History lessons for Manning

By Raffique Shah
April 25, 2010

National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) leader Makandal Daaga‘DID you hear the Prime Minister lashing out at you on the PNM platform last night?’ It was the kind of telephone calls and greetings I received repeatedly over the past week. I informed my ‘informants’ that I did hear Mr Manning mention my name, among others, as he attempted to give PNM supporters ‘History lessons’. As a columnist who writes on political issues, I need to stay tuned to the ranting on the hustings if I am to write informed comments.

On PNM platforms, Mr Manning gave ill-informed versions of the 1970 Black Power movement and the army mutiny that I led on April 21 that year. He also made reference to my one intervention in electoral politics (1976-81)-a nasty experience, one that has kept me wary of electoral politics and most politicians ever since.

In both instances, the PM was short on the facts surrounding the events, which signalled to me that he himself needs to be taught vital lessons in local history. On the Black Power movement, for example, he suggested the locals were merely aping what was happening in America where Trinidad-born Stokely Carmichael led the ‘Charge of the Black Brigade’.

He failed to mention that when the protest-movement erupted here eight years after independence, the then prime minister, Dr Eric Williams, had failed to deliver the country from racism and neo-colonialism. Our economy was still controlled from abroad. Foreigners owned the oil and sugar industries, as well as other lucrative sub-sectors like merchandising and manufacturing. Non-Whites could hardly rise above the shop-floor in the commercial sector. They were excluded from the banking and finance sectors except if they were ‘fair skinned’ or had fairy godfathers.

Manning is oblivious to the fact that official unemployment stood at 25 per cent while the real numbers suggested at least 45 per cent of young people had no jobs-even those who had GCE ‘O’ Levels or skills’ certification. It was against that background that small groups were formed to demand social and economic justice. They would all come together under the banner of the NJAC, led by Geddes Granger (later Makandal Daaga), and daily demonstrations numbered from 5,000 to 50,000 angry young people.

It was also in the above circumstances that the majority of soldiers mutinied at Teteron Barracks when Williams declared a state of emergency and locked up leaders of the mass movement. The young lieutenants and our troops refused to be used to suppress, and possibly kill, our own people whose only crime was to justifiably seek social and economic equity.

As this column appears in print, the rebels’ brotherhood of 40 years ago will be enjoying our annual ‘camp’ at Mayaro. We are all 60 years-plus now, we have lost a few good men over the years, but we remain solidly one when it comes to what we stood for back in 1970. Mr Prime Minister, we are unrepentant mutineers. We stood for a cause then that remains valid today. And we upheld the highest revolutionary principles by not engaging in wanton slaughter of innocent-and maybe not-so-innocent-people, which we had the firepower to do.

But why am I revealing all of this to the PM? If he wishes to educate his party members and supporters in the true history of this country, starting from the turn of the 19th Century, he can hire me (and others who are versed in the subject) to do the needful. I shall charge a fee, of course. But I assure him it won’t be anything as outrageous as what his government pays Bob Linquist or Calder Hart or sundry other foreign ‘consultants’ for less than nothing.

I am not thin-skinned when it comes to being named on platforms, having lived a colourful life, and, like it or not, I am a public figure. In fact, when Basdeo Panday was still alive (politically), he could not resist calling my name in vain on almost every platform. You see where that got him? Thou shalt not call the lord’s (‘Carlti’ was my calypso sobriquet!) name in vain!

I am not offended when the PM calls my name on his platforms-as long as he sticks with the facts. Yes, I was a proud mutineer, and even prouder that I stood up to Panday when it mattered. Manning should learn this other piece of history. It was the PNM that was responsible for foisting Panday on the sugar workers.

In an interview with Owen Baptiste’s People magazine, reproduced in the book Crisis, Panday confessed to being invited to lead the All Trinidad union by stalwart PNMite Rampartap Singh. He also collaborated with then PNM point-man in the South, Errol Mahabir.

Now that Panday is dead politically, Manning is in mourning. For as long as the ‘great divider’ remained in charge of the opposition, he, Manning, was guaranteed the position of Prime Minister.

In the upcoming elections, Manning faces an uncertain future. It is why the party resurrected the ghost of Dr Williams, even as it seeks to denigrate Daaga and Errol McLeod. ‘Mac’ and ‘Mak’ are capable of defending themselves. But Manning should stick with geology and let those of us who lived history-nay, made history-deal with that subject.

8 Responses to “History lessons for Manning”


  • I wish I had Shah’s number to call him too because there are some pressing issues I would want him address instead of the continuous ramblings about 1970.(Publish the damn book man). Shah should be discussing the relevance of the two big men “Mak” and “Mac”,(the real McDonalds should consider some campaign financing here). Is is true that Dookeran lobbied for NJAC to contest four election. What has Daaga done to deserve this? NJAC in the elections they have contested hardly mustered a 1000 votes in any constituency so why four seats? Daaga himself must be approaching 80 why should he, and Errol, another senior citizen be in the front line? How are they going to deal with today’s gun slinging youths when they buss shots? Shouldn’t they Raff be in the cold room hammering out policy with Kamla and Dooks. So come on Raff nuff said about your mutinous ways for now (yes I await the book) but this is 2010 not 1970.

  • Martin Daly: Believing in the coalition
    The personality and manner of Mr Manning is an issue in the coming May 24 elections. He and his supporters say he is a determined leader, ambitious to make Trinidad and Tobago into a developed country by 2020. They also say that his determination and his scorn for those who challenge his plans and projects for development should not be interpreted as arrogance and conceit and an excessive taste for living high.

    Selwyn Ryan: Self-coups and political regeneration

    Consign mindless politicians to doghouse
    Perhaps, it is simply that they have been on the campaign trail longer, but it seems to me that the PNM’s platform speakers are focussing more on personal insults that attacking the other side on any real issues.

    Vashty Maharaj: Poor, poor Patos

    Judy Raymond: The windiness of change
    On Wednesday night, the United National Congress (UNC) leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar listened to the voice of the people, as she so often claims to do. The voice said, ‘Lose the Celine Dion song,’ and she did, falling back on her old favourite, Bob Marley.

    Political ditties causing election ruction

  • Apologies guys, the NBA was on , and one of my favorite players was on the go.Here is my response to Ian Dalglish:-
    It is why this election is so critical , as many of the conditions as laid out so lucidly by Uncle Shah , are prevailing in this underachieving nation of ours. Do not worry at the moment cousin Ian, about”hammering out policy,”as that would evolve in due course. as my wise Granny would say , ‘you can’t walk before you creep,’ or better yet ,according to Ecclesiastic 3 of the ‘De BlackSunGod’ King James Bible , of there being a time and a place for everything under the sun.

    http://www.bartleby.com/108/21/3.html
    There is this most pressing and monumental task ahead come May 24th- namely , the removal of the failed Manning political administration ,that has along with his party since 1962 , done more harm than good to our blessed country.
    Uncle Shah said ,”it was the PNM that was responsible for foisting Panday on the sugar workersNow that Panday is dead politically, Manning is in mourning…. For as long as the ‘great divider’ remained in charge of the opposition, he, Manning, was guaranteed the position of Prime Minister.”
    He hit the nail on the head , and indirectly explained why our country is better off when these two nepotistic ,secret conspirators , and drinking pals, are encouraged to go into permanent retirement so as to engage in burping their grand children ,while laid back on a recliner in Couva , San Fernando , or Scotland – after serving time of course for misdeeds while in power.
    So what Uncle Shah reminded us again is that the ‘Panman’tag team are both ‘peas of the same pod,’ and has done everything feasible to stifle progressives -from within their respective parties- that either threatened their lifetime power plays ,or might have moved this country forward away from idiot politics of waste, mismanagement , neglect a, and corruption.
    Hopefully ,Madam K,with the help of others, can grasp the opportunity to now take the tentative steps to make our country relevant again, as opposed to the laughing stocks, that we are so rightly characterized.

  • Manning does not identify African except the pretence when playing the race card around election time. At least the Indians in the opposition who at times use the race card identify as Indians. Manning remarks about Dagga shows the contempt he has for African people. I expect nothing better from him and while he is also encouraging age discrimination as a way to purge his party and defame the opposition, he is way older than Pennelope Beckles who he cast aside because he wanted a younger person. I am no fan of the UNC but I will vote for them just to get rid of Patrick Manning and allow the PNM room to get better leadership.

    • “I am no fan of the UNC but I will vote for them just to get rid of Patrick Manning and allow the PNM room to get better leadership.”-Keith
      I believe that that is the sentiment of most of us. I just pray that the UNC doesn’t neglect any portion of society when she wins.

  • we live in a democracy.why are we talking so much.
    just vote.
    D…Democracy.
    D…DICTATORSHIP.
    choose…it is that simple.Vote,and the next time, vote again.
    my head hurts…since 1971.performance,good governance,starts with the people.If the PEOPLE are corrupt,the Government is corrupt.
    Who put the GOVERNMENT…the people!
    We are a democratic REPUBLIC,and as such,a gov of,for,and by the people.
    the very people who complain
    the very same people who cry,after all this time,do…not…understand the possibilities of DEMOCRACY!
    THE ONLY OTHER CHOICE IS DICTATORSHIP at this point in time.
    is there another?
    Dingarka

  • Dr Browne, you will grow old too

    Monday, April 26 2010

    THE EDITOR: The recent rumblings and overt tumblings in the PNM serve as just testimony to an increasingly alienated Prime Minister, largely divorced from the lives and challenges of the populace. To hear him on the campaign trail speaking of Makandal Daaga as a virtual has-been, whose prominence occurred 40 years ago, comes as no surprise to many regarding his attitude toward nation-builders and freedom-fighters that played a vital role in accentuating liberty in our land.

    But it is his Social Services Minister that warrants due criticism in this brief missive. It was with shock and umbrage that the nation heard the learned Dr Browne berating seasoned contributors in our country as he chastised the UNC hierarchy for appointing Dr Suruj Rambachan, Mervyn Assam, Wade Mark and, of all people, activist Verna St Rose!

    Our dear Minister’s tirade was filled with the implicit and solid discrimination based on age as he was highly successful in projecting himself as a Government Minister who believes that once someone’s youth has passed, they are of no benefit to the nation!

    How dare you, Minister Browne! How dare you wear the label of Social Services Minister when you clearly believe that “old” people cannot contribute to a developing society! Shame on you for attacking valid citizens whose voice echo loud and clear for the voiceless in our society.

    One wonders how you can show your face in public again as you will have cause to interface with senior citizens, social activists and the elderly.

    And one day, sir, you too will grow old! What should the youth say about you then?

    BRIAN MOHAMMED
    via e-mail

  • We talk sundiatadingarka, simply because this is not backward Africa, benevolent dictatorship /so called democratic Asia, the mad house , war obsessed ,phony religious Middle East fiefdoms, or majority of , confused Latin America ,where the masses elevate mere earthly mortals, into lofty ,semi gods elitist status, then sit in squalor , hunger , pain ,and neglect , then continually cry like lost kids , while anticipating white Europeans ,and ‘Norte Americans,’ to come to their rescue.
    We are the real democracy , where any tin pan global citizen can drop their own country at the drop of a hat , and be allowed to vote , before they pass through immigration. We epitomize democracy, here some pseudo religious fool , with a bunch of illiterate fellow bandits, can overrun our Parliament, murder as well as render chaos, and destruction, to the tune of millions ,then walk away freely after appeals to Massa England , where if similar atrocities were committed , the result would be different.
    We are a democracy where people can leave their land ,for the Industrialized North, and even commit crimes of mammoth proportions at home ,then bawl like constipated mules to naive , and often cunning, foreign officials, about their alleged crime ridden, genocidal, racial discriminatory, police abusing country , simply as a ploy to gain some advantage ,such as obtaining citizenships , or other favorable assistance.
    We are a democracy , because a woman could come from a society where hundreds are being murdered daily by dehumanizing male counterparts , and no one shows any concern ,since it’s taboo , and or culturally acceptable , yet a member might be on the verge of running this country , but without being the beneficiary of some act of nepotism , or other pro colonial hereditary beneficiaries, as customary in 99.9 % of parts of ancestral regions where some were able to be so favored. Should I go , on? Continue to love country, my friend, and let’s keep them honest, shall we?

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