Lennox Grant

Lennox Grant

Almost exactly a year ago, as Prime Minister Keith Rowley held forth from the Exodus Pan Theatre in St Augustine, he drew attention to his accommodation in a plastic chair. Audience members were moved to recognise 2019 as an election year, in which the Prime Minister was presenting a Mind Your Business series addressed to voters.

The local government election came and went. From the results, Dr Rowley’s 2019 aim to keep voters “better educated, about the economy and its challenges” resulted in the People’s National Movement’s win of seven corporations, 74 councillors, and 29 aldermen. But his major thrust that January evening was to denounce the economic crown of thorns his party had received in 2015. The former regime, he stressed, had “wasted” $29 billion, having “raided” $14 billion from State-owned National Gas Co, finally leaving little or nothing in the He defined the dread PNM challenge of making the most of the economic mess that the predecessor administration had left. Post-election, his morale-boosting, “Thank you” to PNM voters for “staying the course” counselled: “Hard times are always temporary.”

The PNM leader’s message followed that of UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, with its near-philosophical guidance to the effect: “We are, at the end of the day, one family.”

Conceding her own “mistakes…and their unintended consequences”, she did not stand entirely aloof from the politics. To the PNM’s negative harping on her party’s record in office, she replied: “The population has indeed grown weary of the excuses and the blame game.”

Figures for the local government election results, on which Ms Persad-Bissessar did not dwell, showed that the PNM gained more seats. But the UNC got more votes overall, and shared municipal corporations’ control, seven-seven. With TV ads, the PNM campaign had dominated the “air war”, but the ultimate contest was engaged on the ground. A reassured Ms Persad-Bissessar rallied her forces to seek “T&T’s greatest period of reformation and renaissance”.

Though lacking the resources and other advantages of office, the UNC leading lady had not come undone.

Fate determined it would prove again and again for PM Rowley that challenging problems would arise from the doings and misdoings of women inside his own camp and out.

Early in 2020 came reports that contradicted claims by Social Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis about the source of $143,000 in cash that had once just turned up in her hands. The PM and the AG both vouched for the legal answerability of that much cash in the hands of a minister fearlessly walking from bank to bank. The episode recalled Patrick Manning-era queries about her government-issued credit card swiping in New York, that preceded birth of her twins 12 years old this month.

Again, it was an all-woman team that investigated the sexual harassment allegations against former minister Darryl Smith, leading to hush-money payment of $150,000 to Carrie-Ann Moreau. The team’s report, officially locked away, had been denounced by PM Rowley and AG Faris Al Rawi as “defective” in relation to “natural justice”. Shortly, however, team member Folade Mutota came out, rhetorical guns blazing, against that top-level assessment as “misogynistic, and an attack on women’s agency and women’s right to challenge injustice and to be heard.”

More woman-related trouble had long before captured headlines with the serial firings from ministerial position of Marlene McDonald. Eventually, she would be arrested and prosecuted for alleged financial misdeals, and consigned to pre-trial obscurity.

By Christmas 2019, another woman Government official, parliamentary secretary Glenda Jennings-Smith, became the subject of troubling questions after release of the recording of a phone conversation. The minister denied what sounded like attempted use of state resources—offer or promise of a (free) food card—in return for red-jersey political support from a needy constituent turned whistleblower. (Full disclosure: this columnist last week accepted, at the PNM’s media reception, the gift of a bottle of Moscato white wine, when his name was drawn from a box).

Hot news by New Year’s Day told of gay couple, Lisa Melville and Shackiba St Louis, loving up their just-born baby daughter, at once named Miracle. They had obtained sperm supplied by a gay friend, and last May 14 had carried out the insemination on their own at home.

On the distaff side, enough was probably going on to show up something like an ungovernable tendency among women. PM Rowley, likely wondering about his female choices for state functions, was to be confronted by the latest woman-related, trending, crime news. In the first week of the year, the woman question was being posed differently, following three murders of female, allegedly by male, partners. Dr Rowley counselled troubled men to be “strong enough” and show it by “walking away” from the temptation toward mortal violence.

Times had otherwise changed. By this January, PM Rowley was no longer to be found occupying a plastic chair in a panyard. Ensconced in a designer armchair, his new year interview took place in the relatively palatial setting of a refurbished Whitehall.


Potholes on public roadways remain irrefutable signs of life in Trinidad and Tobago today.

There are apparently no clear solutions to these perennial problems. As road users, a weary population has essentially given up hope of solutions being proposed, much less implemented. On major roadways, equally as on minor roads, in built-up areas to the same extent as in villages and communities in rural districts, dilapidation is a fact of life. Often, generations of nationals go through this lived reality of bad roads and their deleterious effects on life in these areas.

Some years ago, a man was complaining to me about his wife of 25 years. The issues were not major; mainly the daily irritants that occur when people share space. But then, just like that, he said something that jolted me.

When Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s global legate, comes on his two-day State visit to Jamaica next week, he must be made aware that Jamaica won’t be quiescent about the often irrational behaviours of the US president, too many of which threaten to wreck a global order in which small states, like this one, are reasonably assured of protection against the arbitrary actions of powerful ones.

Sedition law is not about colonialism or gagging democratic expression. It is to do with controlling things that could lead to insurrection or mass disorder via speech and acts.

This is a lawless, bacchanalian society that is forever giving the hypocritical, self-righteous impression that we are holier than thou, making as if we walk on egg shells while ignoring that we are tiptoeing through the minefield that is life—our Trini life.

I read with alarm that Colm Imbert, the Minister of Finance, wants to make further amendments to the nation’s procurement legislation.