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Focus on the Walk not the Talk
Posted: Wednesday, September 10, 2003

By Stephen Kangal

The daily tabloids in their Independence Day supplements featured the two addresses delivered by the late Dr.Williams. The first targeted the school children assembled at the Queen’s Park Oval; the second the national community on the occasion of our emergence into Independence status in 1962. They provided me with an opportunity to assess in historical perspective, the sincerity or lack thereof of Dr.Williams’ aspirations for our then nascent multicultural community.

Let us focus on, inter alia, his admonitions with respect to the protection/promotion of our democracy, the achievement of national unity and related issues. I compared his talk in 1962 with the lack of walk post-1962- a practice that is very much in vogue in the politics of modern Trinbago. The politics of Trinbago has not changed.

When Dr.Williams assumed political dominion over T&T I was a 16-year young student of Hillview College sitting next to another student, our Chief Justice, The Honourable Mr. Justice Satnarine Sharma. That is my claim to fame. Congratulations to the Honourable Chief Justice on his investiture with our highest national accolade- The Trinity Cross. The humble boy from Jackson Street, Curepe continues to do us proud.

With maturity I have grown progressively tired of and disenchanted with the idealistic speeches/ slogans/ manifestoes/ messages/ "eye-servanting" that have been copiously dispensed to us during the past 41 years. It has been all talk and political deception. There was no need then or today to walk the talk or establish talk-implementing institutions/legislation common to more progressive societies. Ethnic polarisation today is reaping the whirlwind.

Did we promote and consolidate our democracy by imposing the voting machines that resulted in the no-vote campaign of 1971 and by rejecting outright the seminal recommendations geared to deepen our democracy submitted in 1974 by the Wooding Commission? Did we not use electoral inequity and gerrymandering of electoral boundaries via the manipulations of the EBC and subsequent disclosures of voter- padding etc to subvert our democracy?

Who unleashed the most virulent strain of ethno-nationalism (policy of cultural assimilation) that effectively outlawed and marginalised our multiculturalism, jettisoned all attempts at real national unity (whatever that means) and Africanized our international/national image? Who prescribed the watchword of tolerance, called for the rights of the minority to be respected but proceeded to baptize docile Indians with " a recalcitrant and hostile minority" label that persists even today?

Who said that Mother T&T "...cannot discriminate between her children" and proceeded to orphan and alienate large minorities/sections of our cosmopolitanism?

Who premised our democracy on the development of an alert and informed public opinion, proceeded to nationalise the only alternative to 730 Radio Trinidad i.e Radio Guardian, embargoed radio and TV licences until the NAR deregulated the airwaves in 1991 and gave birth to a mushrooming media industry?

Who has ever followed up their nice sounding annual rituals/ pronouncements on our diversity, our need for patriotism and racial/ religious equality as the Canadians and British did in enacting the necessary legislation and establishing institutions to serve as a checks and balance? Even today why is the Equal Opportunity Act being stymied and Integrity Forms being delayed? Who paraded morality in public affairs and spawned O’Hallaron and Prevatt?

The T&T media as the acknowledged custodian of the national good/our democracy can no longer serve as a proverbial sponge soaking up one way dispensed political monologues and regurgitating it to the public. The media must set the tone. It must critically and adversarialy (agent provocateur) insist on the walking of the talk. It cannot conduct its business as usual. The agents of the free and responsible Press must store the talk, retrieve it and "check it out" against the walk. That must be the new thrust of the responsible media.

Politics must not be encouraged by the media to degenerate into the art of deception. It must be based on compromises and delivery on promises and the expectations generated. The media has an important role to play in changing the tenor of our politics.

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