The Re-Shovelled Cabinet. Photo courtesy Guardian website
I grew up in a house where All-Fours was a serious game. My uncle played tournaments. It would irk him to no end to see how casually his nieces and nephews would play things like Rummy without a properly shuffled deck, removal of the Jokers and proper cutting. It was from him I learned to play cards, to understand the signs of the game of All-Fours, and to know that even if I was dealt a weak hand, if my partner had a stronger hand, and we both understood the mechanics of bluffing and kept straight faces, we could come out with solid wins.
Kamla’s much anticipated re-shovelling of the Cabinet yesterday, went far beyond my expectations, and yet fell short of it in some ways. She was right to call it a Cabinet Reconfiguration, because that’s what she did. Kamla took her old cabinet to a joiner and basically asked, “How I could make this thing look and function different, without wasting the material?” After announcing the cabinet last night, the focus of everyone, from layman, to political parties to political gurus, was the appointment of the Minister of National Security. Supporters of the party hailed it as a good move, detractors frothed at the mouth, and some dashed off hastily written press releases. I was more interested in the details of the entire cupboard. My father is a joiner, is so I stop!
By now we all know who the players are in this NEW CABINET…and that’s what it is. Yes they are still calling themselves the People’s Partnership, but the 2010 Cabinet and the 2012 Cabinet look very different. It’s almost as if we got a new government, without going to the polls…..that can’t be good, because it means that 2 years and 1 month into office, Kamla and her even larger Small Goal side are starting from scratch.
In the midst of an economic meltdown, spiralling crime rates, rising unemployment, meteoric food prices…..this government that promised to bring change, is attempting to press the re-set button and act like the last two years of misstepping didn’t happen.
The Old Cupboard….
Kamla, as card dealer, revealed two things last night: she knows that her government and governance is failing; and she knows she has to make her boldest move for Ejection 2015 (it’s not a misspelling) now!
Her speech last night was filled with the usual campaign rhetoric, but in a more subdued tone; because while Kamla’s words stated that her government had been working hard and achieving much, the Cabinet she was about to reveal said louder than anything else in the room that the PP has failed. Kamla referred to a depleted treasury, yet, we know that Dookeran came and met a stable economy; just as Devant Maharaj met a Caribbean Airlines that was in the black. We know too that in 2010 she met a crime rate that was lower than what we have right now. But of course, this government never admits to making a mess of things, just like the last regime. So Kamla segued into listing her changes by implying that she consulted with the people and was now taking the criticism on board.
Understand that this Cabinet Re-Shovel comes in under one month since they spent $9m patting themselves on the back for being in power for 2 years and staying stronger than ever. In less than a month of that Eat Ah Food Fete the Partnership was destroyed when the MSJ broke ranks. It’s something she didn’t make mention of last night. Indeed the four parties that remain don’t like referring to the MSJ anymore because they know that in truth and fact they are no longer the People’s Partnership, but rather a UNC Alliance All Fours Team. And in future that’s how I’ll be referring to them.
This UNC Alliance is now faced with a significant task, turning the tide of public opinion that is growing against it. You see there are several levels of dissent Kamla has been coping with and her reconfiguration last night was meant to address all issues:
1. The MSJ Split
2. The COP discontent
3. The Muslim Vote Discontent
4. The Swing Vote Discontent over an under performing economy, spiralling crime, and corruption.
The MSJ Split means that the 5-party Panchayat is dead. This of course means that Kamla hs to pull the troops in tighter, closer, give the impression of being a tight-knit unit that includes everyone. Couple this with COP discontent over the San Fernando Mayorship and general feelings of being sidelined and ignored and the solution becomes clear: increase the number of COP members in the Cabinet, while giving Marlene Coudray a ministerial position. Look closely at the list of appointees and see what’s going on. No wonder Lincoln Douglas denied he agreed with Nalini Dial’s comments…and no wonder COP Cabinet Members and Executive members attacked Dial’s comments in such a savage way. In exercising her right to post tasteless comments on her private FB wall, Dial was upsetting the apple cart of new Eat Ah Food positions. Douglas publicly agreeing with Dial might have cost him a ministry. Now the COP has almost doubled the number of previously held positions and gone from 6 to 10 Cabinet posts. Several of those positions are held by people who never faced the electorate at the polls such as Bhoe Tewarie and Ganga Singh. To see Ganga Singh, whose name is synonymous with corruption at WASA be let back into our government has to be one of the most galling things on the face of the earth. Now Kamla’s Corruption Chorus Line of Goopeesingh, Ramadharsingh and Singh can just call themselves the Three Tenders.
The Cabinet still remains predominantly Hindu in terms of its religious make-up, but in the Jahaji Desi groups of late there has been a lot of complaint about the lack of Muslim representation. Whether unwilling or unable to add more Muslims, Kamla decided to kill two birds with one stone and add a COP member who comes from the most prominent political Muslim family. Her new Minister of Communication, Jamal Mohammed is the great-nephew of PNM stalwart Kamaluddin Mohammed, and nephew of former PNM Senator Nafeesa Mohammed. One member of the Mohammed Clan in Parliament must be the equivalent of about 50 muslims at least, right Madam PM? I hope those ratios work out for you.
Now to issue number 4. Kamla is trading on a few givens with the Trinbagonian psyche. We have a high tolerance for corruption in this place, once our pockets not affected directly. Once we benefitting from a corrupt act or a corrupt person, Trinis will more often than not look the other way (Dear Lord thank you for my Tobagonian mother) and give people a bligh. And to the Europeans and Americans who don’t understand how there can be citizens of this country who’d support a man as obviously corrupt as Jack Warner being a member of government….that should now answer your question. Jack is beloved in his constituency because he gets things done…temporarily. And Trinis love a quick fix. Long term goals and vision does make them impatient…we like things to happen one time…and see immediate results…even if they worth fuck all. So an action man like Jack, who willing to put Fifa money where his mouth is will be immensely popular here. You want a wall built overnight? Jack will get it done….it’ll fall down the next time rain fall hard, but the point is he built the wall…and that’s what Trinis will remember. You want your national football team to get to the World Cup…easy peasy, Jack will get it done…but they don’t care that he has screwed over present and future generations of young local footballers to do so. So, Kamla, aware of all of this, appoints Warner as Minister of National Security. This appointment is an admission that John Sandy has failed and Trinis are fucked when it comes to the crime situation. Forget the SoE folks….the ultimate weapon in Kamla’s arsenal is about to be deployed. I feel quite certain that Jack has been given the mandate, by fair means or foul, bring that crime rate down! And this appointment is a double edged sword. If Jack succeeds, Kamla has 2015 in the bag….if Jack fails, he gets the axe and so does Kamla….if ever someone was relying on the strength of their partner’s hand it is Kamla.
Unfortunately this appointing of Jack as Security Minister means that the country will suffer in the short and long term. The appointment will further tarnish our international image. Even if Jack makes inroads into crime, it’ll be quick fixes. Downturns that will be quickly trumpeted all over the media, while the longterm side and after effects might just kill our children….23 years later local football still reeling from November 19th, 1989.
Larry Howai’s appointment as Minister of Finance is a better calculated risk. When the foreign team hired to turn FCB around from financial failure couldn’t do the job, it was Larry Howai that was promoted to do the job. And I sincerely believe that he has been brought on board by Kamla to clean up the colossal mess that Dookeran made of the economy. Howai’s mandate has to be put a halt to the decline….and try and stimulate some growth, please. If he does that, he’ll be the PM’s blue eyed boy, because the two fronts on which Kamla was all geared to lose Ejection 2015, was crime and the economy…..sounds like PNM 2010 deja vu doesn’t it?
Mindful of the fact that she was getting rid of two Afro-Trinbagonians (and all yuh could cry for Verna all all yuh want, after what happened to Cheryl Miller under her tenure she deserved to be fired), and was likely to face a pounding for the ethnic make up of her Cabinet, Kamla ensured that she did the requisite window-dressing….and I want you guys to note that she ensured that the two (redundant) ministries that deal up with issues like culture and diversity are headed by Afro-Trinbagonians. Game to Kamla….let the black people and them complain now….Eintou if you aint get no money for you Support a Bad Habit Committee is because Douglas, not Kamla, turn you down.
She has also set herself up nicely to ensure that the grassroots battle for Tobago and Local Elections can be efficiently fought. The offensive Shoppin Toppin has been moved from everyone’s sight and put under Glen Ramadharsingh (shudder) and Delmon Baker is now at the forefront. It’s now up to Assworth Jack and his spinning TOP to do the necessary and try and bring home that THA Elections….Kamla depending on your hand boy!
Suruj Rambachan, who was spectacularly inefficient as a Minister of Foreign Affairs and Communication Minister has now been made Minister of Local Government…..he’s close to all the plum Regional Corp contracts that make pocket lining so easy, and he can overseer the pack setting for next year’s local government elections. Chandresh Sharma has been given Transport, lucrative contracts and kickbacks for party financiers in that ministry as well.
So, now that we’ve arrived at this point I hope that the reader sees that the Reconfiguration exercise on the PM’s part was actually well thought out. She’s battling on several fronts and knows this. Yes, Jack Warner’s appointment as Security Minister is a big deal….but the even bigger deal here is that Kamla has begun to battle for 2015. Whether it will be effective now depends on performance. It is this that both the PNM and MSJ have to contend with.
Watch out too for the disappearance of the COP. With the MSJ gone the remaining members of the All Fours Alliance will begin to merge and morph and all sound the same. The COP’s identity is now entirely subsumed. No more standing up for principals and rights and Mayorships in San Fernando (ent Navi Murad-Ali?).
With a bigger Cabinet though comes more salaries to pay and more mouths to feed.
De Vice Cyah Done!