De Prime Minister Eh Dey

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 20, 2012

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeI 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?

3 thoughts on “De Prime Minister Eh Dey”

  1. Now this is what we call the comment of a patriot.His prime concern is about T&T. Not saying that folks should not like their ancestrial lands, but transparency in politics , and Economics,is vital,if sustanaible development is our end game , yes Doc?
    Thanks Dr Cudjoe , for a fine commentry, many of which I have articulated myself, but perhaps not in as articulate a fashion.
    Much Luv T&T, and please keep dem destructive , wolfish barbarians- no matter how much sheep clothing they hide under- from overruning de gate. Many would not hesitate to destroy our Democracy, if given a chance.

  2. I thought you were also going to point out the illogic of her saying first, that only two people complained, themn implied that it was a large group.I hope she read the comments of those in the Guardian who responded to her saying she will not give “silk” up. Her arguments are the same as her AG’s, they talk out of both sides of teir mouths.

    I really do NOT thik this lady gets what running a counry is about. The dress -up part she got. She always looks smartly dressed, but smartly dressed and the smarts needed to run a country are not the same thing. She does not have the latter, neither does about 90% of her cabinet. I have some faith in Dooks because of his previous tenures. Its a governmet by Vaps, hassekara nd badmind, giving out “goodies’ as sweets to small children. They need protien.. She did not know she needed her guruji to go with her, but then sent for him at the cost of a quarter of a million TnT dollars? What of this business of India paying for the whole trip? When such people come to you with a gift offered, they usually want three times as much. What are they asking?

    I would like someone to seriously tell us what specific benefits we can expect to get from that crowd of people who acompanied her. Are we going to apply for satellite state status? Are we going to become a province of India, a dumping ground for their under-employed? A new stop on the migration route, since I understand the state department of the US has informed that there are 1.2 million applicants, from India, wanting to come to the USA?Waiting for Green Cards?

    I appeal to you, and to the leader of the opposition, as well as thoughtfful members of the trade unions, to keep her feet to the fire. Never mind what the haters will say. We had a country once, that was well run, and beautiful. Now,it seems that we run on venom, as well as incompetence. That is not playing dolly house. Dolly house is what I do in retirement- good works, serving tea to friends, informal conselling of those who need a listening ear, and growing medicinal herbs. What she is running is a den of iniquity. In time, they will self-imolate on a pyre of their own building, but I fear they may take the country down with them, like the old men of India who used to force their young brides into suttee.

    I wonder also, did she see the BBC report of girls of ten, picking cotton in fields 400 or so miles from their homes? Giveaway children, who get paid no wages?( Report was broadcast on Jan.19,2012) If the government of India can afford to finance her trip, why are those children, in the cotton fields of the fabric magnates, not paid? Why are the girls involved in ginning not given masks to wear, but the young men are?Will one of the benefits of firms from India a further exploitation and denigratio of our women?

  3. If we are to believe reports emanating from the prime minister and cabinet members who accompanied her on her visit to India, we are now set to be the recepient of India’s expertise on all fronts because it holds the distinction of being classified as an economic giant amongst the developing nations of the world. Never mind our prime minister’s act of inferiority by kissing the feet of her ‘equal’ in terms of national leadership. Everything that she has so far told us and allowed us to believe is that as a nation we have everything to gain by allowing India to come into our country and use their expertise in setting us up for the way forward. She has rejected our relationship with our kith and kin in the Caricom brothers and sisters who share the region with us and also the same social and economic behaviour. Although Brazil is closer to us as an emerging economic giant she chose to go the expensive route by charting a new transportation route, trade in energy, tourism,exploration and culture. Having admitted that she looks to India as her grandmother, she is willing to align us socially, economically and culturally with her grandmother without even considering the contrasts or doing the necessary research to conclude what is best for us as a country. All of these decisions are made purely on the basis of ‘blood relations’ and NOT on the interests of Trinidad and Tobago. Currently, if you go to any Caricom island most of the goods displayed on the shelves are manufactured in Trinidad and Tobago, which means that we enjoy a great relationship historically with our fellow islanders, even sharing our own ‘blood relations’ with them. Kamla wants us now to forget this and look East (not West) to our future, forgetting that the nations that she wants us to align with got all their expertise from the West. She is being mislead by a man who is hell-bent on taking us through the pathway of hinduism under the vision of leadership whilst criticising the last government for doing the same thing. He seem to have forgotten that the population rejected the leadership of the last government for the same reasons he is now championing. So, while the criticism is convenient, it is by no means valid.

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