By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
October 04, 2011
I hate to be on Keith Rowley’s case but Rowley (and by extension the PNM) is really missing the pulse of the people and, in the process, failing to take the lead politically in the society. A serious party must be the elevated consciousness of a people. The leadership of the PNM has not shown such leadership in this crisis. We are following rather than leading the masses and that is not good for the party. It speaks volumes about Rowley’s leadership abilities.
A week after the People’s Partnership (PP) called for a state of emergency I made it clear that our state was not in crisis and there nothing that was taking place in our society our present laws could not take care of. On August 31 I observed: “Is either I stupidy [yes, I meant stupidy] or Anand and dem know many things I don’t know. But I didn’t know that one had to declare a state of emergency to capture some gang leaders and charge them with possession of marijuana or cocaine. I didn’t know that the only way to solve the crime problem was to declare a state of emergency and arrest about five hundred young people (call them gang members) from Black areas in order to solve the crime problem…”
I ended by saying that the purpose of the PP’s state of emergency was an attempt to depict “Africans as a source of national evil…which is why I do not support it and disagree with those who think it is the best thing to have happened in our country since slice bread. It is just another attack against black people to which I am irrevocable opposed.”
The PP’s State of emergency was/is an ill conceived plan that was designed to mask the PP’s failure to come up with a viable crime plan, stop the unions from uniting against them, assault PNM’s base, and arrest young black people indiscriminately. As of yesterday, the PP government had arrested over 3,000 young black men—gang leaders and gang followers they say—but none of the charges have held.
Because the indiscriminate arrests of young black people is neither just nor legitimate. It is only another way of stigmatizing young black people, telling the world that we are nothing but trash that needs to be put away.
On September 6, I made it clear that the PP will go down in our country infamously as the first national government—I mean the first government of Trinidadians and Tobagonians—to build detention camps in our country “to warehouse black youths which may be the beginning of what one can continue to expect from such a government. Most of their dirty work will be done by black men in their party.”
I don’t know what Dr. Rowley’s or the PNM’s position was/is on the state of emergency (Aston Ford, the PNM’s secretary, tells me that the PNM is against the state of emergency) but one has to listen very hard in the din of discordant messages to hear their objections or their stand on this decisive political issue. Their voices have been so quiet it seems as though they are afraid to offend PP’s sensibilities.
Then, without warning, the lead story in Trinidad Express yesterday (October 3) read as follows: “Rowley: Sandy must go.” It continues: “Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley yesterday called for the resignation of National Security Minister John Sandy” as though Sandy is the issue. Then he says that the changes that have been made against those person who have been picked have been dropped and concludes: “Somebody must be held accountable for this debacle.” All this was done via a “telephone interview” with the Express.
What is happening in Trinidad and Tobago today is a political crisis which calls for political action rather than the politics of rhetoric. Politics is won on the ground rather than from being a microphone, a telephone line, or a press conference. What is required now is not a politics of rhetoric or calls for resignation; but a politics of engagement.
And this is where Keith Rowley is failing his party and his people and why he may not be adequate for the task at hand. What is called for at this moment is the pounding of feet on the pavement; the confrontation of the PP’s illegitimate acts at every turn; and a firm declaration that the PNM will not support—in fact, will actively agitate against—a state of emergency if the government makes any attempt to extend it.
Our policy should be: End the State of Emergency Now!!! If they don’t, at the end of the period, the PNM will conduct a public meeting at the University of Woodford Square, on the first day of the beginning of any extension period, beginning at 9 p.m. in the evening inviting the PP to arrest all of us who attend.
It matters not whether Brigadier John Sandy remain in his post or not; whether he continues his racially-divisive work; or whether Jack continues to weep for the black boys that have picked up by his party, a policy that he supports. Anand should be held accountable for an infantilism that hides under the guise of arrogance and bad taste and the PP should be declared a failed government.
During any crisis, a leader must lead; not respond. The question is not, as Dr. Rowley suggest, “the longer the Government keeps the country in this state of emergency, the greater the costs will be” or that “the curfew is killing consumer confidence and people are losing their jobs and income. (Express, October 3). PNM position must be clear and unequivocal: “The State of emergency must end because it is detrimental the society’s well being; opposed to the rule of law; and is a major setback to our constitutional liberties. END IT NOW.”
Work and more work were Dr. Williams and Patrick Manning’s mantra. Can’t Dr. Rowley take this page out of their book?