Tell me something good

By Raffique Shah
September 29, 2012

Raffique ShahI WAS privileged to have known and spent some invaluable time with one of this country’s great thinkers, CLR James. He was in his winter years, mostly lying in bed, but his mind remained razor-sharp. A conversation with “Nello”, as he was fondly called, was worth several high-level lectures at any university, so I extracted the most I could from him during what would be his final sojourn in the land of his birth. Today, I remember him more for his wit than his wisdom.

We were at OWTU’s Hobson House, where he stayed for a year or more during the early 1980s—I, sitting at his bedside engaged in deep discussion with him, and nearby some union comrades in animated argument over the credibility of a senior union official (not George Weekes). As their voices rose, Nello and I could not help but overhear what they were saying.

“He is a blasted reactionary!” someone shouted in disgust. At a time when radical politics was alive and well, leaders and activists were measured as being ‘revolutionary’ or ‘reactionary’, the terms being opposites.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” Nello interjected, “X (name omitted) is not reactionary…to be reactionary you must do something. X does nothing. He is stationary!” Laughter erupted, the argument ended: Nello had settled the dispute with his trademark wit, which, as was also his hallmark, was blended with a word of wisdom.

I remembered that episode and CLR’s intervention as I pondered today’s column, a sequel to last week’s ‘backward ever, forward never’. Looking at developments over the past few weeks, the continuing political turmoil over the past two decades or more, really, I wonder if we are moving backward, forward, or if we have remained stationary.

As I write (Friday afternoon), a mike mounted on a vehicle is passing through the district, for the umpteenth time this week, the Prime Minister’s voice seducing the party faithful to attend yesterday’s ‘Budget rally’. I should add that while her voice and tone are not annoying (as others’ tend to be), the sheer repetition, night and day, has become a turn-off. It occurred to me that since this must be replicated elsewhere, hundreds of vehicle-mounted mikes must have criss-crossed the country all week. There were also a multi-media blitz, a multi-ministerial television propaganda hour, and heaven knows how many maxi-taxis mobilised for yesterday’s shindig.

I ask myself, what is the cost of this election-style mobilisation? It must run into millions of dollars. And to what end? To try to prove that the UNC and the PP still command the support of the majority of the electorate? To do some damage control after the Section 34 fiasco? Hell, as recently as last May the PP splurged as it celebrated its second year in office. And the curtain is yet to fall on the Olympics-Golden Jubilee-Republic galas, all of which cost the country countless of millions of dollars and huge losses in man-days at a time when the economy is stagnated.

In other words, the government is gripped in the fete mode, work is suspended, productivity cast aside, governance measured in glitter—what the hell? As a nation, we are marking time as others less fortunate than us march on, making sure their economies are staying afloat, even surging, in these troubled times. The last year this gas and oil-rich country posted growth in GDP was 2008. In contrast, the much-maligned Venezuela recovered from a slump in 2009 and 2010 (which we also experienced) to post a 4.2 per cent recovery in 2011 (we had a 1.2 per cent decline). Bolivia and Ecuador, with economies similar to ours, are running a healthy 4.0 to 6.0 per cent growth in the years 2010 to 2012.

I shall not delve into other details that could embarrass the Government even more—if that is at all possible. Suffice it to say that while they are taking the country deeper into the debt hole by running deficit-Budgets, our neighbours to the South (add Colombia and Guyana) are striding ahead as best they can given the uncertainties of the global economy. Some of these countries lagged way behind us during the 1980s and 1990s, as we blazed a trail in petrochemicals and established the only LNG exporting plant in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Can this government point to a single revenue-generating industry, plant or enterprise that was conceptualised, not necessarily commissioned, during its 28-month tenure? Not one! The AUM plant that it opened with much fanfare last year was a work in progress for some four years. The same can be said of the few new manufacturing initiatives that came on stream since May 2010. Even Petrotrin’s highly touted “Jubilee find” (crude oil) was the result of years of exploration, started long before the Partnership came to power.

I listened to Jack Warner and Anand Ramlogan attack journalists and columnists for not saying or writing anything positive about the Partnership Government. Tell me something good, as some singer crooned, and I’ll write about it. Drop in crime in Laventille? We saw that during the Emergency; then the surge returned with fury. Oh, if you have a real handle on the gang warfare, not some temporary reprieve, where, pray, are the gangsters’ armaments?

You see, fellas, you can fool many people for quite a long time, much the way the PNM did in its heyday, with a mass of blind supporters chanting the power-hymn. That equation is changing, though, albeit slowly. And surprise, there are actually some journalists and columnists who value professional ethics above “ah food”. So you can host rallies, wine like a dog, fete like a hog (in mud), reality remains that the country is stuck in the stationary mode. We are going nowhere, and getting there rather quickly.

8 Responses to “Tell me something good”


  • Well it’s the same thing that replaces the true scenario the day the Titanic struck the Berg.
    Frightened as hell they played music & party was what they wanted all to believe.
    The better part of the story was that the Working class/slaves that work their arse off in building this magnificence were not allowed on board for departure, hell most weren’t even thanked.

    Believe me they are as scared as the common law breaker, all TNT needs is one great(Sec/34)rally and this Titanic will catapult before its term ends, God Willing!
    I said God not PNM or to be precise Rowley!

  • Linda Edwards, Class of 1967

    When there is neither satisfaction nor solace to be found in the “news”, when one might give in to despair in considering the floowing connundrum-
    Kamla’s survival depends on firing Jack and Ramlogan. Jack has the power to bring Kamla down if she tried to fire him.The combined oppositions still would not have a majority. Therefore we are stuck with rum and roti politics, with noise trucks preventing either quiet sleep or study, both necessary to our survival- Then I can turn to read your column on a Sunday morning, and reflect that someone makes sense of the world called Trinidad and Tobago.

    I salute that Independent Voice, whose only criteria are that it makes sense, shares licks evenly when deserved, and prove to the world that we still are a literate people, never mind the foolish people we elected because of a wine and jame tune.
    Each Sunday, I skim the headlines, read you in detail and feel better.
    You exemplify that Muslim scholarship that caused famous people not only to visit the University of Timbuctu in present day Mali during the thirteenth century, but to stay there, make their home, and contribute to learning.

    I salute you.

    (Now, this last is an Igbo greeting of admiration. I notice some others are beginning to use it.I am OK with that, pleased actually. Maybe now that I have spoken of it, some may drop it, to “prove” that nothing good came from AFRICA.SUCH PEOPLE CAN DROP THEMSELVES.)

  • Jerry Colin Hussain

    Call name – MAC He’s a dunce was, is and till he dead. IRA produced by the PNM to kill off the opposition. We are seeing the sting in the tail.

  • Jerry Colin Hussain

    The only trustworthy leader of immense merit we ever had in the Caribbean was CLR James; God rest his soul. The Brits made sure he could not touch any of us greatly with their divide and rule policies they used on us. We were too blind to see/understand.
    What we now need to do is to gather all his works and publish them on the Internet. I tried to source his works for a young bright scholar in Canada who is routing to lead the Caribbean out of its sad depths put there by our former colonist working behind the scenes since the 1960s when Martin Luther King changed USA politics. We were not bright enough and Eric fell prey to them.
    Like the Arab Spring we must now spring before the PP government drowns in greater debt.

  • No Raff the government is not in fear mode rather the government is in attack mode. The PNM is in fear mode, Rowley wets himself everyday when he hears Ramlogan name. Raff you have been psychologically brainwashed by the PNM. I read your article and wonder how much balisier you have around your bedroom. You remind me of the old Caribbean people, when they see a white man they all ready to bow at his feet. When they see their own people they cuss them, who is he, he just like me. But take another look Raff women are bowing at the feet of PP ministers in appreciation. Never have I seen anyone bow to a PNM minister. Take that as a sign Raff the PP is here to stay for a long, long time, despite all these media attack. Now Raff I am equal opportunity person I hope you are going to blast the PNM also, since only blasting, only the PP shows that you are the one who is scared of the PNM. Or perhaps Rowley have you in a head lock.

    • mamoo , you have totally convinced me of quite a few things an one of them is clearly raff articles is a bit to high for your level of understanding. But mamoo, if you dont understand some thing just ask sombody preferably’before’ you type, instead of typing all this garbage.Mamoo you making the same misktakes your PPP party marking ,you see mamoo you cant drive forward and keep looking in the rear view mirrow sooner or later you will crash which is exactly the PPP status long time now.Mamoo who paying you to type all that crap ?wake up from your stupid slumber ..PNM gone and all the citizens of t&t want better not the SAME OR WORST..DO YOU GET THAT ?? Dont encourage the government of your choice to do the wrong things mamoo, speak up, to thyself be true.you seem to to proud people bowing at PPP ministers feet and never at PNM pnm feet ?you see how sick you really is ? mamoo the reason why people now have to bow at people feet to get a little help clearly shows things worst not better .. THEY SO RELIVED AFTER practiclly begging and pleading the ppp for help so long .. finally .. with the pnm they never had to go so low …your PPP party even taking away the people “dignity” look at the type of damage they doing to the nation ? do you know what it is to have to beg and kiss sombody foot /ass for help ? Or is foot /ass kissing right up your alley ? to you that good , the people praiseing the ministers for they help ? you sick S.O.B.. ah now lose all respect for you .

  • Bolivia and Ecuador running healthy economies cannot be reflective of Trinidad. In Trinidad the mighty trade union movement has been demanding higher wages 9 percent is not enough you must increase C.O.L.A. Etc to satisfy your buddies Roget, Cabrera and the host of PNM union leaders.

    Seriously how can TnT move forward when all or most of these State Enterprises run at a loss. And the employees demand more and more. When Panday built the airport annual budget was around $21 billion, today it is $58 billion and growing, just 12 years later 100 percent increase. Wages increase, productivity does not match the wages. But before you go and blame the government there aren’t any Bachu in the government to deal with Roget in the union. Fiscal prudence is needed and runaway budgets must be brought under control. Or the days of the 80s will return again. When things are good you save and prepare for the bad days which will come. By the way it cost over $12 million to manage the heritage fund, shouldn’t this fund be split in three separate funds and manage by different companies. Isn’t it dangerous to place your patrimonial eggs in only one basket?

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