Month: October 2013

Ressurected bones of St Joseph’s ghosts, skeletons in the closet etc – a true E-Divali-Halloween Doomsday story

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It might sound like bone-rattling, nerve wracking, wake-up call, but St Joseph is NOT the First Capital of Trinidad, dear candidates, campaigners and voters in Monday’s by-election in the constituency of St Joseph.

Indeed, if one were to listen to the chatter of the bones in the cemeteries in St Joseph (as one would from the bones under the eternally-under-renovation historic Red House Parliament building or the bones of Banwari (Wo)man secluded in another dark, unlit, place), one would hear a much different story to that written in our history books and from what’s falling out the mouths of campaigners.

Right to Recall
Newsflash! the Pitch Lake was NOT discovered by one Sir Walter Raleigh! Are tourism officials scrambling now to vote for the Right of Recall of its brochures and signs marking these sites; signage like the one featured in this page in LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction of Trinidad and Tobago with that recurring misinformation? So as you clean graves of dear ones, and light candles for the dearly departed in this historic district this La 
Toussaint (word Fr origin, meaning All Saints), and celebrate the lights of enlightenment of Divali deeyas this weekend, remember that the origins of La Toussaint also predates Christianity, with which it is now associated. It may be, as old as, one might say, the true discoverers of the Pitch Lake itself!, the attempts to pronounce on the district’s past – which in fact, did you know, predates the former now-relegated-to-the-political-cemetery member of parliament (he who would not be namd) as well as his predecessor politicians of the era of the ghosts of our colonial past – are indeed impressive. 
If this by-election brings anything to St Joseph and indeed the country, O ye soon-to-be winner and losers, let it be a wholesome restoration of our history as it ought to be told, and rewriting of our history that is now being taught in schools and touted on political platforms and from the mountaintops once claimed by conquerors… 
Or, listen to the bones…Those who do not remember the past are DOOMED, to repeat it…
Trick or treat, An enlightened Divali to all. More…. 



DEADLOCK: Sign of things to come

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What is wrong with this picture? It does not reflect the voting
turmoil within districts: and the spread of none voting pop.
Disclaimer: I have no rights to this photo
From the GIS report on local government elections

The three-way Deadlock in the Chaguanas Borough in the local government election resonate with the undertones of the deadlock in the national elections of 2001.
Does anyone remember those years of deadlock turmoil?
They pointed then, as the localised deadlock in Chaguans indicate now, the need to more strategicaly rethink our democracy and the directions in which it is heading and the need for bite-the-bullet reform actions that will set the country on a more progressive path to development.
The more things change, they more they remain the same? Is it a sign of things to come? An indication that unless we devise innovative ways to address representation of our diversity, we will find ourselves in various forms of deadlock at the polls that throw us into a spiral of political tug of war albeit with not just two parties but three, and maybe not unfathomable, deadlock between four or five or six parties?
How unimaginable is that? In a situation where some 50 percent did not vote and whose vote can go anywhere, whether with the existing offerings, or alternatives that may surface, quick fixes, to the deficiencies in our ill-fitted democracy, are clearly not the answer.
Did the textbook writers of proportional representation envisioned a three-way tie, rather than a two fight developing?
Or did it slip through the cracks in the shortsighted lenses with which the so-called political pundits continue to inspect the unfathmoable conundrum that Trinidad and Tobago appears to be, trying to forcefit old and tired theories and ideas into constitutional reform into a world that none of those who sat on previous constitutional reform commissions making recommendations envisioned.
Struggling to find answers to crime which everyone touts as the number one challenge, but which really is – ask any politician since Hyarima – has been managing our diversity.
It is an inkling of the shortsightedness of those driving constitutional reform, mainly through legal and theoretical academic lenses than from the realities of the society itself and the effervescent social dynamics of our multicultural state.
So what is wrong with this map? This picture of an archaic two party state in a two party system belies the realities we all know exists in the communities around us ….more

See Reform, Perform or Perform, Cross Winds of Political Change

The local government elections results lends further proof of the discussion began in  Clash of Political Cultures: Cultural Diversity and Minority Politics in Trinidad and Tobago in  Through The Political Glass Ceiling, on the raging winds that blow in political climate change and need for us to look for and devise a system and reconstruct institutions in ways that are relevant to our own realities has been in demand by a growing disenchanted electorate since the 1960s. 

The opportunity to harness the best of us, to impact the political climate change sweeping not only or islands but the globe, drawing from the experience of our evolution diversity …. more: see articles below and  Website
Related links: 
See Reform, Perform or Perform, Cross Winds of Political Change
Trini Politics is D Best
The human face of cnstitutional reform 
Making Local Government Work
New Presidential Picong Tours & Worshop SpecialsSounds of a Party – a political party
Old Casked Rum: The Emperor’s New Tools#1 – Towards Constitutional Reform in T&T 

Reform, Conform, Perform or None of the Above cross winds politcial climate change

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Some 50 percent did not vote. The local government elections results lends further proof of the discussion began in  Clash of Political Cultures: Cultural Diversity and Minority Politics in Trinidad and Tobago in  Through The Political Glass Ceiling, on the raging winds that blow in political climate change 
It must be something of comic irony, or ironic comedy that the matter of proportional representation has now surfaced not so much in the context of better citizen representation, but to give political parties more opportunity to potentially twart, stymie, and hijack the delivery of goods and services to citizens.
What is wrong with this map? It does not reflect the voting
turmoil within districts: and the spread of none voting pop.
Disclaimer: I have no rights to this photo
From the GIS report on local government elections

versions of the proportional representative system, or have no one noticed? That we might be in reform mode gives us adequate opportunity to take this giant leap forward, rather than hinge change on their now archaic recommendations that saw reform only within the context of already tottering institutions.

If the already acknowledged clearly deficient two-party West Minster system on which our governance is based, and the hung US Parliament to which our reform efforts are looking are not enough of a lesson on the potential ills of existing representative models, I’m not sure what is.
As I presented in Clash of Political Cultures: Cultural Diversity and Minority Politics in Trinidad and Tobago, the introduction to  Through The Political Glass Ceiling, the need for us to look for and devise a system and reconstruct institutions in ways that are relevant to our own realities has been in demand by a growing disenchanted electorate since the 1960s. The nature of our society cannot be force-fitted into the corsets of archaic PR and Westminster Systems. Low voter turnout, voters grasping at the promised potential of third party messiahs, all of whom seem unable to move vision into action, indicate a  national cry for accommodation of our diversity and that systems and institutions grow up to do so.
The picture of a red and yellow map, with a touch of green, depicting the election results totally skews the micro picture of how the voting went and does not reflect the political convulsions that are taking place within our communities which are struggling to articulate their discomfort and disenchantment with what exists.  

Talk of homeland, heartland, base support only reinforce the myopia and ignore the basic fact that the diverse nature of our society from its origins – its diversity – has never been addressed in or found resonance in governance. In fact, the diversity of cultures, ethnicities and interests continue to be stymied by a defective political party system, at national and local levels: the independent senator quota allowance to the President that is supposed to present the balance of interests and of power has never really been seen in that role; and representation at local levels has always suffered from political partisanship.  Why do we keep going back to these old, archaic, irrelevant political interpretations of our society when we have an opportunity to move forward? Why do we would want to further entrench such counterproductive political partisanship in the local government system, continuing to ignore the now at least 50 percent of the population who want to vote ‘none of’ in relation to the offerings, rather than find new, imaginative ways of accommodating our varieties. Not proportional representation, but a non-partisan local government system, that represents diverse interests (not necessarily ethnicities nor political parties) as put forward in the section of the report to the OAS on local government reform should be the starting point. Then perhaps, we would see parties transforming themselves to address issues – health, water, sanitation, access roads, electricity, information technologies (was that concept even used n any of the campain platforms?)

The opportunity to harness the best of us, to impact the political climate change sweeping not only or islands but the globe, drawing from the experience of our evolution diversity …. more: see articles below and  Website
Related links: Trini Politics is D Best
The human face of cnstitutional reform 
Making Local Government WorkNew Presidential Picong Tours & Worshop SpecialsSounds of a Party – a political partyOld Casked Rum: The Emperor’s New Tools#1 – Towards Constitutional Reform in T&T 

PM on local government reform

Local government election Oct 21

…govt to pilot amendment to Municipal Corporations Act

By Multimedia Desk

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar today announced that her government does not propose to postpone local government elections but intend to lay in Parliament, a Bill to amend the Municipal Corporations Act, 1990.

Persad-Bissessar made the announcement at a Post-Cabinet News Conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair.

Following is the full content of the Persad-Bissessar’s statement:

PP Government does not propose to postpone local government elections and also proposes to lay in Parliament, a Bill to amend the Municipal Corporations Act, 1990

Local Government Elections will be held on time

The life of local government bodies in Trinidad and Tobago came to an end on July 26th2013. By law, Local Government elections are due by within three (3) months after the life of the municipal corporations came to an end. Since the expiration of the life of the Local Government, there has been widespread public speculation that this Government would seek to postpone local government elections. Today I confirm to you that although it remains open to the Government to pass legislation to postpone any elections, the local government elections shall not be postponed.

It was following a meeting of the National Executive Council of the UNC, that I merely communicated to the national community that some former UNC Councillors had expressed the view that the local government elections should be postponed in order to facilitate the implementation of this Government’s proposal for local government reform as expressed in the White Paper on Local Government Reform which was published in July 2012.

Postponement of the Local Government Elections by the PNM

I am on record as having condemned the former PNM regime for suppressing the voice of the people by postponing local government elections for over four (4) years during the period 2006-2010. This was not the first time it had taken such action: The PNM had also postponed local government elections on three (3) occasions during the period 1962 to 1968 and 1974 to 1977. The population neither forgets nor forgives such disenfranchisement as there are many who remember the bitter struggle over the years for a democratic system of governance that puts the power in the hands of the people.

The Value of the Right to Vote

Ours is a young but vibrant democracy. It was only recently, in 1946 that the British Parliament granted universal adult suffrage to Trinidad and Tobago. At first, the right to vote was limited to persons 21 years and over. The 1976 Republican Constitution lowered this to 18 years. We must never take the right to vote for granted. The postponement of any election which is constitutionally due must only be countenanced in the most exceptional and extreme circumstances. War and famine come to mind as examples of appropriate circumstances.

In this context the postponement of local government elections by the PNM remains a blot on our otherwise proud and unblemished record as a democratic nation.

Manifesto Promise

My entire political career has been based on respect for the voice of the people. I am not about to change that now. It is essential that governance is informed and guided by the voice of the people.

In the 2010 manifesto to the People’s Partnership we declared our commitment to a genuine participatory democracy. We promised that we would never deprive you of what we view as your fundamental human right to vote and elect representatives of your choice.

Patron of the Local Government Forum of the Commonwealth

The postponement of local government elections is alien to the concept of people-centred development. At present, I am a patron of the Local Government Forum of the Commonwealth. My fellow patrons are the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the RT Honourable Helen Clarke and the President of Uganda, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. I am therefore at the forefront of the international movement for the reform and strengthening of local government to give greater power to the people.

I will not follow the precedent set by some of our predecessors and use the burning issue of local government reform as an excuse to avoid facing the electorate. I am not a coward. I am not afraid of the voice of the people- on the contrary, I draw my political strength and inspiration from it.

The Admitted Need for Local Government Reform

That is not to say however, that local government reform can be put on the back burner. Indeed, there is a pressing and urgent need for it. Since Independence in 1962, there have been several attempts at local government reform. These include:

· 1965- Report commissioned by Dr Eric Williams from a committee chaired by Mitra Sinanan

· 1974- The Sir Hugh Wooding Constitution Commission

· 1983- The Chambers Administration Draft Policy Paper on Community Development and Local Government Reform, 1983

· 1989- The ANR Robinson Administration draft Policy Paper on “The Decentralization Process, Regional Administration and Regional Development.”

· 2006- The Manning administration’s White Paper on Local Government Reform which followed the Green Paper of 2004

Municipal Corporations Act over 20 years old

The present Municipal Corporations Act was passed in 1990. It is over twenty (20) years old. It must be revisited to address the rapidly evolving and changing social, economic and cultural environment of the 21st century.

Proportional Representation – Principles of Fairness Group

The concept of proportional representation has been advocated as a fairer and stronger system for many years now. It has had the blessing of the Wooding Commission in 1974. More recently, the 2006 draft constitution of the Principles of Fairness Group proposed a system of proportional representation for the election of Senators.

The idea was that parties should have a slate of Senators that is known beforehand to the public at a general election. Seats in the Senate would be allocated in accordance with the number of votes cast for a party. (See Section 69 of the draft constitution of the Principle of Fairness Group)

This is a unique and attractive idea that I wish to introduce in our local government elections. It will represent a historic foray into the virgin territory of proportionate representation which many feel, is an idea whose time has come.

Members of the Principles of Fairness Group

I am grateful to the members of the Principles of Fairness Group that introduced this idea. I think it is wise to incorporate it into the political and democratic process for the election of Aldermen which, by analogy, is the equivalent of party appointed Senators. The Directors of the Principles of Fairness Group were:-

  1. Marjorie Thorpe, PhD (Chairman)
  2. Archbishop Edward Gilbert
  3. Ken Gordon
  4. Bhoendradatt Tewarie, PhD
  5. Tajmool Hosein, TC, QC
  6. Arthur Lok Jack
  7. Hamid Ghany, PhD
  8. Patricia Mohammed, PhD
  9. Satnarine Maharaj and
  10. Noble Khan

The Constitution was prepared by a Sub-Committee comprising:

  1. Tajmool Hosein, TC, QC and
  2. Hamid Ghany, PhD

Strengthening and Deepening our democracy

The fundamental issue for me is the implementation of a policy to further democratize and strengthen the local government bodies in such a way as to allow the electorate greater control over the election of all persons who would hold office in all of the Councils.

The time has come to have the Aldermen elected by the population and not selected by the Councillors after an election. Our examples over the years have shown us that this process can be manipulated and controlled by political deal-making and political indiscipline to the detriment of the population who have no say in what the Councillors may want to do after they have been elected.

Proposed change in the law

In the circumstances I wish to state the following:-

  1. Local Government Elections will be held when they are due.
  2. My Government will table Legislation immediately to introduce a system of proportional representation for the election of Aldermen.
  3. Councillors will continue to be elected in the same way that they are now elected under the first past-the-post system.
  4. All Councils will have their complement of Aldermen increased to 4 to ensure that there is no inequality between Councils where Aldermen are concerned.
  5. The recommendations of the Elections and Boundaries Commission for the seat distribution and boundaries in existing Councils will be implemented.
  6. The current method for choosing Aldermen will be abolished.

Every vote will now count

By introducing a mixed system of election using the first past-the-post system for the existing electoral districts and a system of proportional representation for the election of Aldermen, my Government is seeking to expand the electoral process in local government.

The expansion will ensure that every vote will count in every district because those votes will be used to calculate the allocation of the seats of Aldermen. Even if a single party were to win all of the seats on the first past-the-post system, there will more than likely be an allocation of at least one Alderman to another party which will ensure that another political voice would sit on such a Council.

Proposed Aldermen to be known by electorate upfront

All political parties will be required to provide a list of names of potential Aldermen whose number will be equal to the number of the electoral districts and who themselves will not be candidates in those districts. This will be necessary to ensure that the electorate know in advance who the potential Aldermen are likely to be by seeing in advance the pool of names from which the Aldermen will be drawn.

Four (4) Aldermen to be chosen from list

Up to four (4) Aldermen in total will be chosen for each Council by extracting the names of those persons whom each party would like to see as their Aldermen from the lists provided by the said political parties. Such an extraction of names will be done in proportion of the total votes cast for each party for their Councillors in the various electoral districts within a Council.

Vacancies to be filled from unused names

In the event that any vacancies arise among the Aldermen during the term of office of a Council, such vacancies can be filled by drawing names from the unused portion of the list of names provided by political parties on nomination day. As a consequence of using this method the vacancies would be filled from lists of names that the political parties advertised to the public before the election was held. There will be no surprises.

Independent Candidates

As regards the status of persons who wish to contest electoral districts as independent candidates there will be no impediment to the existing system that will continue to permit persons to stand for election as independent candidates in any electoral district. Naturally, the rule that disqualifies a Councillor from being an Alderman will apply, but Independent candidates are more than welcome to stand for election as Councillors.

It is important that this reform to the method by which Aldermen are to be chosen in all of the local government Councils is implemented before the next local government election. Permit me to quote from former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who stated in 2006 that “…participatory governance, based on the will of the people, is the best path to freedom, growth and development.”

Urge all parties to support this historical change

I look forward to the support of all parties in this House for the measure which will strengthen our democracy and allow the electorate greater control over those who are put forward to serve as both Councillors and Aldermen by ensuring that every vote will now count and no vote will ever be wasted again in any local government election in this country because people may feel that their party does not have a chance to win in their district.

This measure is designed to empower our voters and enhance citizen participation in all elections.

Let me end by saying that Local Government Elections will be held on Monday, October 21, 2013.

Trini politics is d best

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Ain’t Trini politics d BEST! Nobody fighting because they lose. All parties claiming victory, all voting citizens won! That’s what make we Carnival d best street party in the world. Everyone are winners because we all like bacchannal and commess. And all o’ we just can’t wait for more of the extended Carnival bacchanal season….on to the next. No other place in d world I’d rather be!…
Stay tuned for election analysis:

The DNA of politics – When Goat does make sheep
Reform, Conform or Perform: The result of knee jerk reform action
Opening the political third eye: Who’sThe real third political force?
Returning home. Whose Home? Knock knock Who”s Home?
Money cant buy me love, nor votes…
Bacchannal and cmmess over building canals n box drains and commerce
How to really reform local government so everybody wins
Towards a new system of governance

Wave a flag for a party rag…Choosing the Emperor’s New Troops

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The dilemma of choice. Voting is supposed to be an exercise in thoughtful, studied choice. Local government is the foundation for good governance so even if one wants to reform the system one should vote. The choices may be what the are, people competing for the road march or monarch title as the lesser evil, while we search for those who can represent the greater good. But at least we have a choice, as against not having that fundamental choice – to vote. So if for that reason only, of being able to fulfill one’s duty as citizen, vote tomorrow.  

(This one, for Demokrissy fans: pre-stage sounds of horn & a curtain of smoke – la la la..) 

Whey meh costume?
Vote the right tune
Which party rag?
What party flag?

I wake up this morning
to loud dejaying
Is Carnival ah ready-ing,
To join d road marching

(Trini people)
Whey meh costume?
Vote the right tune
Read a party rag
Wave a party flag

I began scrambling,
This is confusing
The wrong tune playing
Neigbour? Is jouvert morning?

(Neighbour, Neighbour)
Whey meh costume?
What’s the right tune
Write a party rag
With a party flag

Neib Gyul, I don’t know
Is the New Political Comedy Show
I tune in for a debate
To find comedians as candidates

(Jokers, jokers)
Whey meh costume?
Vote the right tune
Wet party rag
Clash with party flag

Rudder sings: choose a candidate:
Vote: The jackass, the goat, or the snake
The future of box drains are at stake
Any comedian could join the debate

(Voting people) 
Whey meh costume?
Vote the right tune
Grab a party rag
Stain a party flag

O gawd! who tief more than he?
Who me? He get ketch, the stupidee
I charging up my campaign battery
With more liars, lawyers and bobolees

(Liar, Lawyer) 
Whey meh costume?
Vote the right tune
Charge a party rag
Jail a party flag

Your honour, without honour
Look meh ink-stained finger
See my choice, is my right to vote
The jackass, the snake, or the goat.

(Party People) 
Whey meh costume?
Vote the right tune
Patch a party rag
Pick a party flag

And we jump and wave, jump and wave, and jump and wave….
…and go out and vote tomorrow! The right to choice is a human right!

Related Links:

Old Casked Rum: The Emperor’s New Tools#1 – Towards Constitutional Reform in T&T 

Nourishing odyssey

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Dear Lizzie,

Back from odyssey thru d ancient Americas, found source of luck of d Irish. Knowledge of 1000s of varieties of corn n potatoes, developed by Incas, and millennia-old methods of use n prep devised by Mayans r now stored on my hips – intangible heritage evolved into tangible proportions. Letters To Lizzie back on track. 2 b released soon. Order now! More …

The human face of constitutional reform

Posted on Updated on

Sheilah Solomon in UNESCO 60 Women

Newly independent from an institutions-based journalism career of nearly two decades, and barefooted at the kitchen sink and pregnant with ideas for social reform while nestled in the bosom of the NGO movement (in other words, unemployed since NGO work, like many aspects of women’s work and the work of artists and writers and the like are invisible, unrecognised and unfactored in national accounts) I had heard Sheilah Solomon on morning TV talk show. TTCAN! She was trying to convince a sceptical TV show host whose birthday in journalism was the same as mine. Sheilah was clearly and sharply articulating the deficiencies in governmesaw her: a tinymite elderly woman, gracefully wrinkled, deeply over with concerns about political and institutional stagnation but brimming over with ways of addressing them. She drew me to the TV set, dish sponge in hand.
Long before Obama’s signal inaugural speech Yes, We Can, Sheilah had launched TTCAN (TT Citizens Agenda Network) – an organisational drive for constitutional reform that could bring more effective governance to the people of Trinidad and Tobago by addressing flaws and deficiencies in the system. But it was not the empty soundings of legalities and technicalities that accompany talks of such reform. Her ideas were linked to concise and precise actions for change. with targetted results.

Core to the change process, Sheilah believed, was empowerment and education of citizens about their roles, rights and responsbilities. Human rights was citizens’ rights, and the rights of individuals to actively participate in the political processess of their coun

try. It was people who make and who can change governments and governance, not the other way around. That seemed to be the most difficult lesson to convey. I learnt that in the build up to Trinidad and Tobago’s hosting of the Summit of the Americas of the Organisation of American States (OAS)
and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM) in 2009 while trying to engage the public and expand understanding and awareness through the Commonwealth Foundation, the Active Democracy Network and the Network of NGOS of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women. I was also gathering data that would solidify and quantify what we now call the democratic deficit – the shortfall in governance and institutional defects in delivering goods and services to citizens. The deficit was reflected in corruption of the democractic processes that would ensure equal and equitable access of citizens to resources. They were contained in the gap in delivery on campaign mandates, manifesto mandate, policy mandates, and international mandates signed and subscribed to at various fora through sometimes tremendous costs to our coffers. Symbols of stasis, inaction, incompetence and ineffectiveness, many of those sat on some carefully dusted, or conversely forgotten and sagging shelves at the OAS and Commonwealth Secretariats and various ministries and organisations around the globe. At the Network, some were in piles of boxes, others in neatly labelled milk and biscuit boxes cutout to look like the more ornate files one can now purchase at IKEA and its distributors for substantial sums.            
In my research, from the documents in those boxes, dusty, decaying, dog-eared files and reports and compilations of statistics that came out of undervalued intellectual activities took on a human face. My focus, Freedom of Expression, Access to Information, Gender Equality and other mechanisms that allow for active participation of citizens in local and national governance processes shed the hollow resonances they bore when they fall from the lips of politicians. They were the bases of the rights of human beings to contribute to and share in the resources of the spaces they occupy.
Acutely aware of the institutional deficits from the editorial chair of one of the pillars of democracy and battleworn from struggling for what one would consider basic tools of the profession. Attempts to convey to the powers that be that human capital development was as/or even more significant than capital investments on impressive new machinery; or that the right of editorial staff to internet and email access so reporting could benefit from the information revolution became an act of revolution in itself and part of the behind-the-scenes struggle that preceded the current boast of online editions as print editions lose currency. 
But there was still so much to be done to promote acceptance and understanding that a commodity as abstract as information was a functional right, for instance, and a key to unlocking access to all the other inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as contained in the American Declaration; or in ours – where every creed and race can find an equal place. Rights information as a key to basic provisions of food, water and shelter, would only be recognised in blocking roadways and burning tires for attention in a country which GDP was rated among the highest in the developing world. The democratic deficit. It could only be addressed through citizen empowerment.
That was the movement at which Sheilah stood at the helm for almost half a century.
She was a founding member of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO sharing the UNESCO vision for transformation and social change through transforming outlooks.
Last year, in its publication of its 60th anniversary recognising 60 women in the world who contributed to the 60 years of UNESCO, Sheilah wrote of the “tug of war” between the vision in UNESCO’s preamble and the ‘internal bureaucratic culture’ that impeded effective delivery of actions in the mandated areas of education, culture and science. (See link below)
UNESCO might have moved some distance from that internal bureaucractic culture in its last 60 years – and certainly partly through her efforts as she was charged by the then Director to help decentralise UNESCO – but it has not shed the trappings of it, I am now discovering as Chair of the National Commission of which she was the founding Secretary General. Institutional change can only result from citizen action and citizen empowerment. It was not much different from the tug of war between institutional vision on the one hand and necessary reform action on the other that I had encountered and was trying to confronting in the third pillar of democracy – the media, to the fourth pillar, civil society. Its resistance to change required change in direction: from attempting actions from the top, to driving change from the ground. Even across several generations, Sheilah’s formula and mine collided on common ground.
With TTCAN, Sheilah took that drive for decentralisation from this international bureaucracy to decentralisation of power into the hands of citizens and localised systems for more effective governance for Trinidad and Tobago. There’s how she envisioned more equitable distribution of resources to citizens. Informed by hers and the work of people like her, my report and public awareness drive for the Active Democracy Network and the Commonwealth Foundation for reform and decentralisation identified several steps towards this; steps that would also result in delivery of social goods and services to those with least means to access them , steps that will strengthen and secure human rights and citizens rights in fundamental reforms that would include but not need the plaster of law and the courts, but be engrained in governance practices at all levels facilitated by acknolwedge rights to express oneself freely and rights to information that would infrorm actions as a basic human right. The report still sits on a virtual shelf, along with the mandates and manifestos, policies and promises and Summit and Heads of Government commitments to reform.
The democratic deficit in our national and local government elections machinery and ideology disconnected from the now heightened citizens’ access to information and access to mechanisms to express themselves about their rights as humans and as citizens – is reflected in the turmoil in the current political climate, locally and internationally. It is in this tug of war on what seems to be the losing end with which the US Presidency; the West Minster system, the hardened dictatorships, CARICOM, the Commonwealth as are the illfitted democracies as ours in Trinidad and Tobago are now engaged; struggling to assert credibility, indeed fighting for their very survival as individuals tug at crumbling walls of inept and ill-equiped and ill conceived institutional frames. The tug of war to correct the still skewed democratic balance sheet is now on shifting ground, and the survival of governance systems now hinge on their shifting gears towards greater equity; and acknowledgement of their roles as mere facilitators of the access of citizens to basic human rights. 
Like Pat Bishop, and Peter Harris, Sheilah died yesterday still trying to realise that dream for effective decentralisation to citizens and to see the fruits of her life-efforts for effective reform of governance systems in the midst of a comical-at-best local government campaign that directly mirrors any page from Naipaul’s older-than-our-Independence-frm-colonial-rule hilariously satirical 1958 novel The Suffrage of Elvira (See PoliTTcians in LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago.    RIP Sheilah Solomon.
The Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO will open a condolence book and put on an exhibition of Sheilah Solomon’s work with UNESCO in her memory. Details to be announced.

See 60 Women Contributing to the 60 Years of UNESCO: 
Reform, Conform, Perform – Cross Winds of Political Climate Change

@blogactionday The Human Face of Constititional Reform  #BAD2013 #humanrights
See 60 Women Contributing to the 60 Years of UNESCO:

Related links: Making Local Government Work

New Presidential Picong Tours & Worshop Specials

Sounds of a Party – a political party

Old Casked Rum: The Emperor’s New Tools#1 – Towards Constitutional Reform in T&T