By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
November 15, 2011
Sat and Devant riding high on de saddle now and dey driving a hard bargain. Many who voted for the UNC never expected them to thrust Sat and Devant on we with such force, guns ablazing. Even those who refused to vote (and I am culpably in this regard), are feeling uneasy about what is happening in the country. However, I do not think those who voted for UNC and those who abstain should feel badly. They did the correct thing in telling Patrick Manning that he had gone too far and had to be restrained. That is the essence of democracy. Whenever things go out of whack, a countervailing force always steps in to correct the excesses of any party. Silvio Berlusconi who ruled Italy supreme for seventeen years is gone. Muamar Gaddafi ruled Libya for forty two years. He’s gone. As my mamma used to say, “Nothing lasts forever.”
Having the UNC in power is good for the country. It is a glorious moment and an edifying experience. It allows us to contrast one government with another; see how one does things as opposed to another; see what one party espouses when it is outside of power and how it behaves once it gets into power. So many instructive matters have come up over the last week we would be brain-dead if we did not reflect upon the behavior of the government and how it conducts its business.
Recently, the nation was regaled with the following headline: “Sat Blocked Black Children” in which Patricia McIntosh “slammed the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) for its conduct at the Tunapuna Hindu Primary School in denying equal opportunities to pupils of different denominations, particularly black children who reside with the catchments area” (Express, Nov. 10). Never mind that the Mirror revealed the story weeks ago and Jennifer Baptiste-Primus raised it months previously on her Sunday morning program. Needless to say, raising it in the Legislative Council gave the story more wings.
Whatever the merits of the allegations, one would have thought that a dispassionate minister concerned about all of the children in our schools would have jumped into this matter with alacrity to insure that the nation’s children were treated fairly. Not so fast. The Minister of Education, the one responsible for the well-being of our children, advised Ms. McIntosh “to take the issue of alleged discrimination by the Maha Sabha at the Tunapuna Hindu Primary School to the Equal Opportunities Commission for a ruling.” He chided Ms. McIntosh further: “You have a matter that is close to your heart; you should probably send it to the Equal Opportunity Commission for their deliberations on it” (Express, Nov. 10).
Things did not end there. Devant Maharaj accompanied Sat Maharaj “to press charges against the principal, two school supervisors, the police and the fire officers who had accompanied them to the school on the previous day.” When asked whether he had accompanied Sat Maharaj to the station, Devant Maharaj replied: “I have asked for a copy of the Hansard (of McIntosh) … I am going to look through it and see if it was factual, and if it is not, I will take the appropriate action” In due time, the AG will be introduced into the fray.
Wasn’t there a time when a member’s contribution in the Legislature was protected speech? Wasn’t that the one place where a representative of the people could say what she felt without fear of coercion or prosecution?
But then there is no stopping Devant. He seems to be the monarch of everything he surveys; his rights there is none to dispute. After taking care of the Port Authorities Board, he looked over his kingdom (remember he has about eight such realms) and decided who gets the goodies next. He does not bother with the tendering process nor, for that matter, is he concerned unduly with the Board’s recommendation. He looks over his kingdom (this time, Airports Authority) and decides he has some “special requests” (“special favors” may be the better word) that must be given out. He calls his favorite subjects and does the necessary favors.
Vaman Bajnath is the former chairman of the AATT. In an attempt to please his monarch’s desires he acted promptly and with dispatch. Just to give two examples. He gave favorable consideration for Bridgecom Ltd ($2,156,189) and attorney Jagdeo Singh of Fortis Chambers for AATT legal portfolio who, if memory serves me correctly, was this the same legal firm that was given favorable consideration at the Port Authority? And on and on it goes.
And wasn’t this the same Devant (together with Queen Kamla) who was making a stink about the favorable treatment afforded Africans in the scholarship scandal? Was it the same Devant who claimed that procedures weren’t followed in the “secret scholarship program?” It is difficult to know if we are talking about the same person but somehow the names sounds familiar…
I don’t know how long these members of royalty will hand out special favors to their subjects and throw out those whom they do not like out of their realm. But I am glad that the persons who have made the allegations of wrongdoings are Sita Gajadharshing Nanga and Vaman Bajnath. It tells me that you can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.
It also tells me that there are decent Trinidadians who are willing to stand up for the right thing. It matters not the circumstances under which they come forward. It matters that what seemed like a bright and shining promise just nineteen months ago is nothing more than tinsel and gaudy froth parading itself as something substantial.
Sat and Devant may keep on riding even yet higher but the higher they rise on the saddle the steeper will be the fall and with it will come the crumbling of the UNC kingdom, ‘Queen Kamla’, and the false pretenders who have gathered around the throne.