Radical ACTs

Change will not come from a place of normalcy. It requires radical accountability… radical collaboration and radical transparency. Radical ACTs.
If that means losing some friends … so what … if your friends can't see the long game then you need new friends.
We need courage to do what is right because it is the right thing to do, not because we don't want to call out a supporter/friend.
Our country needs people of courage to take a stand to change the systems, processes and procedures. Be a change agent and stand in defense if the red, white and black.

From Territory Tax Leader to Minister of Finance

Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 16.42.17The appointment of Miss Allyson West as Minister in the Ministry of Finance may have raised an eyebrow or two.  The raised eyebrows are understandable especially since several of us were appalled when former Judge Volney jumped into the political ring straight from the Bench.  We asked where was the cooling off period or the distance that is required for sober reflection?
Yesterday Miss West was the Territory Tax Leader of one of the biggest and most successful Accounting organizations in this country.  She would have been advising on tax issues where large businesses are seeking redress or resolution of Tax issues with the government.  Today she is on the other side!  She is directly responsible for assisting the Government with the collection of Taxes.
In PWc’s Pre-Budget Bulletin 2017, and referring to the Sandals deal, Miss West’s document stated:
“While we appreciate that agreements of this nature require some level of confidentiality, we would encourage GORTT (ME) to be as transparent as possible on the fundamentals of the arrangement, with particular emphasis on the costs GORTT 
has to bear and the incentives granted vis a vis the expected returns to be enjoyed by T&T”. 

By putting her hat in the ring, Miss West is now impaled on the horns of a dilemma where on the one hand, her latent memory will trigger issues she had been working on or providing advice for and on the other hand she could be asked to provide advice and or guidance to Officials on the way forward with the very same matters.
Further, PWc has a consultancy arm and the new Minister is now in close proximity to decisions about arrangements which could benefit her employer as of yesterday.  In whose interest will Miss West ultimately act? Of course she is a professional and will serve the best interest of Trinidad and Tobago.
I would like to believe that but must express my feeling of unease.  The jury will be out for a while!  Until then, congratulations to Miss Allyson West, yesterday’s Territory Tax Leader for PWc and today’s Minister of Finance with responsibility for Revenue Collection.

Johnny in Westend cast of Hamilton!

Johnathon Bishop

Several years ago FirstCitizensSportsFoundation selected Demming Communications to coordinate their Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.  Karen Da Silva and I collaborated and dreamed up the idea of a young singing MC as opposed to the traditional announcer type.

It took some doing to convince the client but we did and found Jonathan Bishop who must have been about 10/11 years old at the time and overflowing with talent.  He sang, danced and engaged a Hall of more than 300 persons, the youngest of whom must have been at least twice his age.

He gave us a “Cabaret type/Michael Jackson ish” evening of entertainment while still managing to call out the names of the inductees.

Soon after that experience and him being cast in the late Geraldine Connor’s “Carnival Messiah”, his mother moved to London with him because she believed that her son had no future in the land of his birth.  She and Jonathan had a big dream and did what was necessary to achieve that dream.

Several years later, homeboy, Jonathan Johnny BISHOP, Dancer, Singer, Songwriter, Artist, Actor will soon be in the Westend cast of Hamilton – the Musical.  This is big!

His post on Instagram reads: “bishoptheartistAhhh so grateful 🙏thank you Jesus #hamiltonmusical #emsemble thanks Ben @boxartistmanagement

One of his followers Miniwillets commented: “Your talent is limitless and you truly are a star. The West End and Broadway Need to know who you are! Its time! This is just the beginning. I couldn’t be more happier for you Bishop! Xx”

Another example of the enormous talent springing from Trinidad and Tobago. Whether in the Arts/Academia/Science/Sports our country has enormous talent which is being recognized elsewhere but not at home.

Help me to be patient!

Moving on!

During the month of May, I mourned the death by assassination of Dana Seetahal.  I remember her as embodying the spirit and best example of a patriotic T&T citizen.  I remember Tribute to Danaher struggling to finish the Marathon.  I remember her gentle yet ferocious spirit.  I remember her relentless struggle for justice and I am still asking, “Where is the justice now for her?  What is the status of the case in the Criminal court?  Will the persons responsible for this heinous act ever be discovered?

Our nation is in a deep, dark hole where the judiciary is in chaos, the party in power is blatantly supporting misbehaviour in public office and the opposition, though known to be significantly less than suitable is looking like an attractive alternative.  But then we are not quite at mid-term in this political cycle and there is still time for a breath of fresh air to emerge.  I look to the horizon in the hope that enough young people will take their place in this county of their birth and wrest power from my generation who have made their fair share of imperfect decisions.

For now, I move on from Dana hoping for justice.  RIP!

 

Jammin de Culture …

Dear 3Canal

jamming-de-culture-montageYou caused me PAIN this carnival.  Pain for the arts, the artistes and my country.  I remembered John, Astor, Beryl, Saldenah, Mc Williams and several other names of artistes of my youthful days.

Our politics and political system continue to “mash up” the place.  Every new administration throws out the institutions of the former because if we are red we can’t embrace the good things of the yellow and if we are yellow, we just can’t see red.

In spite of the chaos and backwardness of our leaders, 3Canal has survived in the space and you continue to thrive.  Congratulations on your 20 years and “blue up the place to cut this blight”.

Some Naked Truths about Tourism

We continue to tip toe around the problem with our tourism product rather than confront the fundamental issues.  Here are some facts:

  1. As long as the THA continues to be the major employer in Tobago, productivity and customer service WILL not improve.  “ah we boys” have no reason to change their behaviours.
  2. Until we stop the “double dipping” by the THA in the pot to advertise the destination and parade at travel markets etc. we will continue to have no advertising presence in any outlets.
  3. Unless we invest in supporting the dive shops we will continue to lose market share in the diving business.
  4. Unless we level the playing field and ensure that all potential investors in the tourism market are treated equally there will be no expansion of the industry.

There are few quick wins in this market.  What is required is openness, transparency and some tough action to communicate to our people that Tourism is a real mechanism for diversification.

This Yvonne Baboolal article in the Trinidad Guardian speaks some truths which the Prime Minister and his Ministers need to hear.

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Do It … Fix Crime

Facebook has been angrily buzzing with commentary about the crime situation and the rampant murders throughout the country.  There is also commentary about citizen action suggesting that we should not cower and hide in a corner.  Fixing crime is a multi-dimensional, multi-layered challenge and we all have our part to play.

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May 2007 – Inspection of the MILAT/MYPAT Academy .. The late Senator Martin Joseph is seen with current MP Fitzgeral Hinds and current Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon! 

 

Our current Prime Minister was part of the PNM administration which allowed SAUTT to be established without the necessary legislative framework to legitimise its operations.  This same gentleman, I am certain, is very aware of the plans drafted under the leadership of the late, former MP, Senator and Minister of National Security, Martin Joseph. I am sure he is aware of the key players and the fact that they are not being utilised at the moment.  He alone knows why he has not taken the action necessary to begin the recovery process.
The only approach to reducing crime is a long term, multi-sector approach. It is not only about police or the death penalty. We need short, medium and long term plans, and a vision which can best be lead by the Government, but only in proper consultation with organizations which are in positions to understand the genesis of criminal activity.  At the moment, however, our foundations and our non profits are too small and underfunded, and because of the economic downturn, our private sector is not positioned to produce jobs, so how can anyone imagine that this inappropriate combination will produce a solution to crime?
While we tackle the long term solutions, there are some quick-win solutions which might make citizens feel more confident that the Prime Minister who applied for, was screened, interviewed and selected, is in fact doing the job.
Here are three things the Government can do:

  1. Either confirm or fire the Acting Chief of Police. If the latter, we must put a capable person to replace him as Chief.
  2. Provide a status update on the following:
    * the Dana Seetahal murder,
    * the case regarding the cocaine in the juice and
    * the case of the doctor who removed cocaine from a patient’s stomach.
  3. Ensure that charges are laid against public officials who have participated in the inappropriate spending of public money.

As recently as December 16, the Express reported that the Prime Minister said the following in part:
“Some criminals believed they were winning the fight and this could not prevail. Instead, the vast majority of citizens must feel safer and it is the results of police work that could be felt that was important”.
Two months later we are staring down the abyss of an absolutely chaotic situation.  The report continued to quote the Prime Minister as saying that “certain types of crimes sparked the expectation that there would be accountability.  But there is no swift justice in T&T, he said, saying he himself doesn’t feel that there is. This goes beyond the work of the police”.  The words of the Prime Minister emoted weakness; and in the tone of an observer rather than of someone in charge.
This is a quote from the 2015 Manifesto:
“The PNM will simultaneously reform, upgrade, modernise and transform our Police Service and utilise the strength of partnerships through an inter-agency approach.  The new approach to fighting crime will focus on Regional Corporations and Municipalities. This will facilitate the establishment and operationalisation of Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs)”
On the hustings, the current Minister of National Security told us about a “security architecture” and the need to “flank” the country.  We need an update on this.  We need to know about the “architecture” and the “flanking”.  Citizens are ready to support and play our part but we need leadership.
We believed the then Leader of the Opposition when he said:  “In summary, we in the PNM envision a society where integrity and morality in public life is of the highest priority and the Government serves the public good above all else, and where decisions are made and actions taken by the Government in the best interest of all concerned”.
Sir, I WANT your actions!