By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 20, 2012
I have never accepted V. S. Naipaul’s description of our society as being half-made or our people as mimic men and women. Some years ago, I wrote a trenchant criticism of Naipaul’s work in which I responded to those designations in an effective manner. For the past three weeks, I have been traveling in Germany and England. As I view our political landscape from afar, I cannot help but get the impression that our Prime Minister is playing dolly house with our people’s future; fiddling around which their good nature; and treating them with a contempt they do not deserve.
Take her latest installment of child’s play. She goes off to India for two weeks; takes a large entourage with her; arrives back home hours behind schedule as an adoring press and her ministers (that is, those who were left behind while she visited her motherland) gathered at Piarco to welcome her back. When asked how many persons accompanied her on her trip and the cost of the mission she responds with infantile flippancy that has become her standard behavior: “I do not know exactly how many people were part of the mission because I did not see everyone.”
Can she be for real? You do not know how many persons accompanied you on your mission because you did not see everyone?
Her reply about the cost of the mission was equally as juvenile: “Every time we travel, we have reported and indicated what we will do.” When translated, this answer can be interpreted to mean that she does not know how much of the taxpayers’ money she spent [or intended to spend] when she undertook her mission; did not consider it an important consideration; nor did she care particularly how much was lavished on those who went on the mission.
Now don’t get me wrong. I do not begrudge the honorable Prime Minister going to India in search of roots or in seeking to construct bridges with India. In 1964, quickly after our Independence, Dr. Williams and a twelve-person entourage visited about nine countries in Africa “to form” what he called “a political [bridge] between the West Indies and Africa, mindful of how dangerous the bridge can be [if] it is not soundly constructed and properly maintained.”
Many Trinbagonians were skeptical about his Dr. Williams’ trip. Like Kamla, he took off without announcing its purposes and objectives to anyone. The Mighty Sparrow dubbed it an “African Safari” and Lord Blakie, in a scathingly skeptical calypso called, “De Doctor Eh Dey,” complained: “Before you see about your territory,/ You chartering plane and flying from country to country.” Blakie saw Williams’ trip as an attempt to get away from the growing unease that was gnawing at the government.
Kamla has found herself in a similar predicament. After her ill-fated State of Emergency and false alarm about an assassination threat, she needed to change the political conversation so she flew to India. She claims that she had 200 meetings in 8 days since four days were spent traveling; signed 50 memoranda of understanding; and conducted 50 joint trade meetings while she was there.
Normally, much preparation is done before these heads of state meetings which leaves this observer to ask: how many preparatory meetings were held prior to Kamala’s trip to India; over how many months these meetings were held; and where were they conducted? Could the prime minister give us this information when she addresses parliament about her trip to India?
Not content with her initial flippancy and conspicuous illogic, she jumped into the silk controversy since she is one of the recipients of this auspicious gift. She opined: “The judges took a decision [about the silk] and we respect that decision. But as far as I am advised – and I wasn’t here – there are only two persons calling for the removal of the silk…But is it most interesting that many of the persons who are making the most noise gave themselves silk in the first place and there was no noise…Should you take that route, then it means that every person who received silk under that criteria for the past 50 years should give them back? I think the answer is no.”
Now the question here is very simple. Should there be criteria upon which these honors are given out and if so, what should they be? Lawrence Maharaj claims that he offered such criteria when he was in office. The present Attorney General claims that it is a holdover from the colonial days so we should get rid of them. Yet he and his colleagues were seen celebrating his receipt of this colonial honor.
But if the AG is so intent on disparaging this honor, why is it that his argument for being deserving of this honor is that he appeared in front of that supremely colonial body, the Privy Council, over forty times leading Jack Warner to argue that he was denied such an honor previously because he brought all of his cases against the bad ole PNM?
But if the silk is emblematic of colonialism and if we have come into a new understanding of ourselves, why is it that we still prostrate ourselves before the supremely colonial Privy Council? And if the Prime Minister and her Attorney General are prepared to rail against colonial institutions why dosen’t the UNC vote to install the Caribbean Court of Justice as the highest appellant court in our region? We can say that although we pay fealty to Mother India and Mother Africa we place even more trust in a fledging Caribbean civilization that we are trying to nurture and develop.
When this happens, we would be able to say: “Dr. Williams take Lord Blakie advice / If you want Trinidad to be really nice/To stifle my conscience that I can’t do/Trinidad and Tobago depend on you / Ah don’t want when I watch the daily paper / You talking and smiling with Nkrumah / He seeing ’bout he country, you see ’bout yours.”
Kamla, are you listening?