You are here

Columnists

Subscribe to Columnists feed
Updated: 1 min 13 sec ago

Arrival and cohesion

7 hours 41 min ago

“The political and social climate that prevails in the world today emphasises difference, disunity, and destruction rather than the qualities of unity and productive and constructive energy that are required to sustain human societies. These negative processes and forces have perpetuated our alienation from the basic material roots of our existence, the natural world of which we are a part.”—(Roxande Lalonde, 1997)

On Wednesday May 30, the nation will observe the 173rd Anniversary of Indians arriving in T&T. Like Lalonde, I believe that we can have “unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation.” Most of our forebears came from other parts of the world and they have all put their shoulders to the proverbial wheel to build this blessed country. The challenge for us is to work together to take T&T forward.

Years ago, I presented a paper at the Dattatreya Education Foundation Conference entitled: “Indians, you have arrived! Where do you go from here?” Stephen Kangal and the late Dr Morgan Job also presented papers at this event. I recall Stephen saying that “the achievement of real unity in diversity is a prerequisite for taking forward T&T. Failure to do so will result in the preservation of the policy of rampant, divisive ethno-nationalism.”

Where we are going as members of a plural society in a globally connected, highly technological, rapidly changing world?

Can we commit to promote mutual respect and harmony and embrace the concept of unity in diversity? For nearly 56 years we have had responsibility for charting our own course. Although there have been many areas of growth and development, we cannot say that we are anywhere near promoting sustainable development in T&T—which requires unity of purpose.

Every creed and race in T&T do not have an equal place here! My three years as a lay assessor on the Equal Opportunity Tribunal have come to an end. Inter alia, what I take away from this experience is that issues such as race, religion, and ethnicity must be addressed urgently if we are to build a cohesive, harmonious, equitable mother T&T which truly embraces the multiple strands in T&T’s rich tapestry.

As the writer Zhang Yong-jun has said: “Social cohesion is an important foundation for a nation-state’s existence and development.” To what extent can we work together to achieve common goals; to build a cohesive society? While we squabble about which ethnic group is getting more crumbs than the other eg, for Emancipation Day or Indian Arrival Day, there are those who are intent on running away with most of the cake. Are we focusing on the issues that should be of concern to us? I urge our politicians not to compound the issue; not to divide society; not to pander to emotions such as fear of those who are seen as ‘other’.

I recall my father, the late Balgobin Ramdeen, telling us, his children, how sad he felt when, as an MP (1961-1966), he attended functions and the wives of the Democratic Labour Party, to which he belonged, would ignore my mother, because she was of African origin. Yet all the wives on the People’s National Movement would include her in their conversations. He was so hurt that he decided after a while that he would not attend these events. My dear deceased mother, Ruby Ramdeen (nee Manning), was a fighter. She would dress “to kill,” as she was wont to do, and would find some way of encouraging him to take her to the functions.

I could write a few books about my experiences growing up as a dougla. I remember having tea with Lord Diljit Rana at the House of Lords in London and having to tell him that I would not be able, after all, to accept the role as co-chair of Gopio’s International Women’s Arm. Lord Rana was the-then president of Gopio. His then wife, Lady Shruti, was chair of the International Women’s Arm of Gopio. In 2010 I delivered a paper at a Gopio Conference in London, and spent a few days as their guest in Belfast. I was asked to accept the role as co-chair of the Women’s Arm. Well, all hell broke loose among some individuals of Indian origin in T&T. To cut a long story short, I was not prepared to go through what my mother experienced. I have learned which battles to fight. I declined the offer.

LOVE is the answer to the question: “Where do we go from here?” Happy Indian Arrival Day!

Leela Ramdeen
Chair, CCSJ & director, Credi

Categories: News

Don’t let religious differences fuel animosity

7 hours 43 min ago

The widespread condemnation of the decision by the secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Saba, Sat Maharaj, to deny On-The-Job trainee Nafisah Nakhid entry to the Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College for wearing her hijab on Monday, stands as testament to the religious pluralism that exists amongst our people today.

Whist as a nation we continue our struggle to overcome the ethnic and racial divide that continues to plague our society, throughout the world our country has been a shining example of religious pluralism and tolerance.

That is not to say we have been completely free of religious tensions, but as a people we were able to overcome those obstacles and today, we can be proud of the co-existence in society of a vast variety of faiths in peace and harmony.

That being said, it is unfortunate, worrying, and distasteful when religious leaders make statements and/or take a stand on issues that does not reflect the views of those they purport to represent.

For those who may not be familiar with the Sanatan Dharma Maha Saba, it is the major Hindu organisation in T&T. It operates 150 mandirs, over 50 schools, and has its own radio station and TV channel. It was founded in 1952 by Bhadase Sagan Maraj, a politician and Hindu leader, and in 1971, forty seven years ago, he was succeeded by his son-in-law, the organisation’s current head, Sat Maharaj as leader of the organisation.

Infamous for making controversial comments, which he is free to express on his own behalf, Mr Maharaj defended his stance by saying that they have a right to enjoyment of property under the Constitution and as a result, also a right to determine how people dress when they go onto the compound.

To add insult to injury, he further retorted “The girl is not attached to the teaching staff, she came to learn to teach, but she wants to teach us how to dress, we said we have a dress code,” adding that the school was “doing a favour by saying come and we will teach you how to teach.”

Not surprisingly, Mr Maharaj’s obstreperous response was met with nationwide criticism, not only because the manner in which the issue was dealt with was offensive, but more so because of the underlying tones of intolerance, whether real or perceived.

Whilst the national response spoke volumes about how far we, the people, have come as a nation since the landmark ruling of the Honourable Justice Margot Warner, 23 years ago, which allowed Muslim girls to attend private and public schools wearing a hijab without discrimination, it also served as a reminder that while there has been an attempt to use the law as a means of promoting religious pluralism in our complex, multicultural society, there is still much work to be done, but it is not an insurmountable task.

As a country we have shown that we are resilient, tolerant, open to change, and not easily fooled. That being said, we must be wary especially now when there is a sense of hopelessness, frustration, and anger in society, that religious differences do not fuel mistrust and animosity.

As such, this issue needs to be addressed urgently with respect and diplomacy. Those with the power to do so must now act fairly and without religious or political bias. Too often issues of social concern are not given the priority that they deserve, not to mention they are swept under the carpet forgotten or left for the courts to deal with. Let us not miss this opportunity to re-examine policies that are now outdated.

The word “change” often has a negative connotation. Many fear it, others despise it and for the most part, people seem to reject the idea of it, but in the immortal words of George Bernard Shaw “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

Let me take this opportunity to thank the readership for their positive feedback over the last two-and-a-half years, the Guardian Media Group for the opportunity to write a weekly column, and to wish the national community a happy and safe Indian Arrival Day and Corpus Christi.

Mickela Panday 

Categories: News

Sat throws Hinduism backwards

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 01:10

The position taken by the Maha Sabha to deny Nafisah Nakhid the opportunity to take up duties as an On-The-Job (OJT) teacher at Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College in St Augustine because of her hijab is unfortunate. The Maha Sabha holds the view that the school dress code would be violated. The Maha Sabha, which has rang the discrimination bell on the grounds of religion on numerous occasions over the years, now appears to have no sympathy or religious tolerance.

In the past, Hindus were the target of various forms of religious discrimination but that should not be an excuse for Hindus to discriminate against others. Only recently, the Hindu and Indian community observed the naked discrimination in the allocation of HDC houses in Real Springs, Valsayn, and the firing of Indians and Hindu lecturers at the University of T&T. To now carry out this act of denial to a young Muslim girl wishing only to learn how to teach is simply not acceptable in modern T&T.

The leadership of the Maha Sabha continues to be religious and social dinosaurs holding on to old prejudices and wishing to settle scores against others who no longer exist. The young Hindu is not attracted to this prehistoric thinking and wishes to distance themselves from it. Recently, young Hindus had to explain to friends and co-workers that they do not share support for child marriages as advocated by the Maha Sabha.

Thankfully in T&T, the Maha Sabha is not the only organization representing Hindus however, due to the institutional network of schools, mandirs, and media, the Maha Sabha will always command attention. If the Hindu community wishes to have views and expressions that are in line with a modern, progressive Hinduism then they have to effect that change themselves. Pundits, teachers, and other members of the Maha Sabha are too coward to have independent thought from the leadership, but it is time that they start becoming a little brave.

It is sad that in Indian Heritage Month, where we reflect on our Hindu, Muslim, and Christian indentured ancestors, that a Hindu leader would seek to discriminate against a Muslim.

I wish to inform the national community that the Maha Sabha does not represent all Hindus and the leadership of the Maha Sabha is not only a throwback to a bygone era, but a source of never-ending shame and embarrassment for a large cross section of the Hindu community.

No longer are we jahji bhai. Discrimination by any group is just wrong! This has the makings of a religious war, further dividing our already fragile society.

Pt Satyanand Maharaj

Spiritual Head,
Satya Anand Ashram
Temple of Truth and Bliss Aranguez

Categories: News

The Parable of talent

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 01:06

Last weekend, Christian churches celebrated the feast of Pentecost or coming of the spirit. The word spirit is often associated with wisdom. Reflecting on that and perhaps moved by the spirit, I thought of the “Parable of the Talents” and its application to T&T.

Matthew 25:14-30 tells of a master who was leaving his house to travel and entrusted his property to his servants.

According to the abilities of each man, one servant received five talents, the second servant received two talents, and the third servant received one talent. The property entrusted to the three servants was worth 8 talents (a talent was a significant amount of money).

Upon returning home, after a long absence, the master asked his three servants for an account of the talents he entrusted to them. The first and the second servants explained that they each put their talents to work and had doubled the value of the property with which they were entrusted; each servant was rewarded. The third servant, however, had merely hidden his talent, burying it in the ground, and was punished by his master.

Government is about stewardship and accounting for the resources (talents) with which it has been entrusted. It must identify improvements which have resulted from conscious actions, much like the servants in the parable. The parable indicates the importance of a measurable scorecard with which to evaluate the performance of any administration in listing its achievements. Some initiatives take time to bear fruit and straddle administrations.

The IMF, S&P, Moody’s and the EIU all expect a modest improvement in economic growth in 2018 through 2022 on the strength of the expansion in gas supplies occasioned by increased drilling activity and investment at the well head.

All this in response to incentives given in 2014. It is significant that 2017 was a year of decline and that the IMF cut its growth forecast for 2018 by 90%, from 1.9% to .2%. Notwithstanding, the improved gas output projected to 2022, the IMF still forecasts continued declines in foreign exchange reserves declining to US$6 billion by 2022. This is a crucial statistic that should be used as a yardstick by itself.

Further, each organisation projects continuing fiscal deficits (expenditure greater than revenue) through 2021.

The construction initiatives included in the last three budget speeches have not borne fruit, nor can they revive the economy in time for the elections which will take place between now and 2020.

In that context, the MOUs announced during the Prime Minister’s visit to China take on special significance, as they are mainly construction related projects. No doubt they will come with Chinese financing with a promise for local content and technology transfer.

But construction activity and asset acquisition generate high demand for foreign exchange. The knock-on effect of expanded local demand and the need to repay the foreign financing, which will naturally follow these new projects, will reduce the foreign exchange reserves as they are not export generating.

We can, therefore, expect an increase in economic activity in the run-up to the 2020 election largely associated with construction. But this has no self-sustaining dynamic and has explicit and implicit negative foreign exchange effects. Foreign debts must be repaid.

This brings us back to the issue of long-term sustainability and non-energy growth. The growth in manufacturing projected by the Finance Minister is associated with output improvements in the petrochemical sector. But every other sector, non-energy manufacturing, yachting, the creative arts et al continue to decline.

To glibly speak of prudent management, turnaround, booming conditions is reckless folly. The management situation at all the state enterprises, including Petrotrin, is now made more difficult since the Government has changed the conversation.

The gas sector, therefore, remains the only credible source of growth. But increasing the output of gas in the long term is problematical. The GORTT cultivated a more significant relationship with Venezuela to access its gas reserves, even to the extent of compromising our foreign policy. But obtaining Venezuela’s gas became more remote and complicated when the US decided to impose sanctions on Venezuela on May 21st.

Currently, sanctions restrict commerce with energy, banking and other sectors by US citizens or corporations.

The probability that sanctions could be extended to any or all businesses that trade with or invest in Venezuela has increased the riskiness of the Venezuela gas initiative to all concerned.

We need an enlightened approach to determine policies to treat with what is obviously a deteriorating situation in Venezuela. We need to have a policy framework that will reconcile, inter alia, non-intervention and non-interference, energy diplomacy, humanitarian assistance, and critically, an immigration plan.

The parable of the talents is a story of measurable success as distinct from the political rhetoric which appeals to our basic instincts of fear and race.

Can we show that crime is reduced; social spending is better targeted; the Public Service more efficient; business is easier to do; health care is improved and the education system is producing more learned graduates? Even the Bible recognises the importance of leadership and management and measurable outcomes.

Mariano Browne

Categories: News

No way, Senator Mark

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 01:03

Opposition Senator Wade Mark must know that the People’s National Movement (PNM) did not march “up and down the town” when former United National Congress (UNC) member Winston
Dookeran was appointed governor of the Central Bank under the Basdeo Panday-led government.

At no time did the PNM hit the road when Dr Bhoe Tewarie was appointed principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI) under the same UNC government.

Both men were very active in the political arena and after their stints in the “independent and impartial roles” they returned to active politics in T&T.

Dookeran went on to be political leader of the Congress of the People (COP) and Tewarie is a sitting member of the Opposition as the representative for Caroni Central.

We must not forget how Herbert Volney entered the political fray after demitting his position as a High Court judge. His dramatic move was very controversial since it was the first time in the history of T&T that a High Court judge moved from the bench onto a political platform OVERNIGHT.

When these glaring and disgraceful political acts took place, citizens of our beloved country did not hear a murmur, not a sound from the so-called independent commentators who, today, parade up and down the country unjustly attacking every move by a PNM Government.

It was the second time that Senator Mark made that outrageous outburst in the Parliament. He was spared from any condemnation by the so-called independent commentators along with the editorial writers in the daily newspapers along with radio and television hosts who do not spare the PNM every morning in their respective programmes.

Minister of Finance Colm Imbert was given a sound tongue-lashing for presenting a historical fact that these so-called independent commentators were politically aligned in the past but at no time did anyone see the blatant nepotism in the political appointments of Dookeran and Tewarie. In fact, Minister Imbert was responding to the MP for Princes Town who introduced the so-called independent commentators into the debate in the House of Representatives.

Unlike Senator Mark’s contribution when he maligned the chief elections office without prompting from any other member in the Senate.

In addition to these unsavoury appointments under the UNC, the brother of a sitting opposition member who served as member of the UNC cabinet is a high-profile member of the Judiciary while another who is the son of a former political leader of a party opposed to the PNM also sits in a very high position in the Judiciary.

The country must take note of the inconsistencies displayed by the so-called independent commentators, talk show hosts, and ghost editorial writers in dealing with sensitive national issues.

So when the history of T&T is written the facts would not change. The so-called independent commentators referred to by Minister Imbert cannot rewrite their respective roles as MPs, or losing candidates for political parties opposed to PNM and, more importantly, the fact that some worked for the Government when the PNM was in opposition.

Ashton Ford

Ashton Ford is the former General Secretary of the People’s National Movement

Categories: News

Downsizing and its links with depression

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 23:40

In 2006, many of us had joined the UTT as educators, sharing the vision that this new local university would provide for the tertiary needs of an underserved population of persons with multiple intelligences, who were not accepted by the academic UWI institution. I remember a sense of pride as I watched young people graduate years later with skills that were unique to the UTT, many of them first-generation holders of university degrees of their families. In those early years, there was a filial bond amongst us colleagues, as we worked together, many long hours, to develop programmes that would be accredited by both external and local accreditation bodies. However, as political parties changed, so did the vision of the UTT, and relevance became irrelevant, service was translated into disservice, personal agendas ruled the day and organisational downsizing, therefore, became a necessity in the present economic downturn of our country.

These are economically difficult times for many companies and decisions to downsize are often driven by the logic of business survival, competitiveness and an attempt to improve overall efficiency. As usually happens, the adverse effects of downsizing on the mental health of workers are often not considered. This process is associated with a greater likelihood of depression among workers who have been displaced, replaced and laid off. Depression (and its associative symptoms) is ranked as the leading cause of disability in the world and one of the most common contributors to emotional distress, declining health and mental illness of workers, especially when the manner in which terminations are done, seem to be more traumatic than the actual terminations themselves. When dismissals lack transparency and clarity and there seems to be an inaccuracy of information that would have informed the decision-making process, employee perceptions of fairness and justice are affected.

We all know that in a downsizing economy, some layoffs are unavoidable, and even though early warning signs may have been given, these layoffs have to be done in a socially responsible way. Perceptions of procedural justice of a socially responsible downsizing process can considerably lessen depression, especially if affected workers view this process as transparent and understandable, fair and unbiased, well planned and democratic. Research shows that ‘redeploying and supporting surplus employees through the career change process—rather than forcing them to become unemployed’, is important for the emotional health of workers and makes a difference as to whether they will suffer from depression. In any organisation, when a restructuring takes place, workers want an opportunity to influence the process, to be treated as ‘assets to be developed rather than as costs to be terminated’. Instead, it has been heart-breaking to witness mild-mannered colleagues become fired-up, spitting forth fury over dismissals perceived as unclear and unfair. For many, in the autumn of their lives, there would be difficulties of re-employment, decreased income and benefits, and poor financial security, all added factors which lead to an increased risk for poor mental and physical health and well-being.

And what of those workers left behind in the workplace? After employee dismissals, there are severe risks to those whose jobs may not be affected and the likelihood of depression also increases. In my interaction with many of the ‘survivors’, they have reported decreased commitment and performance. This is known as the survivor syndrome. When workers see their colleagues dismissed, there is increased stress due to the higher workload for the remaining employees, mistrust in management, waning commitment, apathy, decreased levels of involvement and motivation, absenteeism, and lessened job satisfaction. What are the health policies that support workers, those who are dismissed and those who remain, after a downsizing exercise? What can be done to mitigate the present chaotic environment where the morale of colleagues has descended into a seemingly bottomless pit of insecurities and vengeful ideation? Who next? And how does one cease to be relevant after a dismissal, my colleague Rudy questioned, after giving years of dedicated service? Being relevant is the core of one’s social identity, derived from membership within the organisation and where ‘identity’ is fundamental to self-concept and self-esteem.

As I walk through my beloved campus and engage with staff and students, I am reminded of the words by Martin Luther King: ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy’. To all my colleagues, education is the movement from darkness to light. We sought to create this movement for our students. Let us continue to be unwavering in our commitment to this principle.

Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor is a Clinical and Educational Psychologist and Senior Lecturer at UTT

Categories: News

Why we co-sleep

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 23:35

The research on whether children should sleep with you or not isn’t conclusive one way or the other, so many times when people reach out to me for advice in this area I state exactly that.

My personal belief is to co-sleep.

I believe that the same desires we have children have, and having a warm body with which to snuggle at night is no different.

On my website, I once wrote a blog about the midnight conversations I have with Jess. I turn, pull her close and tell her just how much I love her. I stroke her hair and fill her resting mind with positive affirmations.

Many nights she pulls me close and does the same.

As a single mother, I heard all the time from well-wishers how dangerous that would be when it was time to replace her with a man in my bed, but I guess I always knew that any man deserving of walking down the aisle with, would be just fine with her sleeping in our bed.

Keeping your marriage spicy takes work and creativity and yes, it takes energy. I actually think co-sleeping adds to the spice. Ever tried having sex in your own car in your own parked garage? What about the shower or on the seat of the toilet? Throw a mat down in the kids’ room, if they are in yours, it means their room is empty.

Sticking to the bed at night is kind of boring actually and the fun of sneaking around helps keep things exciting.

There is also a wonderful opportunity to teach compromise and of course, everyone knows that I believe in leading by example, so if the kids have to compromise that means we have to compromise.

One night for us, one night for you.

We can split up the week and interchange the days you sleep alone and the days you sleep with us.

Co-sleeping does not undermine the authority structure of the home because this is still a purposeful decision.

The child is in no way controlling things and this also does not mean the child is the center of the home (which leads to unhealthy entitlement).

It simply means we share night time affection and all the benefits that physical touch brings.

Here’s to a spice-filled week surrounded by loads of hugs and cuddles.

Categories: News

Of plastic and licks

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 23:31

Had planned on writing about lawless school principals and teachers who continue to ignore both the National School Code of Conduct (2009) and the Children Act (2012) in sanctioning and applying corporal punishment at their institutions.

All of us can name at least half a dozen schools where “licks” are still administered in open defiance of a law which aspires to the “prevention of cruelty to children” and which prescribes penalties of between $5,000 and $50,000 and jail from six to 10 years.

By the way, by virtue of the Children’s Community Residences, Foster Care and Nurseries Act of 2000, corporal punishment is also prohibited in “alternative care” facilities including children’s homes/orphanages.

“Well, I was beaten and I turned out okay,” is what we keep hearing. Sorry, but no, you did not “turn out okay”; you are here advocating something described by experts in the field as “cruel” behaviour against children. You are also expressing support for a practice that is disappearing as a feature of life in the civilised world and is banned, under all circumstances, in at least 53 states.

Among the countries holding out on any kind of commitment on this are Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Somalia. Sounds like a nice club to belong to, I suppose.

As to the deterrent effect of such violence against children, I wonder whether a survey has ever been done among the worst offenders in the prison system to determine how many of them were beaten at home and in school. Anybody want to take bets on this one?

See? If I had chosen to write about corporal punishment in the school system, I would have (uncharacteristically) not run out of space.

Oh, by the way, as a parent myself, have I ever administered corporal punishment? No. So on to something else that should also not consume too much time and space.
Plastic.

Why is there a debate about a reduction in the gratuitous distribution of plastic bags at the supermarket? The hysteria is embarrassing, folks. This is a baby step along the path we will eventually have to tread, whether we like it or not.

No sensible person I know of has advocated a complete ban on all plastic, including reusable plastic bags and containers. In fact, plastic is one of the more useful substances conjured up by humanity to make life more convenient and easy.

However, there are common uses for plastic that the world has increasingly turned attention to because of the undeniable damage being sustained by the natural environment as a result of abuse. Plastic single-use bags are just one area of concern.

This goes way beyond concerns about the poor aesthetics of discarded bottles and bags along our highways and on the beach. For example, the sight of plastic “islands” along the Central American Caribbean coast is dramatic and heart-breaking, but many are probably unaware of the comparable presence of plastic “reefs” in our own waters.

I remember the days when the reckless disposal of plastic bags and containers was as common as corporal punishment at school. Everybody thought we would be okay. That “nature” has a way of “balancing” things off. Things are changing.

For, today, Caribbean countries are reaping the environmental whirlwind through the degradation of fishing grounds, agricultural lands and tourism assets as a direct result of our prior ignorance.

At this time, we should be hearing every day from the experts in such matters. SWMCOL CEO, Ronald Roach, has thankfully been an informed advocate and has reminded us that even as the state agency processes 30 tonnes of plastic monthly, this represents less than 1% of what is actually generated as waste by you and me.

I know that through programmes initiated by SWMCOL and the EMA school children are aware of the dangers and opportunities posed by the problem of plastic.

Now to turn the attention of adults away from “cutarse” and in the direction of practising what their children already know and understand about the scourge of plastic.

Categories: News

Mickela must dodge father’s shadow

Mon, 05/21/2018 - 23:58

Mickela Panday is one of the most recognisable figures in our national community. Despite our mutual affiliation with the T&T Guardian newspaper, she and I have never met. Like many Trinbagonians, what I know of her comes from her public reputation—as a practising attorney, a former member of parliament, and, most of all, as the daughter of Basdeo Panday.

It would be an understatement to say that politics and social activism run in her veins. In fact, if her father was still the political leader of the United National Congress she would have probably succeeded him in that role and gone on to become the first female prime minister of our country. Of course, we all know how things turned out. Mr Panday lost the party’s internal election on January 24, 2010, to Kamla Persad-Bissessar. And the younger Panday was not included on the slate of candidates that contested the general election the following May. In one fell swoop, the Panday legacy had been extricated from the UNC.

It’s understandable why Mrs Persad-Bissessar took such a draconian action. In order to secure her position as leader of the UNC, there could be no lingering influence from her former boss. This meant that Ms Panday —being the heiress of the deposed king—had to go as well. It’s ironic that the familial connection that paved her way into the world of politics also ended up ushering her out of it. But the father-daughter duo would not be so easily silenced. And their ousting from parliament gave them an unrestricted license to criticise the current and past administrations.

To Ms Panday’s credit, her style is very different from that of her father’s. While he is usually caustic and condemning, she tends to be more academic and balanced. That being said, they both seem to be particularly invested in commenting on the missteps of the People’s Partnership. No surprise there. But it leads to an important question regarding Ms Panday—whether she is her own person or just an extension of her father.

This brings us to Sunday afternoon’s open forum at Gaston Court, Chaguanas. In the days leading up to the event, there was speculation abound that she was going to announce the formation of a new party. Or at the very least, use it as a litmus test to determine what sort of feedback she received before proceeding any farther. However, following a scripted speech, the audience’s contributions were glowing tributes to her father instead of suggestions on what direction she should take.

It is clear that Mr Panday casts a lengthy shadow over his daughter’s plans. But let’s not forget his own words following the election results of 2008, when he blamed the COP for splitting the opposition vote which ensured a PNM victory. According to former UNC senator Devant Maharaj, there is a concern amongst the party’s membership that history would repeat itself. That very concern could be what Ms Panday is counting on, hoping to use it as a bargaining chip to secure her return to the political arena.

Thus far, Mrs Persad-Bissessar has refused Ms Panday’s request for a meeting. But that doesn’t mean she won’t be open to it in the near future, especially in light of Sunday’s turnout. If Ms Panday is welcomed back into the UNC, it’s only because Mrs Persad-Bissessar wants to avoid a diffusion of the anti-PNM vote. It’s left to be seen if they are both willing to put aside their personal ambitions for the good of the party.

Personally, I would very much like to see Ms Panday return to parliament. Her youth and experience will benefit our country’s stagnant political discourse. But she needs to put some distance between herself and her father. The identity of being Basdeo Panday’s daughter has gotten her far enough, now she needs to distinguish herself with an agenda of her own; that means having fresh ideas, not rehashing those of the past. We already know all there is about her being a Panday, now we want to know more about who she is as Mickela.

Ryan Hadeed

Categories: News

Hidden Disabilities

Mon, 05/21/2018 - 23:57

“Every gang leader I have spoken to had a learning disability”
Archbishop Rev Jason Gordon.
Newspaper article,
Friday 18 May 2018

There has been no formal study done on the incidence of hidden disabilities among gang members. The Archbishop’s comment, made at the opening of the Catholic Religious Education Institute’s (CREDI) “Hidden Disabilities Conference-What You Cannot See”, last Wednesday, is thought to be accurate by most of us who work in the field and very probably indicative of a serious problem: the inability and failure of the educational system to harness the potential of children with disabilities, hidden or not.

The good priest knows because by his own public admission, he is dyslexic and that is a hidden disability. He is in quite good company: Leonardo da Vinci; Albert Einstein; Mohammed Ali; Steve Jobs; Ingvar Kamprad (Founder of Ikea); Richard Branson; Harry Belafonte; Bill Gates, to mention a few of the great ones.

What do they all have in common? First, they don’t see things exactly like us. They think differently. They think “outside the box” and they are the ones responsible for much of the progress humankind makes and they have to fight to make their way in the world.

In T&T, and much of the world, especially the developing one, children with hidden disabilities are failed in the school system and so make it outside, on their own, in diverse capacities.

Unfortunately, far too many are lost to society and end up in prison or in Lapeyrouse.

A disability is defined as “any restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being”. Another way of looking at it is to consider the way society interfaces with it, i.e. that a “disability does not inhabit a person but resides within society”. It is the way that society responds to the person with a disability that determines whether a person is disabled or not and the response of society is poor.

About 15% of our school-aged population have a hidden disability of some sort that affects their schoolwork. That’s around 50,000 children. A child with a hidden disability looks and generally behaves like any other child but with occasional unusual behaviour, e.g. difficulty paying attention in class; difficulty following complex orders; lack of energy; unexplained weight loss etc. Something is wrong. But it is invisible, hidden.

Some of these hidden disabilities are physical, e.g. vision or hearing problems which together account for about a third of hidden disabilities. Because children are so amazingly adaptable to a visual or hearing problem, all children should be tested for hearing at birth and at entry to school and as early as possible for vision which, in T&T, means at school entry.

There are other hidden medical disabilities, diseases like “sinus” and asthma that keep children up at night and cause them to be sleepy in school (you can’t be alert in school unless you sleep well). Certain types of epilepsy cause school failure as do anaemias and thyroid problems but these are rare. Really, the vast bulk of hidden disabilities are the psycho-social ones like dyslexia and other learning disabilities; ADHD; autism and the socio-emotional disturbances related to abuse and to poverty.

Many of these children fail school, are termed delinquent and end up in prison. A 2005 British study of children with anti-social behaviour found that 35% had a mental health disorder or a learning difficulty. In 2005 the UK Dyslexic Institute, in a sample of 357 prisoners in Yorkshire, determined that 20% were dyslexic. An Israeli study in 2006 discovered that one in three prisoners had a learning disability and half were ADHD. A US study found that 13% of inmates in one prison system had significant hearing loss, i.e. deaf

We do not know what is happening in our prisons, of course. We know what’s happening in the schools. It’s not good.

Categories: News

Influence of party financiers

Mon, 05/21/2018 - 00:08

In the recent judgment in the court matter against Jack Warner, Justice Frank Seepersad commented that there was “a culture of kickbacks and corruption” involving the financing of political party campaigns and that “campaign contributions are the functional equivalent of bribes which ensure that favourable treatment is given by the government to those who provide the said funds.”

This statement is not a revelation. It has been known by many for a long time although one editorial writer would regard it as “an eye-opener.”

That this corrosive relationship between financiers and elected leaders has been ongoing for decades is due primarily to the fact that it is viewed by the party members and supporters as an accepted part of the political culture in order to obtain sufficient funds for the conduct of election campaigns with the foremost objective of winning. As the saying goes “one hand does not clap” and supporters “like it so.”

For supporters, there is no greater purpose in life short of devotion to God than seeing their party capture government and retain it, whether they themselves benefit or not. The means for doing so are not considered important.

Party leaders exploit this tenacious sentiment to form a government in order to keep elected members strictly in line and any semblance of dissent is characterised as betrayal and subversion of the party.

The ultimate sanction is expulsion from the party and ostracisation by its support base. I went through this experience for objecting to the overweaning influence and dictates of financiers and for insisting that allegations of corruption should be dealt with. With respect to the latter, I was told that if I have evidence I should go to the police with it. I was ridiculed and condemned for allegedly bringing down government.

While submissiveness to the demands of financiers is most likely a feature of the functioning of all governing parties, my experience has been confined to the Panday-led UNC administration. Mr Panday was a man of few secrets.

On the night of the General Elections victory of 1995, Panday would publicly identify three financiers for their efforts in achieving his party’s electoral success.

One was put in charge of the National Gas Company to vet all proposals for energy sector investments. Another was placed to head the Tourism Development Company to identify non-energy sector investments.

The trio determined investment project priorities and was adamant that the new Piarco International Airport Project was one of utmost urgency, which it was not. The Desalination and Inncogen projects were also undertaken to benefit financiers without a proper scrutiny and appraisal of the respective proposals.

One financier became a multi-faceted contractor involved in civil engineering projects, airport construction and equipment procurement, building construction and even the purchase of vehicles for the Police Service. This financier possessed the clout to have deadlines regularly extended, rules and procedures circumvented and cost-overruns routinely approved.

There was another who had lobbied for the staging of the under-17 world football tournament and was awarded a consultancy for stadium construction projects.

One financier, prominent for his support hitherto of the PNM, came on board after a couple of years.

He had ownership and control of an insurance company and was able to influence government to ignore violations of laws, regulations and best practices in the management of the company as outlined by the Supervisor of Insurance.

Through his close association with government officials, he had set plans in motion for the acquisition of a number of state enterprises including Tanteak, Caroni Distillery and Lake Asphalt. He also had instructed his protege to run for the post of deputy political leader of the UNC party.

Financiers even sat down with the then Prime Minister to determine the allocation of ministerial portfolios and even the selection of election candidates.

Suffice it to say that a mockery was made of democratic principles and politics where elected representatives were supposed to be in control.

—TREVOR SUDAMA

Categories: News

Still in the potter’s hands

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 00:12

I wonder how many of us wearing those beautiful gold chains, bracelets, rings or watches really gave any thought how it became that wonderful treasure you now own. It will amaze you to know the process the raw gold from the earth had to go through to present itself in those showcases all around the world. Time, machinery, human resource, and money, just naming a few components, all work together to produce those ornaments that we will purchase for thousands of dollars.

The very same way gold must go through many processes to become as attractive as it is, so too we as human beings in order for the best to come out of us at times we must constantly be in the potter’s hand. The process is never over for us as we are daily being moulded, shaped, and fashioned by God. A true revelation of this will cause you to ignore all your critics and those who try to judge you from where you stand at present. They can only see the present but the Father sees the beginning to the end.

Jesus in His selection of His 12 disciples did not choose the best people around at the time and I believe He did it purposely. After all, Peter the fisherman, whose language was not the most sophisticated when you may have rubbed him the wrong way, may not have been my choice if it was up to me. But what was important is that the disciples were now in the potter’s hand and that made a world of difference. Allow the chief potter to make you into that person you were meant to be. In Jeremiah 29:11 it states, “I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV) The Lord is all about your success.

Just as gold go through some rigorous processes which involves intense heat, it is the same way the potter may have to allow us to go through certain situations and circumstances to bring us to that desired standard. Every new level in life will have its test but what is assuring is that once you remain in the potter’s hand He will prepare you for it. We read in James 1: 3 and 4, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” When your faith is tested, patience develops and patience having her perfect work also assists in maturing you.

I encourage you, do not allow the small discomfort or inconvenience at this present moment to dampen your spirit, for you are still in the potter’s hand, the process is not over. But this I do know, He that begun a good thing in you will complete it. As gold is admired by everyone you too will shine in your season. God bless you.

Elder Arnold Gopeesingh

Categories: News

Bankruptcy protection is so relevant

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 00:10

When I proposed Trinidad’s Bankruptcy Proceedings legislation to the Government in 2006 following the embarrassing seizure of BWIA’s aircraft in Miami due to non-payment to its lessors and it became law following swift passage in Parliament, I really expected the term “Bankruptcy Proceedings” would be promulgated to our business and private consumers via an education system allowing them to fully grasp its prodigious benefits should their circumstances ever desire it.

I also expected attorneys would have educated themselves and market this necessary service to protect clients from Trinidad’s one size fit all triple “A”-only expectations from our inherently parochial bankers and other financial facilitators who would malevolently destroy a borrower no longer favourable to their balance sheet.

Although the word “bankruptcy” may sound unpleasant to Trinidad’s archaically closed-minded society, it can be much like scriptural revelation in that it is both powerful and compassionate towards honest businesses and private consumers experiencing temporary financial challenges.

A bankruptcy proceeding would not disregard a business or private individual unable to maintain timely payments, nor negate debts bereft of honouring them. It, however, protects them from the paradigm of Trinidad’s illiberal and vindictive lenders, provide them breathing space through consolidation while protecting their assets and life’s work from stealth, malice, and of being grabbed and sold at auction, many times through inside leaks to trusted friends and distant families.

Say you have assets worth $5M and owe your lender $2M they sued you for, they would obtain judgment against you hastily selling your entire portfolio for under $1 M. If it’s a company, they would sue all the directors for shortfalls spitefully refiling continual judgments so the individuals would never recover via obtaining funding elsewhere, unless of course you are a well-connected politician and a consortium of bankers can writes off and forgive your $30M loan on a “failed” South mall, re-establishing all privileges.

Bankruptcy procedures are not slam-dunk favourable to any one side. If you are an honest borrower you will be protected from the sole objectives of sharks by petitioning a special bankruptcy court wherein the bankruptcy judge would appoint a trustee who acts as an impartial referee between lender and borrower, overseeing the entire proceedings, examining the petitioner’s assets and lender’s claim to determine viability, avoiding system abuse.

All types of people have gotten into financial difficulties since the invention of money and at the pinnacle of your success many unscrupulous banking employees would push “attractive” loans and credit cards on you just to meet their quotas, but bankruptcy protection is beneficial to good business practices and available in all enlightened countries. All levels of corporate and individual consumers have sought its protection including very successful fortune 500 companies, Macy’s, Airlines, Ford Motors, Sears, Payless Shoes, Radio Shack, etc, and personal albeit successful individuals like Donald Trump, Movie Stars, Oscar Wilde, Walt Disney, and other famous celebrities, all of whom, had they been denied protection from hasty and cruel annihilation, would not be around today providing goods and services, employing people, paying taxes, and being good corporate citizens, many even doing philanthropic deeds.

There are variations of bankruptcy protection, some referred to as “Creditor in Control” which would return the business to the owners who, once nurtured back to good financial health, can rebuild their credit worthiness and not be mendicants starving at the buffet table. Bankruptcy is not the end of one’s financial world but a new start which can save families and corporations by allowing them to access certain assets while sorting themselves, and they need not be embarrassed about being responsible since seeking workable solutions for survival is the goal transforming honest citizens with genuine financial challenges from their burden of debt to productive members of society.

If Trinidad is really serious about becoming the financial capital of the Caribbean it must urgently change its accepted narrow-minded and destructive banking culture by creating real competition for economic growth via granting licences to matured and creative global banks. Trinidad’s lenders are so limited through their grossly over-esteemed “fit and proper” infallibility that they have no conception about sub-prime lending in which honest citizens cleared from bankruptcy can still be creative business geniuses advancing from their errors as against being permanently destroyed.

• Trevor Hosten is an entrepreneur and consumer's advocate, and founder of Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) which petitioned Government for and obtained Trinidad's Banking Ombudsman (now the Financial Services Ombudsman) and the Bankruptcy & Insolvency ACT of 2006."

Trevor Hosten

Categories: News

The spirit of elitism

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 00:09

Lord Roseberry in 1884 described the British Empire as a ‘Commonwealth of Nations.’ Unlike the United Nations, however, it cannot impose sanctions on members since they all have an equal say, regardless of size or economic stature.

This affords the members a voice in international politics and influence in diplomatic circles which they might not otherwise have. Elizabeth II is the head of this loose alliance of commonwealth states with a market size of 2.4 billion people.

Distilling the key ingredients of elite societies like the EU is critical to unravelling club operations. First, goods and services are ‘excludable’. Only members can hope to drink the best vintage claret at a non-vintage price. Members of the EU have a single market and only members can be part of the single currency. Goods and services are ‘congestible’. That is, each member imposes some kind of externality on other club members to guarantee that measures agreed upon do not become counterproductive.

Increasing membership can reduce agreement on common policies and this produces disgruntlements like Brexit. Finally, the goods and services provided are ‘divisible’. That is, if the club becomes overcrowded, similar upper-crust citadels can be formed along roughly the same principles. Thus along London’s Pall Mall one can find a string of clubs including the ‘Reform’. The lavish have more in common regardless of their respective national, religious or racial identities and are vividly aware that, along with happiness, money also buys power. The well-heeled maintain their members’ clubs to keep all things in their proper places. At the Athenaeum in London membership is inherited. People belonging to the much venerated Windrush generation therefore have slim hopes of ever becoming members. White’s on St James’s Street is secreted away in Piccadilly.

The club remains of the male-only persuasion and a plethora of royals are presently members. It remains an enclave of tradition nestled in the bosom of modern London. A laudable collection of private societies full of retired politicians and captains of industry grace London’s Pall Mall and St James’s, through to, for example, the IMF, the OECD, and the EU. The EU is not the only free trade club in history.

The CSME, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and President Xi Jinping’s vast “Belt and Road” infrastructure project are similar clubs. In 1941 the Chaguaramas Convention Centre was constructed for army personnel of the United States arriving to build the OMEGA Tracking Station, a hospital, a degaussing range, a Submarine Base in Macqueripe, and Air Force bases in Trinidad. On July 4, 1973, the Treaty of Chaguaramas was signed at the Chaguaramas Convention Centre—the exact date on which the United States of America celebrates its independence. The statesmanship and brinkmanship of Dr Eric Williams positioned the West Indies between history and hope, as on that day a Caribbean Single Market ‘Members’ Club’ was established within the UK’s greater Commonwealth of Nations.

Prior to this treaty, The Federation of the West Indies (FWI) was established. It was a short-lived political union that aimed to create ‘One Dominion’ among the Caribbean islands similar to the Canadian Confederation, the Australian Commonwealth, or the dissolved Central African Federation; however, before that could happen, it collapsed. The federal capital of the club was to be located in T&T. Federation Park—a residential neighbourhood—was built to house delegates of the Federal Parliament of the West Indies Federation. The streets of the Park were named for the various territories which made up the Federation.

The Federal government was to be headed by an Executive Governor-General, a Prime Minister, a Cabinet, a Council of State that included the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet, as well as three senators and three civil servants, a 45-member House of Representatives, with members elected from among the territories, and a 19-member Senate. On its agenda were matters pertaining to taxation, central planning for development, the establishment of a Regional Customs Union, a Federal Civil Service and West Indies Shipping. It had embarked on negotiations to acquire the subsidiary of the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), namely British West Indies Airways (BWIA), and tertiary education was consolidated and expanded. The then University College of the West Indies (UCWI), which was established in 1948 with one campus in Jamaica, opened its second campus at St Augustine, T&T, in 1960. Within this grand narrative, the Chaguaramas Convention Centre could have easily evolved into the Berlaymont of the West Indies.

Categories: News

Provoking conflict in the Middle East

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 00:08

United States President Donald Trump removes his country from an international anti-nuclear arrangement with Iran at the same time that he seeks to have the North Korean President Kim Jong-un agree to a denuclearization agreement. Is there consistent logic in such a move?

The answer must be “no,” more so that the North Korean President has built up a reputation for intransigence, defiance of the West, and notably always having agendas outside of those negotiated.

On the other hand, the Iranian leadership, has, as testified to by the major western powers (this American president apart) France, the United Kingdom, Germany and others, kept its side of the arrangement to eliminate Teheran’s nuclear programme and ambitions.

Further, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with its nuclear weapons inspection team has made frequent visits to Iran and has reported to the rest of the world that Iran has indeed kept to the agreement to eliminate its nuclear programme.

If, therefore, there is an absence of consistent logic with President Trump taking his country out of the Iranian agreement while hanging on to Jong-un’s unreliable and always changing word, then you have to search for Trump’s pursuits elsewhere.

Analyses of Trump’s rationale in international media have concluded on a few of his objectives:

One, he is absolutely committed to erasing every policy and major decision of his predecessor, ie, the Iranian denuclearization programme.

Two, President Trump is clearly in league with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu to keep Iran, perhaps the only Muslim country in the Middle East capable of mounting a serious attack on Israel, under the gun, off-balance, in a state of turmoil, with a weakened economy robbed of the benefit of its denuclearization agreement.

Three, the US president has been angling for a long time now to further enhance spending on US military capability already streets ahead of all other military powers. The provocative and imbalanced move to site the US embassy in Jerusalem without some compensating reward to the Palestinians is one sure means of provoking open conflict in the Middle East.

The trap being set is for Iran to take offensive action against Israel (perhaps in relation to Syria and the Palestinian protests) and for Teheran to rescind the denuclearization agreement. If such an explosive situation were to evolve in the Middle East, Trump will then have ideal justification for his military spending programme, such a programme will bring big rewards for American arms manufacturers who will then return tribute to Trump’s re-election campaign.

Trump is far from being the “dumbo” he is painted to be in certain quarters; but he is “sharp as a tack” in such matters as sponsoring the agenda for the privileged and seeking to assemble an international reputation which he believes will serve well his domestic political interests.

To carry out his agenda of aggression on selected targets, Trump has fortified his armoury with hawks such as Pompeo, Secretary of State, Haspel–CIA chief, and Bolton–National Security Adviser. On the critical issue of the free circulation of assault weapons, Trump has resisted the student movement against guns and put forward a plan to arm a battalion of teachers and guards. The result, more sales of weapons for his backers, the gun manufacturers, and sellers.

Instead of “draining the swamp” of the corporate lobbyists, Trump’s lawyer/fixer has been raking in millions from large corporations wanting to peddle influence in the White House.

Readers of this column’s continuing insistence on comprehensive reform of T&T’s campaign financing laws to prevent the purchase of political power (the complete erosion of the franchise of the ordinary voter) by big capital should take note of current revelations in the US.

Categories: News

Changing the guard at the CCJ

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 00:07

The CCJ changed its guard at the farewell session of the court in Antigua last week for Sir Dennis Byron who ended his judicial career and handed the reins over to Mr Justice Adrian Saunders.

This will usher in a new era for the CCJ and there are ongoing matters of status and titles that will pass on to Justice Saunders that were hallmarks of the tenure of both Michael de la Bastide and Sir Dennis. One of these major issues is whether or not the convention of having the President of the Caribbean Court of Justice sworn in as a member of Her Majesty’s Privy Council, as was done in the cases of Michael de la Bastide and Sir Dennis.

It is extremely awkward to talk about moving from the Judicial Committee of Her Majesty’s Privy Council and embracing the CCJ as the final court of appeal if this is going to be the example shown at the top. The other issue of concern is the matter of the President of the CCJ being knighted if that person comes from a Caricom country that still uses the British honours system as part of its national awards. Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, and St Lucia have all instituted a system of absorbing the knighthood into their national honours. This means that the title has been assimilated into the Caribbean psyche in some countries so that the highest awards can still be “Sir” and “Dame,” but just not awarded at an investiture held by Queen Elizabeth II.

The deeper issue being analysed here is the intertwining of the CCJ with the British honours system or its regional reproductions and the extent to which the knighthood is regarded as the gold standard of public affairs accomplishment in our region.

There are still countries besides Barbados, Belize, Dominica, and Guyana that have not yet acceded to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ, while all countries of Caricom belong to its original jurisdiction. This issue of knighthoods and membership of Her Majesty’s Privy Council cannot be treated lightly as it goes to the core of the identity of the court.

There is another matter that was reported to the police in T&T in a criminal complaint last October regarding membership of the Regional Judicial and Legal Service Commission which has not been reported in the local press. This is a very serious matter as the complaint was made and threats of a libel action have made in retaliation to the person who made the complaint. Justice Saunders may have to keep a wary eye on this as he assumes office as President of the CCJ and the local police need to do their work expeditiously to make a determination in this matter soon.

The CCJ debate is going to continue as there have been statements out of Grenada that suggest that the Government will make another attempt to reform the constitution to abolish the Privy Council and replace it with the CCJ after it was rejected in a referendum in November 2016.

The reality is that Grenada is an interesting test case for the abolition of the Privy Council as it had been removed during the tenure of the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) by People’s Law No 84 in 1979. After the collapse of the PRG and the holding of a general election in December 1984, the new Government validated the abolition of the Privy Council in 1985. However, once the murder trials involving some of the former revolutionaries had been completed, the then government of Grenada re-joined the Privy Council in 1991.

What will happen this time around will be interesting to observe as there was only a 32 per cent turnout in the last referendum and a majority voted against having the CCJ as the final court of appeal.

Categories: News

Moët in the brass casket

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 00:06

Fictional diary entry of the widow of a gang leader in Trinidad.

“The nights is the worst. De chirren sleepin in we bed now but I still feel the empty space where you use to sleep with your mind awake, one finger on the trigger to keep we safe. You was still warm when they call me to show your body pumpin with bullets.

Your funeral was better that Pablo Escobar, your hero. Thousands come to pay their respect. I line up de whole street with all of we luxury car, music trucks playing Puff Daddy songs.

I dress you in white, cover you in gold with chain and medallians. I throw buckets of Moët champagne in your brass casket. I put your Timberland boots in de casket. It went in de fire with you. Nobody else could fill your boots, you hear.

You is de boss of de world. I tell de chirren, don’t cry in front of people like you always tell me. Fear. They will use it against you. So I stand there holdin it in till you was ashes.

People telling me, girl, take your young children and go, just get out, as if it that easy. Just go, Venezuela, Miami, just go. They kill your husband, they go come for you. I not leavin. I is not no fugitive. I didn’t do nothing wrong. You didn’t do nothing wrong neither. The papers say you live like a criminal, get gun down like a criminal. You work harder than all of them.

We was schoolchildren when we get together. A hunger in me, meet the hunger in you. Hunger for somebody to take care of we, for fame and power.

They feel it have only one type of people, with house, lunch kit, and mommies taking chirren to school and daddies workin and helpin with homework.

Like Indrani, in we class before we drop out. She is a big engineer in the oil company. She parents feel they better than we. But they were poor like we. When they see we hustlin she modder use to say “everybody makes choices” like they reach and we stupid. They skrimp and save to send she UWI.

So what, we is not people too?

We, you and me, didn’t get none of that. Nobody saving for we, nobody telling we to study. Nobody putting air-condition in we bedroom. Nobody coming to no PTA meeting.

We bathe by de standpipe every other day. We hustle on the hot highway for a few dollars. But you smarter than all them book people.

You see them politicians use to come by we, sniffing, offering we a bone around elections. Once they get we vote, they never come around again. We only seeing them in their big SUV with the sirens, racing past red light on the highway with dey glass up like we is not people. How they get away with theifing and people does call them Honourable, and you, who help thousands, give money, jobs, and hamper to de poor get call a criminal?

You take them boys, with no fadder, no hope, no education, no water, no electricity, no jobs, in wooden house and you was fadder to them. You give them a gun, white powder, and show them they is people too. Some dead, some wasted, but you do more for thousands of people than all of dem. You get more respect too. More gun than police, bigger house than high society people, more money than business magnate.

True you beat me till I get mash up but you know boy you no worse than them society people who does get beat and hide it. I shoulda just walk into dat pyre with you but I have we chirren to see about. These nights, when bullets so close, I think about Indrani mother saying ‘everybody makes choices’, like we ever had a choice.”

A 2012 United Nations Development Report declared that ‘gangs are the new law in urban T&T. In 2017 T&T police estimated there are some 211 gangs with 2,458 members in T&T, and calculated over a thousand gang-related murders between 2010 to 2017.

Categories: News

The African Continental Free Trade Area

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 01:20

On March 21 this year, 44 African heads of state and government officials signed the agreement to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which was initiated by the African Union.

The signing took place in Kigali, Rwanda.

Since 2012, the AU had begun to develop the AfCFTA. The free trade area will be one of the world’s largest in terms of the number of countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people and over $4 trillion in combined consumer and business spending if all 55 countries join.

Calestous Juma of Harvard Kennedy School and Francis Mangeni from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, in Zambia, wrote: “The TFTA is a key landmark in Africa’s economic history. It ranks in significance with the independence of Ghana in 1957, the creation of the Organisation for African Unity in 1963, and its reinvention as the African Union in 2002.

To paraphrase Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, the best way to learn to be a continental free trade area is to be a continental free trade area” (June 11, 2015)

There are some optimistic expressions about its future.

Matthew Davies, Al Jazeera’s Africa Business Report editor, stated, “Generally speaking, it’s the first stage of closer economic co-operation with a view to possible integration. The next stage would be a customs union, where each country would have the same tariffs with the outside world and low or no tariffs between each other.

“Then comes a common market, where goods, services and labour move tariff and quota-free between the countries and the bloc has a common trade relationship with the rest of the globe. Further integration involves political union and a unifying single currency.”

Landry Signé writing in The Washington Post stated: “The AU and its member countries hope the AfCFTA will accelerate continental integration and address the overlapping membership of the continent’s regional economic communities (RECs).

Many African countries belong to multiple RECs, which tends to limit the efficiency and effectiveness of these organizations.”

While the rest of world is looking at this African development, the current Government of T&T, as well as a significant section of our African elite (not necessarily the same thing!), have shown no enthusiasm for African affairs. Both have conveniently bypassed the UN declaration of the current International Decade for the People of African Descent.

The National Joint Action Committee and the Emancipation Support Committee are the main organisations keeping IDPAD prominent. Both organisations observe the annual African Liberation Day on May 25th which commemorates the founding of the OAU/AU. The Government and the African elite are indifferent to the 2003 declaration that the African Diaspora is the Sixth Region of the AU.

Any integration process is a laborious and contentious matter. For example, Nigeria, one of the key negotiators for the Kigali agreement, has not signed on as yet because President Buhari said he needed more time to consult with unions and businesses to assess the effect that AfCFTA would pose to his country’s manufacturing and small-business sector.

Burundi, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia and Benin have not yet signed.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, a staunch advocate for a more united Africa, stated his frustration with Nigeria and the other countries’ failure to take part. He said that he had long advertised all African countries to participate.

The European Union took more than 50 years to accomplish what exists today. And it still has to contend with Brexit.

Caricom, described as “the oldest surviving integration movement in the developing world”, was inaugurated in July 1973 by the Treaty of Chaguaramas, later revised in 2002. Caricom still seeks an elusive single market and economy.

Information about the African Continental Free Trade Area demands greater exposure in the Caribbean. An economically (and politically) united Africa means a lot for the self-esteem of Africans in our region.

Aiyegoro Ome

Categories: News

East Indians’ respect for womanhood

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 01:19

Last week I ended by characterising the East Indian way of life as one being filled with devotion to country. This devotion is akin to the love and affection that one would have for his/her own mother.

On that note, Hindu East Indians who first arrived in Trinidad on 30th May 1845 aboard the SS Fatal Razack and ships that followed, also brought with them an entrenched penchant to worship the Supreme Lord as the Divine Mother. The famous “Gayatri” mantra is testimony of early Vedic hymns in the worship of “Shakti” or the female aspect of God.

East Indian Hindu traditions include daily offerings of “Jal” or water to the sun at sunrise. Of all the natural wonders we revere, the most striking is the exact moment when the sun comes over the horizon.

Hindus believe that this period of dawn is the blessing of the Divine Mother herself, where the light rays shower the earth and mankind with “Prana” or positive spiritual energy.

The belief in this significant physical display of the Divine Mother is analogised in Hindu scriptures where “Shakti”, in the various forms of ‘Goddess Saraswati’, ‘Goddess Durga’, ‘Goddess Lakshmi’, ‘Goddess Kali’ and many other Goddesses are enshrined and revered even above the male form of Godhood.

In East Indian culture, the system is not totally patriarchal. For example, we speak of our Motherland (not Fatherland), we refer in our conversations to ‘matribhasha’, our mother language not ‘pitribhasha’ our father language.

Again, in Hindu scriptures sons were addressed by their mother’s name and belonged to the mother, not the father. Lord Krishna was called ‘Yashodananda’ (son of Yashoda) after his mother’s name Yashoda.

In the Mahabharata, the famed archer Arjuna was called Kaunteya, meaning ‘son of ‘Kunti’, his mother’s name.

The Great poet Tulsidas, in his composition of the Hanuman Chalisa, refers to the Great Lord Hanuman as “Anjani putra” or son of Anjani.

In Hindu scriptures, the women had an important role in society and included all fields of life, whether warfare, governance, literature and even spiritual quest. In the Brihadaranaka Upanishad (Hindu religious text), reference is made to ‘Gargya’, a great female sage (rishi).

The ‘Ramayan’ (Hindu scripture) referred to in my last article speaks of Lord Ram performing Navaratri worship of the Devi (female) before going to war. In the Mahabharata, Arjuna invokes the Divine Mother before entering the battlefield. In this present period of time, called ‘Kali-Yuga’, Adi Gura Shankaracharya (one of our great Sages) worshipped the Devi or Devi Mother with the famous Sanskrit composition, ‘Soundarya Lahari’.

Our ancestors/forefathers from India used the highest title of “Devi” when addressing mothers and women.

Nowadays, we use ‘Devi’ in referring to our mothers, sisters, daughters and wives. The East Indian way of life is to regard them as Goddesses. The festivals which East Indian Hindus traditionally upkeep such as ‘Nau Ratam’ or ‘Navaratri’ have as their central theme, the worship of the female form. East Indian marriages actually promote the Hindu ideal that a bride is the personification of Goddess Lakshmi.

For all those critics who continue to bash the East Indian way of life, it is an undeniable fact that the East Indians have maintained as part of their inherent nature, an appreciation for the women in our society.

Everyday teachings in Maha Sabha schools include the daily obligation to honour mothers by bowing at their feet. Whenever a religious ceremony is performed, there is circumambulation of our mothers with light (Aarti), the highest form of worship in Hindu rites.

The East Indian way of life is not to drink rum and beat women, as is portrayed by certain local media streams and entertainers, but to literally honour our women in society! Hindus’ normal mode of worship mandates that this type of honour is accorded to mothers, wives and girls. Last Sunday, we celebrated Mother’s Day, a highly westernised concept of honouring mothers. The East Indians have been doing this on a daily basis since time began.

It is unfortunate that our society is deteriorating from the point of view that there is a substantial rise in crimes against women. This cannot and should not continue as it would spell the inevitable destruction of all moral and religious values. In celebration of Indian Arrival Day, it is suggested that a special effort be made by all to recommit to respecting and honouring our women in society.

Happy Indian Arrival month!

Categories: News

Ganga eyes Bas’ meeting, Maxie out hospital

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 01:16

Finance Minister Colm Imbert and UNC Senator Wade Mark were at it again yesterday.

Early in the Senate sitting, both were trading grumbled remarks after Imbert declared mistrust of Mark’s arithmetic.

“You all let me know when you’re ready for me to start formal proceedings,” Senate President Christine Kangaloo reminded both.

But half hour later, as Imbert lavishly praised Opposition and Independent senators for Insurance Bill deliberations, he conceded on Mark’ determination that the bill had 282 clauses.

“I trust his arithmetic in that case,” Imbert grinned.

Agreement on the voluminous Insurance Bill, though Mark still had certain suggestions, was one of the few times both political sides have stood together on something. Certainly, none of that occurred with Government’s recent economic uptick announcement.

At Tuesday’s Senate, Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West was still saying “(UNC) Senator (Taharqa) Obika, please stop saying the economy has crashed!”

Government, however, can expect scepticism if facts of the economic movement are limited to Parliament presentation and PNM chest-thumping.

With PNM’s most significant political challenge to the Opposition to date, its widely touted economic achievement, the UNC on Tuesday strengthened profile slightly with deputy leader Jearlean John debuting as a temporary Senator.

While John’s among UNC’s political weaponry, particularly in the East-West corridor, and PNM MP Maxie Cuffie’s constituency which she’s “working”, it remains ahead how much pushback UNC’s moves will impact on Government’s economic positives.

Cuffie’s relatives said Cuffie, following recent successful neurosurgery, was discharged from hospital on Thursday, “is much improved” and back at his Washington apartment. They expect he’ll remain under observation in the US another few weeks.

The Opposition had banked heavily on negative Government image resulting from the economic downturn’s impact on J Public. And Government’s well aware of UNC’s political predicament in a positive economic landscape.

Imbert in debate, after Opposition down-cry of the economic uptick, queried how the UNC would cope with the 2019 Budget and if Panadol and Limacol would be conscripted to handle their (political) headaches.

More immediate buzz for UNC though, is tomorrow’s (Sun) meeting by supporters of former UNC leader Basdeo Panday and daughter Mickela to discuss T&T’s political climate.

Whether the meeting decides if Panday, 85 next Friday, enters a new political phase or his daughter does, remains ahead.

How concerned UNC’s leadership is about the development can be gauged by yesterday’s sudden Opposition release, on the eve of Panday’s meeting, signalling UNC’s leadership is “taking in front” on the matter. Literally.

UNC announced that party leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar will be honoured at today’s Indian Arrival Day celebrations by the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), where she’ll speak, at a Chaguanas venue similar to Panday’s meeting tomorrow.

Persad-Bissessar’s address will likely target UNC faithful, seeking to steady party foundation against possible Panday “putsch”.

Precautionary indeed. UNC Chaguanas West MP Ganga Singh, recently shifted to last on the Opposition backbench, confirmed “active consideration” to attend Panday’s meeting.

Singh added yesterday: “As a student of T&T political history it’s an interesting development: the first time in political history a former PM, founder of the UNC, is contemplating forming an alternative political party. We’re living in interesting times.”

Some from Panday’s heyday were invited to the open forum. Ex-sidekick Jack Warner, an invitee said, “I have a prior engagement. I wish them the best and will monitor developments.”

Also invited, senior counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj said, “I’ll be overseas, but I wish the meeting well.”

Former Naparima MP Nizam Baksh confirmed invitation from Mickela, but says Ramadan fasting’s started. Ex-MP Chandresh Sharma said Wednesday he was at a funeral and didn’t say “yea” or “nay.” UNC’s Fazal Karim said he wasn’t invited.

If not for Government’s economic uptick, UNC officials may not have been watching to see if the Pandays’ future path may cross UNC’s in traditional strongholds.

However, Roodal Moonilal, whom Panday mentored, said, “People are free to meet the public. But T&T’s always been a two-party system, I don’t see that changing.”

Categories: News

Pages