By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
July 18, 2022
Why boaseth thyself, oh evil man
Playing smart and not being clever.
—“Small Axe” by Bob Marley
As I listened to a recent message that Mother Bernie sent to Keith Rowley, I appreciated anew why Eric Williams paid so much attention to the wisdom of the leaders of the Spiritual Baptist faith. In her tour de force, she informed Rowley of some truths about leadership that laid bare his shortcomings as our political leader.
Mother Bernie wanted to speak to Rowley “about the mannerism of a man… who always reminds us that he is the prime minister of T&T”. Then, she admonished him for chastising Darren Bahaw, a Newsday reporter, who was farse enough to ask him a question. She continued: “You said that the people in T&T have a right to question the people in public offices because they are there working for us and we need to ask them questions and get answers. The way in which you treat that journalist, Dr Rowley, it was very unbecoming.”
Mother Bernie condemned the rudeness that characterises Rowley’s behaviour: “Every time you go out [of the country] and come back your mannerism gets worse towards the citizens of the country. In case you didn’t realise it, that was a citizen of T&T that you were going on so with. And then you want to go up to elections and get re-elected with that kind of mannerism that you have dey. You have to be a mad man; you have to be crazy.”
Rowley’s tendency to hold grudges may have poisoned his soul and his view of his world. This is Mother Bernie’s take on it. “Every time you go and come you get more angry, you get more hate in you; you get more animosity in you. That is what [Patrick] Manning told us and we seeing it every day. Why did you behave like that? And then you saying that you are the prime minister of T&T and you do it with dignity.”
Mother Bernie took objection to Rowley’s self-ascribed virtues when he sought to demean the media to uplift himself. “This is not personal,” he said. “I am just pointing out the role that the media is playing when there is malice.” (Express, July 4.) Such an evaluation leads one to ask, “Who, in this context, is really showing malice?”
Not content with this contradictory self-representation, Rowley adds: “While I’m representing this country as the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago with dignity, that you are not accustomed to, you are on your own with that.”
Rowley’s distorted evaluation of his behaviour led Mother Bernie to observe scornfully, “Which dignity? Where was your dignity when you was embarrassing that journalist… Were you showing dignity then as a prime minister?”
Mother Bernie advised Rowley to stop treating Trinbagonians in such a disrespectful manner. She warns them about the dangers of complacency: “People of T&T, let me tell you something. If we don’t learn to accept things and say when something wrong, and call a spade a spade, God is going to deal with us. This man is way out of order… You cannot sit down in a corner and join with the brotherhood of wrongdoers and say what he did was correct. What he did was most distasteful and that is why we have so much delinquency in we country and crime.”
Rowley offered a different rationale for the crime and violence that is consuming the nation. Two weeks ago, in an address at the St Clair Police Station, he attributed those problems to poor parenting. “From the time they get to age 17 and they come out of the school, they no longer under the school disciplinary umbrella… a whole wave of violence is unleashed. And you ask yourself what would have happened between primary school angels and the demons the police are confronting… Something is happening between our nine- and ten-year-olds and our 17-year-olds that is causing our society to be what it is.” (Guardian, July 4.) There are several problems with this statement.
As the recent Senate Report suggests, all the denominational schools in Port of Spain and its environs are under academic watch. In other words, our children are not learning much while they are there, and these troubled schools are within PNM constituencies. On December 18, 2021, I noted: “Despite its fancy-sounding title… the children in this area (mainly Africans) will be condemned to educational backwardness even as the Ministry of Education (MoE) continues with its anachronistic approach of non-educating our children…
“Reading this report, one gets the notion that we are dealing with communities whose children are a bundle of mental pathologies, not normal children who may be subjected to the kind of disruptions which many children face. These children are seen as abnormal beings who are subject to trauma as a result of where they live, the poverty which they undergo, and parents who do not particularly care about their well-being. In other words, they are all psychologically damaged, special pupils in need of special programmes.” (Express)
Given this view of our children, it was not difficult for Rowley to jump from these “bundles of pathologies” to his describing them as “monsters”. The prime minister and his Cabinet have never seen these pupils as normal human beings needing guidance and direction.
All they can think of is “directing more resources to this issue”, as if money alone is the solution to the problem.
This leaves one to ask: didn’t billions of dollars pass through our society over the last 20 years while “these monsters” increased and “the blood stains continue to blot the streets of our country”, as our prime minister says?