Category Archives: Politics

Cocoa, Cassava to the rescue

By Raffique Shah
October 13, 2020

Raffique ShahFor the first time in many years, food security and food production got some attention by a government in a budget presentation. This happened only because the Covid-19 crisis exposed the country’s vulnerability, its dependence on imports for almost everything we consume, especially food for basic sustenance. For decades, voices in the wilderness have cried out for the powers-that-be and consumers to understand the plight of a nation that was not producing much of its food, how it could be driven to its knees in the face of some global crisis. We didn’t think of a pandemic or plague then. We thought of war. But Covid-19 altered everything so fundamentally, we must be thankful to it as much as we are fearful of its deadly consequences.
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An accidental MP

By Raffique Shah
September 29, 2020

Raffique ShahWhen I look back at it, my life that is, the many sharp, unpredictable turns I made that often intersected with the history of my country, I cannot help but feel fated to its destiny, inextricably linked to its history.

I ruminated on these occurrences over the past few days as the nation marked Republic Day, the 44th edition of what was a giant constitutional leap back in 1976. Interestingly, then, as this year, it was marked without the pomp and ceremony usually associated with such events. As I recall it, there was the swearing in of newly-elected members of the House of Representatives as well as senators, and maybe an address by Sir Ellis Clarke (I cannot remember), the first President of the Republic.
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Thinking Race/Understanding Color

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
September 21, 2020

“Nobody can be properly termed educated who knows little or nothing of the history of his own race and of his country.”

—Frederick Alexander Durham, The Lone-Star of Liberia.

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIn his epoch-breaking work Capitalism and Slavery, Eric Williams noted that racism is a product of slavery. “The reason,” he says “was economic, not racial; it had to do not with the color of the labor, but the cheapness of the labor.” On the other hand, in White Over Black, Winthrop Jordan argued that racism predated slavery, citing three distinct prejudices that conditioned the English responses to Africans: our blackness, which signified filth, sin and evil; being uncivilized; and our not being Christian.
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Budget by everyone, for everyone

By Raffique Shah
September 15, 2020

Raffique ShahI imagine that every citizen who is conscious of the state of the country’s economy must wonder what magic Finance Minister Colm Imbert will weave when he presents his sixth consecutive Budget in a few weeks. The economy was already battered and bruised by plummeting oil and gas prices and struggling production levels when Covid-19 entered the picture and added to its grimness. The deadly virus savaged economies around the world, bringing many countries to their knees, leaving behind scenes that seemed to be apparitions of Armageddon.
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A new beginning

By Raffique Shah
September 01, 2020

Raffique ShahIt came to pass in this not-so-blessed year 2020, that persons of far greater faith than I can imagine, convinced that God, in whatever manifestation they believed Him to be, was signalling the end of an era, epoch, curse, call it what you will, signing off on the old with pandemic flourish, and simultaneously setting the stage for the launch of a new beginning, an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start afresh.

You of little faith may ask, with justification, how can we start afresh, encumbered as we are with an abundance of old geezers in pivotal positions? Voices will sing out from the heavens above: let them be! They have seen hell on Earth. Give them an opportunity to redeem themselves, to distinguish right from wrong, and offer solutions to the many troubled problems they and their kind have left us to resolve.
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Race is not my compass

By Raffique Shah
August 24, 2020

Raffique ShahIt pains me to return to the issue of race and politics in Trinidad and Tobago, but since it seems impossible to dismiss its impact on not just elections, but on the body politic of the nation, I feel obliged to address it. Note well how racism reared its ugly head as we got closer to the recent general election, and it peaked in the few weeks before and after polling day.

Much like the Covid-19 super-virus, race and racism disturb the equilibrium of the country in waves, peaks and troughs, some more damaging than others. Worse, it seems there is no cure for racism, no vaccine to halt its contagious nature. And, as if these virulent strains weren’t scary enough, there is an abundance of evidence to suggest that racism is contagious, even hereditary, possibly part of the DNA of some people.
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Counting our blessings

By Dr Selwyn Cudjoe
August 24, 2020

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeOn August 2, about eight days before the last election, I took part in a programme that was hosted by the Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre on the absence of election observers in T&T’s election, hosted by Dr Kumar Mahabir.

The question posed was whether the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) could conduct a fair election in the absence of foreign electoral observers. I answered: “It’s unfortunate that there will be no foreign observers at the August 10 elections, but I do not share the view that their absence would prevent the election from being conducted in a fair manner.”
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Destroying democracy

By Raffique Shah
August 17, 2020

Raffique ShahOne of these not-so-good days, some fool will vent his or her racial spleen on the anti-social media or in some public place once too often in a rant that has gone too far; another fool will feel sufficiently aggrieved to react with more than mere racial epithets, possibly summoning idle but willing hands to take up cutlasses and defend the domain of the tribe; and the tribal leaders, coming from a manure-fed lineage that nurtured the fires of hatred for generations, would, by word or deed, ignite an eruption that will wreck what passes for civilisation in Trinidad, not necessarily Tobago, sending this island back into a future filled with hatred, bile, sewage and all things negative. A potential paradise will never be allowed to bloom. It will instead be strangled by the patricidal savages who inhabit the wasteland.
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In defeat, defiance

By Dr Selwyn Cudjoe
August 12, 2020

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeLast Tuesday, Joseph Biden, the nominee of the Democratic Party, selected Kamala Harris to be his running mate in the next US presidential election. If she is elected, she will become the most powerful woman in the Demo­cratic Party and a strong candidate to become the first US woman president.

Harris was not selected primarily because of her academic brilliance, political acumen or prosecutorial experience, although she possesses all these attributes. She was selected because black demo­crats demanded that a black woman be selected because they saved Biden’s candidacy when it was floundering.
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Racism and Forgiveness: Token Apologies Are Not Enough

A Dialogue on Ramsaran’s Racist Rant

No RacismThe discussion below took place on 13 August 2020, in light of a racist rant by top level employer and close blood relative of the owners of the Ramsaran’s company, Naila Ramsaran, following the defeat of the United National Congress at the 2020 General Elections on 10 August 2020. On Facebook, she referred to supporters of the People’s National Movement as cockroaches and advocated for adding contraceptives to their water supply as a form of racial genocide. This was among a plethora of post-election racist commentary, including those of a secondary school teacher, making the rounds on social media. A host of a morning radio programme called on the Prime Minister to calm the waters and instruct the public to forgive Ms Ramsaran and for others for their vitriol.
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