Thanks for nothing Eric Williams … why a “State of Emergency” can’t solve Mr Gerry Mander’s problems

In this being a forum for my travel writing and musings, I’ve typically avoided opinions on race/religion in Trinidad & Tobago – since there is really no simple cure for what ails Trinidad. You cannot fix in a couple months, what it took more than 40 years to build.

Thanks to Eric Williams, I’ve come to know the true long term effects of “Gerrymandering”. This is one of my two favorite words … the other being “Schadenfreude“. The case of the latter word … a significant percentage of BOTH racial demographics in Trinidad revel in the misery of the “others” here . This “significant percentage” would be the welfare class created by Mr Williams’ policies and perpetuated by multiple governments later down the line.

In the process of setting electoral districts, gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan, incumbent-protected districts. The resulting district is known as a gerrymander; however, that word can also refer to the process.

Gerrymandering may be used to achieve desired electoral results for a particular party, or may be used to help or hinder a particular demographic, such as a political, racial, linguistic, religious or class group.

Further to those simple definitions … does the further extension seem any less familiar to anyone in Trinidad?

The two aims of gerrymandering are

  1. Maximize the effect of supporters’ votes
  2. Minimize the effect of opponents’ votes.

This is done using a combination of methods, but the two main strategies are packing and cracking.

  1. The idea of  packing, is to concentrate as many voters of one type into a single electoral district to reduce their influence in other districts. In some cases this may be done to obtain representation for a community of common interest, rather than to dilute that interest over several districts to a point of ineffectiveness. For anyone who lives in Trinidad – I don’t need to paint any pictures of the apparent reality of this. Consistent efforts many, many years ago were made to bring in people from other “smaller” islands to ensure that the voting would continue in a certain trend for 30+ years.

  2. A second strategy, cracking, involves spreading out voters of a particular type among many districts in order to deny them a sufficiently large voting bloc in any particular district. The strategies are typically combined, creating a few “forfeit” seats for packed voters of one type in order to secure even greater representation for voters of another type. Again, something that has been experienced in Trinidad for more than a generation.

The following map illustrates the brilliance and futility of our system. It is to scale in terms of geographic area, but it is definitely not representative of the population distribution nor projected population growth patterns in Trinidad. Note that in spite of a crushing loss – the losing party still managed to capture 29.25% of the electoral seats, yet these proportion of seats doesn’t represent 29.25% of the popular vote.

You can find more electoral maps by clicking the picture at Adam Carr's electoral archive site ...
You can find more electoral maps by clicking the picture at Adam Carr's electoral archive site ...

Taking a look at the overall stats, without any further breakdown … it works out that only with a population completely fed up with the status quo … that a change happened yet the stats show how tenuous that hold is …

  • 29.25% of the electoral seats took almost 40% of the total vote – hence a 1.36 : 1 ratio of % population to electoral seats for the losing party
  • 70% of the electoral seats took almost 60% of the total vote- hence a .87 : 1 ratio for the winning party.
Votes and seats are compared with those won at the November 2007
Enrolled voters:                 1,040,127
Votes cast:                        722,322  69.4
Invalid votes:                       2,595  03.6
Valid votes:                       719,727  96.4
Party                            Votes      %     Change   Seats
People's National Movement         285,354  39.5  -06.4    12  -14
People's Partnership Coalition     432,026  59.8  +07.5    29  +14
Others                               2,437  00.3            -
Total                              719,727                 41

Anyway, this is not meant to be any type of significant academic analysis on politics in Trinidad – there are tons of books for that … but a simple high level snapshot of what ails Trinidad … and why a “State of Emergency” is only a short term measure – it will not control or solve the welfare class mentality that stifles innovation in business and creates a pseudo-prison state, where people fear for their lives when the darkness drops.

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at

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