Waiting for Kaiso to Dead!

 

For at least thirty years out of my life people have been holding an unnecessary wake for Calypso. Is like Calypso on a ventilating machine, everybody sit down in the waiting room absolutely convinced that any minute now it going to dead.

 

Every season you have people who are more guilty of nostalgia than real common sense accusing the art form of being dead. And trust me, next year there will be a Calypso Monarch competition with calypsonians arguing about not receiving enough money; and an audience accepting sub standard performances and songs. Calypso dead? Not quite. Calypsonians and calypso shows being lazy and unoriginal? We have plenty of that. And this is not to say that all calypsonians are that way, but the ones that get offered up to us and labelled as True True Kaisonians have definitely become that way.

 

What we recognize as being Calypso in 2013: slow, preachy, lyric-heavy songs that focus on social or political issues, wouldn’t be recognized as a calypso back in the 1800s when the form was still evolving. The stick fighting songs we have today share a closer resemblance to calypsos of a past era. And if calypso could have evolved then to survive and appeal to a twentieth century audience, then it can do so now. And is, but most of us are unaware of it.

 

But you see, we have our notions about what is a calypso. We create our own mental definitions and stick with them. We have had artists repeat a particular formula year after year for the last forty plus years; they have been paid by tents to repeat that formula; crowned as monarchs and received hundreds of thousands of dollars and cars for singing the same formula. And when that formula begins to go stale or bore us the cultural ignoranti among us, who know only one thing as Calypso, get up and pronounce in a self-important fashion that Calypso is dead.

 

So let me disabuse you. Calypsos, good social and political commentary, with infectious beats and memorable hook lines are being sung here every year. Year after year and we ignore them. There is no rule book that says a calypso has to be slow, must have four or more verses, must have brass in it, and can only be performed by person’s upwards of thirty years of age. Calypso has no formula!

 

jointpop FC

jointpop FC

Back in the nineties, when Sugar Aloes and Cro Cro were at the height of their vitriol, making tent going an unpleasant experience for Indo-Trinbagonians, men like Gary Hector, with his band jointpop FC, was singing songs like. “Port of Spain Style” and “Bashment to Halloween”. By the year 2000 the band had released another album to its hardcore group of fans with gems like “New Fast Food in Town” and “Crack, Pitbull and Gun”. Any of those songs I just named there could have knocked Panther and Kurt Allen out of the Savannah last night for lyrics and melody. And until you have seen Gary Hector in full flight you do not know what rebellious insouciance is.

 

In the last decade our most powerful calypsos have been coming from Soca artists, yet we continue to deny their contribution to local music because we have been trained to be dismissive of soca music. It just there to wine and get on bad. We barely listen to the lyrics and then accuse the songs of having no lyrics. Why! Because they aren’t slow? Because they don’t fill our narrow stereotype of what a calypso should be?

Fay Ann Lyons and Bunji Garlin

Fay Ann Lyons and Bunji Garlin

In 2009 when KMC sang ” Yeast” what was that if not socio-political commentary? Does being able to dance to it lessen its message? When Fay Ann Lyons sang “Meet Super Blue”, how many of us realized that it was a calypso of affirmation? We were probably too busy wining to listen to the lyrics and understand what they meant.

 

machel Ben HurIn 2006 when Machel Montano sang “No War” and “We Not Giving Up”, what made them not a calypso? The artist? The beats per minute? The musical arrangement? Have you actually listened to the lyrics of “The Return”, “Mr Fete”, or ” Fog”? All fitting the model of songs of affirmation?

 

This year we too busy with memes about waking cows to realise that Bunji Garlin’s “Diffrentology” is the next sound in calypso. Or that “Savage” is yet another well crafted calypso offering from Garlin discussing our class strificstion issues, much like “Lies”, ” Fete is Fete”, and “Clear the Road”.

 

gyazetteWe might also not be exposed enough to the local music scene to realise that the band Gyazette could have sung any number of songs from their soon-to-be-released album and possibly won the Calypso Monarch title. Kerene Asche’s “Meh Padnah Ship” would be forgotten next to front man Nikolai Salcedo’s blistering delivery of ” Who Is the Captain of This Ship”. And the disdainfully saucy message in his “Mango”.

 

Unfortunately, we have come to rely heavily on stereotypes and formulae here. To win prize money, you have to follow formulae, and bands like jointpop and Gyazette aren’t much for formula. While Montano indulges in formula every year to win soca competitions, he also gives himself enough leeways on his albums to experiment with form and sound. Bunji Garlin, since exploding onto the local music scene since the late nineties has been delivering calypso after calypso annually. In fact, I’d love to see him shake up the extempo competition one year and show the stalwarts what Sans Humanite really is. Just think Red Edge Freestyle session and you too will wish that NCC would hurry up and fix all of the silly competitions that rely on formula for their judging; and have artists stifling art forms in order to eat a food. While the slavish audience looks on demanding the same thing every year; and if they ain’t get it, is not “true true calypso”.

 

It is not that Calypso is dying, rather we, the organizers, judges and audience holding a pillow over its face, while the art form struggling hard to free itself.

But while all yuh eating up all yuh self over Kurt Allen and Pink Panther, I going and rock my Gyazette, jointpop, Bunji and HD…..and I still say Trinidad James shoulda win last night’s crown…WOOO!

Full Dotish!

 

 

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Terms and Conditions of the Hunger Strike Ending

20121206-065444.jpgJOINT CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL
FOR THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

The Professional Centre Bldg.
1st Floor Unit B202
11-13 Fitzblackman Drive, Wrightson Rd. South, Port of Spain

Tel: (868) 623-9396
jcctt1@gmail.com

Fax: (868) 625-5749
http://www.jcc.org.tt

MEDIA RELEASE

For more information Contact:

Afra Raymond: President, JCC
JCC Office:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date: 5th December, 2012
START OF MEDIA RELEASE

– PORT OF SPAIN – After consultation with the government and
the Highway Re-Route Movement, the JCC and its Civil Society Kindred Associations
– Federation of Independent Trades Unions and NGOs (FITUN), Trinidad & Tobago
Transparency Institute (TTTI) and Women Working for Social Progress (Working Women) -
are pleased to confirm that we have appointed an independent working group to examine
the several matters of concern on the disputed Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Solomon
Hochoy Highway to Point Fortin.

PORT OF SPAIN

Tel: 625-6230 or 623-4945
Tel: 623-9396 or 720-0850

The JCC and its Civil Society Kindred Associations have appointed Independent Senator, Dr.
James Armstrong, as Chairman of the Independent Working Group.

The JCC and its Civil Society Kindred Associations has agreed the attached Terms of
Reference for the examination of the facts in this matter and identified the required
disciplines for the review.

The JCC and its Kindred Associations are now committed to this process for independent,
civil society oversight of large-scale development in our country.

We regard this as a solid framework for the transparent ventilation of the matters in
dispute.

This is a real advance in the development of our country, so we would like all parties to
work in good faith within this process. The Independent Working Group will be inviting oral
and written submissions within this exercise.

The Civil Society Groups are confident that these efforts would lead to a resolution of
this protracted impasse and would signal the heralding of a new era of civil society’s
participation in the national development agenda.

TERMS OF REFERENCE

Review all the documentation provided by NIDCO, HRM and other interested parties

Invite written and oral submissions from interested parties

Ascertain transparency and compliance with prevailing statutory requirements

• Examine the process of public consultation and public information Examine the

TOR issued by the EMA for an Environmental Impact Assessment, along with any

other relevant documentation, in order to ascertain implications for social, economic

and environmental impacts of the highway development, including consideration

of land tenure, land acquisition and costs, land use and displacement of families

and attendant settlement development. This component of the review will consider

cost-benefit analysis; social impact assessment; terrestrial and marine ecology,

hydrology, drainage and public utilities.

Examine the route selection process including the consideration of alternatives and

the choice criteria

Make recommendations for Best Practice

Undertake any related tasks which will enhance the content of the Report

REQUIRED DISCIPLINES

Environmental

Transportation

Hydrology / Drainage

Social Economic

Archaeology

Planning / Settlements

Economic Analysis

Highway Engineering

Property Valuation

END OF MEDIA RELEASE

UWI Speaks…but what is it saying?

Today there was a march to show solidarity for Wayne Kublalsingh at the UWI, St. Augustine Campus.

To be more accurate: “A Solidarity Gathering in recognition of Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh” was what the notice about the event said. It came a solid two weeks after the hunger strike began and 3 days after the UWI Prinipal’s statement on the Hunger Strike.

A statement that can be described as embarrasing at best. In it the Principal sypathises with Kublalsingh, but is in favour of the Highway, in fact, he wants a Highway that extends to Cedros.

It is a statement that comes across as both callous and misinformed. Why? In it the Principal seeks to distance the University from Kublalsingh by stating he only works for the University on a 2-month contract. Which is intriguing to say the least. Kublalsingh has been on contract at the UWI for years. His is not just a 2-month contract. Kublalsingh taught me…and that was back in the mid-90s.

Further, you’re in favour of a highway for which we can’t even get the EIA report? Interesting.

Last week when news of the Hunger Strike hit the campus you could hear pins drop in the department that Kublalsingh works. People were only whispering on corridors. Sending an e-mail around to see who wanted to go visit the camp and show solidarity was frowned upon. Indeed, the only action UWI was definite about was that Kublalsingh’s classes had to be looked after.

As per a proper position on the issue….mehh! Not even the Guild President….and he was being prompted by peers to issue a statement….but his political affiliation is widely known and probably played a role in his prolonged silence .

Then over the weekend came the announcement of this show of solidarity. And I had to wonder what led to the show of conscience today.

It’s no secret that this institution suffers from incredible amounts of government interference. It’s in bed with the government…and scarily so.

So much so that writing against the government in newspapers columns like I do gets you the attention of management in less than positive ways.

It is also no secret that many key members of the Institute of Gender openly rallied for Kamla Persad-Bissesar in 2010. Some were even awarded by Persad-Bissessar’s government.

So the March took place and the usual suspects were there. the crowd wasn’t large. This is a University whose days of militant activist students are firmly behind it. These days the things that rile UWI students up are the same things that riled them up 10 and 15 and 20 years ago….shuttles to go clubbing and increased tuition fees or removal of GATE. Social awareness and UWI student in the same sentence is an oxymoron. And often times, social awareness and UWI lecturer too.

At this “Solidarity” today I watched a number of people pat themselves on the back for a job well done  – about 100 people had shown up.  They affirmed to each other that this was necessary! It had to be done! 13 days into a hunger strike. I surveyed the crowd and tried to pick out how many members of staff, who had managed to leave their offices and march around the campus had made it to the Re-Route Movement’s Camp in the last 10 days. I recognised only one. Im sure the others meant to get there….they just didn’t.

I looked around too at the many intellectuals and specialists in social science areas and wondered why weren’t more people speaking out publicly about the crucial issues?

To date not an expert from the UWI’s engineering or environmental sciences departments has weighed in on the Highway Protests. the Centre for Economic Studies, SALISES, will hold a forum on it Dec 4th….this protest has been on more than a year and it took a man 13 days of starving himself for the institution to sit up and take note.

But let’s back up a little. There are many more crucial issues that have occurrred before we got to this point in our socio-political history. There have been abuse of process, abuse of state funds, abuse of women, children, the constitution, the environment….and UWI has not been in the vanguard leading any discussions on any of the crucial issues.

So, I had to wonder why today? This show of solidarity was arranged by Gender Studies,…where were their comments during the State of Emergency (its chief organiser was openly in support of last year’s SoE.)? When Cheryl Miller was arrested? When Sita Gajardharsingh-Nanga was openly attacked and vilified? Section 34? Kamla’s attack on Rowley at Divali Nagar? Kamla’s constant use of the National Mother motif?

Maybe I should be heartened that they have finally responded. Maybe this is where it starts.

For now though I am sceptical. Sceptical because many of the key players are people that have openly compromised themselves in the past, so I don’t know that I can trust them to do the right thing about my future. Many of the key players for quite a long time kept silent because the government screwing up was made up of the parties they supported. And for many Trinidadians, loyalty is hushing up and supporting shit. The minute you criticise, it means you anti-everything. God forbid that any of them should come out and openly critique the government they supported.

But I imagine the attack on Kublalsingh has hit home. Wayne is a lecturer like them. Wayne supported the COP, or at least his family does. Wayne was eventually vilified and mistreated. Not that this government now start to mistreat people….but the stones finally start to fall in people yard. So they find a voice.

 

But I am not yet convinced about the reliability of this “solidarity. So, for now,  I watch and wait.

 

De Vice Cyah Done!

 

The Ethnic Agenda

 

In case you missed it, Ambassador Neil Parsan’s wife is black, which apparently is an actual ethnicity, not just a colour; and his wife’s colour apparently gives the goodly ambassador carte blanche to make up information about Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean. Oh, wait you missed it? You missed the speech wherein the diplomat that is supposed to be representing an entire multicultural nation gave a speech that implied he is really only there to serve the interests of a particular interest group: the People’s Partnership? Some of the key points in Parsan’s speech was to point out that the “Indian Diaspora is a formidable force in Trinidad and Tobago, the largest numerical representation in the Caribbean.” And let’s not forget as well that Indians are ” the most well-to-do and culturally strong and progressive ethnic group in the uniquely plural society of Trinidad and Tobago.”

 

I can’t tell you where to find Ambassador Parsan’s speech anymore because it has since been removed from the embassy’s website. What I can tell you is that Neil Parsan is engaging in a not very subtle game of Whose Ethnicity Is More Superior? And that is a game that the entire country will lose. Why? Because it is pitting groups against each other, and making the atmosphere of Trinidad and Tobago more toxic. A speech such as this says plainly that groups here don’t yet view themselves as Trinbagonians but as ethnicities all holding their corner and struggling for a larger piece of the pie. That an Ambassador, a diplomat, representing an entire nation, would be caught delivering such a speech is beyond embarrassing and Parsan should hand in his instruments of appointment and just leave Washington DC because his conduct as an Ambassador in that speech is poor. He is not representing a country.

 

But  Ambassador Parsan is but one in a string of ethnicity-related gaffes we have had coming from the People’s Partnership of late. Since the massive Section 34 March, we have had Minister of National Security, Jack Warner, on several platforms spreading a message of ethnic strife. The Section 34 march was negligible according to Warner because he saw only Afro-descended people in it. As if to imply that Afro- descended people aren’t Trinbagonian enough to be taken seriously. As if to imply that it wasn’t a march of citizens. As if to imply Section 34 is a race or ethnicity issue and not a national issue. Mere weeks after the march, on i95.5 with John Wayne Benoit, MP for Mayaro, Winston Peters in response to a question repeated that he is only representing the people who voted for him.

 

And if that wasn’t insulting enough, Warner then, sulking and petulant, announced that he wasn’t attending the opening of the Nagar because Keith Rowley would be there. Disingenuous as ever, Warner claimed he didn’t want to politicize the issue. Then Sat Maharäj, pundit Harry Maharaj and Devant Maharäj jumped in to support Warner’s position. Mind you, this is Divali and the Divali Nagar site. A holiday celebrated by the national community on lands donated by the state. What Warner was ostensibly saying to Rowley is we don’t want you or your kind here. Please keep in kind that Warner is not the UNCs Minister of National Security, he is the nation’s, obligated to serve the nation, and at a public forum this is how he speaks to the Leader of the Opposition, a man that represents the interests of another part of our society.

 

Of course, yes, you can argue that Warner was there in his capacity as Chairman of the UNC. And in that case, what are Warner’s words and actions saying about the party’s agenda and policies? Is the UNC, the party that is currently leading this coalition government, actively using strategies of ethnic division and polarizing politics as part of its strategy to stay in government? The COP agreed to this? Because I can’t see what other way there is to define what Warner and his supporters are attempting to do if not polarize the nation yet again.

 

And to add frosting and cherry on top this ethnic agenda cake is our Prime Minister. A lady who is mum on most matters, but manages to break her silence at the closing ceremony of the Divali Nagar and used the opportunity to attack the Leader of the Opposition. And on trivial issues no less. What the Prime Minister fails to remember with the whole goar lagay incident, when she decided to bow before the President of India is simply this: the PM was there in her capacity as the head of government, greeting another head of government; two heads of state do not bow to each other. Simple protocol. But it seems the PMs advisers are not strong on protocol, just on beefing up her strategies for her ethnic agenda.

 

If sounding like a petulant child about the international bowing incident wasn’t insult enough, the PM then lashed out at the Opposition Leader’s decision to wear a kurtah to ceremonies at the Nagar. Apparently the PM has a monopoly on wearing ethnic garb in this country and we didnt get the memo.

 

The Partnership sounding scared. They sound jittery. Why else would they need to begin to deploy race politics so hard if not to rally their voter base around them. and that’s an old Bas trick, eh. When under attack rally the troops. So in one breath the PM will talk about representing the nayshun….and in another, she scolding people to get in their section.

 

But I want to take a minute and examine this voter base that the PP appealing to. Persad-Bissessar can only be appealing to a group for whom policies based on tribalism and ethnic division will work on. So then, is the leader of the PP saying that her voter base wants ethnic division? Is the leader of the PP also saying that she is quite willing to use divisive tactics once it keeps her popular. Remind me what was the new politics we voted for in 2010 again?

We won’t be getting any of that new politics anytime soon simply because Kamla and the PP must now rally the troops together and bunker down until 2015. Any loss of her voter base, or the Indian vote to the PNM will be a bad sign. Especially since she knows that she depended heavily on the PNM vote that the COP managed to capture. That’s out the window now since PNM supporters see COP for what it truly is….a Trojan Horse of a party.

Kamla also knows that there is no way she can win the seat of government with just the Hindu government. So the struggle is on. Let’s hope others keep their head on and see this Ethnic agenda policy for what it truly is….divide and rule so that the UNC can live another day….but still, you have to ask yourself what it says about the party’s voter base that race politics appeals to them.

De Vice Cyah Done!

Parsan’s 60%

You might have missed it, but this week Ambassador Neil Parsan, a man who was appointed to represent all of Trinidad and Tobago decided that he was only batting for Indians…..but not to worry, his wife is a black woman….he says….so that makes it ok. We can trust him to do his job. I wish I could direct you to the speech that he made, but it’s been removed from the embassy’s website. But in it he referred to Indians as being the most well to do and progressive ethnic group in Trinidad and Tobago.

Indians make up roughly 40% of our population, so in one fell swoop Parsan managed to paint every other group as a bunch of ketch ass parasites. The argument put forward by some supporters of the UNC is that the Ambassador pulled a Romney and was speaking to a specific interest group made up of a specific ethnicity and so tailored his speech to suit…..my response after my semi choked Bullshit is this: Parsan is a diplomat, not a candidate for a political post; he is supposed to represent every group in this space; and playing the race card in front of an audience is extremely undiplomatic. That’s not his job. Romney’s 47% speech was bad enough for all its undertones and stereotyping of Liberal America as a bunch of freeloaders, but how dare Neil Parsan decide to stereotype citizens of this country in this way. So no other group has achieved anything?
Every single ethnic group here has contributed in some way or the other to the country’s development. The much maligned urban depressed areas are where much of the culture that has made us internationally known comes from. The Chinese, Africans, Amerindians, Arabs, Portuguese, Europeans have all contributed. So how on earth can Parsan decide that the most well to do and progressive group is the Indians? Is he implying that the other 60% have done fuck all? And what about other Indian activists that just this week claimed that Indians are the most oppressed group here. How do you get to be the most well to do and the most oppressed at the same time?

Do we really want to go down the road here of discussing who contributes and how?

If we were to just look at which group pays the most taxes in this country something tells me the results going to paint a very disturbing picture about who contributes and how. If we were to trace where and how the drugs and arms trade starts and where it ends up, something tells me that we are going to have a very interesting picture of Trinidad and Tobago, crime and contributions.

But let’s stay away from hypotheticals for now and just consider what Parsan’s comments mean.

Because you see, if Parsan had an appreciative audience for this speech it means there are Trinbagonians among us who agree that Indians are the most progressive group in the country. And yes they have made huge strides, moving from being immigrant peasants to the driving force behind the local business and finance sector. But the country is not just made up of business and finance.

For Trinidad and Tobago to be what it is everyone had to contribute in multiple ways. And every group here still has a long way to go.

For Parsan to decide to single out one group is one thing, to pass on erroneous unsubstantiated information just for the sake of stroking the egos of his audience is quite another….and GOPIO? Really? In a multi ethnic space we still supporting and humoring groups that representing the interests of only one ethnicity? When will we learn that a nation is more than the sum of its…..it is its sum total….period.

This ethnic thinking is getting us no where. We still stuck thinking in percentages, and shares, and pieces and parts. That is the new politics promised to the nayshun, I guess.

De Vice Cyah Done!

Muje Maaf Kar Do….Mea Culpa?

This afternoon the PNM is putting on a grand Divali celebration in St James. The celebration will feature a tassa competition, a beauty queen show and deya lighting. For a party that is in opposition and considered to be more Afro than any other ethnic group in its appeal, it is refreshing to see the efforts that Rowley et al are making to appear more inclusive.

Indeed, since the PNM Convention on October 28 th The Keith has been quietly relentless about showing his many facets and in showing his softer side, he is attempting to show the PNMs accommodating side. But how accommodating is it?

Is it going to be a seasonal accommodation? One that pops up only during popular religious festivals? Will other less prominent ethnic groups also be a part of this new accommodation? Will other religious systems that are less prominent as well be welcomed into the fold? After all the PNMs mantra these days is ” Come home to the PNM”.

But what exactly are we coming home to? Is this new accommodation a pappy show to give an impression of inclusiveness, or is the PNM serious about turning a new leaf?

I am asking these hard questions because there are two major obstacles the PNM has to confront at some point in time publicly. Why? Because they are the obstacles that are thrown up all the time privately. The unspoken grouses the electorate has against the PNM as it were, and I think publicly confronting them will actually make the party appear stronger and serious about inclusion.

Right now the constant pictures of The Keith in koortah is window dressing for a deeper far more serious problem. Yes he looks very dapper and cuts a fine picture in ethnic garb. But as a half coolie that looks more African than Indian, I can tell you that there is far more to being Indian and winning the regard of the Indian community than donning ethnic garb. The PNM in particular and Afro Trinbagonians have always been viewed by the Indo community with skepticism and mistrust.

Social and political leaders of the Indo community have kept the mistrust alive with a constant reference to several grievances held against the PNM. There is the constant cry that the PNM has oppressed Indians, of course when you press for details and evidence the conversation always ends up the “recalcitrant minority” speech by Williams. A speech that happened. That it happened in reference to something else is irrelevant to the Indo community. What matters is that it was said and as far as Indians are concerned it speaks to the true feelings of both the PNM and Afro Trinis.
Go to any FB group, especially UNC focused group and that’s where all the conversations lead to. Pnm is a cult that don’t like Indians and trying to oppress us. Ask the right questions and it boils down to the comment that has had Indians toting feelings against both PNM and Afros for half a century.

The Keith has begun addressing this grievance, but obliquely. It can’t be a coincidence that at every opportunity he has been given in the last two weeks he constantly refers to the valuable contributions of the Hindu community. It is possibly a subtle, mea culpa….but this won’t do.

You see Indians want their pound of fle……sorry, bhagi. And given the public way in which Williams made the comment, any addressing of it will have to be just as publicly. The PNM must make it clear that it is not now, nor ever will be, the party’s position on Indians. It matters little that fifty years have passed since it was made. It matters little that much has been done to atone for it. Until the PNM faces that bogey head on, then it will always rear its head in quiet and not so quiet corners to be used against the party and Afro Trinis.

The tote is real The Keith, and the party must go on record as having addressed the issue. A simple Muje maaf kar do. To refuse to address it gives the comment and its offshoot behavior more power than it deserves.

When you go on record, you diffuse the strength of that comment made more than fifty years ago….and turn the tables on the whiners only intent on ethnic political mischief.

De Vice Cyah Done!

20121111-145758.jpg

Sari Optional

 

I won’t be wearing any Indian garb this weekend. And no, it has nothing to do with taking a backward stance like some members of Paliament who choose to be political, petty and petulant as they try to manipulate Indianness and Hinduness in their constant game of politics and identity. I am avoiding Indian garb this year because I am fed up of the pappy show. I am fed up of the absolute pretence that happens whenever there is a religious holiday in Trinidad, especially one that is linked to ethnicity and politically charged.

 

Divali is one such holiday. And what you won’t hear people say, but what will be apparent in all their careful gestures and words in this: we have an Indian government in power and must appear to comply or at least appear to be open. And therein lies our daily fiction. It can’t be an error that our watchwords say Tolerance. So we tolerate each other, we don’t accept each other, or even attempt to understand each other.

 

This weekend, at the various programmes being put on by social or political groups, people will attempt to outshine each other with the opulence and complexity of the ethnic garb they are wearing. Many will jostle for media friendly pictures of themselves in said garb, possibly doing serenely spiritual things like lighting a deya or performing aarti at the many poojas that will be held. And many of us know the catch phrases surrounding the holiday: Mother Lakshmi, Lakshmi Mata, Hanuman, Sita, Ram, Ayodha, darkness, light, wealth prosperity, deya, prasadum, roti and curry.

 

And after the deyas are lit, the prasadum shared, the food eaten and the fireworks set off (always the fireworks in this place), come next Wednesday we take off the cosmopolitan masquerade and go back to our lives of ignorance. And fete.

 

Far too often in Trinidad and Tobago we are happy being ignorant about issues, but putting up the front of knowledge. Everyone knows when Divali will be observed next week; many of us think we know how it is observed; but few of us,if any, truly understand the tenets of the religion that underpins Divali: Hinduism. And that starts right within the Indo-Trinbagonian community. Thanks to the annual performance of the Ramleela we can know the story of Divali, but ask the average Hindu to list for you the main tenets of Hinduism and I guarantee you going to get a lot of hemming and hawing. Ask them too what strand of Hinduism they belong to and wait for the pause. Unless the person is practicing the teachings daily, there is confusion.

 

The Hindu community here has often claimed marginalisation. When you probe deeper the marginalisation is linked to political appointments and power. The grumbled comments have little to do with practicing their religion and having their marriages be legitimized or even being allowed to observe and practice their religions at schools. By the time the country got Independence those issues were ironed out. It wasn’t even a situation of not having outlets for expression because as far back as the 1920s there were numerous Indo-specific newspapers that catered to both the Hindu and Muslim community. I  remember  Indian programmes on television as a child. I do not remember the same kind of programming for other ethnic groups. The Hindu grouse about marginalisation has always been that before 1995 no prominent positions within the Parliament was granted to a Hindu. It is a grouse that is still vented today because some members of the Hindu community still feel under appreciated and marginalised.

 

In 1962 VS Naipaul talked about Hindu culture being unknown and misunderstood in Trinidad and Tobago. He also pointed out that even Hindus didn’t understand all the complexities of their religion. In 1987 Dr Bhoe Tewarie made similar comments. Hindus had come into their own, because it was on their voting strength that the NAR rode into power (according to Tewarie). He pointed out too that it was time for Indians to accept the responsibility  for letting the wider society know more about them and integrating themselves into the wider society.

 

Between 1987 to the present, public knowledge about some aspects of Indian culture, but not necessarily Hinduism, has increased, mostly through music, cuisine and politics.

 

As with all of the ethnic groups located here, Indians have been stereotyped, Hindus more so because they came with a religion that marked them as different, pagan according to the colonial masters of the time. Because of the mystery shrouding this foreign religion Hindus were considered devil worshippers and practitioners of sorcery; the food they shared out after a pooja considered tainted because it had been offered to gods that the Christian communities here do not acknowledge; their gods are equated to idols; the community is thought to be enslaved to money and financial pursuits. The average Non-Hindu Trinbagonian will calmly tell you Hindus sacrifice their firstborn for money during Kali Pooja: not knowing who Kali is or what worship of that particular goddess is about. There is rank ignorance flying about masquerading as knowledge. And sadly enough, little effort is made on either side to bridge the gap. Hindu organizations focus on educating Hindus, not the wider nation, on Hinduism. Non- Hindus are mostly interested in the food and little else. Ignorance holds sway on either side.

 

 

 

We currently have a government that boasts quietly of being a Hindu government in a multicultural country where religion and state should be separated. It is a government whose actions most of the population interpret as being typical Hindu behavior. And for the religion that is a dangerous thing. Why? Because this government has become a caricature of the worst stereotypes normally applied to both Indians and Hindus. Its actions in the last 2.5 years have done little to shed positive light on the religion and its practices.

 

As a result of this government’s behaviour and Sat Maharaj’s silly comments, nepotism, corruption and racism are considered to be part of the Hindu value system.

So until we take end the pappy show of tolerance, and begin the hard work of educating  ourselves about each other which can lead to acceptance, me wearing a sari and continuing the masquerade is optional.

 

Shubh Divali, folks. Keep it Safe.

Putting the Nation Back on Track – Keith Rowley’s PNM 2012 Convention Address.

Political Leader of the Peoples National Movement (PNM), Dr. Keith Rowley on the occasion of the Party’s Annual Convention.

 

 

Venue: The Grand Stand, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain.Date: Sunday, October 28th, 2012

 

 

Theme of the Address:

 

 

Putting the Nation back on Track

 

 

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Senate, Parliamentary Representatives, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Leaders of Business, the Trade Union Movement, Members of the Central Executive and the General Council of the PNM, Constituency Chairpersons, Executive Members of the PNM Women’s League and the PNM Youth League, specially invited guests, distinguished Delegates, members of the media, other distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

 

 

Thank you very much for your warm welcome. Thank you also, Chairman of this afternoon’s proceedings, for your very kind introduction.

 

 

Today, October 28th 2012, is a remarkable day. My spirit tells me that it is a day which we shall always remember. It is a day filled with meaning, a day filled with significance and a day which gives all of Trinidad and Tobago a justifiable reason to be filled with joy. The PNM cup runneth over. The Peoples National Movement is alive and well.

 

 

The spirit of the PNM is moving through all the land. The bold and beautiful spirit of the PNM is awakened. You are the spirit, you are the backbone and you are the life of our nation. It is upon your sturdy and stubborn shoulders that Trinidad and Tobago will once more see the light. Your light shall shine like never before. Your light of freedom, your light of justice, your light of equal opportunity for all shall lead our people forward boldly and bravely into the Promised Land. Come the year 2015, or before, it is your dazzling and shining light that will lead the Peoples National Movement back into governance where the Peoples National Movement truly, sincerely and deservedly belong. Great is the PNM. It shall prevail.

 

 

I must admit that I am exceptionally enthused and overwhelmed by the spirit which is being displayed among you today. It is infectious. It brings back to me fond memories of the PNM with which I had grown up ever since I was a child: occasions when I could not have withheld the awe and esteem in which I gazed upon the noble men and strong women who pioneered selflessly over the years to make this Party, the Peoples National Movement, the only true, honest, dedicated, disciplined and committed political edifice ever to have adorned the landscape of our beautiful and bountiful twin island republic. The PNM: the one and only distinguished national political institution, forged from the souls of the people, driven by the spirit of the people,  built on the sincerity of the people and steadfast in its determination to work tirelessly and selflessly on behalf of the people for the ultimate benefit of all the people.

 

 

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, permit me to preface my address to you today by asking you to focus for a while upon two quotations which I have always treasured very dearly. The first one says:

 

 

“On August 31, 1962, a country will be free, a miniature state will be established, but a society and a nation will not have been formed. After August 31, 1962, the people of Trinidad and Tobago will face the fiercest test in their history – whether they can invest with flesh and blood the bare skeleton of their National Anthem, Here, every creed and race find an equal place.’ That is their challenge. They may fail….. But merely to make the attempt, merely to determine to succeed, would be an enormous tribute to their capacity, a powerful inspiration to frustrated humanity.”

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, those were the words of Dr. Eric Williams in his History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago (p. 282). The book was an Independence gift to his people – a chronicling of our history.

 

 

In yet another message, again written in his book, the History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago, here is what he said to us. And I quote:“What use will you make of your Independence? What will you transmit to your children five years from today? The first responsibility that devolves upon you is the protection and promotion of your democracy. Democracy means more, much more, than the right to vote. Democracy means recognition of the rights of others. Democracy means equality of all in the eyes of the law. Democracy means the protection of the weak against the strong. Democracy means the obligation of the minority to recognise the right of the majority. Democracy means responsibility of the Government to its citizens, the protection of the citizens from the exercise of arbitrary power (I repeat: protection of the citizens from the exercise of arbitrary power …. (Section 34 my emphasis…) and the violation of human freedoms and individual rights. Democracy means freedom of worship for all and the subordination of the rights of any one race to the overriding right of the human race. Democracy means freedom of expression and assembly and organisation… All that is Democracy…. Democracy, finally, rests on a higher power. It rests on an informed and cultivated and alert public opinion.”

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, these are the words of the founder of this party, the only Chief Minister, only Premier and first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Eric Eustace Williams. These words of enlightenment, wisdom and admonition were among the many which he left with us as part of his Independence Day Address to the Nation on August 31, 1962.

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I have chosen to remind you the officers, members, friends, supporters and well-wishers of this august Movement and indeed the people of Trinidad and Tobago of these prophetically inspired words of wisdom so that in addressing you today I can truly and decisively place the significance and singular importance of the 44th Annual Convention of The Peoples National Movement in its true, meaningful and urgent context.

 

 

So I have chosen as the title of my address to you this afternoon the theme: “Putting the Nation back on Track”

 

 

This year of our Lord, 2012, marks the 50th Anniversary of the Independence of the People of Trinidad and Tobago. The year 2012 also marks the 56th Anniversary of the birth of our Party. It is this Party, the Peoples National Movement, which safely and painstakingly took Trinidad and Tobago to Internal Self Government in 1956, full Self Government in 1958, led the Country faithfully and confidently to Independence in 1962. We then transformed the governance structure of the nation to that of republican status in 1976.

 

 

It is this party which today is taking steps to deepen and broaden its own internal democracy by giving all its members a direct say in selecting its leadership as well as the rest of the National Executive by one man one vote. Today a long and detailed process of consultation within our party has brought to you, from our General Council, proposals for your consideration and endorsement. I thank all of you who participated in this period of reform especially Mrs. Bridgette Annisette George and her Committee who guided the process to this successful conclusion. I look forward to addressing the Conference of Delegates, who in service to party and country, will gather at the City Hall on December 2nd to complete the exercise. This PNM is on the move.

 

 

Whatever may have occurred along the way marked by these historical milestones, and there is so much that the PNM could be justifiably proud of, one fact of history can never be erased. It is that it was the PNM that gave to the people of Trinidad and Tobago the right to determine our own destiny, under conditions dictated by our own people and for the good and welfare of all our citizens. That is an undeniable, indefatigable and inalienable truth and no bearer of gifts laden with false and fake manifestations dares question or challenge that.

 

 

Since attaining Independence, we as a people have witnessed changes in our landscape, many of them brought about by our own volition and others imposed upon us by forces over which we had no control.

 

 

Today, the world in which we live has become phenomenally different to the one in which we started our journey to nationhood in 1962. We have witnessed and continue to experience drastic and dramatic changes in our social, economic, cultural and political norms and in our personal lifestyles, some for good, others for evil: changes in ways too numerous to recall.

 

 

Set against this background, it is imperative that our Party, aspiring as we are, to return to Government at the next opportunity whenever it comes. We must of necessity diligently, and with decorum, prepare and equip ourselves to achieve this goal. In pursuing this legitimate expectation, we as an enlightened Party, are compelled to keep uppermost in our minds not only the conflicting and treacherous trends which are developing in our own backyard but, more watchfully and meticulously, we must take into account the major hemispherical economic, social and political imbalances that are currently shaping the course of world civilisation at an alarming pace. These are the developments around us which, like it or not, will have the greatest impact on how, at what speed and under what circumstances Trinidad and Tobago will see its way to strategically position itself in order to live up to the determination to move our Nation forward.

 

 

A quick glance at the world today tells us, that, as the present administration gropes in the dark for solutions to the nation’s nagging problems, as they continue to flounder, toss and turn from side to side, searching aimlessly and without a clue, for ways and means beyond the boundaries of their most ambitious but stunted capabilities; as they continue to test the patience and endurance and tamper with the minds and emotions of a tolerant and long suffering people, developments all around us are urgently calling, with understandable urgency, for leadership that is incisive, bold, imaginative, trustworthy and intellectually grounded. Unfortunately, what passes today as Governance in our beloved country is a far cry from that which meets the demands of these perilous times.

 

 

The world today is stagnated by unfavourable economic and security conditions  which challenge the most passionate potential of modern day civilization: civil unrest and strife in the Middle East, economic challenges in North and South America; stagnation and decline in the United Kingdom and Europe, atrocities being committed in the name of religion in Asia and Africa; starvation, poverty, deprivation, not too far from where we meet here today, hunger, homelessness, disease, some say hopelessness, afflict our brothers and sisters in Haiti. At least one Caricom country has defaulted on its debt and others are tottering on the brink.   We live in an era in which drug cartels exploit the parlous and corrupt conditions which plague and bedevil unstable communities. Drug lords roam the land in search of profit from human prey. Children are being used as pawns in societies bent only upon exploiting child labour for the almighty dollar. Human beings are being bought, trafficked and sold like everyday commodities and their body parts traded on the open market bereft of any feeling or emotion.

 

 

Here in our homeland, we have joined in the chorus.  The social fabric of the society progressively deteriorates; hard earned tax dollars and borrowed money are being frittered away in cavalier fashion by an unconscionable government; the new leaders, rather than respond to the urgent demands of a frustrated people in a hostile environment, focus their attention frivolously and provokingly on propaganda and party. Day after day they line their pockets and those of their favourites to a degree never before imagined, even in the worst of times.  As the melodrama continues, each Minister strives to be the main attraction, stalling and stumbling on stage: one jostling to be the village idiot from San Juan, the other to be the “energizer bunny action man” and  yet many others fight for the title of head crook.

 

 

We have to admit as well that we seem to have given up hope that this generation can stem the tide of influences which are imported from outside. Materialism has taken centre stage at the expense of spirituality. Integrity is being sacrificed at the altar of expediency. Quality is being surrendered for quantity, licentiousness is celebrated;   ethics and decency are scorned.  Official communication, based on truth and the fullness of information is abandoned under the least threatening circumstances, and substituted with the proverbial naked lies, half-truths and misrepresentations. To complicate matters even further, we now live in the now for now instant world where patience and tolerance appear to be alien virtues.

 

 

Our awareness of international issues which daily stare us in the face gives us no comfort, no respite. The new technologies of weapons of warfare, suicide bombings, poison mail, wanton violation of fundamental human rights, human trafficking, drug trafficking, racial and religious intolerance, crime and lawlessness, global warming, all create a complex, complicated and convoluted society which, if we dwell upon without faith, could appear overwhelming. Some of our people just cannot cope, especially our young. We spend so much time dealing with the problems of living that some of us have forgotten how to appreciate life. The means and the end are in conflict. It is a major challenge for all of us in the years ahead. It calls for strength, empathy, confidence, discipline and vision. It calls for the tried and tested PNM.

 

 

Are you ready to answer that call again? Ladies and gentlemen, this in miniscule format is but a brief overview of the issues which as a society and as a people we face today: issues which are being brushed aside by an uncaring and inept administration and, in more cases than we wish to recall, these burning issues are being trivialised in the very quarters where they are expected to receive the most ardent, efficient and expeditious treatment.

 

 

But, do not be dismayed, ladies and gentlemen, let not your hearts be troubled. The PNM is in charge.  Our rivals are in disarray and are running scared. Their empty promises are returning to haunt them, with a vengeance. And they know only too well that these are just some of the issues which we in the PNM are examining and addressing as we work hand in hand with you and all who care about our nation to find the most sensible, practical and humane solutions: solutions which will lift our people out of the depths of despair and pull them out of the valley of evil – the vale of iniquity – which this current, corrupt administration has singlehandedly and collectively plunged us all into.

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, rest assured that your PNM has not been idle. We have not been passive or asleep. In fact we have been encouraged by the convergence of vibrant support which has been knocking at our doors as we maintain our vigilance and put ourselves on the alert, ever aware as we are, of the insecurities and injustices which are being inflicted upon us all. Your leadership has been diligently and doggedly reconstructing and relaying the foundation for nationhood at a pace which exceeds all antecedents. We have been picking up the pieces, brick by brick, as we witness the uncivil and well-orchestrated dismantling of the institutions which once made us all so exceptionally proud, confident and assured of the illustrious destiny toward which we were heading in harmony until the agonizing aberration of May 2010.

 

 

And now in spite of all their protestations, these destroyers, posing as men and women of goodwill, but with no semblance of competence honour, dignity or conscience even in the most redeemable parts, continue to chip away at the solid foundation which was so painstakingly laid by our fathers and mothers, our great grandfathers and great grandmothers. They sacrificed to leave for us a country distinguished not only by the wealth of talent which they left behind but spiritually endowed with the vast potential of human endeavour which resides in those who are present and those who will follow us.

 

 

These long standing and treasured values are now being cynically and cavalierly trampled upon. The infamous Section 34 manipulation speaks out loudly and clearly. This disdainful act will stand for all time as the most offensive and dastardly act of betrayal which any Government has ever contemplated for execution upon our citizens. It represents a monumental abandonment of all the tenets of civilised behavior that are expected of Parliamentary representatives, in and out of chambers: uninhibited, disgraceful and distasteful disregard and disrespect for the welfare, image and wellbeing of the citizenry.

 

 

Let us face it ladies and gentlemen, any self-respecting Government with the minutest modicum of pride left in itself, having been so glaringly caught and disgraced, would have immediately demitted office for less than that. But here in Trinidad and Tobago what do we have? We have in our country, which we took so much pain to build; we have in our midst a Government which continues to make us the laughing stock of the world, a government whose only desire is to unashamedly hang on and scrape the bottom until time inevitably runs out.

 

 

In Trinidad and Tobago, what we must never allow to disintegrate are the many exemplary legacies which characterized each successive era. These must be jealously cherished, stubbornly protected and lovingly nurtured and, above all, must be made to endure. Legacies collectively represent the deeply engraved cornerstones upon which strong, progressive and mature societies prevail. This PNM and its unwavering commitment to develop all the people of Trinidad and Tobago is one such legacy for as we said in the beginning, emphasise today:“We are not an ordinary party in the narrow sense of the word. We are rather a rally, a convention of all and for all, a mobilisation of all the forces in the community, cutting across race and religion, class and colour, with emphasis on united action by all the people in a common cause.” (People’s Charter 1956)

 

 

So today I make this call to all who have ever been or have ever worked alongside us, who have ever voted for us, who have ever shared our vision of nationhood, regardless of who you are or where you’ve been, if you still subscribe to, and believe in these fundamental principles, come home to the PNM. If Trinidad and Tobago ever needed you, it is now. And for you young people who have never participated in the organized political process, it is your time now to get on board with the PNM and take responsibility for your country. We have a Youth League, a Women’s League and we are a proud and resilient Movement.

 

 

I sound a warning to all those who believe that they can rewrite our history. You will never succeed. Just as has happened in the past, you have come and you will go. But the PNM is here to stay. 56 years of unbroken and unshakeable solidarity and unconditional commitment to the people of Trinidad and Tobago indelibly portray the PNM record: a feat of no mean or ordinary distinction.

 

 

But what is the record on the other side? Instead of taking us forward, we see our gains being rolled back. We see our multi ethnic, multi- cultural,  multi- religious fabric being stressed to the point where failing, desperate, puny politicians invoke the spectra of rawan to describe political opponents and dissatisfied civil society. We see the press under sustained attack even to the point of Ministerial threats and open harassment of journalists at their homes and at their workplace.   We are still not even proud and confident enough in our legal and judicial evolution to embrace the idea of our own final Court of Appeal, except for a token, watered down and half-hearted attempt, trotted out for temporary, political expediency.

 

 

Those of you who would have heard or read my address to the nation on the occasion of our 50th Anniversary of independence will recall the capsule record of achievement which I shared with the national community. These were largely, PNM achievements, labored for hard and long over many decades of commitment and dedication to nation building. These achievements represented fulfillment of the vision much along the lines that the founding fathers saw it.

 

 

At the time of our Independence 50 years ago, our economy was dominated by foreign-owned enterprises.  But as much as foreign investment was and still remains important for our economic growth and development, the PNM was and still is of the view that as an independent nation, those areas of national life which our local young men and women can effectively direct and steer must remain or be placed under their control and management. But this scenario has changed.

 

 

Too many of our young people complain of being sidelined, overlooked or ignored as they seek to add value to the workplace. Their initiatives are dampened in spite of their high levels of academic qualifications, their energy and their impulsive enthusiasm for the taste of success. With passion bursting at the seams and their enormous potential for personal and professional growth and development, too many of our young people labour in the vineyard praying in vain for nothing more than mere recognition of that which they diligently desire to offer. The PNM stands for the creation of increased opportunities and for equal opportunity in national participation.

 

 

The PNM is committed to changing this culture of social deprivation. Upward mobility for our young men and women in all walks of life must become the goal and the order of the day. PNM abides by the philosophy which affords our young people their rightful and respectful place in the sun and their well-earned and deserved ascension to hierarchy in the workplace.

 

 

It was based upon this well-defined and established philosophy, that the PNM localised the banking, energy and insurance sectors and gave the country the First Citizens Bank and Petrotrin. We established the Unit Trust Corporation, the National Insurance Scheme, the National Insurance Property Development Company and the Home Mortgage Bank and many other initiatives of expansion. Where else would the leadership and support base of these new institutions have come but from the intellectualism, intelligence and potential for hard work which resided in the brilliant young people of our nation.

 

 

They on the other side try constantly to minimize our successes, consumed with making endless, deceitful, self-serving allegations.. They take pains and spare no effort in wasting taxpayer’s dollars to discredit where they fail to measure up. Their mantra is clear and focused. It is to hide the truth from the young people of the nation: the truth that PNM utilised the resources from our oil and gas earnings to create the Point Lisas Industrial estate and develop and expand the petrochemicals sector which will forever stand tall as one of the pillars of our stable economy offering sustainable employment to thousands of our young and ambitious technocrats, professionals, technicians and craftsmen. Today Point Lisas stands supreme as the largest and most diversified petrochemical-based industrial estate in the Commonwealth Caribbean. Sadly we have seen absolutely no improvement or growth of our industrial base under this coalition cabal, not even an idea which could blossom to a significant new project. As we sink lower on the anti- corruption index chart investors bypass us for safer shores where governments and their agents are less greedy and vulgar.

 

 

So when they come today pretending to make life easier for you by “‘removing VAT from food items’”, they are nothing more than annoying copy cats, mocking pretenders, transgressing the most innocent opportunity to deceive and to dishonor in their constant belief that you are stupid.

 

 

The task of rebuilding our nation is daunting: so widespread has been the demolition and destruction which has taken place in the recent past, some unfortunately inflicted in our time and among our own ranks.

 

 

Our Soca Warriors, once the pride and joy of our people have been stripped of their honor and dignity, reduced to mendicants travelling abroad to represent our country penniless and deprived of the meager means to purchase food, wash their clothing and be assured of shelter, but nevertheless flying our flag with honour and holding their heads up high in victory. What about those Soca Warrior heroes who brought us fame, honour and glory at World Cup level but are still languishing in utter dismay and disbelief awaiting their just due from a heartless and heavy handed administrator long after adjudication by the local courts in their favour – fighting for what is due to them from a Head Honcho openly and internationally labeled by one of the highest level Sports disciplinary institutions worldwide as being best known for his “Economy with the Truth”? Shaming and disgracing us on the world stage and then being rewarded to act as our Prime Minister. Is this the type of example we hold out to our children as we spend billions in schools trying to fashion them into good citizens of the next generation?

 

 

We have an Attorney General who is generally known more for his belligerent indiscretions, who admits to his inadequate qualifications for the successful performance of his duties, thrives on threatening law abiding citizens as he provides abysmally poor legal advice to the Government of which he is the legal head. All of this flies in the face of justice, fairplay and judicial integrity, wasting taxpayers’ money through unnecessary and uncalled for compensation to innocent citizens for false, misleading and misguided arrests and trumped up charges, depriving citizens of their right to liberty and freedom. How in God’s name did our beloved country descend to such low levels befuddles you and me and many of their own most ardent and loyal sympathizers.

 

 

And I can go on and on about a Prime Minister best known for her missteps, mistakes, miscalculations, misrepresentations misunderstanding of her power and authority over the Tobago House of Asembly; misinformed, misguided, wallowing in misfortunes, mis-directions, mis-appointments, mis-judgments, mis-allocations, and on most mornings missing in action and mostly leading a Government which clearly misses the mark.

 

 

What else can be said about this administration that we do not all already know? They have sought to strip us of our moral and spiritual values, whimsically influenced by a belief that money, in their hands, is the answer to everything. So they spend your money like if it is running out of style, casting all care and caution to the wind. In fact it is Makandal Daaga who warned us that that “they tiefing money like they invented it”. They now seize every opportunity to photo op even donations to the church obviously in the firm belief that they can even buy their way into heaven. They now think that they can buy Tobago!

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen what did Trinidad and Tobago do so wrong to have been deceitfully taken to this abominable and abysmal level? In two and a half years!!!!! I ask you pointedly and directly. Do we as a people deserve this? I ask again. Do we as a people deserve this? I can only be reminded of the Calypso by the late Lord Melody: “Woe is me, shame and scandal in the family” Now it is Woe is we, shame and disgrace for us in Trini”

 

 

So where does this leave us? Ladies and gentlemen the road ahead is going to be difficult as it will be treacherous; rough as it will be rugged; and costly as it will be complex and complicated. That is what they have driven us to but we are up to the task of putting this nation back on track.

 

 

As a party in Opposition and the Government in waiting, we have been working since 2010 on redesigning and redrafting the framework of our economic and social policies.  We began our work from the base of policies developed under Vision 2020.  You will recall that the Vision 2020 Plan, which as Minister of Planning and Development in 2003, I was pleased to engage as Chairman, one of our leading private sector businessmen. It involved several hundred qualified persons drawn from all sectors and areas of national life.  These persons contributed their time and expertise in formulating best options in every area of policy formulation, from International Relations, Education, Health and Poverty Reduction, to Housing, Social Services and Industry.  I can state without fear of contradiction that it was the most comprehensive consultative process ever undertaken in the history of economic and social planning in this country. This herculean effort must not be put to waste.

 

 

While the Vision 2020 Plan formed the base of our work, we know that the world has moved on since that period and considerable time has been lost, therefore, some aspects of our policy needed to be thought through afresh and reformulated to meet the new global, regional and national realities.  By way of illustration, the discovery and production of shale gas in the United States and America’s move to secure its energy independence have profoundly changed the dynamics of the global energy industry with significant, sobering implications for us here in Trinidad and Tobago.

 

 

In the area of Information and Communications Technology, the mobile revolution and the increasing use of cloud computing offers opportunity for software developers in any part of the world.  In the sphere of International Relations, the post 9/11 response to Islamist militancy, the Arab Spring, the surging Chinese presence in Africa and Latin America in search of natural resources will test traditional alliances and require Caribbean nations to determine how we should position ourselves in the emerging world order. The sudden collapse of Wall Street in 2009 and the lowering of horizons in Dubai have reshaped the prospects for the growth and diversification of the world of Financial services where we had hoped to participate.

 

 

Our policy working groups have continued to grapple with these issues, engaging expertise locally and abroad, to reformulate the PNM’s policy agenda for the next decade and beyond.  This work is ongoing, well advanced and will be comprehensive and thorough; forming the basis of our manifesto readiness.  I would like to take this opportunity to provide some of the preliminary thinking that has emerged from our work and which will form the foundation of our policies in several areas going forward.

 

 

First, successive governments, including past PNM administrations, have fostered an overwhelming dominant role for the state in spawning, nurturing and sustaining our economic efforts. This aspect of national life runs parallel with a growing welfare bill which may not be sustainable in a period of prolonged deficit spending and potential unbearable debt burdens.  We would need to stimulate production in every area with private sector capital being encouraged to assume a much greater responsibility alongside a government philosophy which continues to see a pivotal catalysing role for the state as we set out to grow our economy through ideas and initiatives utilizing our savings of local capital and whatever foreign direct investment which we are able to harness. We also would need to tackle all elements of wasteful consumption.

 

 

The outlook for the medium term is a challenge to finance and maintain the national standard of living that we have attained and have become accustomed to. Our first assignment is to prevent any erosion of our standard of living as we focus on improving what we have already achieved. We are an innovative and resilient people who, with the cooperation of Government, business and labour are capable of the highest levels of productivity in such a way that our best achievements could be made to lie ahead of us.  More than ever, we have to bring those qualities to the fore.

 

 

In a situation where government revenues will be constrained, we must limit government to targeted interventions designed to secure increased production, exports and employment in decent, jobs that pay well.  We must encourage our local private sector to cease its almost total reliance on government projects and contracts and to be more proactive in pursuing opportunities for growing their businesses here in Trinidad and Tobago, in the region and in the wider world.  I know that some businessmen and professionals are already doing so.  More of them need to do that.

 

 

The next PNM Government will work harder at encouraging a better collaborative environment between business and labour so as to minimise distrust and maximise Government’s role as an investor and a facilitator in establishing economic projects in which Government, business and labour could have an investment stake as we expand the national economic pie for the improved benefit of an expanded investor class.

 

 

Our people need to embrace the values of Personal Responsibility, Personal Initiative and Commitment to Responsible Family Life. The new social support framework and expenditure will be reoriented towards this goal.

 

 

A PNM government will ensure that its policies and programs are geared to provide you with safer communities, accessible, affordable water and electricity, decent roads and bridges, mass transportation and a clean environment. We will provide the full range of opportunity for a good education which will allow our children become well prepared citizens ready to hold good, well-paid jobs in the public and private sector. We will invest in and provide quality primary and secondary health care so that you can lead a productive and healthy life.  But it is up to you to take personal responsibility for your success, to create or find productive jobs, to ensure that your children learn at school, to save part of your income for the future, and to carry on a healthy lifestyle which will prevent diseases such as diabetes and hypertension later on in life.

 

 

I want to emphasise that what I have articulated is not new to the PNM. As a party, we have always embraced the values of Personal Responsibility, Personal Initiative and Commitment to Family Life.  It was Dr. Williams in his speech entitled The Chaguaramas Declaration: Perspectives for the New Society who said, and I quote:

 

 

“Perhaps the PNM Government has sometimes in the past gone too far in being paternalistic in the face of the severe lack of social amenities (particularly housing) and appalling levels of unemployment.  But the New Society must now place greater emphasis on self-reliance and personal and group initiative.  The urban dispossessed must still be assisted by the State in many ways, but they must learn to create employment for themselves… Hard work, thrift and perseverance must … become a way of life for most of us.”

 

 

Forty years later, those words are still relevant and resonant.  Personal Responsibility, Personal Initiative and Commitment to Family Life.  These are the values which underpin our policy thinking and which will be the touchstones of economic and social policy under the new PNM administration.

 

 

A Team comprising all elected Members of Parliament, Senators, Local Government Representatives, Chairmen and Mayors of Cities and Regional Corporations, and Officers of the Movement have been involved in a series of retreats where we have reviewed policies and programs in the following areas:- Energy, Macro Economy, Diversification, Education, Health, Foreign Affairs, Sports and Culture, and Local Government. National Security and Social Services will be considered at our next retreat early in the New Year.

 

 

Let me outline at least two policy initiatives which a next PNM Administration will pursue in office.  I need to say that those initiatives will continue to be refined and developed, and become more specific as we move toward 2015 when we come back into office.

 

 

First, the Energy and Energy-based industries require urgent attention.  Energy policy is an area which must transcend whichever party or government happens to be in power.  In short, you can’t play politics with Energy policy.  The foreign multinationals which are important to our exploration and development efforts plan globally over a period of 20 to 25 years.  They are not concerned with our electoral politics and they cannot plan if energy policy changes with every change of government. They need to be sure that there is consistency in policy and transparency in how those policies are applied.  Our competitive advantages in natural gas are being eroded by technological and market developments and we have seen, in recent years, a disastrous decline in oil production to levels not seen since the 1950s.  We will focus our attention on three areas.

 

 

First, working with and fostering our energy services industry to provide professional and technical services to newer developing areas of oil and gas production in South America and in Africa.  Many of our local companies are already involved in these efforts with the support and cooperation of the ministry of Energy, and a PNM administration will intensify and broaden these efforts. We will explore the opportunity to place our considerable knowledge, human resource and diplomatic clout with selected corporate partners who are prepared to joint venture with the state sector in new domains outside of Trinidad and Tobago.

 

 

Second, the positions of both Petrotrin and the NGC in the emerging energy landscape need to be revamped (merger into a Petrobras Style Administration).  We are currently engaging with experienced industry practitioners in this regard and will also consult with the trade unions involved in this sector as we map the way forward.

 

 

Thirdly, we need to re-position our energy-based industries – ammonia, urea, methanol (moving downstream of these) — given the medium and long term outlook for gas prices in this hemisphere.  Here too we will be consulting with industry players and with professionals with deep knowledge of this area to formulate the best approach.

 

 

A PNM government will however, not be a buyer of last resort of plants which are beyond their useful economic life, but we will partner with companies in pursuing new initiatives and share the risks of these where we can identify clear and tangible benefits to the country in so doing.

 

 

We would want to work with the Opposition in ensuring that Energy policy transcends political immaturity. To this end we would establish the Parliamentary Committee on Energy to oversee and develop longer term strategies. I would like to expand a bit on the macro-economic environment for business activity since this is an area of immediate and great concern given the policies pursued over the last three years by the UNC administration.  First, we know that the outlook for revenues flowing to government over the medium term is not encouraging.  We also know from experience that the macro-economic situation can change adversely very quickly.  We therefore must not put ourselves in a position of higher debt levels which are ultimately unsustainable.  The way things are going, the PNM might well find dangerously high levels of debt when we come to office in 2015 or sooner.  We have to prepare ourselves for this scenario. We will also tackle frontally the Transfers and Subsidies budget by ensuring that monies spent under this head are targeted and achieve their purpose, and when the objective has been achieved, the subsidies must be reduced.

 

 

We will also separate the Heritage component from the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund and place disbursements from the Heritage component under the control of Parliament.  The Heritage component is for the long term benefit of our grandchildren and our great grandchildren, and we must ensure that use of those funds is not subject to the exigencies of the day or to the whims and fancies of any government in power.

 

 

Our policy teams are working and continuing to consult widely on the reformulation of the policies of the next PNM government.  We will develop these policies in greater detail and with specific areas of intervention and legislation, so that the legislative agenda will also flow from this work.  We are a serious party, committed to working for the betterment of all of our citizens by pursuing sensible and well thought out policies that meet the needs of the times in which we find ourselves.

 

 

The Energy Crisis Deepens

 

 

In my contribution to the 2013 budget debate, I made the point that the economic review of the energy sector confirmed that this important sector of Trinidad and Tobago which, over the past 25 years, has fuelled our economy is in serious crisis.  Every element of that sector was shown to be in decline but the Minister of Finance gave but three (3) paragraphs in his budget presentation to that sector without recognizing the nature of the crisis.

 

 

The decline, prompted by gas curtailment to the end users, has created a more serious problem – namely: reducing the attractiveness of Trinidad and Tobago as a preferred destination for investment in the gas intensive industries.  The reduction of gas supplies has led to a reduction in the production of ammonia, urea, methanol and steel.

 

 

Unfortunately, this reduction which has been in existence for the past two (2) years has coincided with better market prices for these products.  Better market prices lead to higher gas prices – normally, something of great benefit to the country; but when gas shortage results in decrease in production, the reverse is true – reduced profits for the downstream companies also leads to reduced income for the country. The current Government believes that fortuitous sales on the volatile spot market are a satisfactory substitute for a sustainable response.

 

 

However, a more frightening result of the present situation is that – not only new investors are being discouraged but even existing investors are considering leaving and seeking to invest elsewhere.

 

 

There are at least two (2) current examples.  One major investor in Trinidad and Tobago is in the process of moving plants from another country not to Trinidad and Tobago, normally an obvious choice. Up until recently, Trinidad and Tobago was a preferred destination for such plants; but it’s now going directly to the USA where, for the first time in several years, gas prices and reliability of supply are beginning to be competitive with those being offered in Trinidad and Tobago.

 

 

We may be witnessing the start of investors fleeing or reducing their investments in Trinidad and Tobago. Prior to this we have to be prepared for proper responses to discussions centred on gas pricing and supply issues in Trinidad and Tobago.

 

 

There are solutions to this energy crisis but, as in any crisis, there must be first acceptance of the fact that there is a crisis and a decision to treat with it imaginatively and with urgency.

 

 

The present administration refuses to give recognition to this and, in any event so far, has not shown any level of competence in treating with the energy sector.

 

 

Yes ladies and gentlemen, now it befalls the PNM, you and me, and all right thinking citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, and all our friends, well-wishers and supporters to rally to the cause, to close ranks and face up to the daunting challenge of PUTTING THE NATION BACK ON TRACK. That is our Mission from here on in. PUTTING THE NATION BACK ON TRACK.

 

 

So the question which remains to be answered is this. Where do we begin?

 

 

In providing the answers to this question, of one thing you can be sure. It is this: It cannot and will not be a case of business as usual.

 

 

Much has occurred in and around us that requires us to take a very serious, sincere, objective and honest look at ourselves not only as a Party, not only as an Institution  not only as a force to be reckoned with, as much as a force of no mean significance we already are. We have to prepare ourselves to take back our country.

 

 

We can do so not by wishful thinking, not simply by having a burning desire nor by winning an election as win we must and win we will. As important and significant as these factors may be, they are not ends in themselves. They are only the means to the end.

 

 

So, Ladies and gentlemen, what this means, what this signifies is that we in this country have come to the most defining moment of our 50 years as an independent nation. There can be no turning back. The events of the past 30 months, since this administration has come into office, are enough to make it abundantly clear to all citizens whose interest in the welfare and wellbeing of Trinidad and Tobago is pure, honest and sincere that the time has come for all citizens to make the most delicate and defining choice with respect to what they wish for our country. What do we really, truly and sincerely wish for our Country.

 

 

The choice is simple and straightforward but the way forward, once the right choice is made will be hard and may be demanding.

 

 

There are only two options. There can be no middle of the road: Ladies and gentlemen. Members of the PNM.  It is a choice between the forces of good or the forces of not so good. That is the choice. It could not be clearer. It could not be more straightforward. I repeat. You have to make the choice between the forces of progress and the forces of regression. We in this country have come to the most serious crossroad since our attainment of Independence. The lessons of the past 30 months have placed that burden upon us as a Nation and we cannot slink away from it or shirk our responsibilities.

 

 

Those of us who wish to put the county back on track have no choice but to line up with the PNM. The PNM raises the standard for Progress and welcomes all who desire to follow that standard for Trinidad and Tobago. Those who wish otherwise and or wish to stay on the fence all we say to them is think hard and think deep. The forces of good will always triumph over the forces of evil. For us in the PNM, the choice is as clear as day follows night. So the battle is engaged and of one thing we in the PNM are assured.  Victory will be ours.

 

 

Out of the depths of nothing came the unprepared coalition in May 2010. They came, pretending to bear gifts of love, but instead gave us mountains of hate; instead of gifts of caring they have injected division and fear; instead of gifts of a better way of life they have made us to suffer; instead of truth, honesty and integrity, they have poisoned our space with graft, greed, and corruption and last but by no means least instead of gifts of comfort and faith in ourselves, they have sought to shake the firm foundation of our confidence in ourselves; they ridicule  us  and portray us as figures of fun in the region and the world. The time has come for them to depart. And so I declare unto the hapless Partnership:  From nothing and with nothing you have come and so unto nothing and by elections you shall return.

 

 

And so, with this pronouncement to all and sundry, on behalf of the People’s National Movement, I, as Political Leader do hereby now further declare that the battle to rescue and save our country is on. The troops are gathering in Tobago and the moment of decision is at hand.

 

 

From the first moment the Prime Minister set foot on Tobago, her bellicose stance was marked by her declaration that she has “courthouse clothes” and her hostility to the duly elected PNM- controlled Tobago House of Assembly never abated. She refused to acknowledge the existence of the legal Executive body and insulted the Assembly at every turn but Tobagonians are a proud, respectful people who are more than capable of enduring these slights and defending their honor with dignity.

 

 

Unlike the PNM they have chosen minority partners in Tobago in the hope that they could prevail, not directly, but by proxy. Such deceitful traps are doomed to failure.

 

 

The PNM on the other hand has been evolutionary, open and always upfront with our sisters and brothers in Tobago. Within our party we amended our Constitution to devolve autonomy to the Tobago Island Council. This regional arm of our party has been functioning effectively in representing the people of Tobago under the wise and steady hand of Deputy Political Leader Orville London and his Tobago team. We are very proud of them.

 

 

With respect to Tobago’s desire for greater autonomy in the form of internal self- government, it was the PNM, at a national Convention in Chaguaramas, in 2010, which accepted a resolution in support of the island-wide consutations which were embarked upon by the Assembly in search of a Tobago position on this matter.

 

 

We let the Tobagonians conduct and conclude the process, all along with a commitment from this party, that we will support Tobago’s legitimate aspirations. That commitment stands and is unshakeable. If there are those who believe that their political expediency and puppetry could trump the intelligence of Tobagonians then we invite them to identify themselves.

 

 

As Political Leader of The PNM, and a Tobagonian by birth, I deliberately allowed the Tobago position to emerge without interference having stated that I would join in support at the appropriate time and all Tobagonians know that they can count on me, and the PNM, to protect the best interest of Tobago.

 

 

The PNM is on the march. The march is on to return your Party to its leadership role in providing enlightened, enriching, honest and good governance to our beloved land. The ground work is being methodically, systematically and scientifically laid.

 

 

It involves taking the necessary steps to engage in institutional strengthening; to remodel, reshape and redress the PNM to bring it in line with the changes and demands of a modern and enlightened society. It involves taking advantage of the wealth of talent which abounds, wherever it is to be found; reopening our doors, welcoming the patriots in, assembling the best brains in the country, embracing the vast reservoir of knowledge, skills and expertise of all fellow travellers to nationhood. All of whom without exception have been the beneficiaries of PNM education, PNM training, PNM opportunities for advancement professionally and academically and PNM wealth creation over decades of PNM vision, PNM values and PNM virtues. We are expanding our frontiers and extending our vision beyond party to country, the region and the world at large.

 

 

But here is the key to it all.

 

 

Suffice it to say that since I have been honoured to serve you in the capacity of Political leader of this great Party, I have been privileged to assemble several teams of dedicated and committed individuals in and out of the party who have been engaged in the process of developing the infrastructural framework within which to restore the Party to the pride of place which it once enjoyed in shaping the destiny of all the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

 

 

You have heard from our Deputy Chairman, Ms. Camille Robinson Regis in respect of the call by many of you to bring about constitutional reform within the party. Now this is a very serious matter. It is serious not only because it is absolutely necessary, but also because of the fact that as the party prepares itself to resume its rightful place in the governance of the country, the evasive issue of constitutional reform will take center stage in putting the nation back on track.

 

 

The fact of life is that since our establishment in 1956, that is 56 years ago, the constitution of the PNM has not undergone any significant upgrade. This is in the face of the fact that change has been taking place all around us. The times are different, the experiences are different, social and educational transformation engulfs us, we have moved away from being a colonial territory owing allegiance to others, to being masters of our own destiny. The experiences of politics, government and governance have evolved worldwide, way beyond anything that we could have anticipated or dreamt of. Faced with these realities we would be bordering upon being naïve or obsolete not to recognize the urgent imperative to reshape our constitution, to give our membership a greater say in the decision making process and to improve the system of democracy which must govern all that we do. Ours must be a party which must thrive on decentralized power and authority, transferring power from the bosoms of the few and placing the power of the party in the hands of the many. So that work is in progress and you our members and the national community will hear more about this in the not too distant future.

 

 

We are also engaged in an exercise which seeks to bring all our Constituencies in line with modern and up to date structural adjustment. In other words we are engaged in a Constituency modernization exercise designed to reinvigorate our Constituencies, bring them to life, and create the environment for meaningful membership participation and involvement in a very positive and satisfying way; giving life and meaning to the doctrine of being a Party of the people, by the people and for the people. This too you will hear much more about imminently.

 

 

We are currently reviewing the Nation’s Constitution. You are no doubt aware that many administrations, including our own PNM have been talking this question of Constitutional Reform, filling our hearts and minds with great expectation but so far with precious little to show for it. With national consensus and commitment to the citizenry we could revolutionize the way that this country is governed in such a way as to bring our governance in line with that which is expected within a modern, civilized and enlightened environment. This will be a major plank upon which we plan to incorporate the citizenry in becoming actively involved in the governance of our country. We will do this not just as a PNM exercise but in conjunction with as wide a cross section of the national community as is feasible and available.

 

 

These are just a few of the initiatives which we are pursuing as we prepare ourselves.  It means redefining our roles, reengineering our organization, and putting all the systems in place to provide you with modern and contemporary governance even prior to resuming office once more in the year 2015, or sooner.

 

 

Side by side with these initiatives are others which will see the modernisation of the party secretariat and Headquarters, the way in which we communicate with you the membership in general and the quality of relationship which we maintain with the national community, the way in which we interact and interface with the special interest groups, the labour movement, how we rebrand the leadership, how we relate with the mass media, giving them their due regard and respect, how we reassure the Trinidad and Tobago Diaspora, our citizens and friends overseas that relief is coming and that soon they can return to holding their head up high as proud and privileged citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.

 

 

How we engage and treat our women, our mothers, our daughters and our sisters and grant to them the dignity and respect which is their right:, whether it be in the household, the workplace, the playing field, on the roads they walk, in the parties, the mas bands, wherever and whenever, that dignity which we owe our women must be restored and assured, come what may. And last but by no means least the confidence and faith which we must repose in our young people that they too can return to the days when they can stand tall and be counted, confident that there is a place and an opportunity for them as they chart their course into the future and live the dreams which only they themselves dare to dream.

 

 

Yes, fellow members of the PNM. This is the beginning of a new dawn …..for you, for your party and for our country. A great deal is taking place behind the scenes and soon we will unveil it all to you, at the right time and in the right place.

 

 

Over the past 50 years and more, in spite of our frailties, in spite of our shortcomings, no one can deny that the PNM did its best to make you and the nation proud. Today, the call is no different. We are committed as a party to make our nation proud once again.

 

 

In this regard I want you to remember one thing: This reincarnation, this resuscitation, this resurgence is not about me, nor is it about Camille, or Faris or any one person, group or institution in the PNM. In fact it is not even about the PNM. It is about Country.

 

 

It is also about you, it is about all the people of Trinidad and Tobago irrespective of colour, class, creed, religious persuasion or ethnicity. It is about all of us, you and me, your children and mine, young and old alike and it is about the pride in ourselves and faith in our destiny which we are called upon to fight for with all our might if we are to recover the lost ground and to restore this Nation to the position of prominence which it once enjoyed among the illustrious international family of nations. We can only achieve this …. together.

 

 

And so, let me begin my descent and take you to a safe landing  by asking you to commit yourselves to the progress and development of our Nation in the manner which has been so eloquently, meaningfully and intellectually prescribed  in the words of our Party’s first Political Leader and the nation’s foremost Prime Minister  and I quote:

 

 

“Together, the various groups in Trinidad and Tobago have suffered, together they have aspired, together they have achieved. Only together can they succeed. And only together can they build a society, can they build a nation, can they build a homeland.      Eric Williams, History of Trinidad and Tobago (p.279) On April 24th 2007, the President of the Republic of South Africa His Excellency Thabo Mbeki bestowed posthumously on Dr. Eric Williams, the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa’s Supreme Order of the Companion of O. R Tambo (Gold). The tribute was in recognition of Dr. Williams’s commitment to peace and cooperation and his inspiration to South Africa’s own quest for unity and harmony.

 

 

According to Professor William Darity of Duke University, “The vision during South Africa’s struggle for liberation was strikingly similar to the vision of that great West Indian Historian and Prime Minister Eric Williams who directly addressed the great diversity of his own country in the cause of national unity. He quoted Eric Williams as follows:

 

 

“There can be no Mother India for those whose ancestors came from India. There can be no Mother Africa for those of African origin. There can be no Mother England, and no dual loyalties. There can be no Mother China, even if one could agree as to which China is the Mother and there can be no Mother Syria and no Mother Lebanon. A Nation, like an individual can have only one Mother and a Mother cannot discriminate between her children.”

 

 

He said“This is the wisdom that we too apply in our quest for a single South Africa,” wrote President Mbeki in his foreword to the 2005 book: Timol: A Quest for Justice by Imtiaz Cajee.He went on to say that “Dr. Williams example continues to be a force in South Africa’s fight against hegemony and the President praised Williams for the latter’s efforts in this regard in his 2005 feature address at the 50th Anniversary of the Bandung Conference which marked a turning point in the mobilisation of third world peoples against imperialism – both past and present.

 

 

This posthumous Award which was conferred upon Dr. Williams by the President of South Africa, His Excellency Thabo Mbeki,   was in fact instituted by the President himself to reflect the new spirit of South Africa to create a history of South Africa’s achievements and to provide motivation to future citizens.

 

 

The account recorded the fact that “The Supreme Order is awarded in three classes of which the Gold which was posthumously bestowed upon our first Prime Minister, Dr. Eric Eustace Williams is the pinnacle”.

 

 

Fellow PNM members, even as others ignore it, we cannot allow this distinction which has been posthumously bestowed upon our nation’s founding father to be frittered away and be lost to our own generations. It behooves each and every one of us to take that cue from the people of South Africa who even today, hold our first Prime Minister in such high esteem. It is a distinction of unquantifiable international acclaim and dimension which regrettably the current regime, jealous and afraid of their own shadows, not only hates to come to terms with but many times seek to discredit and/or to hide from our people.

 

 

No greater tribute to the memory of the father of our nation and to the people of Trinidad and Tobago and South Africa can be paid than all of us, rank and file of the PNM, committing ourselves to return our party to the pinnacle. Let us as a country aspire to restore our nation to the pinnacle. Let us together aspire. Let us together achieve. Long live, the PNM.  Long live the nation of Trinidad and Tobago, Long live our native land.

 

 

GREAT IS THE PNM!  GREAT IS THE PNM! GREAT IS THE PNM! AND IT SHALL PREVAIL.

 

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for affording me the opportunity to address you on this very auspicious occasion, enjoy the balance of the evening, mix and introduce yourself to someone whom you have never met. Return safely to your homes after the party in the courtyard and may almighty God bless each and every one of you and May God Bless our nation.

The significance of Muslim Coolie

I am part coolie and proud. Blame my grandfather. He is the one that led the charge to break the unspoken rules of race purity that people think should exist here. He saw a woman of Portuguese and African descent and decided he was making young Ms Ribeiro his wife. Of course it led to his family disinheriting and shunning him. But I hope it was worth it for him. All of his children, my father included, kept the misbehavior going and continued the tradition of making mixed children. In fact, my father went to the extent of ensuring that his children could lay claim to Tobagonian roots as well. So when we plant our feet on the soil here we have no qualms about saying we are Trinidadian AND Tobagonian. Shout out to Mommy!

Perhaps it is this heritage that makes me feel I belong to this place and the place belongs to me. So when people like Jamal Mohammed make comments about being “insignificant Muslim coolies”, I  have to stop and wonder. You belong to the largest ethnic group in the country and are a part of the ruling government. How exactly are you insignificant?

The Indian male has always been a confuffling creature for me. VS Naipaul often describes the Indian male as weak and cartoonish, reliant on his privileged place in a patriarchal system; secure only in the rituals and traditions imported from India. Now to be fair, this isn’t an accurate description of all Indian males. But Naipaul’s description of more than 50 years ago give the impression that only when insulated by their specific sub-culture does the Indian male feel secure. Of course Naipaul is probably really referring to the Hindu male; just as Bhoe Tewarie does in 1987, when he too talked about Hindus still being insular and having a responsibility to open up an understanding of Hinduism to the rest of the country.

After 167 years, with all of their strides in business, education, culture and politics why do Indian men still feel so insecure here? Why too, after more than a century and a half of sharing the same space is there still a fear of mixing. I’m not making this up. Listen to any of the radio stations and the code is there. I have longstanding friends of Indian descent who admit sheepishly that they can’t take home a non-Indian boy or girl. When you probe further you find out though that non-Indian there is really code for African. Chinese, Syrian/Lebanese and European are just fine.

Mohammed’s “insignificant Muslim coolie” annoyed me on several levels though. You see, having grown up in a mixed family, in a predominantly Indian village of Hindus, Muslims and Christians, I can tell you that when it is so easy for an Indian to call himself “coolie” in a self-deprecating way, it is even easier for him to call someone a “nigger”. And Mohammed’s easy use of racial epithets in a letter to the head of news at a media house tells me that he probably uses the language more often than we can imagine. And this man sits in our Senate and functions as a government minister? When I consider too that the Prime Minister never came out to publicly condemn the statements and actions of the Mohammed, I am even more concerned, because it tells me that the leader of this Government is really past caring what we think of its behavior.

Mohammed’s subsequent apology rings hollow for me and I will tell you why. To write to Dominic Kallipersad in your unofficial capacity – whatever that means for a government minister – is to imply that you and Mr Kallipersad have an unofficial relationship. That perhaps the two of you are friends or former colleagues. There is nothing to suggest that. So, then, when Mr Mohammed says he is writing in an unofficial capacity, what capacity did he mean?

Further, you write a private email in an unofficial capacity using politically incorrect language and fundamentally threatening the media, and when informed that the intention is to let the e-mail go public your response amounts to a shrug?

I think Jamal Mohammed wanted that e-mail to be released to the public and for the simple reason of appealing to the party base. Jack Warner started this several weeks ago when he held up the Express with a story by Asha Javeed. In doing that Warner sought to achieve several things: begin a witch hunt of both Ms Javeed and the Express and distract the country from discussing Section 34. It didn’t work. I don’t want to make light of the idiots trolling and harassing Ms Javeed online; or of the public officials requesting the phone records of media workers; but even with all of these atrocities, the public’s attention remains fixed on Section 34.

In making his comment, Mohammed was again reminding the voter base, this time a direct appeal being made to the “insignificant muslim coolies”, that the enemy right now is the media: Tv6 and Express. This government never fails to take an opportunity to reinforce ethnic divisions in their quest to remain in office. A few weeks ago it was “get in yuh section” from the PM, now it’s Jamal Mohammed subtly reminding the Muslim voter base from San Juan that the government is under siege and they must rally to defend it.

Ignore the fact that this government has access to state tv and radio stations and regularly buys out air time to spread its message. No the focus must be the enemy. The enemy is CCN, and to make sure that people accept that CCN is evil he links the media house with the PNM. Anything linked to the PNM is evil and therefore makes it acceptable to rally against.

Don’t get tie up  folks, Jamal Mohammed’s outburst this week was very calculated. It was done to distract from the motion being brought against the AG that is linked to Section 34. Look out next week for another distraction in the lead up to the march. This government is now so desperate to cling onto to power that it will even call itself names and denigrate its identity. It will prostitute good sense, rely on racist slurs and epithets to rile up the electorate, all in a sad pathetic attempt to distract from their failings.

De Vice Cyah Done!

The We vs Them Syndrome

 

I am going to try and keep this simple.

 

Our society has, since the arrival of Europeans, and even before, been based on hierarchies. Having different people fall into categories of importance is crucial to how we operate. And in order to create these categories we have to find the ways in which we differ and capitalise on them.

 

So, Columbus would have landed and the Spanish would have decided that because they had guns and swords that made them superior. But you see, you cant justify to people that having superior weaponry makes you fit to dominate and rule them. No, you have to find something more palatable. An ideology that is people friendly and in our current age media friendly. So in Columbus’ time the story given was that we have come to bring salvation and civilisation to the Amerindians. Not because they didnt have a religious or political system, but because in order to rule the Amerindians and take their land and resources, they needed to impose Spanish rule. What made the story work, was the weapons they had. Because if there was any opposition to their system of rule, well you could be killed, your family destroyed.

 

As you fast forward through our history you see how the use of hierarchies, or “we vs them” theory continues to work. Other things are added, skin colour, ethnicity, education levels, political affiliations. It’s all there to see and all very apparent. How this place has been governed since Europeans arrived hasn’t changed at all in 500 years. And we are still fighting amongst ourselves for the same things: land and resources.

 

As you make your way through our history the cries and claims of oppression, marginalisation and discrimination are heard over and over again. It  first started with the Amerindians, and they were well within their right. Their homes were invaded and taken over and they never got one cent of rent, not even an instalment. The Spanish managed a quiet and systematic takeover and today you wont hear any of the descendants of Spanish landowners acknowledge their past. Let’s please move on.

 

The Africans brought here whether enslaved, freed or indentured (yes, we had Africans here who were bond servants, not enslaved, they came before East Indians), all lay claim to being marginalised and oppressed as well. And you have to ask yourself why exactly the free Africans, or as historians refer them, the free coloureds, could think they were marginalised. After all many of them were land owners, professional men and some even owned slaves themselves, so why did they feel discriminated against? Well, simply put, they didn’t have political power and were denied access to it until the 1920s. Interestingly enough, these free coloureds, didn’t see themselves as part of the black working class. Again, “we vs them”. They were education professionals and landowners, they had nothing in common with black labour. Black labour became important to the free coloureds in the 1950s, when everyone over 21 could vote.

 

East Indians were marginalised by both whites and blacks here. But to look at our current dynamics you would swear that it was the Afro-descended population that imported indentured labour and then exploited Indians on estates. You’d swear too that ethnic stereotyping of all the groups here started within the labouring groups of Africans and Indians. Not so. Those stereotypes were often introduced by the ruling class and then expanded on. Stereotypes are useful tools for establishing differences where there are none and creating rivalry. If you had to run a place where the labour force larger than management, wouldn’t you use divide and rule policies? Wouldnt you create stereotypes to assist you? Unfortunately the war of words where race and racism is concerned has become so convoluted no one can trace its roots, so now it boils down to a confusing “we vs them” finger pointing and name calling as we all fight for land and resources.

 

The other groups that literally make up our 1% have all faced their fair share of marginalisation because of their small numbers here. We tend to generalise and think they are all wealthy. But we have low income Europeans, Arabs and Chinese here and our general resentment over how little our wealth is distributed makes us lash out. Again, “we vs them”. And in this instant, it’s the poor majority lashing out at what they think is a wealthy minority.

 

The real anomaly in our matrix folks is that despite all the clear as day “we vs them” policies, we still talk about every creed and race finding an equal place. Given how our country was developed, that is a pipe dream. And the “all o we is one” lie gets perpetuated with Carnivals, festivals and funding for the arts. Everybody is quick to point out how mixed and unified we are. But we are really not.

 

And that’s why Kamla Persad-Bissessar can tell her supporters “get in yuh section”. That is why all politics before her has been about get in your section. In “we vs them” ideology, the minority rides the back of the majority to remain successfully on top. Kamla, understands only too well, having followed the example of past regimes, that you must never completely satisfy your voter base, because then they wont need you; but you have to keep your financiers ecstatic.

 

You see, a contented voter base means people have jobs, adequate income, good services and amenities, decent quality of life. The minute your population is that happy, they stop voting based on tribe, and vote based on issues. So, in fact, political life here depends on keeping the status quo of “we vs them” in tact.

 

The sad thing is, in “we vs them” ideology, is not Europeans vs Amerindians anymore, but we fighting with weself.

 

De Vice Cyah Done!