The leader of a small political party contesting the fourth-highest number of constituencies in the August 10 general election is calling on citizens to give it or one of the 17 smaller political entities in the national poll a chance.
Research scientist and cannabis consultant Marcus Ramkissoon, the leader of the Trinidad Humanity Campaign (THC), made the call on during an interview with Guardian Media at his Valsayn home, which also serves as his party’s campaign headquarters.
Comparing the country’s system of governance over the past 50 years to a business which alternates between two under-performing managers every other year while expecting improved results, Ramkissoon described it as insanity.
“I don’t want to think that citizens of T&T are insane but every election or on voting day, they exhibit insane behaviour,” he said.
“We are voting back the same problems once again, thinking this time around it is going to get better,” Ramkissoon added.
He proposed that a scenario where the smaller parties are able to defeat the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the United National Congress (UNC) and form a coalition government may be experimental but could be the solution to long-standing problems caused by the dominance of both parties.
“How much worse could it really be. I think it would be a miracle and the most amazing thing ever,” Ramkissoon said.
Ramkissoon, who contested the St Joseph and Tunapuna constituencies in 2010 and 2015 general elections, respectively, was under no illusion that he or his party would attain their goal of representing the citizens in Parliament but noted that it is necessary for persons to stand up and present viable alternatives.
“I knew in both election that if I got 100 votes, I would be more surprised than anyone. I didn’t, 34 and 55,” Ramkissoon said, with a laugh.
Ramkissoon said that like most citizens, he and his members were tired of essentially the same style of governance by the main political parties.
“We treat our governments as if they are royalty and it is a monarchy. We forget that a country is owned by its citizens,” Ramkissoon said.
Ramkissoon, who worked with several Caribbean countries including T&T in implementing marijuana decriminalisation and regulations, questioned why successive governments have never strived to be more transparent.
Pointing to Antigua and Barbuda, which releases some Cabinet minutes to their citizens, Ramkissoon said: “What do you have to hide? It is your citizens.”
Questioned about his party’s name, Ramkissoon noted that it represented some of his and his colleagues’ political aims.
He said that Trinidad was used as the party believes in greater political autonomy for citizens from Tobago, humanity as they are concerned over all things affecting citizens as humans, and campaign because most political parties do their most work on the campaign trail.
“We always want to be in campaign mode,” Ramkissoon said.
Ramkissoon is contesting the Tunapuna seat, while his colleagues are contesting six other constituencies-Couva South, Cumuto/Manzanilla, Moruga/Tableland, St Augustine, Diego Martin West, and St Joseph.
Repeatedly pointing to his party’s 48-page manifesto, Ramkissoon noted that it was focused on education as it believes that most of society’s problems could and should be address at a preliminary stage.
The manifesto proposes sweeping changes to the current education system including making daily school activity end later to incorporate more extra-circular activities and to assist working parents. It is also proposing a continuous assessment model to remove the need for the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination, which it noted places too much stress on 11 ad 12-year-old students.
Ramkissoon, a former St Mary’s College student, used a personal example to illustrate his point.
“My parents and family are Presbyterian. I was baptised Roman Catholic because of the intention to get me into a Roman Catholic High School, 12 years later,” Ramkissoon said, as he claimed that his party plans to make improvements at all secondary schools to ensure that they are all prestigious as the current batch of “prestige” schools.
Ramkissoon also highlighted the need for child psychologists or guidance councillors at all schools to identify students suffering from abuse and learning disabilities.
In terms of national security, Ramkissoon suggested that proper use of scanners at ports and external security monitors would assist in reducing the importation of firearms and contraband as well as ensure that the government collects its proper tax revenue.
He suggested that crime could be reduced in the long-term through education and social programmes that actually address issues in underprivileged communities instead of perpetuating gang violence.