Chambers wasn’t ‘duncy’ after all

Dr. Kwame Nantambu
January 16, 2008

George ChambersAs Calypsonians put the final touches on their compositions for C2K8, it is apropos to relegate to the ash heap of TnT’s political history, the notion that has been bandied about by some Calypsonians that as Prime Minister of TnT, George Chambers was “duncy.” The fact of the matter is that such a notion is not rooted in historical/factual reality but rather in mythology and facetious fiction.

Truth Be Told:

Chambers never went to UWI
But he sure as hell have a doctorate in diplomacy
‘Cause as Prime Minister of TnT
He stood up against mighty imperialist United States hegemony

The fact of the matter is that Prime Minister George Chambers did what current Prime Minister Patrick Manning would never even think about doing, namely, say “hell no” to United States geo-political pressure.

Indeed, the record reveals that as Prime Minister of TnT and Chairman of CARICOM, George Chambers totally refused to collude with the United States in the illegal, immoral and unconstitutional invasion of Grenada on 25 October 1983.

Prime Minister Chambers not only refused to be a willing house-servant participant in that unholy United States alliance but also rejected any role to destroy/abort Grenada’s successful and globally respected people’s Marxist revolution.

Since fellow CARICOM members knew that Chambers opposed the invasion, TnT was left out of the final so-called “urgent request” to U.S. President Ronald Reagan on 24 October 1983.

This is what Prime Minister Chambers stated in Parliament on 26 October 1983 (one day after the invasion): “to date, I have received no notification from any CARICOM member country of any intention to request assistance from the government of the United States to intervene militarily in Grenada nor have I been informed by any CARICOM member country that such a request had in fact been made.”

History will record Chambers’ action as a bold move rather than a “duncy” foreign policy decision. Prime Minister Chambers stood up against the might of the United States and for doing so, TnT paid the ultimate price — retaliation from the United States.

The United States’ retaliation against TnT occurred in November 1988 when the U.S.-controlled International Monetary Fund (IMF) imposed severe, draconian “conditionality measures” on a US$100m loan to the government.

Then President of the Public Service Association (PSA), Dr. Kenrick “Gus” Rennie warned that his 65,000 member union was going to bear the brunt of the IMF-imposed drastic cuts in government (public sector) jobs.

In fact, in December 1988, the TnT government implemented the following IMF-imposed draconian budgetary measures: (1) a 10 per cent cut in the salaries of all public servants, (2) a slash in all government subsidies to public utilities (water, electricity, telephone, bus fares), (3) elimination of personal income tax relief and allowances, (4) house rates, taxes fire insurance and maintenance repairs no longer allowed, (5) reduction of corporation tax from a maximum of 49.5 per cent to a consolidation of 45 per cent, (6) abolition of tax-free bonds, credit union/co-op shares and Unit Trust deductions, (7) phased reduction of the Negative List, (8) non-charitable deeds of covenant on or before 23 January 1987 not allowed, (9) a limitation on employment expense deductions, (10) a 100 per cent increase in postage for all mail, internal and external and (11) whereas, in previous years, students attending the University of the West Indies did not pay any tuition, for the next two years beginning with the 1989 academic year, all students must now pay 10 per cent of their tuition costs.

Indeed, reaction by the citizenry was swift, vociferous and ferocious. Basdeo Panday said then that the 1989 budget “reeks of an IMF prescription” and will cause “massive retrenchment, unemployment and underemployment, resulting in a feeling of hopelessness in our young people, collapsing business in the private sector, escalating losses in private enterprises and a rising crime rate.”

Moreover, public servants took to the streets to protest the government’s undemocratic and unilateral action to cut their salaries by 10 per cent. They got support from the Council of Progressive Trade Unions (CPTU) who charged that the government’s decision was an illegal interference with the free collective bargaining process and a violation of the International Labour Convention Numbers 98 and 154.

The CPTU pointed out that “the (1989) budget is the most exploitative and oppressive to have been imposed on the backs of workers, farmers, teachers, public servants, daily paid workers, small businesses, the underemployed and the middle-income workers in our society.”

On 30 December 1988, the Trinidad labour movement began to organize a mass mobilization programme against the draconian budget. On 6 March 1989, a nation-wide “day of resistance” took place during which 82 per cent of workers in the public sector stayed away from work, 75 per cent of workers in the private sector refused to go to work and 65 per cent of teachers stayed home.

In addition, internationally recognized economist Dr. Karl Levitt reported that “there were, in fact, statistical irregularities in the IMF’s Staff Report on the Trinidad and Tobago economy in 1986 and 1987” and that there might have been “deliberate manipulation of the statistical data in order to impose Fund (draconian) conditionalities” on TnT.

These IMF “conditionality measures” created social chaos, unrest and strife in TnT and represented a deliberate attempt by the United States government to destabilize the democratically-elected government of TnT for the principled foreign policy stance it took against the U.S. invasion of Grenada.

In the words of David Abdulah then Treasurer and Education Research Officer of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union of TnT during a radio interview on station WPFW 89.3 FM Washington, D.C., on 29 November 1988: “the IMF action against Trinidad and Tobago is a bit of a punishment for (the government’s) stand against the U.S. government’s invasion of Grenada.”

Prime Minister George Chambers of TnT regarded the U.S. invasion of Grenada as a gross violation of the tenants of international law and a frontal attack against the national sovereignty of Grenada. And that was the most potent, principled and provocative foreign policy decision to make; it was not a “duncy” decision after all.

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.

7 thoughts on “Chambers wasn’t ‘duncy’ after all”

  1. “Prime Minister Chambers stood up against the might of the United States and for doing so, TnT paid the ultimate price — retaliation from the United States.

    The United States’ retaliation against TnT occurred in November 1988 when the U.S.-controlled International Monetary Fund (IMF) imposed severe, draconian “conditionality measures” on a US$100m loan to the government.”

    So, the FACT that the PNM Government ran down the economy prior to 1986 had NOTHING to do with forcing the NAR government (1986-1991) to turn to the IMF?? Wasn’t the true state of affairs of the economy also kept under wraps by your vaunted Chambers PNM government?? Where was the Chambers Government responsibility for informing the country in no uncertain terms about the true state of the country?? “Chambers stood up against the might of the United States…” but couldn’t stand up against the voting mob of T&T??

    It was ONLY when the NAR got in government that the EXTENT of the dilapidated state of the economy was revealed. And when it was revealed to the T&T population, before any decision was taken by the NAR government, didn’t Patrick Manning brag openly to the population, with an air of finality, that, “Robinson HAS to go to the IMF??” So that being (eventually) the case, if Patrick Manning and the conmen PNM had won in 1986, wouldn’t the PNM have ALSO gone to the IMF and accept the(ir) conditionalities?? And wouldn’t, “social chaos, unrest and strife in TnT…” also, then, still be unavoidable??

    Wouldn’t David Abdullah’s statement then STILL remain the same, pertaining to the IMF loan, a la, “the IMF action against Trinidad and Tobago is a bit of a punishment for (the government’s) stand against the U.S. government’s invasion of Grenada.”??

    Stop blaming the NAR (directly or indirectly) for the disastrous fallout of PNM conmen policies, those policies with which the PNM’s afro-racist mob were content with, via their voting for PNM for 30 years prior to 1986!!!


  2. He was brave enough to have stood up to the US in some people’s eyes but the line between Stupidity and Bravery is often blurred.

  3. We have to pick our battles, brothers. On the scale of a country, our leader does that on our behalf. History will record the fallout from any decision that they make…good or bad. But in the end, its we, the electorate, who mandate them to govern. So you know what, we just have to be mature enough to take the bad with the good, and hope for the best. In my mind, Mr. Chambers did a pretty good job in steering the ship. There were conditions and world situations that were bearing down (drop in oil prices etc) that were out of his control, and there were some not too wise decisions on his part. But he was human, and I am sure that he had the best intentions for our country, so hear what, let’s just try and learn from the past, to improve our future. The price of oil is at an all time high now. I hope that the current Gov’t is taking measures to plan for that rainy day when prices come down…that’s part of the reason that we put them there for…

  4. This is a great article and one which was long “overdue.”

    George Chambers was also very intelligent as evidenced by his wise decision to get to heck out of TNT politics because you all are so flipping racial and ungrateful that no one in their right mind will care to enter politics in TNT unless they are interested in stealing from TNT,”pushing” a Racial agenda or just plain stupid or and crazy and in some very,very,rare case they actually LOVE TNT AND ITS PEOPLE.
    I state categorically that I am that rare case ( like every true TNT Republican ) who loves TNT…are you ?

    Some of you also tend to forget Basdeo Panday and some of the stand he took for workers regardless of race for …stands which landed him in Jail and hated and threatened by employers and multi-national corporations.

    Some of you also forget the stand taken by Raffique Shah,Michael Barzey and Rex Lasalle when they refused to allow the Army to be used against the Black people of this country as ordered by the so called great Eric Williams who was willing to have the Army shot down the very people who put his arse in power!

    So in many instances we have to look at the true heroes of our nation and ask why are they not given their due?
    Well that is why very few governments like the Internet!
    Today America reigns supreme in TNT and so does all their negative influences and the Media is too busy kissing their buts to actually do anything at all and I except Senior Counsel Mr .Theodore Guerra from those because he does not hate nor dislike America but he firmly believes that they need to stay to hell out of the affairs of TNT and he is not” Green Card crazy” nor does he suffer from “AMERICANITIS!”

    “AMEIRCANISTIS” IS A very malignant diseases which manifests itself in human beings by their actions and deeds.
    See them as they try to convince us all that America has the answer to all our problems….if given the chance they will sell our country to America and make us a “Protectorate” like the US Virgin Islands…but never full statehood!
    That is another topic so I am gone for now!
    The fearless TNT Republican.

  5. Williamsingh, you had me there until you tried to glorify Basdeo Panday. Panday is the biggest race baiter in trinidad and tobago. People like you should be glad that the afro trinidad are a bunch of Kya, kya kya folks and don’t take on the nonsense that panday spew otherwise we would have long ago been plunged into a bloody racial war.

  6. An article 20 years to late though Urgently relevant today.
    God forbid should we fail to act retroactively NOW!
    I joined the picket line then but I refused to vote because of the lack of choices- I revelled not in Chambers humiliation as I stood with him on “his” Grenada policy

  7. I’ll endorse most of the laudable expressed sentiments put forward a few on this subject. It is unfortunate that I only came upon the article this late in the game as a relatively new comer to the site. I prefer to give some credit also to former President Mr. Ellis Clarke, at the time for the appointment, in that saw in Mr. Chambers a safe and steady individual from among the lot of deputies capable of keeping the country on an even keel after the vacuum that was created after the death of the 1st PM of the country. Transitions are never easy.

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