045_Global13_Spotlight_Tri&Tob

Global 13

SpotlightTrinidad and Tobago Overcoming political barriers to economic revival Trinidad and Tobago’s energy-driven economy has survived the international recession without suffering too badly; but to make the most of economic possibilities for growth, the four-party coalition People’s Partnership government of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has to overcome several political and electoral hurdles Although positive about her government’s government ministers and financiers of the ability to move the economy forward, Prime ruling party. Minister Persad-Bissessar and her govern- Section 34 was quickly repealed and the ment face serious political and industrial Justice Minister fired after an almighty fu- relations challenges, including two local rore broke out. But large segments of the government elections and a general election national community across all political alle- required by the constitution in 2015. giances have targeted the prime minister, her Not least of the problems facing Persad- Attorney-General and the entire cabinet for Bissessar is keeping the coalition govern- allegedly implementing legislation to free its ment, originally composed of five parties, financiers and former ministerial colleagues. now reduced to four, intact. In June 2012, Two huge public demonstrations organ- two years after being part of the People’s ised by the opposition People’s National Partnership that won the general elections, Movement, the majority of the labour move- the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), ment, and supported by several civic groups which comprises the trade union move- put pressure on the government. A no confi- ment, left the PP coalition, accusing it of dence vote against the prime minister in par- going back on its manifesto promises and Local elections will be held later this year in Trinidad liament followed (which could not be passed being overrun with corrupt activity. “It is with Kublalsingh and the protesting villagers. given the government’s built-in majority in in this context that the National executive Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar frowned the parliament) and has seriously damaged and Activists Council of the Movement for on “such individuals and groups who are the credibility of the government. Social Justice have decided that our party seen to be betraying the trust that has been Widespread negative public comment will remove itself from the People’s Part- placed in the Partnership”, and accused them carried in the print and electronic media nership coalition of political parties,” said of engaging “in what amounts to blackmail against the government for its handling of MSJ leader, David Abdulah. of my leadership”. the Section 34 fiasco continues. With its Internal conflict has not ended with the de- One of the major political challenges back against the proverbial wall, the prime parture of the MSJ. The second largest party faced by Persad-Bissessar and her govern- minister and her inner (UNC) cabinet have in the coalition, the Congress of the Peo- ment came from the appointment in January taken to attacking the media, charging them ple (COP), has often taken public positions 2011 of a low-level technician head of the with bias. The government is also facing se- against government and cabinet decisions country’s major secret service, the Security vere criticism and demonstrations from sig- and actions that have been instigated by the Intelligence Agency. After steadfastly de- nificant sections of the trade union move- major coalition partner, the United National fending the appointment for two weeks and ment that are demanding long-delayed Congress, the party of the prime minister. demanding that the media “move on” from wage negotiations in the public sector. Notably, COP leader, Prakash Maharaj, has the subject, the prime minister admitted the In this hostile political environment, the called on Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar appointment had been an error, apologised, government faces a poll in January to elect to suspend Jack Warner from her cabinet. A labelled it “my biggest mistake” and vowed the Tobago House of Assembly, which con- senior minister, Warner is facing allegations that it would not happen again. trols the domestic affairs of Tobago, and local of corruption while he was vice-president Undoubtedly, though, the biggest po- government elections later this year in Trini- of Fifa, the world football body. In Decem- litical fallout occurred in August 2012 and dad. In these elections, the People’s Partner- ber 2012, while facing a serious challenge has come to be known as the ‘Section 34 ship – fractured and disunited within and be- from hunger-striker Dr Wayne Kublalsingh fiasco’. Having promised parliament to de- ing confronted by a revived People’s National who was protesting the passage of a portion lay for two to three years any legislation Movement – faces what amounts to referenda of a major highway through a series of 13 allowing judges to dismiss criminal cases on its government. There is no question that communities, former COP leader, Winston which have been awaiting trial for more the political and industrial obstacles to over- Dookeran, came out publicly against the ag- than ten years, the government quietly pro- come are many as the government seeks to gressive and non-yielding position of Persad- claimed law Section 34 of the Administra- resuscitate economic revival.● Bissessar and a few of her UNC ministers. tion of Justice Act. The move could have He called on the prime minister to exercise resulted in billion-dollar corruption charg- Tony Fraser is a freelance journalist based in “compassion and compromise” in dealing es being dropped against several former Trinidad and Tobago globalfirst quarter 2013 www.global-briefing.org l45


Global 13
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