Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Farewell, my best man!

 For his few detractors, they think that the many of us that praise him, are blowing our top.
    He was not a saint. That was not his calling. But he was a champion. That was his choice.
   He was a believer, in the goodness of man. That people, by their essence, are better than what they sometime act out in peculiar circumstances.
   And that we have all fallen short. And that we all deserve – a second – and sometimes third and fourth chances, too. He gave me many of those.
   And by both his word and his deeds, he always reminded me: “Young Mark,’’ even if you get upset, don’t get petty.
   He was an angry grey-head man, with a hearty laugh. An uncompromising boss; with a grand daddy’s heart. He was tough, but fair.
   And even if you think there are; there were not – no contradictions.
  For Leslie Pierre was a little man; with big opinions; a bigger voice and a Scorpion’s fire to stand his ground, argue his point – and stand by the consequences of it.
  And he had his jail years to show for it.
   The uninitiated calls it stubbornness. People of value call it conviction.
And when he could, and the tables were turned, he showed that even though he was angry, he never got petty.
  For there are broader principles that cannot be locked up. And that tolerance is not a man’s weakness; it is his most perfect ally.
   I never always agreed with him; but I always admired him.
   Personally speaking; he was among the finest and the best. As flawed as they come; and yet as good as they come.
 This Standard Four “Hindsey School’’ boy – or “Jakie School’’ as he preferred to describe the Anglican School on Church Street – taught me more about balance and fairness; the value of questioning and research; than the many professors that taught me anything.
  Since his death at 86, so many have talked about the man, who was the editor; the columnist; the social activist; the businessman.
  And they are all right in what they have said.
  My only mission here is to thank him for his friendship and his mentorship.
   He did not have to give this upstart boy from the country, the opportunity and the platform. He did not have to instill in me, the confidence that I can be – and will be – good at something.
   Truthfully, he made me feel I can walk on water if I put my mind to it – and “only if you are not so careless’’. Patrick Smikle, another mentor, had first sewn the seed. Leslie Pierre nurtured it and watched it grow.
   He asked me on a Wednesday to come to work for him from the following Monday. He called back on the Thursday to say, he is sending me off on Sunday to a Newspaper Writers’ course.
  So my first four weeks as a Grenadian Voice employee was in a classroom overseas. Such faith he had in me.
   He immediately made me his Deputy Editor – imagine that! For someone just barely out of his teens.
  Six months later he went to England for three months, convincing me that I can run his joint while he was away. Saying he finally found someone he can leave the paper with for an extended time, it surely stroked my young ego and did a lot for my self-confidence.
  He scolded me in private, often; but always defended me in public. If I got into personal trouble, or had a personal crisis; he’d offer advice – and sometimes take bold action – like ringing up people and telling them off.
  He became friend and family. My mother will lodge any complaints about me to him. He’d be the one to try to bring me back in line.
  Sometimes he brought them back into line – as with the time I decided I was getting married; and they were not initially too sold on the idea.

  And for all of those, he was my best man!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The great debate about nothing

IT sometimes completely bamboozle me that supposedly intelligently people -- who are all supposed to be brighter than most of us -- can engage themselves and waste the public's time in continually debating "nothing."

    The great debate about whether Peter David was a member of the National Democratic Congress is as pointless as they come.

    It is beyond the point that it is factually a lie --a thing funnily enough being spouted by the NDC 'Johnny -come- latelies' like Randal Robinson, Joseph Andall and Jenny Rapier  --  who were nowhere around when the likes of Peter and the team were all over the place raising millions for a party -- that had no seat and no future after 2000 -- to becoming the ruling party eight short years later.

  To be fair to Naz, while he won't stop them making such comments, he is smart enough not to make them himself.

  He will have to assume that the same form he and Peter filled up at the same time actually made them members.

And if their argument is to perhaps make Peter David a fake -- then so too are the courts of Grenada.

What is the court doing ruling that the expulsion of David and others were illegal - if  -- well at least him - was not a member?

   But let's for argument sake assume the assumption is true. Then the NDC gets crazier than it has ever believe to have been.

  So this party, which once ruled Grenada -- and aspires to rule again -- wasted a whole government trying to expel a man who was never a member of the ruling party?

  This party, made a non-member its chief organizer (what did that say about the value of 'real' members) and accepted the millions he raised for it; and took a whole convention to pass a resolution, supported on the floor of the SAASS meeting to expel a man who was -- well actually -- by their view not a member.


  So its been a long time that the NDC been wasting all of our time then?

   But, by the way, seriously -- what is the point of this fresh "debate" again?
  NDC exposes its contemporary bankruptcy when this  supposedly serious party, can waste our time to make this a point of debate.

  But with the likes of Randall and Andall and Jenny and Kem touting to be the intellectual power and strategic nous these days of this once proud and powerful party, we can quickly come to understand how close to tottering in irrelevancy this 'organisation' has become.

   Peter David will be laughing to the Senate this morning. Francis Alexis must be shaking his head, thinking this is an affront to his legacy. George Brizan will be turning in his grave.

   With a pending debate on the budget in the Senate; with people busy trying to make meaning of Christmas -- thank you NDC for wasting our time with the greatest debate about nothing.

   A people get the government they deserve. I assume they also get the kind of opposition too.

Friday, December 5, 2014

No path to victory for the UWP in Dominica

DOMINICA'S opposition United Workers Party will do better than they did in 2009. The problem for UWP however is that this will not be enough.
   In a scenario that is becoming unlikely everywhere else in the Caribbean in recent years, the Dominic Labour Party appears to be headed for a fourth successive term in next Monday's general elections.
    Statistically and otherwise, the UWP under new leader Lennox Linton has a serious mountain to climb if they are to harbor any thoughts of an unlikely victory.
   That mountain is for all practical purposes insurmountable at this time.
  If the UWP has a very good day on Monday it can possibly win seven seats -- a bad one can cut that in half.
   It may increase the amount of its total national votes from 2009 -- but that is little consolidation in the cruel first-past-the-post system.
  However you spin it, or look at it -- none of that scenario spells likely victory in the 21-member seat parliament.
   Any possible UWP path to victory appears to be blocked by the sheer weight of the advantage the DLP came into the contest with.
  The two biggest challenges for the UWP are (a) leadership and (b) the campaign.
   Roosevelt Skerrit has a far higher approval rating than Linton; a fact the Dominican leader understands very well and has exploited skillfully. He has ran an almost presidential style campaign.
  In constituencies where candidates are a little more vulnerable, "Skerrit for PM" is the dominant factor.
   The DLP has out campaigned in every conceivable form the UWP -- and that could count for something especially in constituencies where the race is tight.
  Of course, like in most islands, Dominica is a first past the post. Linton understands if the campaign is ran as a national event, he sinks fast.
   The UWP instead has been trying to emphasize "Team Dominica", but its message of change has not received the traction it has hoped;  coming up against a strong record of delivery by the incumbent.
     There is always a level of unpredictability to every general election -- but while there has some Labour slippage -- about two percent by the finding of one poll -- the UWP deficit is too large to bridge the gap.
    UWP can most likely pick up La Plaine, where incumbent Education Minister Petter St Jean is in real trouble in a seat he won by only two votes the last time anyhow.
  Grand Fond and Wesley are also likely UWP pick-ups. Roseau North is by most reports is within striking distance as well.
   Until 2009 Roseau North was considered a UWP strong-hold. In fact Julius Timothy won it three times as a UWP member, before becoming a fourth time MP last time after having gone over to the DLP.
   The UWP hopefuls are also talking about Castle Bruce -- a one-time party strong hold in the 1990s - but DLP should hold on there, though.
  Even if the DLP under performs, it is going into Monday's contest with a cushion of about 13 seats it absolutely will win.
  We think that in best case scenario, UWP can add four to their current three -- which will take them to seven seats in the new parliament.
   The problem with that scenario for UWP though, is that one of their seats -- Roseau Central has to also be regarded as a tossup. A bad night could see them losing it.
   In fact the DLP is bullish that Alvin Bernard, who narrowly lost by three votes in 2009, can take the seat this time.
   The former Dominica Freedom Party supporters -- just a couple hundreds of them from the last time -- will hold the decisive edge in the city.
   Whoever gets the bulk of them will win Roseau Central.
   Labour's biggest danger is fatigue, and some disenchantment, that will naturally come, by some supporters who may want to think they had not benefitted enough after two terms.
     Prime Minister Skerrit has been sensitive to that.
  "Some of you feel aggrieved that you did not get this and you did not get that in the period that Labour has been in office... ," he said the other night. "I empathize with many who share that view. I have spoken harshly to some of my Parl Reps,  whom I do not believe has been close to the people as I would have liked. And I have put system in pace to remedy that situation in the next five years," he said.
   That next five years can start with a celebration on Monday night.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ray Roberts' big lie

INITIALLY, I had no intention of responding to Ray Roberts press conference of a couple of weeks ago, even though it was replete with assumptions, half-truths, innuendos and childish diatribe.

As he rightly said at the press conference, we had worked together for many years – and so in some ways – for old time sake – I wanted to give him a pass.

Having worked with him – I also manage to know him well. So psychologically, I dismissed a lot of his statements as – well, typically Ray Roberts – the master of smoke screens, “voose’’, and deliberately putting things into the wrong context. 

 He threads this thin line of not having said something, but knowing well it will give the impression that he wants to convey, without him being accused of saying it.

Indeed, that is one of his strengths – and I have given him credit for that since the days of working with him at Radio Free Grenada.

At his recent press conference, Ray Roberts spoke about a lot of things he either knew nothing about – or conveniently chose not to know anything about –including about the ownership and management make-up of the Caribupdate Weekly newspaper – which is a Grenada concern; and which is distinctly separate and apart to the Caribupdate News Service, which controls regional television, radio and web content properties, and which – as a legal entity – is based in Hollywood, Florida.

The official response to Roberts’ general comments about the newspaper article was adequately made at the time by theCaribupdate Weekly editorial team and that stands by itself.

The Ray Roberts I know tried to do a job at his cry-baby press conference of covering his backside by throwing up smoke screens; and if you listened to him carefully and the reason he cloaked himself in for abstaining on the Casino Gaming Bill in the Senate. According to Roberts, he “did not think” the discussion among the TUC management committee about the bill amounted to an instruction to vote yes. Therefore, he did not follow it.

I don’t think the media picked up that nuance – but that, to me, spoke volumes.
I will give Ray his space to kick up a fit, and to go back behind closed doors to fighting with the TUC as he grapples with the reality of having to represent workers’ interest in parliament and simultaneously to juggle with his own personal ambition of wanting to run in St George’s South for the National Democratic Congress in 2018.

What I do know, having observed his performance in parliament closely, Ray is more likely to take his cue from the NDC leadership than he would from the TUC management – while skillfully giving the impression that this is not so.

Someone said that he is the NDC’ fourth senator – and that’s not being far off the mark.

I have no personal beef with Ray – and as far as I know, we get on very well; but, I tell him off when I need to, in his face.

I was even going to cut him some slack for having taken some very liberal swipes at me at his ‘having-caught-a-fit, allow-me-to-let-off-some-steam’ press conference.

But there was one thing that stood out – that, at the time, both myself and others in the media fraternity had a big laugh at, because it was such a joke.

However, when his partner in crime that runs that illegal newspaper decided to publish the claim – that everybody else dismissed as rubbished - I thought I needed to set the record straight.

Roberts made assertions about me being paid $10,000 a month by the government.

The very day I heard that claim, I personally called Ray.

I said to him – “Ray, you either have to be crazy or dishonest” because you made a claim there that I know you know is not accurate; that you know exactly how much money I  earn’’.

He said to me – that, yes, he knows what I get; but, he just deliberately called a big figure, since he had requested the information in the Senate and it was never provided to him officially.

So to paraphrase what Ray Roberts personally acknowledged to me: he deliberately told a lie on me to make me look bad. (But I am just the latest victim of Roberts two-facedness).

All I have to say to that – true to form – the Ray Roberts I know – continues to be the master of smokescreens, innuendos, and misinformation – and before now I didn’t think of this one – outright lies, too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

You can't be against something you are for

IN KEEPING with Senator Nazim Burke's muddled thinking, he now opposes, what he always wanted.

  Burke says he supports the idea of Grenada joining the Caribbean Court of Justice; and he also supports the setting up of an electoral commission.

  Being a man from Carriacou and Petite Martinique, one would also assume that he also wants those islands’ names to be on the passport.
   But Burke is advocating that people vote no in next year's referendum.
   But a no vote means to reject the idea of going to the CCJ; and promotes sticking with a one-man supervisor of election; and denies Carriacou and Petite Martinique having their names on the passport.

  Burke's argument is to vote no because the commission did not go far enough, and so next year's effort is a waste of time and money.
  But Burke's position won't save any money and won't save any time anyhow. Because it is going ahead in spite of his protestations.

   A clearer, smarter mind than Burke’s would have then said,  let's try to make it  less of a waste of time and money by voting on at least 12 items that make sense -- even though ideally you would have loved to have seen others.

 I could have followed Burke "no vote" position, if he had a fundamental and philosophic problem with any one idea on the ballot.

  Like Burke, I personally think that some of the measures have not gone far enough.

  I am one of the supporters of the idea for a fixed date for general elections.

  We may even want to consider some form of proportional representation.

  By the way -- I am opposed to term limits, though. I find that they are inherently anti-democratic. You cannot tell me I have the right to vote for who I want, and at the same time tell me I cannot vote for "John Doe" because I did so twice before.

  And as a practical matter anyhow – in small countries like ours, where the human resource is very limited – what is the developmental concept of disposing a good leader just because he has served two terms; and trade him/her for someone of lesser ability – just for the sake of it?

  And don't we have enough faith in the people's ability to think and choose? And faith, too, that in the process of election campaigning they can demand that politicians make a case on why a leader or leaders should not be returned – whether after one term or two or three?
  But beyond that, I agree with Naz on a few things -- such as fixed date for elections cet cet.

   But that is where I part with him. And that is where I side with his former leader Tillman Thomas.

  Not because you do not get all you want, you don't vote for some of the things you want.

  This Nazim Burke all or nothing strategy defies logic -- well on the face of it.

  But as politically un-astute as he may be most times, there is a method to Naz's madness.

  Nazim has become the leader of “no’’: No to anything that promises to inch the society forward.

  He says “no’’ to the structural adjustment programme – though as a cabinet minister he advocated those measures and even more (refer to cabinet papers); yet he does not have plausible solutions to the challenges we face.

  He basically says he would not support any moves to restructure the economy because the people, whom he claims caused the problem, want to fix it.

  Following the Nazim logic?

Let's assume you made a mess; don't try to clean it up even if people voted you to at least attempt it?

  Oh! The other point he makes – that this government is illegitimate, anyhow – so we cannot deal with it?

  Illegitimate? Is that the word? Serious? A government that won all the seats less than two years ago in a general election that was conducted under your control?

  But here is Naz's method to his madness; let everything go down the tube, in the hope that he can inherit the ashes.

  He did that to his own party – and now he is trying it on Grenada.

PS: Relevant link - Tillman Thomas speaks 

Monday, August 11, 2014

The night calypso won!

IT SADDENS me that so many people in Grenadian life see things only through the prism of politics.
  It is one thing to have a position, and to even have favorites: it's another thing to make an infantile jump using the weirdest of conspirational theories embed in a political sauce.
   It is also one thing not to agree with the judging of a simple calypso contest; but it is a jump to suggest motive -- such as outright dishonesty or something as political influence.
   When Scholar sung last night that -- words to the effect -- NNP brought back Ajamu to win; I took no offence. I saw it, and assumed it was just carnival picong.
   That the likes of Randy Isaac now believe that -- from his comment to me on jouvert morning --  is really sad; and perhaps explains his gullibility that has stopped him from reaching his full potential as a calypsonian.
  For Kem Jones to say as much on social network is neither sad nor surprising however. The twisted logic just confirms the lightweight status of a political commentator wanna-be who does not have the personal maturity, nor intellectual grounding or yearning; nor for that matter that analytic honesty to be what he is seeking to be -- a social and political commentator worth his salt.
   His positions are fine, and he has a right to them. But it is almost fraudulent to try to systematically make a living from the miseducation of Grenada.
   Commentators must be allowed to come to any conclusion they want to, but that must be based on some undisputed fact; not some fairy tale or made-up story.
  As per the calypso, it is OK to have a horse in the race. And it is also OK to be naturally disappointed if your horse did not pull it off.
  But if we are to be fair to "our horse", we have to dispassionately dissect the competition, and if that person would listen, help them assess the success and failure, so as to use it as a learning experience to -- as the ground will say -- reel and come again.
   As much as I am glad that Ajamu won, I take no pleasure in the fact that Scholar or for that matter anyone else lost.
  Both are not just great calypsonians -- and their multiple crowns are testimony to that fact -- but great people, who thankfully my impression of them as people came long before I saw them on a calypso stage.
  Before I knew Edson as Ajamu; I knew him as Ms Lyris' son, an aspiring musician who practiced with a band four buildings from my house in Munich; and a cricketer who tried but failed to help Mama Canne beat Munich at cricket (he knew I had to take that friendly dig, lol).
  I knew Scholar when he was just Finley.  I had no inkling that he would become a calypsonian, because as a high school student, he was so quiet, when I first met him as one of the best friends of one of my best friend.
  And so for through all these years, I have taken personal pride in their successes -- both as calypsonians and persons.
   But it bothers me that we as a people have a penchant to want to bring down one man, so that they can "big up" another; as if we are so deficient and poor that we cannot have more than one hero at a time.
  And even heroes have bad nights.
  Scholar had a relatively bad one last night; and the best man on the night won.
   That fact does take away neither from Scholar's talent nor contribution to local calypso. Last night was only just as it was -- another night of a contest -- where not for the first time -- he did not win.
   Great for him and his family, for every failing as the one last night, he has seven solid nights to savour -- more than any Grenadian on this planet save Ajamu.
   Those so-called fans, such as the likes of Kem Jones, do a disservice to Scholar's contribution and worth to impute some political conspiracy; as if in the history of men such had stopped great contributors anyway.
  Not only that such comments are inherently disingenuous; it has no basis in anything except societal mischief.
  That doesn't mean that the judges do not have some explaining to do -- as  for example, how Rootsman Kelly was left out of that final spot, or how Superstar came 10th last night, after in many experienced views, including mine, she gave a top three, if not a top two performance.
  But I suspect that had as much to do with the experience -- or lack of it  -- of some of the judges; and maybe in some cases technical know-how.
  We cannot assign sinister motives. To cast such aspersions is to question people's character -- something we are too quick to do in this society.
  Scholar's legacy has already been confirmed-- not just in his many victories -- but in songs such as Voices and Heroes that will stand the test of calypso times.
  Neither his nor Ajamu's depended on a win last night.
  Anything they do now will be perhaps for bragging rights.
   If Scholar desires to return to competition, he can still win again. For the heck of it -- in what was not even one of his best nights -- he placed second to perhaps the greatest Grenadian calypsonian of all time.
  As a general comment,; while Sunday's Dimanche Gras was not technically one of the greatest nights of Grenadian calypso;  it was certainly perhaps the most competitive of the last 10 years or so.
    And, far removed from the battles of last night; when all the passion has died down; and reasonable men will be able to reason again -- I will have a talk with Ms Lyris' son, and with Finley.
   I know we will all agree eventually -- nobody lost last night. Calypso won!