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The Failure of Politicians to Be Relevant to the Reality of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T)

On Thursday 7 September 2017 the Daily Express and the Guardian newspapers of T&T published the first instalment of opinion polls done by Solution by Simulation Ltd (SBS) and HHB and Associates (HHBA) respectively. The SBS poll for the Express utilised a sample size of 450 adults who were chosen via the random digital dialling method, were interviewed via telephone with a +/- 5% margin of error. The HHBA poll utilised a sample size of 301 adults drawn from the HHBA national representative adult panel who were interviewed via telephone with a +/- 5% margin of error. Both polls were designed to poll different sets of political opinion as they had different discourses driving the aims and objectives hence the nature of the questionnaire utilised. They then present different political opinions solicited by a research instrument of the T&T electorate thereby complementing each other. This analysis is based on what was published of the polls in both newspapers.

The Express presentation of the findings of the SBS poll placed greatest emphasis on the approval rating of the Prime Minister. The rating of politicians’ ebb and flow with the political tide but in T&T where the politics of race is hegemonic the race basis of this rating is noteworthy. The SBS poll reports an African approval rating of 62% and a disapproval rating of 30%. With an Indian approval rating of 21% and a disapproval rating of 68 %. At this point in time the message is now clear that the seats of St Joseph and San Fernando West are up for grabs. The SBS poll tracks the public opinion on what SBS defines as “apolitical institutions” defined as: the education system, government, opposition, financial sector, media, health institutions, parliament, public service, judicial system and police. Whether those listed in the SBS poll are in fact viewed as apolitical by the electorate is another matter but in the poll under review the worst performer of the “apolitical” national institutions are the police. Tracked from 2012 to 2017 the confidence level of 14% in 2017 is only eclipsed by the 11% rating of 2013 when combined with a confidence level of 16% for the judicial system it is again apparent that there was a change of government in 2015 but this change failed to translate on the ground to an increase in public confidence in two of the pillars the so-called criminal justice system of T&T. There was political change but no substantive institutional change which is seen in a rise in public confidence in the police and judicial system. If political change cannot result in the rise in public confidence then democracy is in fact dead, at best in chains which means that the basis of politics in T&T is the battle to control the state waged between two political parties which command the support of the two largest black races in T&T nothing else. Politics and democracy in T&T has nothing to do with governance and the quality of life for the people of T&T. Nothing illustrates this reality more potently than the crime reality on a daily basis in T&T. What the SBS poll is relaying to the political talking heads is the reality that in T&T the primary reason why we have a crime problem is because we have grave problems with policing and the judicial structure. Is there the political will to admit this and deal with it? According to the SBS poll No! As 87% of the poll indicated that they were very concerned with crime which translates into the rating for the police and the grim existential daily exercise of coping with this reality. This rating most of all indicates that the actions of the present government since 2015 dealing with crime is simply not resonating on the ground and all the discourses unleashed to mask this reality are in themselves not convincing the masses otherwise. In 2017 the emperor and the emperor in waiting are stark naked in public, the masses are gazing upon their nakedness but the emperor and his retinue are all in denial. The product of this reality is that the murder and mayhem is now our new normal. The state structure is then in collapse. In T&T for some time now the politics of race has evolved into the politics of denial by which its adherents cope with the daily reality that their politicians are simply not up to the task of enabling us to improve our quality of life. The SBS poll indicated that 72% of the poll was very concerned with corruption which illustrates the deepening of the malaise being seen by the masses where the ravages of crime on our daily lives are combined with the ravages of corruption and the third horseman of the apocalypse is the economy with 70% of the poll being very concerned with it. In 2017 the poll is expressing the grave insecurity of those polled where crime, corruption and economic insecurity are now insisting that individual survival strategies be devised and implemented to cope with this risk horizon and event. The level of aggression and the spontaneous resort to violence are indicating the nature of, the reaction to the stressors perceived and the range and choice of action perceived, possible and probable.

The discourse driving the HBBA poll is different to that of the SBS hence the questionnaire of this poll presents to the sample a different discourse with which to react to. This poll speaks to the direction of the government, a list of the most pressing problems to rank in order of severity, the performance of the government on crime and violence and other named social problems as unemployment and the opinion of the sample on their confidence in government to solve problems enumerated. The most pressing problems ranked according to the sample was crime with 66% followed by unemployment with 15% then cost of living with 9%, then government doing nothing 5% and finally corruption and poverty both at 3%. The performance of the government on crime and violence was 1% very good, 24% good, 36% very bad and 39% bad therefore 75% of the sample gave the government a failing grade on crime and violence. The confidence of the sample in the government’s ability to solve crime and violence was as follows: a great deal 4%, some 25%, little 33% and none 39%. The question with this instrument is that it does not say what level is acceptable to the sample namely “some” and “little” without that one is left to guess. What then is apparent from the results of this question is the low level of confidence by the respondents in the ability of the government and the certainty of that in lowering the level of crime in the society. The reality is that contrary to the political discourse of lowering crime is the duty of the police the respondents hold the politicians responsible for crime and its impact on them in both polls. In response to the question on the direction in which things are going in T&T 83% of the sample stated “wrong direction”, 11% stated “didn’t know” and 6% stated “right direction”. The responses then express the conception of collapse when linked to the responses to the question of “what is the most pressing problem the country faces at this time”. The crime reality of T&T and the failure of the present government to deal with it has then derailed T&T. The second most pressing problem is unemployment and the government’s performance on unemployment was as follows: Very good 0%, Good 16%, Bad 39% and Very bad 44% a rating worse than that on crime. Confidence that the government will be able to solve unemployment was rated as follows: Very good 3%, Some 28%, Little 33% and None 39%. A confidence rating very reflective of that of crime. On corruption which only 3% of the sample listed as the most pressing problem the performance of the government on corruption was as follows: Very good: 0%, Good 21%, Bad 41% and Very bad 38% an assessment of performance that is worse than that on crime and violence. The HBBA instrument utilised two questions to gauge the position of the sample on the leadership of the Prime Minister: opinion about PM Keith Rowley as a leader and approval of the job Keith Rowley is doing as Prime Minister. The first question polled as follows: Favourable 35%, Unfavourable 50% and Not sure 16%. The second question polled as follows: Approve 32%, Disapprove 53% and Not sure 15%. The difference between both questions falls within the margin of error illustrating the reality that the sample interpreted the quality of leadership of the PM as being equivalent to their position on the job he was doing as PM. Leadership and job performance are joined at the hips and all the discourse deployed to separate them is not resonating on the ground. The buck stops with the PM. On race and job approval 53% of Afro Trinbagonians approve of the job performance of the PM whilst only 16% of Indo Trinbagonians do so. The racial divide between the two major black races of T&T is then palpable after 55 years of independence.

The approximate 40% of the Africans of both polls who expressed a disapproval or unfavourable assessment of the performance of the PM are faced with the choice of action called for. To vote or not to vote and if yes to voting for which party.

Two polls utilising different instruments have then uncovered very similar positions of two samples of the electorate. The message has been sent to the politicians of T&T via both polls but will they listen and respond? No! The politicians will call out the electorate to stand and deliver and the options for response are defined by the politics of race. The result is the de politicisation of the politics of race where you vote not for the politicians as you expect them to be irrelevant to your life chances, security and personal wellbeing and most of all ungrateful. You vote when you choose to, to deny your enemy race control of the state. When you choose not to vote this choice is most likely part of a worldview that rejects all politics and your interest and participation in it. When you choose to be a motivated follower of a political discourse then you are most likely an activist in the war of the two black races. This is the reality spawned by politicians who do everything in their power to confirm our scepticism of their commitment to what they preach as they are drunk on the impunity the politics of race affords them.

The politics of T&T after 55 years of independence is the politics of an evolved colonial plantation with democracy simply being a slogan. Being a slogan it has no traction on the ground in the daily lives of the people of T&T especially so in the daily lives of those who don’t make up the oligarchy of T&T. But such is the reality of the model of massa’s plantation. A model rooted in bipolar even schizophrenic worldviews where individualism to the detriment of group solidarity is juxtaposed with the imperative to deny your enemy race control of the state. The model is then chronically unstable and this heightens as the hierarchy of inequality of the social order hardens. Crime and racial tensions are symptoms of this evolving inherently flawed social order. The issue then is when would the social order evolve to the extent where a strategy of race war will be formulated and launched as violent crime is rapidly evolving to a new normal as it spirals out of control illustrating and indicating its continued evolution. It’s then only a matter of time when the undeclared race war will evolve into a declared race war. Learn from the methodology of the genocide of Rwanda!

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