"A Disposition To Clarity."

Here are just some voices from among the growing chorus of our nation's compassionate and intelligent witnesses.
A people brave but naked before power.
By Sunity Maharaj
Trinidad Express Newspapers | Jan 11, 2012

Perhaps Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Justice Wendell Kangaloo will find the generosity to forgive us for doing what we simply had to do. Once again, in the absence of institutional capacity for doing better, we have had no choice but to sharpen our tongues and go for the jugular.

For, after 50 years of Independence; after the PNM, NAR, UNC and PP; after so many generations of our brightest and best, we the people remain the only real line of defence between the terrible past from which we have come, and the brighter future so temptingly beyond our reach.

It is not that we are ungovernable. It is that all 1.3 million of us are forced to govern ourselves in the absence of a political system with the capacity to represent our very diverse interests. And so, as it was before 1962, so it is in 2012 when, again and again, we have to drop everything and run to the rescue of the nation we’re muddling about to build. Is it any wonder, therefore, that we dwell in a state of permanent instability, surrounded by non-stop noise, unable to settle down to work?

No doubt Justices Archie and Kangaloo already have the wisdom to know that the criticism truly wasn’t personal and can accept the damage to their individual sense of dignity as a small price to pay for taking us all to higher ground. Disarmed by the tender trap of a presidential summons, they were tested and, eventually, found not wanting. In this ongoing battle for a nation, we know today that we can count on two more citizens of even sturdier mettle.

Would it assuage their pain to know that it is precisely because we pin such high hopes on them that we hurt them so much? In ordinary times, the solid arguments raised by eminent colleagues might have found infertile ground at the feet of a disinterested public. But these are not ordinary times. Fear again stalks the land. In the escalating climate of distrust in the exercise of State power, the public is desperately building walls around those individuals and institutions on which it relies for protection against yet another rampant government. Scared by the wholesale surrender of the professional and business elites to the corrupting power of office, the people are pleading with Caesar’s wife to stay far above suspicion.

In moving beyond silk, the task now is to institutionalise the processes by which the independence of the Judiciary can be further protected, if only to spare the people from having to mount repeated pre-emptive strikes on its behalf. Fifty years down the path of Independence, the people are growing tired, their idealism souring into cynicism, their confidence relentlessly undermined by self-defeating politics.

All across the Caribbean, from Haiti in the north to Guyana in the south, the political reality is a variation along the same theme of institutional void where representation is so sorely needed. Haiti and Guyana, with their terrible, terrible past of foreign subversion, have far more of an excuse than we do. Notwithstanding the tragedies of its past, Haiti especially, remains relentless in its commitment to never surrender, as it pursues the aspirations of a revolution two hundred years and more in the making.

Here in T&T, however, the sustained, focused effort needed to initiate change is repeatedly undermined by our systematic selection of leaders who represent not our best hopes, but our deepest fears. Led by our chosen Pied Pipers of Panic, we storm the battlements of government with no plan beyond defeating the enemy within, thereby entrenching a pattern of negative voting in which we vote against, never for.

Then, to rationalise our recklessness in installing governments that escape our scrutiny of their fitness to govern, we enter a state of self-delusion in which we happily accept that laptops are equal to education transformation; that a State of Emergency is a crime plan; that hamperisation of the masses qualifies as social development and singing Bob Marley is a regional integration strategy. In this parallel universe of politics, the symbol is the thing- until reality bites and we bawl for murder, crying betrayal and denying our role in the creation of farce.

With available options now at the point of exhaustion, we just might be ready to get serious about the future.

Whatever our location in the political firmament, the first priority must be to quell the rising tide of panic which, from term to term, feeds irrational behaviour with damning consequences for all. With calm and a sense of purpose, let us resist the automatic in favour of the introspective. Inside every political party, every institution, organisation, school and home, let us try to understand ourselves as a pre-condition for escaping terminal paralysis. What’s the source of our brazen hustle for significance? Why are we such easy prey to the image and so addicted to the quick-fix?

Perhaps the instinct towards the opportunistic and the expedient is the mark of our history. As a trans-shipped people brought from huge continents to these small islands, hoping eventually to land somewhere else, we suffer commitment phobia, afraid to love this place too deeply lest we get stuck in the Caribbean mud. As a transplanted people, we have built our lives out of the fabric of fear of being gobbled up, our respective identities lost forever.

We are not unique in this. In acknowledging the historical challenge of creating a nation out of the fragments of history, Jamaica gave itself a national motto that could be applied to us all: “Out Of Many One People.” Words so simple, but possible only if we could figure out how to make the transition from the politics of divide and rule, to the politics of unite and prosper. Above all, this will require an honesty conducive to building trust. But from the sound of things, the games are ready to start all over.

Sunity Maharaj is the editor of the T&T Review and Director of the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies. (sunity.maharaj@gmail.com)

The nation's character.
By Ralph Maraj
Trinidad Express Newspapers | Dec 13, 2011 at 12:36 AM ECT

Trinidad and Tobago will never be a superpower, with a nuclear arsenal. Our greatness can only come from the nation's character.

Character is not reputation. The latter is changeable, subject to perceptions and impressions; the former is deep and enduring. Eventually, character constitutes our very essence.

Today, both are under threat. Our country's reputation has been unforgivably ruined by ineptitude born of a frightening amateurishness that plays with the nation's levers of power, like children with new-found toys, looking for excitement. This damage could be repaired but it will take time and effort. The real danger is the ongoing assault on our nation's character that has been taking place for some time now. That hurt has gone within, engendering self-doubt. It must not be taken lightly. When citizens themselves begin to question the viability of a nation, that country is on the slippery slope.

This is quite dangerous for us. After 50 years, the country's character is still being formed. It takes time to build a civilisation. Therefore our cultural ramparts are not quite in place. So be warned that those who unheedingly violate the sensibilities of our society constitute a real threat. This country still requires significant nurturing. Too many shocks could send us reeling. One wishes for some appreciation where it really matters, of the psychology of a still-emerging nation like ours.

Thank God we have been succeeding in building the nation's character and giving it rootedness. In critical areas, we have done quite well.

The harmony of our diverse society stands out. This speaks of a cosmopolitanism internalised; an enlightenment that has fed the innate goodness of a people who, through the experience of a common space and struggle, have learnt the wisdom of their common humanity.

Our democracy also is praiseworthy. It is entrenched, vocal and gets deeper. We have been changing governments regularly since the mid-80s. Two attempts at armed insurgency failed because the people were not ignited. Political competition, an alert population and strong media have already defeated some insidious attempts at usurpation. We also have strong trade unions and a growing civil society with the people genuinely concerned about social and economic justice.

We are also committed to family and free enterprise. Religions thrive but we are irretrievably secular. We celebrate talent and achievement and we are a positive, optimistic people, energetic and still capable of laughter after life's experiences.

Clearly, there is a soundness in our emerging national character. Ultimately it is our only real treasure. We need it especially when doubts assail the social fabric, like now.

At its highest levels ever, uncertainty has been creeping into the national mind for some time. Questions proliferate, swirling around. Is T&T really the best place in the world as we believed? Is this an endemically corrupt society? Will greed always gorge with sickening vulgarity at the public trough, stealing food from the mouths of the poor?

How can we experience the devastations wrought by CLICO and HCU and still believe in this place we call home? Where were the institutions to protect the vulnerable? Will we, of all political and social stripes, conveniently suspend discernment when it suits us? Will the killings continue?

After so many billions, why do fundamental problems persist? Will we ever protect our environment and leave an inheritance for the children? Have we saved enough for the future? Will our vaunted harmony be consumed by a conflagration caused by bigotry?

When lies are told with such ease and regularity in high places, who are we to believe? What are the examples for our youth? Will our loveliness be completely destroyed? Will we survive? Are we still "nah leaving''?

Don't go. Haven't you noticed? The people have been trying to save themselves. Do your part.

Join that independent, discerning minority that has emerged in this country and grows in size and influence. These are citizens steeped in those positive aspects of the nation's character, sharing a refined vision for Trinidad and Tobago. They cherish their democratic freedoms, and demand high standards of behaviour in public life.

Free from tribal allegiances, they are rational regarding public affairs. They are unaligned politically, and withdraw support if they feel violated by politicians. They are the products of the best of our emerging national character.

Haven't you seen this group already making its presence felt? It was in the ONR's 91,000 votes in 1981, the historic NAR victory in 1986, the return of the PNM in 1991, the UNC victory for the first time in 1995, the tied results in 2001, the PNM victory in 2002, the over 100,000 votes for COP in 2007, and the victory of the Partnership in 2010. This discerning middle has been pivotal to such regularity of change.

And they will change governments again and again in the future. Give praise. Join them. Help them to grow stronger till you completely exorcise the influence of race from our politics, thereby rooting out the main impediment to the evolution of our political parties and to accountability in public affairs.

Join them till you become totally indispensable to political success, making politicians the servants, not the masters of the people. This is the way to people power, to protect our nation from its many public ills, like corruption, mismanagement, arrogance, high-handedness, waste, nepotism, cabalism and scandalous inefficiency.

This growing constituency is not for grabs by any party, but will remain the most potent political force in the country. Their independence will continue to erode the entrenched political tribalism in our country. And they are here to stay.

Political parties, take note. Satisfy this group or shrink even further. People, be part of this group and strengthen the nation's character.

• Ralph Maraj is a former government minister.

Politics keeping back T&T says Tewarie.
By Richard Lord
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian Online | Tue, 2011-12-13 22:28

"Planning and the Economy Minister Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie says Trinidad and Tobago is being prevented from advancing because of politics. He was making his contribution to yesterday’s Senate debate on a Government motion to increase water rates to companies on the Point Lisas Industrial Estate. The new rate is to be introduced next month...

"Tewarie said T&T was facing many serious challenges. “The challenges are going to become fiercer in the coming years. This very water that we are talking about is going to be a major challenge in Trinidad and Tobago,” he added. He pointed out that Bermuda, which could fit in Tobago five times, had a per capita income of $60,000. “A country like the Cayman Islands, which is hardly a piece of land on the water, has a per capita income of nearly US$55,000.”

"Tewarie added: “Trinidad and Tobago must get to the point where it can make a quantum leap in per capita income terms; also in terms of equity and spread and development strategy that allows the whole country to benefit out of the development process.” He said a lot of things which happened in T&T must be made visible so the population would have a better understanding of things.

"The minister said part of “our responsibility as leaders is to help them to see more clearly, not to create the conditions for more clouds, more nebulousness, more lack of discernment, more uncertainty about what is true and what is not.” He said the leaders of T&T owed citizens “more than anything else is, at least, a disposition to clarity.” Read more...

A Note From The Gull

Although I welcomed some of Minister Bhoendradatt Tewarie's observations, I omitted other remarks because I didn't find them useful. I refer specifically to his accusing the Opposition of "using almost every national issue as a means to destroy the Government." I do not believe that this simplistic assessment is constructive or even true and EVEN if it were true, one would have to admit that the Opposition is employing the many weapons carelessly provided by the same government.

I should welcome, especially in public statements, rather than regret the existence of the continuing rhythm section of the Opposition, knowing that on many occasions it is the "dancing" of the government that is determining the pace of the protests from across the aisle.

If it is your sincere intention to get better at governing, the Opposition should be thanked for being the prod that will test you and make you stronger. I believe that mud will not stick if you are beyond reproach and that the population can arrive at intelligent assessments.

I have no vested interest in seeing our government fail but every desire to see intelligence cultivated at every opportunity rather than the Pavlovian responses that have often been rewarded. I continue to rely upon the Opposition and the rest of us to be vigilant.

"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!