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PM’s Google Earth guide to Holy Grail

The mid-August timing for consultations on food prices and energy policy reflects the unhurried style of a ruling party serenely seeing the next general election as a foregone conclusion.

If time yet remains to chart and implement positive action for food and energy, only those presuming unbroken possession of policy-making power know it.

The Manning PNM must know something the rest of us do not. The scrip proverbially kept in its leader’s back pocket carries not just the election date but, presumably also, the Google Earth directions to the Holy Grail.

For a government with time and money to burn, fear of an electoral judgment day is not a factor.

The swaggering self-satisfaction of a permanent ruling class is stamped on actions and even rough-draft policy ideas pronounced without concern for any day of reckoning.

The remaking of Laventille and the re-engineering of T&T society and culture to renounce gambling claim equal time with a show trial of the Chief Justice, and the cutting-edge conversion of methanol into electricity.

At this gilded moment, it is possible to do everything at the same time, and to say anything, without regard for answerability.

On the authority of the Prime Minister, Cepep jobs, funded by the state, can be deemed permanent jobs created by private businesses.

Local Government Minister Renee Dumas last week celebrated the productivity of imported Chinese workers, in disparaging contrast to that of T&T workers.

Construction sites around Port of Spain reproduce a picture familiar all over the world of motivated immigrant or visiting workers’ out-producing their home-grown counterparts.

Drawing on the blessedness of his Manning-PNM status in today’s T&T, however, Mr Dumas can be fearless of serious adverse reaction to his Government’s now-standard imputation of inferiority to local capacity.

The headhunting for a foreigner to fill the coming Police-Commissioner vacancy is now claimed as high official policy.

Holes opened in prison security large enough to allow some six accused killers to walk to freedom.

Strategic thoughts high up in the Temple Court of the National Security Ministry must now be turning to the idea of a foreign Prisons Commissioner.

The consultations on crime held by Mr Manning and National Security Minister Martin Joseph last April looked and sounded so much like PNM campaign meetings that we know what to expect in August.

Those “consultations” yielded a new crime plan and, for the Prime Minister, the announcement value at the pre-recess, Parliamentary session of a new crime commission.

After the latest break-out, it’s left for the luckless Mr Joseph, whose native tongue is a thick Port-of-Spain bureaucratese, to mouth assurances that “intelligence-driven procedures...are being put place to identify some of the weaknesses identified in terms of the escape.”

Even as such words fell from his wired mouth, in the dock of the Chaguanas Magistrates’ court, a prisoner wielding a razor blade slashed the throat of another murder-accused.

Notoriously, on the Martin Joseph watch, national security is recognised as so intelligence-challenged a contradiction in terms as to be laughable.

While allegedly murderous prisoners exult in the freedom to rendezvous with relatives and send media releases, “intelligence” has driven the helicopter-aided National Security forces to look the other way.

Under airborne searchlights last weekend, a posse of more than 100 stormed the Marabella citadel, Villa Capri.

It was a soft target. Mr Joseph’s troops duly took prisoners: 71 women and three men identified in the media as foreign “sex workers.”

An administration that embraces and extols foreign workers found itself suddenly embarrassed by success.

The Villa Capri prisoners comprised women from Colombia, Guyana, Surinam, and the Dominican Republic. They had come to do work for which T&T women are either unqualified by work ethic or insufficient in number to meet the demand.

It also turned out that National Security was simply incapable of processing these prisoners. Neither could officials arrange for their timely deportation nor for their prosecution.

Space had to be found in the already overstressed women's prison. Even before the following weekend, officers in a lock-up that lacked beds for this influx of foreigners were describing their accommodation as “inhumane.”

As it turned out, official heavy-handedness, carried out in the name Mr Joseph and directly by Mr Manning, was simultaneously being directed at the soft targets of both foreign and local women workers.

“We will close the industry,” Mr Manning thundered in response to pleas by mostly women workers in the clubs called “casinos.”

He knew well whom the closure would hurt. But the Prime Minister claimed a higher moral and social purpose: “Some of us get a lucrative existence out of it, but that doesn’t make it right... Gambling is a social evil.”

Crime may be rampant; the police flat-footed or distracted; the courts stumbling and falling; and the prisons neither holding up nor holding in. (Some 37 inmates were on Friday reported as infected with tuberculosis.)

Still, the Manning administration marches to its own militant drumbeat against its own choices of moral and social evil.

Maybe it sees no other evil than that represented by the Chief Justice whom it will move heaven and earth to destroy.

Certainly, it is moved to fear neither evil nor harm to its prospects likely to come from the next general election.

Having internalised the self-flattery according to which, electorally, the PNM is the only show in town, it can hardly be affected by the UWI/Ansa McAL centre’s poll report that found, by the first week of July, 51 per cent of respondents “undecided” about their voting choices.

Of those who had decided, 21 per cent would vote PNM; 17 per cent Congress of the People and 10 per cent UNC.

But then, too, the UWI/Ansa McAL centre’s poll is itself also the only show in town.

Or at least the only one open to the public.

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