Permission Please, Sir

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
April 3, 2018

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeOn Monday I attended UNC’s Monday Night Forum. Nothing out of the ordinary, I thought. I have always attended political meetings of every stripe to understand the political currents of my society and the world. I never supported Tapia, but Lloyd Best and I remained the best of friends. We attended the same primary school.

In 1972 David Abdullah contested the Tunapuna seat as a candidate for the ULF. I voted for the PNM. We remain friends. I was never a fast friend of Basdeo Panday but nothing stopped me from attending ULF meetings at Mid-Center Mall and other places. In August of last year, Nicole Dyer-Griffith was contesting the leadership of Congress of the People. I attended a meeting at the Tunapuna Community Centre to hear what she had to say.

My political philosophy is simple: It’s better to get things straight from the horse’s mouth rather than listen to the outpourings of the scribes and the philistines.

Although the media made much ado about my attending the UNC’s Forum, no one seems to know or to care that I also attended PNM’s political meeting at Diamond Vale Community Centre the previous Thursday night. I arrived before the meeting began, sat at the back of the room, and listened to the political offerings of my party leaders politely. I was merely a part of the furniture of the room. After the meeting Robert Le Hunte greeted me and we promised to get together. I said hello to Camille Robinson-Regis before I left the meeting. I have known her for a long time. We have always been respectful of each other.

Going to political meetings is nothing new for me. In June 2016 I traveled to London to observe the Brexit elections. To my great surprise the British electorate voted to leave the European Union (EU). I lost a British pound in the process, so sure I was that the British electorate would choose to remain within the EU (trinicenter.com, June 27, 2016).

Last May, in the heat of the French elections, I went to the suburbs of Paris to hear what Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front, had to say (Express, May 7, 2017). It was at the high tide of conservative politics. I was in favor of seeing what Emmanuel Macron was doing to save the Western world from the encroaching fascism that was threatening the gains that were made in terms of racial tolerance and progressive legislation.

I thought the United States electorate would save us. I was wrong. Confident that Hillary Clinton, an alumna of my college, would win, we gathered to welcome the first female US president. Just like the Brexit vote, we were all confident of Hillary’s victory until about midnight when the votes from Ohio and Pennsylvania began to come in. Never was disappointment so palpable; never was grief so visible as that night at the Keohane Sports Center at Wellesley College where we waited with bated breath to hear the results.

I have always been a political animal. l was part of a political cell in Athens, Ohio, that worked tirelessly to support the African National Congress (ANC) to rid South Africa of apartheid. In 1976 I accompanied Alfred Nzo, the secretary general of the ANC (Mandela’s party) from Athens to Harvard University where he gave a speech about the need to free South Africa from racial oppression and to build a democracy there. Seventy people attended his speech.

In June 1976 several students were shot down in Soweto, South Africa, for protesting the introduction of Afrikaans into their schools as the medium of instruction. Some months later the leaders of the student movement came to Boston for support. We marched to Boston Common demanding an end to apartheid. I led the marchers in that demonstration. A photograph of my holding the banner of the demonstration aloft can still be seen in the Boston Globe or the Harvard Crimson.

That same year I was appointed as an assistant professor at Harvard. A few years later I addressed the Faculty of Arts and Science demanding that Harvard divest its investments in South Africa. My speech is still available for anyone to see. Eventually, the university divested its holdings from South Africa, but the struggle for justice in that land still continued.

In the 1980s, when Home Construction threw the sugar cane farmers and the tenants off the lands on which they were living and farming we (the National Association of Squatters, Farmers, Renters and Mortgagees) protested strenuously against such injustice. On April 18, 1985, I wrote a letter to George Chambers, Prime Minister, protesting the injustice of such an action. I led the organization’s protest against Home Construction’s actions. Two other Indian leaders and I were beaten and thrown into the Arouca police station and charged with disturbing the peace. Trincity Mall was built on those disputed lands. I have never stepped foot into that mall.

I recount this history to remind my detractors that I have been involved in international and domestic politics. No one tells me where and when to enter. I do not need permission to exercise my natural rights. That’s how free human beings behave.

6 Responses to “Permission Please, Sir”


  • The UNC was probably flattered and intrigued by your attendance, interpreting your presence there as some sort of dissatisfaction with the PNM as suggested in some of your columns.
    These are public meetings. No special permission is required for attendance. You are a public figure who will always attract the attention of the media whose job is to provide speculative theories.

  • “I recount this history to remind my detractors that I have been involved in international and domestic politics. No one tells me where and when to enter. I do not need permission to exercise my natural rights. That’s how free human beings behave.”

    Imagine dat?!

    So who is going to write on our behalf (African Trinbagonians)?
    Who is going to ‘tell’ us about Cambridge Analytica and their role in T&T under Kamla and her gang? Who is going to put the pieces together to tell the dangers of when the State’s Intel services were ‘allegedly’in collusion with this company to spy on the people of T&T and, what other nefarious acts were the State’s Intel services used for under Kamla and her UNC/PP? Are we to rely on Ralph Maraj, Sat or Kamal Persad to tell us how the DPP office was bugged?
    And, who is going to tell us why Trump has so many Indians in his administration (yet they call him racist) and their link to the UNC/PP?

    Perception….

  • Professor Cudjoe

    Thanks for the insightful article. But there is one item you mentioned that holds no water. The election of Mrs Clinton to the presidency of the US. Have you been following her on her many triads about why she did not wind the elections. Get real about this lady. To many questions and lies. Looking down on people etc. Full of BSsssss.

  • Dr Cudjoe you attended that meeting with the clear intention of creating a media event and a media story and nothing that you said can hide this fact. It may have been to detract from the UNC Meeting and focus on you as a black icon attending this meeting. Your presence was intended to focus on you and nothing else because you could have listened on the radio. There is more than meets the eye in this scenario Professor and you may want to attract Rowley’s attention for your personal gain. It was all political motivated- not as an observer because you knew the Indians will hug you up and you will feel good and special. Gimme a break!

  • This article is empty of substance, a man’s preference is just that, his preference. I don’t attend political meetings because of the natural tendency of politicians to attack each other but in real life they are best friends drinking from the same cool aid pitcher. Winston Gypsy said it best “we all friends”.

    I listen to KPB speech and the warm welcome she afforded you doc. But I suspect you were on a diffrent mission and that is to gauge the mood of the attendees. It is known that you are more connected to Maxie Cuffie more than Keith Rowley his beloved leader. Visiting him and taking notes on his condition. Perhaps you understand the dire situation facing him as Le Couteaux claimed Joseph in Tobago, Manning in Trinidad and now Maxie Cuffie. For the undiscerning this may appear to be a series of coincidences.

    Politicians are a strange breed of people, one dear MP said “nobody in Tobago suffering”. Now that is an absolute statement, when facts show some 25 businesses going or near going under. This whilst Jamaica attracted an additional 500,000 tourist and laugh all the way to bank. Yes tourism is declining in TNT since the PNM took charge. Civil citizens are emptying their bank account and moving to greener pastures. Ayana upon assuming power summarily move to dismiss over a thousand workers who did not subscribe to the balisier philosophy. Young mothers with babies to feed were shown the unemployment door. Such trauma has seal the lips of Tobagonians as the tag team of Ayana and Shamfa looms high over the island.

    Prior to the 2015 election you prophesied that the PNM was going to win 25 seats. A prophecy that came to pass. This whilst Kamla was told her victory is secured. A rude awakening awaited the UNC as the lack of proper campaign strategy booted them out of power. I sense the shift 2 weeks prior even though I was in denial.

    The way forward for the PNM is one of empty rhetoric and feel good moments. Things are bad and only getting worst, yet the PNM gets a passed by vacuous commentary. (1) No sea bridge, first time in my recollection, especially for carnival and Easter. (2) Tourism down considerably. (3) the economy suffered the worst contraction in 30 years in 2017, (4) thousands sent home to plant cassava, contracts not renewed and restructuring (laying off employees) move full steam ahead, (5) foreign investments have virtually dried up, (6) Heritage fund is being raided, no money being put in, (7) Taxes, taxes and more taxes, property tax now the law, $5000 fine for non compliance, (8) No laptops, GATE, UTT and UWI (staff not paid for six months) several schools remain closed, whilst family send their children far distance(9) School feeding program virtually closed down, (10) the government borrowed the highest ever in 2 years $20 billion….

    I could go on but nobody rioting yet. They are however worried about the future!

  • Learned Ductah,please stop yuh mamagism. Yuh too old fuh dat. You happy withe this non-performing pnm regime. As “mamoo” said, yuh article has no substance.

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