Keith Rowley’s Failed Leadership

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
July 25, 2022


The Hatter asks Alice: “Why is a bird like a desk?”

Alice was pleased. She enjoyed playing word games, so she said, “That’s an easy question.”

“Do you mean you know the answer?” said the March Hare.

“Yes,” said Alice.

“Then you must say what you mean,” the March Hare said.

“I do,” Alice said quickly. “Well, I mean what I say. And that’s the same thing, you know.”

“No, it isn’t!” said the Hatter.

—Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeOn April 21, 2022, the prime minister commented on the close to 20 murders that took place while he was in Barbados. Asked if T&T was losing its fight against crime, the PM responded: “I don’t notice anybody running away from the fact that we are a violent society and in recent years a number of persons have gotten their hands on firearms, handguns in particular.” (Express, April 22.)

While murders have increased over the past few years, I am at a loss to understand what led the prime minister to conclude that “we are a violent society”. I am not sure what sources he drew upon to arrive at his conclusion, but in the 1950s T&T was not considered to be a violent society. In the 1950s, boys and girls walked in the moonlight and my mother visited her in-laws who lived about a mile away, without fear. Even PNM was famous for holding its nightly meetings at Woodford Square, Harris Promenade and other parts of the country.

If, as the PM claims, T&T is a violent society, the critical question remains: when did T&T become a violent society and why?

On July 18, expanding on the theme of violence, the PM announced his intention to declare violent crime a public health issue. He said: “With respect to breaking the cycle and stilling the flow of new recruits into the criminal elements and the flush of criminal behaviour from our young people, who form significant parts of these minorities that are terrorising the country, to break the cycle, it is the Government’s intention to declare violent crime a public health issue because violence across society is now the norm, from domestic violence, violence in schools, violent person against person, armed responses for everything and gains to be had by criminal conduct, lives lost and property to be stolen and things like that.” (Express, July 18.)

In response to this tremendous violence, he notified us that he intends to form a committee to deal with the problem. Its objective “is to enter the youth population at various levels and begin a line of education which should steer people away from participation or being desensitised by crime to criminal activity”.

If we are a violent society, and we wish to eradicate violence from the society, why single out the youths whom he has described as “monsters” or who Fitzgerald Hinds has advised to take “the more civilised and lawful paths to express [their] grievances”. (Express, July 6.) Is it that the youths are the greatest purveyors of violence in society?

The World Health Organisation defines violence as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened, or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, or deprivation” (“World Report on Violence and Health”, World Health Organisation, 2002.)

If, for purposes of this discussion, we can identify four types of violence: physical, sexual, psychological and verbal abuse, why is it that the prime minister focuses exclusively on youth violence against people and property?

When, for example, a businessman or a lawyer makes a million dollars a year, is he doing violence to his society by extracting an inordinate amount of resources from his fellow citizens? When poor families reside in extraordinarily unlivable quarters, are we not perpetuating psychological, emotional and physical violence against them; when young people are frozen into jobs in which they make $900 or $1,000 a week, isn’t the society acting violently against them; when Dr Rowley calls young people “monsters”, and Hinds implies they act in an “uncivilised” manner, are we not perpetuating verbal violence against them; and when we refuse to acknowledge sexual violence against women, are we not repeating a cycle that we have inherited?

If we wish to fight violence in our society, let us do so at every level of society and in every form in which it manifests itself. If we simply zero in on one class of citizens, we are likely to make the same mistake that we’ve made over the past 20 or 30 years. And while those officials who insult and exploit our population verbally and physically feel they are exempt from blame, they should look anew at their behaviour.

Sometimes our PM doesn’t always say what he means, or mean what he says. In this context, it might be wise to ponder the subtle linguistic distinction that the Hatter makes in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland when he says: “I see what I eat means one thing, but I eat what I see means something different.”

With the rise of violence in every segment of our society—be it physical, sexual, psychological or verbal—at this moment in our history, it is potentially damaging to use imprecise language to outline the problems we face.

Saying T&T is a violent society or that violent crime should now be considered a public health issue does very little to help us solve our problems if we seek to penalise one segment of our society at the expense of others.

Let’s be careful in the language we use and the actions we take.

4 thoughts on “Keith Rowley’s Failed Leadership”

  1. Whenever the PNM in charge crime rate increases. The criminal elements beat their chest and say “we government in charge”. About a year ago a young lady was murdered one of murderers was a man name Joel Balcon. Balcon was a serial predator who did his evil for over a decade. “Between 2007 and 2017, Balcon was arrested and charged with 70 offences, including multiple counts of rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment, larceny, and robbery with aggravation. Of course he was released time and time again. With victims terrified of this demon possessed monster.

    At the time of his death, 45 of these cases were pending”. Balcon was a skill operator with powerful people protecting this monster. He earn the reputation as Trinidad worst rapist, serial killer, known to the police.

    If the police cannot deal with crime who would? Criminals under the Manning administration was called community leaders, met PM Manning in fancy hotels given huge contracts in the NHA. The results were more crime. Crime is very high today in TnT. People get robbed don’t bother to even report it. Yesterday I saw on the internet two criminals attack a doubles man in his home. Doubles vendors are prime targets for the criminal elements. I know of women who get up 3 a.m. in the morning to make doubles and get burned from the hot oil. They work hard. Nobody is safe except only if you are the 1% Rowley will make sure you well protected.

  2. Over 30 years ago I referred to our society as ‘a buy and sell’. Let me explain. I saw an abuse at the time of intellectual starvation against innovativeness especially in Caroni:
    I saw when a managing director can make 23 trips to the UK in one year -excuse- to negotiate. It was interesting to see where it was feasible for an import house to buy compressed, bakers and instant yeast to sell to the nation because of “strong” political ties denying Caroni to se up a plant utilizing an incremental process. It also became a proposal to buy the technology from Australia. rather than using non-propietary information. It was feasible to purchase 90 million pounds of rice per year rather than utilizing joint development from UWI and Caroni in the inherent distillery effluent (fertilizer components) for irrigating rice cultivation on a phased basis, making a dent on conservation of forex. It seem more appropriate to highlight the negative image of the pollution of the Caroni river of such discharge and ignoring free discharge of a competitor’s effluent in the non-functioning public sewer system (PAHO report 1972). I can go on and on but it was the youth who was pioneering active research at that time. It was easy to create chaos to project Caroni as an economic sycophant on the loose rather than re-structuring the company into manageable holdings.

    Sir, I agree with what your submission and it is evident the violent society discussed is initiated by the 1% of different shades of colour whose priority was to butter their own bread rather than society’s. We reap what we sow.

  3. Trinidad is a violent non productive racist country under this PNM regime having the PM calling people hyenas n stupid n sexual exploitation of females we are a failed narcissistic sociopathic nation

  4. For the purpose of relating to this commentary I chose to identify the word ‘leadership’ which in the dictionary states “lead·er·ship | ˈlēdərˌSHip |
    the action of leading a group of people or an organization: different styles of leadership.”

    The commentary by this author is nothing but a cheap shot to nullify the otherwise brilliant performance of Dr. Rowley’s leadership. For starters, lets take a quick look at the person making the comments – Dr. Selwyn Cudjoe. He is an individual who formed an organization called NEAP, without opposition, competition or challenges to be elected himself the leader. The organization was ethnically focussed and narrow in scope for the mere purpose of elevating better standards for African people. As ‘the leader’ of that organization he failed to convince a mere minority of this targeted group of his purpose to lead them to a better understanding of their conditions. There was no ethnic, racial or idealogical constraints to hamper his ability to lead – yet HE FAILED. How can a ‘failed leader’ qualify as an honest broker in identifying qualities needed or present in running a complicated country such as ours?. For starters, issues such as race, inequality, religion, economic development, opportunities, education and politics differ in weight factors depending on ethnicity or class. There is a struggle for power within our country that has both internal and regional tones. That fight against Dr Rowley has both racial and ethnic overtones, yet as Prime Minister he has to operate without acknowledging the dangers of such challenges. Dr. Cudjoe does not consider the impediments that Dr. Rowley has to face in exercising his duties on a daily basis.

    It means that Dr Cudjoe’s conclusions are not borne out by measuring true tenets of leadership but merely voiced by his political desires to be relevant.

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