Decentering Dr. Williams; Denigrating the PNM

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
September 05, 2021

PART I

“Ethnic mobilization [in Trinidad and Tobago] is the result of national political impotence, not its cause. Such parties, without any firm, rooted principles, provide no basis for political solidarity….These loose ethnic solidarities arise from the safe cliques by which citizens organize themselves in this half-made society.”

—Kirk Meighoo, “Ethnic Mobilisation vs. Ethnic Politics,”

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeDr. Kirk Meighoo is one of our better scholars. I have followed his academic progress since he was a student at the University of the West Indies. In his well-researched book Politics in a Half-Made Society (2003), he argued that societies such as T&T “have not yet established enduring, meaningful standards of their own. They are societies still in formation and unmade, without a firm foundation (intellectual, cultural, political, military, and/or economic), and in which solidity is elusive.” Although I disagree with his central thesis (taken from the work of Vidia Naipaul whom he calls one of T&T’s “great philosophers”) I still think his book is a worthwhile read.

His rhetorical excesses began in January after he was appointed the Public Relations Officer of the UNC. In April he released a controversial statement that distorted an advisory the US Department of State gave its citizens about traveling to areas around Port of Spain. Meighoo interpreted that statement to mean that US citizens were advised not to travel to areas “ruled by the PNM (People’s National Movement) continuously since 1956 up to today….The US government has declared these very seats the most dangerous areas in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Not content with misreading the US advisory, Meighoo argued: “It is only a matter of time before the PNM turn the whole of Trinidad and Tobago into the crime hellholes that they have turned their stronghold areas into.” This is the same Meighoo who argued in 2003: “For 25 years, through a combination of skill, determination, and fortune, Williams and the PNM consistently prevailed over the disorder of Trinidad and Tobago politics, both within parliament and outside of it….

“Williams had achieved a significant measure of what he had set out to do, leading Trinidad and Tobago through significant political, social, and economic transformation, which included the establishment of a Republican and a liberal-democratic constitution, widespread free public education, heavy industrial development, and a greatly increased standard of living, all within a relatively peaceful and free social and political environment” (Politics in a Half-Made Society).

The US Embassy objected to Meighoo’s inaccuracies vigorously saying: “The Embassy is aware of the UNC’s response to the Department of State’s travel advisory to US citizens….The Department’s Travel Advisories are apolitical in nature, and in no way reflect our relationship with any country or with any specific political party within a country….We strongly disagree with any attempt to politicize the Department of State’s travel advisory system.”

One would have thought that this written putdown would have alerted Meighoo (and certainly the UNC) about the need to be more balanced in his interpretations since he is trying to convince intelligent people about the soundness of his claims. That lesson seemed to have gone over his head.

On August 21, in the second issue of The Checklist: The Official Newspaper of the United National Congress, of which Meighoo is the editor, he continued to exaggerate his claims. He declared: “UNC Must Reclaim Our ‘Independence Project for the Whole Country: Eric Williams is not T&T’s Father….We must debunk the notion once and for all that Eric Williams is our country’s father, a false idea ideologically pushed on our people every Independence day.”

His rationale: “Trinidad and Tobago existed long before Eric Williams did. He was merely one of her sons. Trinidad and Tobago will exist long after his party passes and fades. We [meaning the members of the UNC] are not their dependents and owe no allegiance to them.”

Meighoo’s rationale about Williams not being the “Father of the Nation” seemed farfetched. George Washington, the first U.S. president from 1789 to 1796, fought gallantly against the British and ushered in US independence. He was named the “Father of the Nation” because of the significant role he played in founding the country and his excellent command of the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

In India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is considered the “Father of the Nation” because he was the country’s first president and worked assiduously to establish the nation after it broke away from Britain. Needless to say, his association with Mahatma Gandhi was important but he earned the appellation “Father of the Nation” because he worked hard and conscientiously to build the nation. He was considered one of the most remarkable men of the 20th century.

With the zealotry of a new convert, Meighoo glorified UNC’s achievements: “The historical legacy of the UNC is absolutely unmatched in terms of its history of struggle for the people of Trinidad and Tobago….In the short ten years the UNC was in government we probably did as much as or more than the PNM did in those 50 years…[they were] in power.” He concludes: “Imagine if we had 50 years like the PNM had, then T&T would be unrecognizable because we would [have] joined the ranks of those developed countries” (Express, May 1).

A student of history or an astute political observer can judge the sincerity of Meighoo’s claim (we call it a counterfactual), after all the complimentary things he said about Williams and the PNM previously and the impotence of politicians generally in this half-made society. It might be that UNC politicians are exempt from his latter evaluation. Meighoo, however, is hell-bent on deserting his scholarly reputation and entering into the realm of propaganda and that is foolhardy. He ought to be careful.

10 thoughts on “Decentering Dr. Williams; Denigrating the PNM”

  1. Mr Meighoo, like most mis-educated Trinidad south Asians, speaks with forked tongues whenever they are in their comfort zone. Access to saying and writing what ever, have shown how inept black Trinidad intellect has regressed. The foods needed to safeguard consciousness, have been stunted by TRASH DOUBLE’s . To be honest, Trinidad born South Asians, have not produced any in the caliber of Dr Williams. As a student, to know the greatness of Eric Williams, ones knowledge must not be of UWI. Disingenuous is the word needed to describe Mr Meighoo, while nestled in his commune COCOON. In the Caribbean, Dr Williams stands second to none as an Intellectual Radical with a cause, this PHENOMENON of a man, have not been Reincarnated in the Communes of Trinidad, Materialism have never produced High quality Citizens, and this must be clearly understood.

  2. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from travelling to the following areas: Laventille, Beetham, Sea Lots, Cocorite, and the interior of Queens’ Park Savannah. After dark, U.S. government personnel are prohibited from travelling to downtown Port of Spain, Fort George overlook, and all beaches.
    These are in fact within the PNM won permanent constituencies since Independence; however, the US embassy did not describe them as such. That was Meighoo’s political spin. The reality is that it seems that crime is rampant but not exclusive to areas traditionally represented by the PNM. Most Trinidadians also avoid many of these areas .
    Dr. Williams, father of the nation, is turning over in his grave as he sees what has become of his nation mostly under the leadership of his successors.

  3. The father of the labour movement one would without hesitation say was Tubal Uriah Butler even a highway is named after him, he is celebrated each year as such. Born a rambling Grenadian, Butler fathered nothing. In fact Adrian Cola Reinzi gave birth to 5 labour unions, including the OWTU , All Trinidad Sugar Workers Union amongst others. Adrian stood up and mount the most admirable defence on behalf of Butler saving him from death. The colonial authorities were flabbergasted at his spirited defence. Yet nothing of significance is named after Adrian. He is not even celebrated on labour day, a day he fought and won from the colonial authorities.

    As for father of the nation Dr. Williams earned that title along with Rudranath Capildeo, both were at Marlborough house negotiating the instruments of independence. Capildeo made sure that any Constitutional changes had to have a 3/5th majority. The current PNM has over ride the 3/5 majority and are acting as though they are the law. Such is the level of political arrogance. As an example “procurement legislation”, Dr Rowley had long ago insisted this law needed to be change, he went about and had it changed without a 3/5th majority and legalized corruption. That is how significant that law was/is.

    As for crime the PNM, the 1% is moving to take over Laventille and revitalize it. Could there be anything more criminal than that???? TnT is heading down the abyss with unemployment, drugs and political mischief the order of the day, Kirk is correct there…

  4. One of the reasons why Indians in multicultural states find that their ideas of governing are repudiated by others, is because their style of reference is not in concert with the environment that they serve. Their style almost invariably take on ancestral characteristics that might not necessarily converge with the environment in which they serve. I too, was one of those who looked upon Dr. Kirk Meighoo as an exception, in that he appeared to be a product of new world thought, where he visioned things they way they are and not conditioned by ancient religious traditions and culture. His actions as PRO of the UNC has erased that opinion. He is now an established UNC politician avowing the policies that the UNC as a regional party embrace to remain relevant i.e. ‘anything PNM is not good and you can only trust the UNC to do your bidding’. The danger with such a thinking is that it can NEVER represent truth for Trinidad and Tobago as a whole. Such thinking means regionality is the norm where every thing national is rooted in Indian cuisine, art, culture, beliefs, policy, economics and aspirations. Meighoo’s reference to us as a “half made society” is his acknowledgement that we will always remain “half made” as long as we continue to define ourselves by which region of the country we acclaim our allegiance to. To denounce PNM controlled constituencies as “crime ridden” to gain political acceptance, while your party’s efficacy to demonstrate a diversifed representation of unity is foolhardy at best.

  5. Mamoo, you forgot a few more things that began with the Indians: they invented the steelpan, calypso, PLIPDECO, Point Lisas etc. Dont forget to add them in your next blog (tongue in cheek).

  6. The PNM has had many incarnations. The current PNM is led by the hoary goat grass leader, this is good for erectile dysfunction. (Aye Kian *smile*). He is a se*pert, a man who could mesmerized any women, ask Daryl Smith wife what happened and so to the many PNM women, including female reporters and editors who understood the se*prowess of the P.M. His favourite number is 17…as one PNM slip of the tongue minister said “that thing real hard”. He made sure that his women were well groomed. To PNM supporters Rowley is like African goddess Igbo (goddess of fertility).He could do no wrong, they all blaming Kamla since Rowley came to power. Not a blasted PNM dog bark.

    The psychological hold the PNM have on their supporters is mind boggling . I remember my first encounter with PNMites I sense the “we versus you” mindset. They can take an innocent person and convert them into a disciple of fanatical PNMism. Such a person has deep seated tribalistic tendencies. The last election, one person in the St. Joseph seat contested ask for the book that record names of those who vote and was denied it for several days. The minister niece hired friends, family and financiers to fix the election same as Eric did with the boundaries. That is in the DNA of the PNM to tief, that is why they quick to say Kamla tief because donkey thinks everyone is like them…

    1. “That is in the DNA of the PNM to tief, that is why they quick to say Kamla tief because donkey thinks everyone is like them…”Mamoo

      I recently looked up the five richest people in Trinidad and Tobago on Youtube (you can look it up too) and the number two richest is listed as Roodal Moonilal. When you looked up the source of his riches, it was stated as politics. Of course Miss Bhagwansingh was posted as the richest and her source of income was retail. Moonilal was the ONLY PERSON on the list whose source of income was politics. Hmmmmmm?????????
      The last audit done by the government stated there was a $29B shortage, that money can come in handy with this pandemic now.

      1. Haha, careful Moonilal sue you, that is incorrect information floating around. The richest people are the 1% made rich by your party. Here is just one example of how the PNM financiers pocket money.

        Trin­i­ty Hous­ing owned by the Ra­hael group con­struct­ed 138 units at Or­chard Gar­dens, in­cur­ring cost over­runs of $50 mil­lion. He claimed an­oth­er de­vel­op­ment at Corinth Hills was done by the same com­pa­ny, in­cur­ring cost over­runs of $128 mil­lion. Trin­i­ty Hous­ing projects with cost over­runs in­clud­ing East Grove in Curepe ($64 mil­lion), Bon Air (an orig­i­nal $13 mil­lion con­tract with $19 mil­lion in cost over­runs) and Green­vale Park ($156 mil­lion in cost over­runs.)
        Broad­way Prop­er­ties–whose man­ag­ing di­rec­tor is list­ed as Joseph Ra­hael–which was con­tract­ed to build schools.
        cost over­runs on sev­er­al of those projects–Cou­va Ju­nior Sec­ondary ($172 mil­lion), Barataria Ju­nior Sec­ondary ($149 mil­lion), Pleas­antville Ju­nior Sec­ondary ($150 mil­lion). He said Os­ha laws vir­tu­al­ly closed down the con­tract for the Pleas­antville project due to safe­ty con­cerns.

        So Kian know where the money train headed and it’s was not in your direction.. By the way these financiers are billionaires.

  7. [Not content with misreading the US advisory, Meighoo argued: “It is only a matter of time before the PNM turn the whole of Trinidad and Tobago into the crime hellholes that they have turned their stronghold areas into.” ]
    The highest level of criminality in TnT comes from PNM constituencies. That is a fact. The PNM has always had a militant side to their party ideology. If you are a PNMite you follow party and support leader, if you don’t you will be treated as an ostrich in the desert.

    It was a PNM government that put in place property tax measures. Roget who wanted Kamla arrested went and had a prayer meeting at Rowley office when he shut down the refinery. He has now become the toad who lost his voice. At at time when businesses are closed, people are unemployed, food prices are skyrocketing there is a silence that is almost deafening from those whose voice was the loudest against Kamla. Where is the media in all of this? Being filled with more PNM supporters. Rowley gets a pass for all the mischief he is doing.

    The property tax form request information such as what type of tiles you have in the toilet… it is an unnecessary very intrusive form. It is almost as if the government is making a claim on your property. You work hard and build your house now you have to tell them what kind of ceiling and flooring you have in your house. None of their blasted business. Most countries collecting property tax requires the square footage of your house, number of bedroom and toilets. Along with if it is a two story dwelling… but this blasted dictatorship have a bevy of PNM illiterates coming into your home to blight it and check your property out as if it belongs to them.

    This PNM regime has slowly but sure put the “good life” out of the reach of ordinary citizens. A grinning Imbert with his nice Antiguan smile has said he taking the money collected and putting it into the Consolidated Fund. When Property Tax was first debated in Parliament, it was Rowley who said he marking every dollar to make sure it is spent in his area. Property tax money collected in the area should be spent there.

    Kirk was right citizens are slowly being turned into criminals. If you don’t fill out the form right you will be charge $5,000. Will valuation officers go into the homes where the people in Beetham live, where many are getting free electricity. The pot is boiling will it boil over? No because the PNM psychological grip over their supporters is strong, so much they are saying they willing to pay the $300 per year property tax, same as the gas and other taxes the PNM brought in. Can you feel the love today……

  8. Articles on race, ethnicity and politics always generate a lot of responses on this blog. It is with good reasons why it is so because those are the hot button issues that causes the greatest divide along with religion in Trinidad. To a certain extent class can be added to that list. I find the most amount of hypocritical statements of accusation coming from the entrenched camps. For example UNC sympathizers always accuse PNM people of being “PNM till ah dead”. This is a hypocritical charge by UNC sympathizers because UNC people will always vote and support the UNC. It might be a wish of theirs that PNM supporters should sometimes vote for the UNC but the reality of the reverse is never happening. UNC supporters talking point is that crime is only being committed by PNM supporters. At the same time they also have a very narrow view of crime. They view all forms of assault as crime but almost NEVER view stealing money from the government especially as a crime. Mamoo states “they are saying they willing to pay the $300 per year property tax,” Hoiw can thgat be viewed negatively by any civic minded individual as negative? IN their (Indians) mind, paying taxes is bad. When they are flooded in their low lying residences and suffer loss, the first thing they do is call upon the government for support! How could this be? Why you are against property taxes, and when disaster strikes, the first thing you do is call upon the government for help? Where does the government get the money from? In my mind these are contradictory expectations and UNFAIR at that. But these are the realities and contradictions that Indians expect from governance. In most civilized democracies, property taxes is a must. It is a double edged sword at times but if you want community assistance what surer way to qccomplish this than by paying your property tax? Only dishonest people who have a problem with that.

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