Keeping Faith with Our Destiny

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 04, 2012

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeSome time this month, Linius Rogers’s motion that instructs the male members of PNM to wear their balisier ties in Parliament, municipal and city bodies and at official functions will come up at the PNM General Council for a discussion and a vote. As a member of the PNM, I support this motion unreservedly because it is a way to keep us true to our roots and a sign that we are a distinct political formation in Trinidad and Tobago.

In presenting his motion, Rogers harks back to the historical significance of the balisier thereby capturing its centrality in the social and political life of the PNM. He says that the party constitution specifies that “the emblem of the movement shall be the balisier on a background flag of black, brown, yellow and white symbolizing at one and the same time the movement’s roots in the local environment and its inter-racial solidarity.”

Noting can be clearer. Anyone who wishes to displace this living symbol of the party should be prepared not only to demonstrate why it is no longer symbolic of the party and, more importantly, what one wishes to replace it with. The wearing of the balisier tie represents the centrality of balisier in our history and our approach to governance. Thus, it seems blasphemous to suggest, as one party member has, that while he extolls “the virtues of Eric Williams he was not wearing his brand, the Balisier tie.”

Such a statement represents a fundamental ignorance of the importance of symbols in the lives of human beings and organizations. To us in the PNM, the balisier is it the symbolic rock upon which the PNM stands. No committed Christian would say that while she supports the virtues of Jesus Christ she does not care about proclaiming the mystery of Christ’s birth. No one would want to stop wearing of the cross, the symbol of Christianity, because Christ died two thousand years ago.

As I understand it, there are those in the party who believe that wearing the national flag is a worthy, and perhaps a more patriotic substitute for the wearing of the Balisier tie. Logic suggests that the national is precisely that: a symbol which any citizen is free to wear as the members of the UNC-led government have chosen to do. However, wearing the national flag as a party symbol suggests their no-whereness and absence of rootedness in the political landscape; a symbol of their thrown-togetherness.

On the other hand, the balisier is a symbol of our political rootedness in our time and place. It suggests that we in the PNM have a particular perspective on government; an approach to governance; and a set of core values that guide our deliberations. It suggests continuity. In fact, the only reason why we are in the Parliament or in any municipal council is because citizens who voted for us expect us to expose a party vision which is not necessarily contradictory to a national vision.

So that when a member of the PNM stands in Parliament or in a Regional Corporation and espouses a position, the inference is that he espouses a party position. As members of the PNM, we believe that our approach to the issues at hand, a party position, is superior to that which is proposed by the other party and which conduces to the overall well-being of the nation as a whole.

Any political initiative in any country begins as a party rather than a national initiative. That is why citizens support one party as opposed to another. President Obama presents a health policy. It does not begin as a national policy. It begins as a party initiative – a Democratic rather than a Republican initiative. Social Security, for example, was a Democratic initiative before it became a nation program, welcomed by most Americans eventually. The same is true of our National Insurance Scheme or our Old-Age Pension.

So while we are it, let us get away from the notion that wearing a balisier tie in Parliament makes us less national in our approach to our politics. In fact, one would hope that once we arrive in Parliament we not only display our PNM credentials but we take credit for building the nation which is why Mary King admitted that a UNC, national flag-wearing party, are following all of the proposals of a PNM, balisier-wearing party. Wearing a balisier tie did not make us less national in scope or perspective.

It is wise, therefore, to remember that no one man or woman has any right to scuttle a symbol that has undergirded the living vitals of a party. No one has any right to scuttle such a symbol because, as political leader, he or she must have the unbridled right to make such an arbitrary decision as a symbol of his leadership prerogatives. It is fallacious to argue that if we, as a party, choose someone to lead, he or she must have the right to desecrate those values and symbols by which the party has lived throughout its existence.

Change yes, but it must be congruent with the values and virtues of our party.

We are a party. We have survived because we have stuck to several core values which Rogers outlined in his motion. We will continue to survive only if we understand that man shall not live by bread alone but is informed also by his aesthetic and emotional desires.

The baliser is not only a member of the heliconias flower family but has acted as “the rallying call for members of this great party” and the emotional center of who we, the PNM, are. It continues to represent our tenacity and commitment to freedom in spite of all of our shortcomings. To me, the balisier remains an outward sign of our inward and spiritual graces and the talisman of our political beliefs which is why we should not be afraid to wear our Balisier ties in Parliament or anywhere else that is appropriate.

11 Responses to “Keeping Faith with Our Destiny”


  • ” As a member of the PNM, I support this motion unreservedly because it is a way to keep us true to our roots It is fallacious to argue that if we, as a party, choose someone to lead, he or she must have the right to desecrate those values and symbols by which the party has lived throughout its existence…..As a member of the PNM, I support this motion unreservedly because it is a way to keep us true to our roots?”
    Lord have mercy , and what is this world coming to when you Dr. Cudjoe is proving all your critics correct, in coming across as just another anachronistic, party hack, who still naively think that his PNM ,as presently constituted, has the capacity to help propel our country forward , along the part to sustainable development.
    Sad to think that you believe you can still masquerade as some objective , globally savvy , visionary thinker , while still walking around with the dead bones of Pappa deffy Eric, in your rusty backpack, and gleefully reminiscing about Johnny O, ‘money ain’t no problem,’ ‘all aha we thief,’ ‘not a darm seat for dem,’ and worst yet, defending the legacy of a four decade serving, nepotistic , political comedians,closet criminal , claiming that “Things are going to get significantly worse before they get better,” while he in turn jump on his private jet, to get his frequent medical check ups-each time he gets a gas pain- while 1.3 million citizens , must instead ,endure a fine medical service, allowed to degenerate under his stewardship.
    Such a pathetic ,un repentant , self serving ,socially immoral weasel, at this stage of the game , trying to demand sympathies from people ,on whose backs he and many fake Afrikans rode , for too long?

    http://www.nationnews.com/articles/view/tt-manning-says-hes-sorry/

    I know that literature is your forte Doc , but you and similar high ranking others of the party ,better wake up ,figure out the ways of modern politics, then develop a new ground game strategy ,for helping desperate lower caste working class folks of all races ,and color across our country, that have experienced the likes of neo imperialist bums , that has used and abused them in efforts to enhance their own fortunes.
    Let me break down something that unfortunately only you , Patrick Manning, Basdeo Panday, Dr Keith Rowley, and other die hards , ain’t recognize as yet.
    The PNM is dead , and so is the UNC,as some symbols of working people’s struggles. Both might have done some noble things , but as for the present moment, alliances are the way, so tweak the philosophy , and Modus Operandi for Trini politics.
    I should add, that giving an old decrepit ,Ford car a paint job , then loudly claiming it’s a Lamborghini or Ferrari , is just as idiotic, since the people that matters , will soon recognize the con game.
    This is a new era in T&T , as all citizens are hurting , and in need for a 21st century thinking. It must be ladened with a spirit of hope for the future, not yearning with nostalgia , about phantom ideals ,that were never fulfilled, during the past 49 years.
    Nuff said ,on this subject, and warm regards , as usual,hmmmm?
    We wish our people well.
    Luv Humanity!

  • Actually this is a well thought out article and the professor must be complimented for pouring out his heart for a party that is now clinically dead with no hope of resucitation. This type of behaviour is common in animals when death comes, the spouse or mother can still be seen lingering sometimes for months in spot where the death ocurred. It is call grieving and wanting to remember the past as much as possible. In humans we maintain pictures and other token that represents the past. In political parties it is same with party symbols being embossed on the chest of the politically possessed.

    The PNM for black people meant housing, jobs, position and power. The balisier is akin to the cross by the professor because that is what it meant to him. A poor man given an opportunity to study in the US via the party scholarship program. How can one now forget the mother who gave life to her children.

    The balisier as a symbol is outdate and need to be given a proper funeral, however, because of what it meant to supporters in the past who walked into an office and saw the tie. For them it meant it was their party in charge and they were going to be cared for. Such care and comfort is what accompanies the balisier. Much like the swastika it performed the duties of cultism and must now be given a proper place of rest, but the faithful who benefitted cannot let go and move on, it is too heart wrenching, so I say keep the balisier…tie and all. Who cares, really??? Nobody except the faithful as can be clearly seen in this article. Why take away something that meant so much to so few.

    • Mamboo said ,”The ULF for Indian people meant housing, jobs, position and power. How can one now forget the mother who gave life to her children.Much like the swastika it performed the duties of cultism and must now be given a proper place of rest, but the faithful who benefitted cannot let go and move on, it is too heart wrenching.”
      Very astute of you good friend, as yes, we do not want to see any Kinky Head Dada Amin, or South Asian Trini Hitler,emerge in our neck of the woods.
      We agree with you that UNC ,just like it’s historically more successful brother PNM , emerged from within the narrow realms, of racial , low caste, activist politics, and so loyalist like yourself, and in the opposite scale, de Doc, would do everything in your respective powers , to defend the honor of the party , and of legacies folks, who it is believed contributed to your elevation.
      To my point however , our country has evolved , and the UNC, and rival PNM is symbolically dead , since individually, none as presently constructed, can ever WRESTLE power, over the electorate ,in their own right again.
      It is however the duties of visionaries to rise up , ‘from without ,’and show interest in politics , while purges of the old guards simultaneously take place, if that is , the end game is advancement of our collective peoples.
      Like you Mamboo , I too am optimistic about our future. so let unity reign , and to hell with Sat,Basdeo Panday, Patrick Manning , or maybe you are correct,Dr Cudjoe.
      What’s that my friend? Precedents must still take place , as dis is still we time , a la UNC. If the Queen, just like Papa Deffy Eric talk , no darm dog should bark, whether they love her silk maneuver or not? No arguments from me there mamboo.
      What’s that again? If Patrick Manning could go to Ghana , and become an honorary Ashanti tribal , Shango leader, so should Her Majesty Queen K, as she too go to Gao, or Tamil town , and try and find a few more Ram Kirpalanis, who can come here, bare feet ,with 10 rupees in his pocket , only to turn that into billions? In the spirit of compromise mamboo, I am with you on that too.
      Dey say national building ain’t an easy exercise , and once more I am in agreement.
      We wish our people well however,as they move beyond the 14th century ,feudal politics , more favored by illiterate folks stuck in the Medieval /Dark Ages , ennnt?

      • Mamboo said ,”The ULF for Indian people meant housing, jobs, position and power. How can one now forget the mother who gave life to her children.Much like the swastika it performed the duties of cultism and must now be given a proper place of rest, but the faithful who benefitted cannot let go and move on, it is too heart wrenching.”

        Mr. Neal please dont attribute statements to me that is wrong. Please as a measure in blogging I kindly ask that you refrain from such deceptive thinking. The ULF no longer exist. It’s party symbol I do not remember or cared for.

        I understand what the PNM meant for black folks, they lead the nation for 50 years until Mugabe Manning took over and became the spoiler. No I do not fault the PNM followers for thinking the way they do. Since they depended on the party for their very existence. Myself and family we depended on government for little or nothing. Besides the government never did anything of value for us. Our home we built, our food we grew, our jobs were not given to us by a politician, whose office I could walk in at 4:00 a.m. in the morning and be given a paper to get a job in a government department. So for me party symbols mean nothing but I recognise how much it means to PNMites who wants to emboss the balisier on their pillow so that they could dream about Eric, Chambers, Manning and now Rowley. That is the nature of cultism and I think the PNM must NOT deny them such pleasure. After all where would they be without that party..Answer six feet under.

  • “The PNM is clinically dead”…Mamoo and his PP supporters are soo naively oblivious to the fact that the population did not vote for the PP because they loved Kamla and her band of racists , but that they (population) were simply Anti-Manning. Keep beating your chest and running your mouth for these 5 years, it will all too soon come crumbling down! The UNC dont stand ah chance to win any elections in this country again, so keep on pryaing that the COP stand by your side, and even then, a united PNM will still beat that Partnership.

  • I’d like to use this space to respond to some of the arguments espoused by Professor Selwyn Cudjoe in this latest piece:

    “Some time this month, Linius Rogers’s motion that instructs the male members of PNM to wear their balisier ties in Parliament, municipal and city bodies and at official functions will come up at the PNM General Council for a discussion and a vote. As a member of the PNM, I support this motion unreservedly because it is a way to keep us true to our roots and a sign that we are a distinct political formation in Trinidad and Tobago.”

    While it may be true that the Balisier Tie itself is certainly ” a sign that we are a distinct political formation in Trinidad and Tobago”, it is highly debatable that the wearing of the Balisier Tie by MALE members of the PNM is a way for the party to “keep true to our roots”. To begin with, the wording of the motion as described by Cudjoe is severely lacking in equitable gender consideration. To move a motion in 2012 at the level of the General Council that deals only with MALE Members of Parliament while saying nothing about the female MPs throws the PNM right back into the 50s and 60s when women were but peripheral figures in the national discourse, when you had to be a phenomenon of the mettle of Muriel Donawa-McDavidson or Marilyn Gordon to even be considered; while many men of much lesser mettle found the going much much easier.

    Are the movers of this motion afraid to touch the females?? Are they afraid to incur the angst of the Women’s League, that stanchion of the PNM for all of its life?? Or, to ask the question the other way around, why not give the men the same latitude that the women apparently enjoy – the latitude to choose if and when they wish to wear the Tie?? Why not?? Something is wrong here.

    “Anyone who wishes to displace this living symbol of the party should be prepared not only to demonstrate why it is no longer symbolic of the party and, more importantly, what one wishes to replace it with.”

    I am not sure what Cudjoe is referring to here. As far as I know, nobody ever suggested the replacing of the Balisier as the PNM symbol. I’m pretty sure that I heard Dr.Rowley say so himself, adding further that the Balisier “will always be the symbol of the PNM”. So for Cudjoe to throw this into the discussion reeks either of severe misinformation or of deliberate intellectual disinigenuity, both of which makes quite a mockery of his position as a senior and long standing member of the PNM. This statement from Selwyn is disappointing, in that he has sunk to level of scraping the barrel with the kinds of contrived red herring positions that have been the staple of many who oppose Rowley’s proposed reforms. Cudjoe is much better than this.

    “To us in the PNM, the balisier is the symbolic rock upon which the PNM stands. No committed Christian would say that while she supports the virtues of Jesus Christ she does not care about proclaiming the mystery of Christ’s birth. No one would want to stop wearing of the cross, the symbol of Christianity, because Christ died two thousand years ago.”

    Another piece of watery logic from the goodly professor. There are MANY “committed Christians” who while being devoutly committed to the personal belief in Jesus as their Lord and saviour, really could not give a fly’s left wing about the details of the birth of Jesus, their devotion to Jesus being principally driven by the personal belief in his death and resurrection. As for the wearing of the cross, I seriously don’t know upon what rock Selwyn hit his head, because MANY Christians who believe in the death of Jesus on the cross DO NOT wear one, have no interest in wearing one, and probably never will. The wearing of the cross does not make one a more “committed Christian” than someone who doesn’t wear the cross, and similarly the wearing of the Balisier Tie certainly doesn’t make one a more “committed” PNMite than someone who doesn’t wear it.

    If the Balisier is the “symbolic rock upon which the PNM stands”, then the party is in deep shit, sorry to say. The party must evolve from standing on the sinking sand of symbols and insginia and stand instead upon the solid rock of shared values, ethics, principles, and policies that contribute to the good of man, woman, child, family, community, and nation. These values must be clearly enunciated, with room for reform and tweaking where necessary, and they must be practised by the party whether in Opposition or in Government, thus allowing the Party to be a shining light to all in this country, and by extension to the wider world. So instead of mandating that all the MALE members wear the Tie, the Party should instead be pressing Rowley for an enunciation of principles, policies, and value systems that would drive the party forward.

    “So that when a member of the PNM stands in Parliament or in a Regional Corporation and espouses a position, the inference is that he espouses a party position. As members of the PNM, we believe that our approach to the issues at hand, a party position, is superior to that which is proposed by the other party and which conduces to the overall well-being of the nation as a whole.”

    This is crazy logic also, because unless Cudjoe is an advocate for the hearing impaired, nobody needs to see a Balisier Tie on Imbert’s chest or a Balisier Brooch on Cox’s breast to infer that any position they advocate is a “party position”. This is 2012 for crying out loud. We know who is who, whether or not they choose to wear party insignia. And by the way, what really is wrong with a PNM MP advocating a position that may not necessarily be a “party position”??Adversarial though it may be, Parliament is a NATIONAL forum. To use some Cudjoe-esque logic, when Barack Obama rises to give the State of the Union Address in the US Congress later this month, he will do so as a Democrat, but more importantly, he will do so as the President of the United States of America, which is how I’m sure he will be announced, and whoch no doubt is how he will be seen by the millions outside of the US who will be glued to their TV screens. In certain fora, country should come before party. A position may be a PNM position, but the implementation of that position will affect the lives of PNM supporters and PNM opponents alike, so PNM representatives in national corridors of power should not behave as if this is “PNM country”.

    If “democracy” and “respect for other opinions” are ever to be one of the defining “values and virtues” of an evolved and evolving PNM, then there can be no room for mandating that males MUST wear the Tie (again, no mention of females – as if they don’t matter). If those two concepts are not part of any value system that the movers of the motion embrace for the party, then they need to put up their hands and say so, and stop trying to defend an emotional and sentimental position with skewed and deficient logic.

  • Quite a refreshingly honest , and welcomed commentary Christian Hume. I enjoyed every word of it. Speaking about Rowley , and the mischievous ,dinosauric, inside bandits that are not too subtly attempting to undermine his leadership.
    It reminds me of the same situation that prevailed, when COP head guru ,Uncle Dookeran was in charge of the UNC. The tiger Shark ,and ravenous Barracuda, tag team of Basdeo , and Ramesh ,were lurking, naturally, with evil intent.
    That one time Chaguarnas Economic big chief Dookie, did not stand a chance politically. Fast forward to 2008, and the Queen maker Jack Warner, ensured no repetition of such stupidity, when it came to Her Majesty Queen K gyration to power.
    Let’s cut though the chase Christian Humethe, as ‘de much ignored elephant, in the political room,’presently , is none other than Patrick Manning.
    I can still recall what occurred , upon the demise of Chambers.Once the insecure Patois, was just given reign of the party, as he attempted to consolidate power.
    To put it mildly , we are still trying to find the political carcasses of Cutty Joseph, Hugh Francis , Overan Padmore, John D, and all the much maligned ,members of the ‘FA Brigade,’ led by the likes of stalwarts such as Muriel Donawa-McDavidson.
    Not surprising the great lady , if I am not mistaken , never spoke to Patrick , until her death. Nuff said , on the need for a monumental reform with a sledge hammer of this party.
    Trust me if they don’t , or some meaningful alliance -a la overtures to ambitious , yet ignored PP folks-soon take place, the unmentionable barbarians, would surely be allowed to eventually overrun de gate -of this you can be assured.
    Luv Humanity.

  • Political comebacks may occur when a party “stumbles back into power because of mistakes by the other side or when a party is successful in coming to grips with changing conditions – demographic, ideological or both – and in finding a leader who has mastered the new political terrain.”

    The political leader may feel that in discarding a symbol that has come to be associated with failure, backwardness and chauvinism that he/she is exhibiting 21st century thinking and that would lead help lead party back into power.

    But this dismantling of symbols is painful for those for whom the symbol represents as the Professor eloquently states the “emotional center” of the party and the “talisman” of its political beliefs.

    The political leader may therefore wish to proceed more cautiously in the dismantling of those symbols without the consent and approval of the party and not ignore that “man shall not live by bread alone but is informed also by his aesthetic and emotional desires.”

  • The PNM did not win 5995 elections out of 6000 since 1962 , because of some great political vision , or excellent policy , and or stewardship , but simply the alternatives as presented by closet actor Basdeo Panday, and his cast, were too frightening to accept.
    Once they were able to transform themselves into a more broad based national brand entity, and learned the value of prudent alliances they were able to get some semblance of success.
    The tragedy for them has always been what they evolved into once the people showed some confidence in them, as they always seem to the people’s initial fears.
    Any other theorizing, is mere pie in the sky mantra, Danny.
    Let’s wish our people well, as they attempt to decipher a ‘6 for a 9,’ yes?

  • Doctor, this is the most illogical argument I have ever read coming fron your pen. As far as I know, no one is preventing any PNMite or anyone for that matter from wearing a balisier tie. In the same way as being a Christian does not compel you to wear the Cross. Rowley was most likely wearing a balisier tie, and Manning certainly was, when the latter tore into the former in Parliament. And it was compulsory wearing at the time too. Man most first learn to conduct himself, and without that, these appendages mean nothing

  • Mamoo’s wish that “The PNM is clinically dead”, especially when we have witnessed him equating the PNM to the representation of Afro Trinis, is really his and his other cabal of racists hopes that Afro Trinis loose all semblance of political representation in order for them to stratify the country in a style comparable with India. You see, having been self projected into Bramhin status through physical migration, they must now develop a dalit caste in order to emphasize their transition.

    They always become their worse enemies by their premature literal and verbal ethnic ego centric mastubatory ejaculations. And after this they return to the historical limpness that defines their worth and value to the Caribbean growth towards inclusivity and diversity.

    We are more than sands on the seashore in this region Mamoo, we are more than numbers. And as we become more cohesive, an endevour that might take a while to achieve, but which we are ardously working towards achieveing, you and your wannabe Aryan supremacist driven cabal will be exposed and forced to retreat with your tail between your legs, in a manner of speaking. Neither the PNM or Afro-Trinis will allow themselves to become clinically dead in order to enhance your triumphalistic ambitions. In this hemisphere, as in the Americas, you will remain leaches who feed off of the blood struggles of others, and who spend an eternity trying to impose your cultural predominance over people whose humanity and civilized thinking goes back further, and has developed further, than yours.

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