owned Trinidad and Tobago Television and the nearby Trinidad Broadcasting Corporation and held the staff hostage. Aki Bua also claimed that three calypsonians visited Bakr at his Mucurapo Road office last week but did not disclose their identities or what the meeting had been about. The public meeting was held at the Croisee before a small crowd, some members of whom were wearing PNM T-shirts.
A visibly irate Bakr focused his attention on renewed calls for him to apologise to the nation for the events of 1990.
“What is the latest? Some politician getting on the TV, a uncle Tom politician, get on the TV and saying the Jamaat-Al-Muslimeen must apologise now,” Bakr declared as the crowd jeered and clapped. “A bald head Uncle Tom n--- honouring his masters in Westmoorings go on the TV and say the Jamaat-Al-Muslimeen must apologise.” Last week the PNM’s Diego Martin West MP Keith Rowley appeared on TV6’s Morning Edition programme and called on Bakr to apologise.
“He has no testicular fortitude, he is a mimic man,” he thundered. During his nearly one hour address, Bakr accused the media of not treating him fairly.
“For them I am personified as a villain. They like to castigate me because they’re working for they masters. Every single newspaper in this country is owned by a special interest group and these people feel threatened by our presence.”
Bakr then moved to the Syrian community. “Now they want this little piece of land in Mucurapo. Who want it? The Syrians!” Bakr shouted. “They took the whole west coast, they gone all the way down to Chaguaramas. They have all the land until they meet Mucurapo and bounce up the gladiator.”
Election Battle On - Sunday 22, September-2002
by KEN ALI Nation News
PORT-OF-SPAIN – Trinidadians and Tobagonians, bruised by election fatigue with three polls in 20 months, now have their focus on the October 7 contest riveted by two unfolding blockbuster issues.
The campaign for the general election, which began with seeming voter apathy, has quickly turned absorbing and emotive, and is attracting large and boisterous political audiences and keen media and regional interest.
The issues that have most captured imagination are that founded on the wave of bloody crimes, including high profile kidnappings, and the laying of criminal charges against Basdeo Panday, 69-year-old leader of one of the frontline political parties.
As the campaign races into the final two weeks, it now appears that voter appeal has been aroused for what is expected to be yet another cliffhanger election. Scientific surveys are pointing to a ding-dong battle between the incumbent People’s National Movement (PNM), led by Prime Minister Patrick Manning, and Panday’s United National Congress (UNC).
The two major campaign issues have excited the respective political camps, who are banking on the themes continuing to resonate well with their supporters and the some ten per cent of the electorate who are considered swing voters and who may hold the balance of power in marginal constituencies.
Panday’s UNC has adopted the motif: A Nation In Crisis, to articulate its anti-crime crusade. Public speakers, especially Panday, and media advertisements have been voicing alarm about the state of criminal activity, which includes several abductions of members of business-owning families.
There are reports of family-owned medium-sized businesses being shutdown or downgraded, while members relocate to North American safe havens. Panday has pleaded with the businessmen to stay at home. Manning has assured that his government is aggressive in its anti-crime thrust.
But attempts by the prime minister to placate the country appeared to have been partly thwarted – at least symbolically – by a surprise deal with Yasin Abu Bakr and his fellow 1990 attempted coup-makers of Jamaat Al Muslimeen. Arguing that it was time for the country to put the past behind it, Manning revealed that the state would legally free up disputed lands west of Port-of-Spain, which were occupied by the Muslimeen.
A deal for the granting of the land was struck during a secret meeting between Manning and Bakr, at the PNM’s city headquarters. Following that pact, Bakr announced electoral support for the PNM.
The prime minister quickly faced an embarrassing national flare-up, with businessmen, including party investors, damning the decision to make concessions to a fundamentalist body whose insurrection had led to about 30 deaths and had traumatised the then-nation’s leaders and the entire country. Some Port-of-Spain businessmen noted that they are yet to be compensated for the devastation of their buildings during the days of social turmoil.
With growing public unease, Manning withdrew the land deal, conceding: “The public feels the matter should be handled in a different way.” He admitted: “I am responding to public opinion.”
The PM’s back-track was clearly a cruel blow for his political party in the midst of a close election battle. The PNM appeared to be further rocked by disclosures in New York’s Daily News, based upon a United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) probe, that the Muslimeen wanted to fly a plane from Libya into the World Trade Centre in last year’s September 11 terrorist attack.
Manning, who heads the National Security Council, responded that he was not aware of any ties between the Muslimeen and Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network. He then interjected: “Even if that were so, that does not mean to say you reject support from whatever quarter it comes in terms of votes. You don’t.”
Bakr remained characteristically tough-talking, insisting that the land belonged to the Muslimeen and that “anybody who wants to continue with this matter wants to propagate unrest in the society.”
Sensing a godsend political issue, Panday accused Manning’s PNM of an “unholy alliance” with the Muslimeen, adding that the government of the day did not have the morality to seek to counter crime. He charged that the Muslimeen lands would eventually be handed over after the general election.
The Express newspaper editorialised that Manning “gifted Mr Panday a sizzling campaign issue”, and indeed, the UNC leader has turned the matter into his virtual election road march.
The entire issue has reawakened anxieties about a most disturbing period in the country’s recent past, and suggested that the wounds and scars are still raw and that healing is painful and patient. Even frontline government minister Dr Keith Rowley urged that the Muslimeen apologise for the coup bid and renounce any unconstitutional endeavour.
But while Panday was making political hay, he was set back by three criminal charges pertaining to his alleged failure to declare details of a London bank account held jointly with his wife, Oma. Integrity legislation requires full disclosure of relevant details.
The source of the funds – said to be a substantial sum – has been a subject of intense national scrutiny in recent months. Panday has coughed up several explanations, none of which has appeased critics on the issue.
The UNC leader is to appear in court on November 27, and faces a fine and a two-year jail term. This is the second general election within a decade he is contesting with criminal charges pending against him. On the eve of the 1995 general election, sexual misconduct were levelled against him.
He was freed on the charges after the election, by which time he had become prime minister.
In typical style, Panday has adopted a posture of injured innocence, claiming he is being persecuted for speaking against the Muslimeen’s supposed ties to the PNM. “They are trying to stop me,” he has since been thundering at nightly public meetings, “but they would fail.”
Manning has discounted allegations that the charges were a political set up. In fact, the PNM leader is using the issue as a lightning rod to his allegations of financial excesses during Panday’s six-year tenure as prime minister.
Indeed, the PNM’s campaign is revolving around claims of probity in national office, which it is contrasting to a spree of claims of corruption and financial mismanagement of Panday’s regime.
It is not yet known if the laying of the charges has hurt the UNC electoral chances. An earlier poll had indicated that just six per cent of those surveyed placed corruption as a major issue. A whopping 68 per cent had named crime at the top of the national hit parade of contentious matters.
For its part, the UNC has sought to bolster its campaign by the candidacy of Winston Dookeran, the affable and academically-minded former governor of the Central Bank. Dookeran, who is well liked for his easy manner and intellectual depth, has been preaching the virtues of “getting our politics right”, warning against Trinidad falling into the precipice of other plural societies in which race relations declined abysmally.
With the campaign now at a peak, Panday is also hammering a call for the presence of international election observers, noting that, as prime minister, he had brought watchdogs for the 2000 and 2001 polls even without appeals from Manning. “If he wants to have transparency,” said Panday, “he will do that on his own.”
As the campaign continues to move at a frenetic pace, it is likely to take several sharp twists and turns before polling day.
trinidadians allways seem to have such a high opinion of their "paradise island". its good to see people opening their eyes and discussing the real trinidad. the trinidad with corrupt politicians and corrupt police. the trinidad that is fast killing all its wildlife and polluting its seas and reefs. the trinidad that is divided by race and blinded by rum. the trinidad that is full of incest and rape. the trinidad that is full of murder , kidnapping and robbery. the trinidad that wades through sewage after the flood.
all politicaians are corrupt all over the world but in trinidad even after they found out they get elected!