By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
June 27, 2019
Paul Leacock wept bitter tears. The party to which he has given his life shamed him publicly in the only space where he knew he could seek answers to the problems that arose in his official duties: PNM’s General Council.
On June 15 at PNM’s General Council meeting he asked for guidance in a matter in which his corporation, the Tunapuna-Piarco Regional Corporation, had exceeded its authorized expenditure. Leacock is the chairman of the Tunapuna-Piarco Regional Corporation.
First Colm Imbert, the chairman of the party, slammed him mercilessly to the ground: “Ah tired tell yo, don’t bring government business here. We only discuss party matters here.” Then Keith Rowley, the political leader, as if to protect one of his protégées (not Imbert), finished off the job, remorselessly.
Irene Hinds, operations officer of the party, faithful always to the cause, still in possession of a modicum of human feelings, and aware of party tradition, tried to soothe Leacock’s wounded pride: “Don’t worry boy,” she said, “one day for them, one day for we.”
When he was humiliated, Leacock “sank his arms to his sides” as his mind “slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink” (George Orwell, 1984). He could not understand why the party he has served so faithfully pummeled him for asking a simple question.
He remembered when government ministers gave accounts of their ministerial stewardship to the General Council. In 1970, after Karl Hudson Philip laid the Public Order Act to Parliament he was forced to withdraw it because of an uproar in the General Council, the final arbiter of political matters.
Leacock’s predicament seemed analogous to what Orwell called “doublethink,” the ability “to know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them.”
Leacock was confused by his leaders’ behavior. All he could think of was “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING AND WAITING.” The transformation within his party also frightened him.
There are 14 regional corporations in the country. Twelve of the chief executive officers of these corporations are Indo-Trinidadians. He couldn’t understand how such a practice could be equated with fair play, especially from a party that seeks to look out for the welfare of black people.
Then there is the CEPEP program, the only avenue through which poor black people, some as contractors, get a little cacada. Senator Kazim Hosein runs the program over which he has carte blanche. There are no restrains on his power. When his judgment is questioned, he challenges all and sundry: “Go and tell the Prime Minister. Nobody can’t do me nothing.” He seems to be especially protected by the gods.
A loyal PNMite moaned: “We cannot bid for the road paving jobs: All the major contracts are held by companies that are owned by Indo-Trinidadians. So we have no employment there.
“If a contract comes up for the cleaning of water ways and/or the building of box drains we cannot compete there because we do not have the heavy equipment to tender for these jobs.
“Once more we are left in the cold.
“Yet we are told that this is our party and we must support it because it belongs to us.”
Unable to hold these contradictions together, he blurted out unconsciously: “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.”
He, too, was trapped in the labyrinthine ways of doublethink.
Today black people are caught up in a triple jeopardy. The Venezuelans, the new boys on the block, are underpricing black workers. The competition is so fierce that some merchants are advertising their jobs in Spanish in local newspapers. English-speakers need not apply.
Some economists say that the presence of Venezuelans is a good thing for the economy. But at whose expense is this goodness being realized? Will it result in blacks being relegated to the bottom of the economic ladder?
One commentator saw few dark-skinned Venezuelans among those who registered to work in Trinidad for a year. He asks: “Where are the Waraos? Where are the Afro-Venezuelans?” even though these people live in close proximity to Trinidad (Raffique Shah, Express, June 17).
In rejoicing in the humanitarian generosity of our government and our churches, few have asked: “What will happen to Black People?” The U.S. Department of State observed recently “existing laws regarding employment of migrants are weak and not comprehensive… [They] need to be strengthened to prevent forced labor and exploitation” (Express, June 21.)
If one believes this is a superfluous concern, one should remember that the Black Power revolt in 1970 occurred because banks and other private companies refused to hire dark-skinned people even though we had gained independence eight years earlier.
This holding of contradictory ideas in one’s head, each demanding equal fealty, is a maddening process. It can drive one insane. Yet the worst may not yet be over. It is not too far-fetched that soon the PNM hierarchy will ask its adherents to believe that two and two make five to prove their loyalty to the party.
I am sorry Leacock was made to weep in public but the more PNM becomes a caricature of itself and the faithful are cast into the outer darkness, there shall be much more weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).
Leacock’s admonition contains a message for PNM people: Wake up and smell the coffee or is it the snake in the balisier?
Meanwhile Leacock remains fully committed to his party and his leader.
God bless his soul.