By Capil Bissoon
Two Sundays ago, People’s National Movement (PNM) members were at the Hyatt, hoping to hear their political leader speak of progressive policies and articulate a forward-looking vision for Trinidad and Tobago; no such thing happened.
What the handpicked delegates heard was vintage Keith Rowley, full of criticism of the present People’s Partnership Government but seriously lacking any new content.
I didn’t expect much from Dr Rowley. Having paid close attention to the PNM leader since he became leader in 2010, I knew he has nothing to offer, but those who still believe in the PNM went to the Hyatt expecting that hope.
There was no message for them or to woo anyone else looking for an alternative to the present administration. Dr Rowley missed an opportunity to seize the national agenda and push a winning platform for 2015. Instead he was full of sound and fury about everything he perceived to be wrong, but failed to present one single idea of how he would fix the country.
Now we wait until November 16 to hear how Vision 2020 will become Vision 2030, how a Revenue Agency the people rejected will solve the country’s problems and how a $60 billion Rapid Rail Service will become the solution to the national transportation problem.
The PNM leader decided he could get marks for dealing with crime so he took a swipe at the problem, which had grown worse every year while the PNM was in office, blaming the present administration for not effectively handling the problem and ignoring the statistical evidence which shows the Government had contained crime and brought it down significantly in four years.
“The people of this nation need to feel secure and the PNM is committed to “rolling back crime”, Dr Rowley told delegates. But how?
It was under the PNM murders peaked at a record 550 in 2008 and kidnapping for ransom was a lucrative criminal activity. Is this what Dr Rowley wants us to elect him and the PNM to continue?
Serious crime has decreased dramatically under the Partnership although the detection rate remains too low for comfort. We need to ask why this problem grew to become so serious.
Dr Rowley knows the answer. Here is a quote from the Guardian of October 25, 2011, reproduced in the Ryan report on crime: “African youths are overachieving in the jails and underachieving in the classrooms. Blacks have an obligation to stop making excuses. PNM ruled the country for 40 years and it is time they took responsibility for the mess made in our backyard. Paternity tests shows that the Laventille of Today is a PNM creation.” Crime, it seems, is an essential part of the PNM’s DNA, so can anyone trust this party and this leader to fix the problem? Dr Rowley must be truly naive if expects citizens to believe he can turn things around just because he said so.
The reality is the present Government has reduced serious crime by 43 per cent. Check the statistics and compare that with the PNM’s record.
Dr Rowley could have started with a glimpse of how the PNM would tackle the problem. But he did not because he doesn’t have a clue.
Nobody can fix the crime problem with talk. Unfortunately, that is what Dr Rowley is good at. On the other hand, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar talks and follows up with action.
Our people need to feel secure, but there is nothing in the PNM’s history of governance that suggests it’s a crime buster. Crime doesn’t go away with bling and PR; it goes away when those in authority fight back. Those who feel the upsurge in crime presents a political opportunity to get back in office should understand the country will no longer tolerate and allow criminals to endanger the security of the country and hold our citizens to ransom again.
Crime remains a serious problem but the present Government has moved in the right direction and is getting results. It has walked the talk by giving the police the resources they need to fight back, 500 new vehicles, nine new police stations, a highway patrol, a national operations centre, GPS and closed-circuit cameras at strategic locations.
Yes, indeed, citizens deserve to feel secure. That’s why the PNM’s message sounded so hollow because everyone knows the country is safer today than it has ever been under the PNM, and no amount of talk from Dr Rowley and the PNM would change that.