Floodwaters, People Power and the Legacy of Misdevelopment

By Tye Salandy
August 18, 2018

Poor people fed up to how yuh system set up
Well, everyday the ghetto youths dead up
Mi ask the leader, him a di arranger
Fi mek poor people surround by danger
Fly and the roach and giant mosquito
Sewage water whey fill with bacteria
Unno ever take a look down inna di Riverton area
Bactu, and Seaview, Waterhouse, Kentire
Long time the MP him nuh come near yah
And the other one whho claims sey she a counsellor

—Bounty Killa: Poor People Fed Up

MP Fitzgerald Hinds on the runThe words by Bounty Killa, also known as the ‘poor people’s governor’ is relevant to every single Caribbean country, where the type of leadership after independence has failed to be sensitive to the experiences of those who have most been disadvantaged by social structures. So when I saw Beetham residents dousing MP Fitzgerald Hinds and councillor Akil Audain with dirty flood water and chasing them from the area, this was the first song that came to mind.

Now, in no way do I support water being thrown on Minister Hinds or any politician of the PNM or any other party. That constitutes assault and is not a good precedent to set. However, the reaction by the residents is reflective of the neglect and poor governance by successive political parties. The PNM has especially to take responsibility for the state of affairs within these east Port of Spain communities because they have been in power the longest, over 45 years since independence. Additionally, it is PNM members of parliament who have represented these communities since independence.

Some persons will criticize the actions of the residents, and they may be quite right in finding the water dousing problematic. But there are bigger issues to be addressed. If people find that the actions of a few residents were not the best, then they also have to consider that it is decades of leaders and institutions not being receptive to the experiences of residents that boiled over in the aftermath of the flood.

Political leaders have never shown any serious interest in equipping residents with the tools they need to navigate their space. The issues that these communities face go far beyond providing them with drains, Christmas hampers and a few jobs. I am talking about addressing systemic exclusions and barriers to opportunities that most other citizens take for granted.

There are far too little moves to include residents in decision making, or open up spaces for African history to be dialogued in schools and state media. Are leaders willing and able to engage with residents as citizens and not as deficient persons who are in need of some esteemed intervention? There has been a high degree of arrogance and condescension around the treatment of residents from these and similar communities. Addressing this, is the difference between charity and handouts AND justice and inclusion.

Our institutions are failing our young people, but this is most felt in certain communities. Despite the efforts of some teachers who go beyond the boundary, children from east Port of Spain communities are undertaught and have to navigate the systematic racism and class/geographical biases that are present in the education system. Ramesh Deosaran’s book ‘Inequality, Crime & Education in Trinidad and Tobago: Removing the Mask’ gives some important insights into the ways that Africans from poorer communities are disadvantaged within the mainstream education system.

The Beetham area is heavily polluted by the nearby Beetham Landfill and from waste from nearby industrial plants. These residents literally directly bear the brunt of the crap of the country, that is stockpiled in the landfill. It is well documented that lead toxicity and other forms of pollution lead to serious health problems, especially in terms of the developmental stages of young children. Where are the long-term plans by leaders to address or at least mitigate the many issues in these communities?

Is it that politicians think that keeping people poor and underdeveloped will allow for them to be easily manipulated and mobilized for votes during election time? Consider that these communities have been controlled by the PNM since 1956, and yet have seen so much neglect. In the national discourse there are regular descriptions of Beetham residents as cockroaches and even calls for them to be bombed or exterminated. Sectors of the society see these residents as the problem. If citizens find that some residents are prone to violence, they should consider that leaders do not take them seriously, there are little avenues for their issues to be addressed seriously, and worst of all, politicians themselves have never set any better examples, or made moves to cultivate a culture of understanding and knowledge.

In 1970 as part of the Black Power movement, mainly young persons, disillusioned with the continuities of coloniality, sought to address social inequality, the foreign domination of the economy, racism and poor political representation. They sought to explore history towards a better understanding and appreciation of ourselves. Instead of the state listening to them, and using the best of their ideas to chart a new development paradigm, leaders were imprisoned, adherents were hunted and killed (see the history of NUFF) and the movement repressed. Today, the chickens have returned home to roost, and the society is reaping the outcomes of not listening to people who wanted change and improvement for their communities and country.

Gangsterism and violence should not be encouraged or supported in any community. Yet the violence and criminality that some residents from East Port of Spain communities engage in, pales in comparison to the everyday violence that these communities face, in terms of the social biases, police brutality, racism, and pollution. Poor choices in those communities also pale in comparison to the poor examples and misdevelopment of the local elite, the miseducation perpetuated by our school system and the inadequacies of our local media to stimulate dialogue on the range of issues important for national development.

Too many politicians and politically aligned persons are more interested in defending their party, and toeing the party line than defending the people, and principles of truth and justice. This is the reason why politicians often find themselves on the wrong side of history. If PNM and UNC politicians had an inkling of integrity, they would acknowledge that their parties have mismanaged the country, that billions have been stolen and squandered under their watch, and seek forgiveness. They would humble down and admit that they do not have all the understandings and answers. This would then set them on the path to listen and engage in people-based governance.

So while the water dousing of Minister Hinds and the Councillor was not the best way for the residents to deal with their issues, it is interesting when the condemnation of such is far greater than attempts to highlight and address the issues that Beetham residents face. Apart from that, if Beetham residents are unhappy with how their issues are being addressed, then now is the time to explore solutions other than that which has not been working for the past 50 and more years.

7 thoughts on “Floodwaters, People Power and the Legacy of Misdevelopment”

  1. Thought that the PNM and Mr. Hinds would put an extra effort to uplift their ‘base’ after all the abuse dealt by the UNC/PP’s 5 years and 3 months in office.. Mr. Hinds came every Sunday (during the 2015 election campaign) and played nice Bunny Wailer music and fool we, telling we everything will be alright… “let’s just get these people out of office”.. but it’s the same people who we voted out still gets all the State Contracts… and they even brought in a UNC/PP CoP.. And Allyuh, ah taking bets that Rowley will be impeaching the CJ…

    Anyway, ‘RAS’ Hinds love Bunny Wailer so much…

    :What are you doing toward the scheme of things
    What are your works toward your brother beings
    Now let the truth shine bright through all your actions
    As you strive toward the accomplishment of your missions
    As you seek to feed the sheep of the shepherd
    You’ll be found worthy to enter into Jah vineyards
    But there is too much pollution in the land
    Said I need some atmospheric vibration.
    Too much confusion The whole world is suffering from illusions.:


  2. Its the black man that keeps his fellow black men down in the gutter. Whether he is told to do so by the house negro, the white massa or on his own accord makes no difference to the black man who is kept down. By black man I mean a non white white man. And the fence sitters or non voters sits on the same side of the massa. As per West we always had a choice. We must understand where the root cause of the problem lies. In T&T there is the haves and the havenots. Just as there are hypocrites and non hypocrites. Yes we are divided in every which way. It was so with the colonial masters and it is still so today. And yes the more things change the more they remain the same. And yes all over the world you see the same thing but to different levels. But now at this junction in time the masses are fed up. And as Sam Cooke once said in song “change is going to come”. We no longer need to change. Instead now we have to change or vanish in thin air as in Yemen. The fight will be merciless. Yes man has reached a point where reason and common sense must prevail or else death will be on all our doors coming in at us. The educators of the past whether in songs, poems, cultural practices or just plain wisdom had shown us we need to care about our land and our neighbours. Instead we were caught up in greed for wealth and power and other self served ways eg sex. Now we must look deep inside to search and harness that caring spirit we landed on earth with. But first we must know humbleness and how we are to serve the Lord and master of our creation or die in the hell we are heading towards. Take your pick for we are heading down that road now. Jesus had once said the last will be first and the first will be last. Just think the people of Beetham has nothing much to lose in this fight and it now has started. Then next it would be Laventile East, Never Dirty, Movant, Bagatelle, Rich Plain, Water hole, etc. We are our greatest enemy. We must blame no one as how we make our bed we must now lie on it.

  3. Great column. Until we dismantle the actual political institutions and culture in this country nothing will change very much. The elites do nothing while T and T burns.

  4. All ah talking about how the black politician doh care about he community. But yet allyuh bawlin that Rowley is the PM of the east west corridor. If Rowley say, they going to improve the entire sewer system of east POS, the multitude go scream, this PM don’t know nothing south of the Caroni river. I read a post that said that if Indo Trinis weere living in Bentham, everybody would be going there to buy from doubles roti and car parts. I am a Black man. And I am saying we are our own problem. All we doing smoking and drinking we effing life away. Imagine a Black from up the hill will get gun dong in beatham if he going to visit his girl friend. Who living in Beatham? Syrians?

  5. This must have been the most embarrassing moment of Mr Hinds’ life , as a former policeman, Mr Hinds remains blinded to the conditions of a meaningful % of this Trinidad. How sustaining is Mr Hinds’ voice in the present Rowley administration? is he a figure of power? does Mr hinds have a working Beetham estate committee giving a heads up of what the G0v’t should be doing in their community ? , the gate way to the City of Port Of Spain, is deserving strong condemnation, 45yrs or 5 plus yrs. A major Project needs to be undertaken to transform the people, and environment. People reflect the ENVIRONMENT they evolved from, this is not an overnite thing, the History of the PAN movement, is still very visible, only the actors have change somewhat. Black Leadership, irregardless of where the are domicile, have been abject failures to their people, Black Leadership, after the vote, tends not to see the people, but their FINANCIAL backers and in some cases putting square pegs in round circles. The African side of Trinidad, will have no choice but to acquire a critical sense of thought, the PNM of today doesn’t reflect his/her ideals, Dr WILLIAMS will attest to that,where ever he is. The day is quickly approaching, when we line up to vote, East Indian Indentured Leaders, will be on both side of the ISLE, Blacks will rue that day, a lot of weeping and gnashing.

  6. It is amazing that after over 40 years of PNM reign, the people of Beetham Estate are complaining of neglect and benign it is. The history and facts show that the PNM failed to empower Africans at the bottom. Take a look at the East West corridor as an example. I do not condone any insults or physical harm to a minister or for that matter anyone. But, enough is enough which leads some people to react the way some did on the minister’s visit to Beetham. Will this wake up the PNM to attend to their die hard followers at the bottom? I don’t think so because history teaches us that empowerment of those at the bottom is not on the PNM agenda and never was. Time will tell.

  7. I will take bit of contrary view and go out on a limb and say that no Government or Government program will help the people of Beetham unless they choose to help themselves. Furthermore, as long as they mindlessly align themselves with the PNM for handouts they will remain in a state of poverty.

    A drastic solution which was tried in Sri Lanka after the civil war, the gov’t rounded up all the former tamil tiger soldiers and married them off in mass weddings. Once you have 2 or 3 pickneys crying for milk, you don’t have time to oppose the Gov’t.

    Maybe the PNM could consider a similar solution for Beetham Gardens on a pilot basis. All young men and women between 20-30 years of age who get married (legally) will be given a gov’t rental apartment and a contract job (2-3 years) so they can get settled getting up early etc and OJT for some kind of skilled job (carpenter, electrician, welder, mechanic etc).

    Once the first batch are seen by their peers as being successful I am sure others will want to join up and give up their current life of crime and idleness.

    Over a period of time the entire community will be transformed with happy families and a car in every garage and a chicken in every pot. Am I dreaming? Worth a try doesn’t it?

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