By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
June 17, 2010
Before the elections it was all about peace, love and togetherness. Speaking at Aranguez on May 22 Kamla Persad-Bissesar intoned “As we reach the end of this campaign, I want to thank everyone in and out of Trinidad and Tobago who has contributed to our efforts…Your efforts have been historic because, for the first time in our nation’s history, you have put aside the divisions of our past in order to reach across and unite for a better future and a better way.”
Then came the glorious victory of May 24. Since then several of the People’s Partnership (PP) initiatives have been characterized by vindictiveness and intimidation. In three short weeks we have seen the direction in which PP’s rule is tending. We will hound them out of office; we will put the Integrity Commission on the defensive; we will reopen Landate so that Keith Rowley becomes intimidated and afraid to speak with his usual clarity and brilliance; we will give Ish Galberansigh and Steve Ferguson a little more time to evade their fates (they were arrested on Tuesday); we will see how best to persecute Louis Lee Sing further and thereby make Citadel Limited the poster child of PNM’s discrimination against Indians although the Maha Sabha received a radio license anyhow.
In the process we will unleash the power of the state against our opponents. We will employ (and thereby tie up) all the leading attorneys of the country so that they become clients of the state; hound office holders out of office and then dare them to take us to court where the cost of litigation will be so high that the average person will be unable to gain justice. Many will just walk quietly away to save their dignity as the attorney general’s friends and mentors entrench PP’s rule via the unrelenting power of law and propaganda.
In fact, the aim of this PP’s full-court press is to insure that PNM and its supporters never rise again. It is almost as though the removal of the PNM from the political scene is the necessary corollary to the entrenchment of the PP within the political culture. In furtherance of this objective the attorney general will use his office as another platform to pursue the cases he fought in his private lawyerly capacity on behalf of the Maha Sabha, his most visible client, and those to whom he felt the state had wronged.
Such a posture is in keeping with the ideological thrust of the PP. Even as Kamla spoke about the need for unity and a desire to reach across class and ethnic lines she could not help but depict blackness as a pathology within the body politic. In her way of thinking, African people are not normal persons pursuing their everyday lives and fulfilling their everyday needs. Rather they constitute a disruptive presence, living in disreputable enclaves that are plagued by a self-perpetuating pathology of joblessness, welfare dependency, teen-age pregnancies and a criminal mindset.
Two days before the election Kamla observed: “Anyone who has followed this campaign; anyone who has walked with us through Laventille; anyone who has come to a public meeting with us in San Fernando; anyone who has watched rally voters in Couva and in St. Joseph and San Juan; anyone who has followed our efforts in the newspapers, on TV, or online, can see the dedication and enthusiasm of the diverse interests who have come together for change in Trinidad and Tobago.”
One can infer from this statement that Kamla’s self appointed task is to transform Africans into healthy psychological beings as the necessary condition for solving the nation’s problems. Not only do we represent the nation’s pathological underbelly but hers is the task to administer the necessary cure.
Indians, on the other hand, are presumed to be exemplary citizens who by the dint of hard work have made enormous achievements in spite of the discriminatory practices to which they have been subjected. Freed from the psychical handicaps to which Africans have been subjected, Kamla has nothing to ask of them since, in local parlance “dey business fix.” Africans only have to follow the Indian example to cure themselves of the various social pathologies that have inundated their being.
One continues to look in vain to see the demands the PP asks of Indians as we seek to heal the “divisions of our past” and “reach across” the chasm of the present to find a better future. Yet the question remains, how does the PP intend to cure the social pathologies that exist in Laventille, St. Joseph, San Fernando, Tobago and San Juan that prevent these citizens from realizing their potential in this proposed utopia?
If the challenge is one of the economic rather than the psychical conditioning of a people how does the PP intend to restructure the national economy to create those well-paying jobs (which may just be at the root of their problems) to move them from the margins to the center of the society so they can live healthy and meaningful lives.
The majority of people who voted against the PNM (and for the PP) are not prepared to see the state used to subvert a democracy that took us fifty years to build. When they decided to look past race and ethnicity to vote for the PP they did so because they believe that a better future is possible. They did not intend to give carte blanche to the PP to use the race card against their fallen opponents. While the supporters of the PDD, DLP, ULF, UNC never moved beyond their ethnic enclave to vote for no one but their own, African people moved beyond their parochial interests to vote in the national interest.
Many of us will look to see how the PP uses the state apparatuses to advance their narrow parochial agenda. They may go aggressively after Rowley even as they give Ish and Steve some slack. Nonetheless, how they deal with the nation’s pathology as they defined it by inference will constitute the most revelatory moment in their journey. As we await the answer, we look to see what the Indians are asked to contribute towards the unity of the nation and the construction of a better day?