Closing the year with open questions

None of this column’s playful predictions for 2015 came true. One or two—about Barry Padarath and oil prices—came close. I might be doing better than Yesenia; but last year-end, I gave up on forecasting. I close 2016 instead with questions left open. Here are the top five:

  1. Who took that lovely new photograph of me?

This is the one I have an answer for. Rashmi Mathur is a local photographer who has captured a wonderful trove of images of Trinidad & Tobago’s humanity. You can find her portraits and profiles of fellow countrypeople in the Facebook group People of Trinidad and Tobago. More over, Humans of New York.

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  1. How much further will tertiary enrolment decline, when the full suite of policy changes to GATE kicks in towards the end of 2017? Will there be corresponding increases in CEPEP enrolment?

We Trinbs love our state welfare. Abuses or not, we all know exactly what GATE is supposed to do. With CEPEP, we all know at heart it’s a patronage programme; but can anyone say what it was supposed to pretend to do?

CEPEP was here today, my nephew announced last week. It was early afternoon, and I hadn’t noticed that they’d re-cut the grass between my property and the roadway he already pays the lawn-cutter to.

It was odd. The election had already come and gone. (Without a road being paved, mind you; but that’s another question). So their appearance was worth neither their votes nor mine.

I had missed the casual shouting and cussing that usually heralds their invasion of my quiet neighbourhood of many retirees.

He’d recognised their passage from the signature palm frond used to sweep up cuttings, which they had discarded on the ground in front my wall. For me, however, the unmistakable artefacts of the Community-Based Environmental Protection & Enhancement Programme’s visit were the two crumpled Broadway packs in the drain, and two empty cartons perched atop my wall from juice used to chase the contents of the empty white-rum bottle cocked in front the frond.

When the Barbados government slashed tuition subsidies, enrolment at UWI’s Cave Hill campus plummeted by close to half.

  1.  Will the pothole on Amber Drive ever be fixed?

All my neighbours want to know. A number of them have reported it. I have reported it. To local government. To WASA. To the Ministry of Works 623-MEND hotline. On their app Wize. Uploaded pictures. I got nice, engaging responses.

Kejan Haynes reported it, come on now! It endures.

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Days after taking office, new Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan made an announcement. “Rohan: Potholes to be mended in 48 hours,” our Guardian headline read. It was three weeks before local government elections. This was the logistician credited in Prime Minister Rowley’s general election-night speech at Balisier House for engineering the PNM’s victory. I took his word for it.

Screen Shot 2016-12-27 at 2.18.01 AM.pngThere was some fine print about which potholes. But everyone I reached was already aware of this jewel of a pothole, and everyone promised to send people to see it.

I delightedly posted the Guardian’s story to a neighbourhood Facebook group. The young PNM candidate for our local government councillor liked the post. Looking good.

I’d stopped driving the logical way home months before, out of love of my axles. But on my way to the polls, I walked by just to verify the pothole was gone, and cast my appreciative vote.

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When I got into the booth, instead of voting for or against either candidate, I wrote in the persistent pothole on my ballot. It has made a bigger impact on my life than either of them, one of whom I only saw on posters.

I live in a red constituency, so my vote counts for nothing marginally. Our corporation had the lowest election turnout nationally—22%—though the councillor who liked my post boasts he scored highest among the corporation’s councillors. That’s 23% of eligible voters.

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Until candidates prove they are really listening to voters’ concerns, I think writing mine in on my ballot gives me the next best chance to make them as visible as I can as a voter.

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  1. Has Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh concluded his promised investigation into the internet sex video purporting to have been shot over the wall of a Port-of-Spain General Hospital toilet stall?

The media drew his attention to this back on November 22, over a month ago. Has the North West Regional Health Authority identified and fired the Peeping Tom who boasted online that he/she shot the video by stalking two co-workers into a toilet, holding a device above the wall of the stall to video-record them, then broadcast it on the internet? Is this employee, so easily driven to violate others’ privacy, still coming into contact with patients? Or does the fact it was two men filmed change everything?

Was the video another online hoax that enrolled a scandal-hungry media? Can the minister also report whether other POSGH toilets have full rolls of toilet paper, like the one in the video?

  1. Will this column continue in 2017?

My editors have that answer.

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