Decentering Dr. Williams— Denigrating the PNM

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
September 14, 2021


The UNC represents the true spirit of Trinidad and Tobago,… all the poor, humble working people, farmers, small business owners, ordinary men and women, from north to south, east, west, central, the urban, the suburban, the rural, the swampland, the coastal, and floodplains, the hills and the lagoons.

—Kirk Meighoo, The Checklist (2021)

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIf V. S. Naipaul was Kirk Meighoo’s intellectual guru initially, he later turned to Lloyd Best for intellectual guidance and direction. Since a “half-made society” (a term that Naipaul used disparagingly) is a literary conceit it could not bear the sociological weight that Meighoo thrust upon it. Meighoo argued that Politics in a Half-Made Society (hereafter Politics) was “a slight reworking” of his doctoral dissertation. This led Anton L. Allahar, professor emeritus at the University of Western Ontario, to write: “I have never seen a doctoral dissertation in the social sciences that was devoid of a theoretical perspective and a clear statement of methodology.” (Caribbean Studies, 2005).

Realizing the futility of his assertion that Trinidad was a “half-made society,” Meighoo joined Best in adopting the proposition that there are “13 racial and national groups in Trinidad alone.” It is a concept that Best picked up from Daniel Crowley and adapted to his Tapia movement in 1982. Trinidadians, Crowley says, “acculturate themselves very easily to many different groups” which presumably prevents them from voting in an exclusively racial manner.

In Politics, Meighoo argued confusingly that “the influence of (T&T politics is real, but the extent of its significance is questionable.” Best/Crowley’s “many-nation thesis,” allowed Meighoo to argue that what analysts claim as “racialist” politics in T&T “amounts to not much more than competition for office and demands for a share of government patronage in terms of jobs, business contracts, directorships, state funding, and so on….

“[There is an] intellectual emptiness of politics in T&T…. Ethnic groups are politically mobilized, without ethnic demands, partly because there are no creative ideas, movements, or visions forwarded that can inspire or win the confidence of a large cross-section of the country….The main parties live without ideas, as C. L. R. James famously remarked” (“Ethnic Mobilisation”) .

Meighoo devoured these ideas ravenously. In 2005 he moved to annihilate the PNM and UNC. On October 1 he sent the following memo to his colleagues in the Committee for Transformation and Progress (C4TAP), the non-political formation he used as the forerunner of his party, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA):

“We have been talking to elements within the UNC, I don’t see why we can’t also talk to elements in the PNM. They are both disgusting. I hate talking to the UNC as much as I hate talking to the PNM….

“The UNC represents everything wrong with our country: insularity, lack of vision, parochialism, ethnocentrism, vaille-que-vaille mode of operating, selective enforcement of rules, deception and dishonesty, corruption, no thought about wider responsibilities, and no national feeling….

“The PNM realizes our value more than the UNC. The UNC are uncultured barbarians. If they did Vision 2020, for example, they would never invite me to be Vice Chair on a group” (“Our Strategy and the PNM”).

The DNA was formed in October 2006 after a full year of work as C4TAP to challenge PNM and UNC for whom Meighoo had little respect. Its core principles were “Decency, Nationalism and Accountability.” In 2007 he fought for the Chaguanas East seat under the UNC alliance and lost badly, with a mere 0.01 percent of the votes. In 2013 he contested the Chaguanas West bye-election for the UNC. He received 35 votes. His performance demonstrated the lacunae between his political theories and Realpolitik.

In spite of his election defeat, Meighoo still possessed the gumption to make large, declarative statements that he pronounced with an air of analytical certitude. He declared in “Ethnic Mobilisation”: “It took 30 years to create a national party (the PNM in 1956), and 30 years to dislodge them from government (in 1986), despite the almost universal rejection of the PNM by 1970. Currently, a large number of citizens are fed up with both political parties, yet no viable new party has yet been firmly established, and the new parties that have offered themselves for election have been unsuccessful.”

Given his election performance—even his inability to build a party– one is led to ask what gives Meighoo so much confidence in his analytical abilities. More important, how are we to take his claims about UNC achievements and his fervor for their excellent work over the past 32 years; and his declaration that UNC is the only “Trinidad-origin party that truly respects the distinctiveness of the island and people of Tobago, working with them as true partners and equals.”

Meighoo may be is good at hyperbole and verbosity but he is poor at analysis. This is something that Professor Allahar declared when he reviewed Politics in 2005: “What I understand him [Meighoo] to say in his book is tedious, descriptive, politically nondescript, and intellectually thin.” While Meighoo is flamboyant and good at rehashing historical data, he is poor at theorizing what happened in the past and predicting what is likely to occur in the future. This is why Meighoo can make extremely bombastic statements that do not cohere with the reality that ordinary people see around them.

Given the dissonance between Meighoo’s words and his political performance, it is difficult to accept his claim of UNC’s distinctiveness and its capacity to work with Trinbagonians “as true partners and equals” when his words contradict whatever progressive tendencies exist within the UNC.

Meighoo should think carefully before he utters his disingenuous statements. He only fools himself rather than a discerning public when he does that.

14 thoughts on “Decentering Dr. Williams— Denigrating the PNM”

  1. Since this article is about politicians and politics we must view our responses with the reality of our politics in mind. With politics race is almost always an inevitable connection, therefore speaking about politics and not including race is a rarity in our country. Opposition politics has become an art here. It is a mixture of race, public relations and social illusions. Even though the PNM has historically been the only party that is truly representative of what Trinidad and Tobago looks like, the UNC (with an almost total Indian identity) will always try to convince us that “The UNC represents the true spirit of Trinidad and Tobago”. As to what that spirit means, we don’t really know because it is illusive at best. The pre-UNC Kirk Meighoo was closer to “the spirit of Trinidad and Tobago” than the Kirk Meighoo who is the PRO of the UNC. This Kirk Meighoo is closer to the social illusions that has become so much a part of our politics that the best way to describe them is like “wolves in sheep clothing”. There is hardly genuinely represented perceptions in our politics, because if they (the politicians) were to present themselves as they truly are, no-one will listen to them. It is no wonder that the UNC had to employ tactics like those embodied by Cambridge Analytica to make them appear as true confessionaries (confession of faith). IN other words, they give a representation of themselves that is not factual in reality.
    This is what we are seeing, emanating from the UNC (on paper) is a vision of Trinidad and Tobago where all are represented. That is so far from the truth. The real UNC does not encourage or tolerate diversity in its ranks. There are those who would try to bamboolzle us with names like Jack Warner, Gypsy, Wade Mark etc. But all they are is just names and not truly representative of having the official muscle of the UNC behind them. They are also used for “window dressing”. The UNC is a party engulfed in hindu culture and very little or no nationalism at all in its manifestations. They enjoy the support of a large majority of Indian muslims. But those muslims are hardly represented in the higher echelons of the UNC hierarchy. Neither do women for that matter. Other than their leader, who was chosen for them by Jack Warner and Gypsy, women are scarce in the leadership roles of the party.

  2. Professor, these Kirk Meighoo type ethnic discussions gets really boring in this Information age.. I mean, a well traveled man as yourself, it should not take you two week to tell Dr. Meighoo to ‘shut his black-a. ‘, well. It is time to tell us about Tamil, Madrassi, Dravidian.. etc etc..
    Let’s look at the man…

    Jesus, Professor.. The brother is blacker than you..

    Reminds me of this Rwandan musician, “They say that Tutsis are tall, look at me, I am short”

    ‘Blacks’ are not confined to Africa, Professor.. Africans left the safety of his domain and went out and peopled the world.. It is time to tell this story from an African perspective.. Professor..

  3. Kirk may have written a political ideology from a UNC perspective. As prof Cudjoe would know when race, politics and religion come together in Trinidad their is a division of thought unlike any other.

    Admittedly I don’t agree with some of the things he wrote. A nation must strive to have some semblance of commonality in thinking. We can agree that Williams is the father of the nation, he was “impregnated” in London and gave birth to the PNM. That birth at a time when racism was high intertwined into the psyche of PNM supporters. But Williams remained an enigma, loved by many hated by some. Simply because the DNA of the PNM was and is race based. It is reflected today with Rowley denying Hindus open cremation, something that was rampant in India. Or the PNM unwillingness to open Couva Hospital because it was built in UNC area for UNC people. Dee words. Even though KPB had stress that this hospital will be used for tourist coming for specialized medicine. And funded that way. There are many example of PNM racist hegemony. There was a caller to the then Minister of National Security Stewart Young, to get a ministerial exemption to return home, Mr Young asked her if she had contacted the PNM representative in her constituency. Then instructed the lady to do so and he will forward the information to him for approval. This while thousands of citizens suffered abroad.

    The PNM stacked all institutions with their supporters since 1956. The police, army, fire service, civil service could have easily placed signs “coolies need not apply”. Over 75% of these government paid employees were PNM supporters. Most arrogant and illiterate. The PNM philosophy of exclusion runs today where they control the media and contracts are given out at balisier house.

    Kirk may have touched on extraneous issues but he brings a slant albeit a different read to a subject he or no one can master….

    1. All I hear from Indians is about hate and racism (not their racism but PNM). It would appear that anytime an Indian is denied something, one automatically becomes racist. The beaches of Trinidad and Tobago are littered with hindu gadgetry, remnants from religious ceremonies. As a non-hindu I find that disgusting and an affront to my religion. It would appear that since we look at the same issue and find different responses, practices and rules should be developed on usage of the nation’s beaches. Beaches should be able to accommodate any religion, regardless of practices, but with rules that would make each group responsible for cleaning and not leaving vestiges of debris for others to encounter. These rules may be municipal, state or district but such rules can lessen the “racist” chants which are so common in our society. It is obvious that Mamoo is overstating but Indians in our society feel that they should not be denied anything, less one becomes racist for doing so. Rules and regulations will certainly minimize such incidents.

      1. You are reading this differently, Kian. Race is a very unfortunate part of the experience within the hallowed borders of TnT. It cannot be swept under the rug because like a cobra it is waiting outside your door.

        Could TnT better? Yes, but it takes strong leadership or leaders with a willing heart to pursue the pathway of unity. All countries my brother Kian at some point was afflicted by the race cobra. Germany under Hitler started a war based on the superiority of the Aryan race, slaughtered 6 million Jews and it was stopped within a few short years of world domination, he stood in/on the blood of 55 million souls. Germany today is all embracing welcoming nation with over a million refugees a few years ago the highest in Europe from Syria and other nations.

        In the US there were many places that had signs “whites only”, or “no n*ggers allowed”. Then there was segregation with children being caught in the middle of a vile racist system. Today all that has evaporated and yes the vestiges are still there but it feels good to visit any part of the States. Then there was South Africa albeit still with its problems but people are experiencing greater freedom.

        Yes TnT can enter the golden era of racial harmony if we only start changing the language and thought constructs on race . The human spirit can soar again but like all things it takes strong leadership to build these constructs. It is possible Kian. Be the stay safe from the Covid.

  4. You would assume Trinidad is a happy place and everyone is contented with the direction of the nation under the PNM. No doubt party hacks and supporters are feasting on the bare bones of the treasury. To the delight of the PNM elitist class. The empty treasury needs to be refilled. So what do they do? Come for your money. They justify it by saying property tax is all over the world. Since the PNM assume office they have raised gas prices telling their loyal lackies that it is good for the economy. They have raise VAT across the board, another good measure for the empty treasury. Now they come with property tax, fill out the form incorrect and there is a $5000 fine. Hmmm.

    The purpose of government is to bring the good life to the citizens. Not some citizens but all citizens. They verbally abused Kamla but are secretly thankful for the hospitals she built using it for Covid 19 patients. Then the money left in the HSF they are quietly withdrawing it and spending it, secretly thankful that Kamla left something for them. They are now purchasing laptops for children, Kamla was subjected to the harshest criticism for “wasting” tax dollars to buy laptops.

    Kian is a firm believer in the PNM tax regime. For him if the PNM introduce a new tax every Monday it will be beneficial to tnt. He can’t disagree with anything Rowley does. Abu Bakr will disagree with him, the latest rumbling from the Imam the only one to rebuke Rowley, have the secret service in a tizzy. They are priming for all eventualities. But where are the voices of discontent, where is Roget who once demanded KPB put in jail, or Verna who spit water around parliament, or Kublalsingh whose naked body grace the pages of the newspaper, fasting and chowing down on doubles for 21 days. Or Jack Warner a man who cuss Kamla after she tell him go clear his name…..Shiraz where are you, Father Harvey where are you?

    One would think that the only one opposing the PNM is the UNC, all pressure groups like tortoise have retreated into their shell. No articles of PNM excess, or thiefing, nothing on the mass exodus of money going down the pipeline at NGC. Failure is rewarded with secrecy by the media. Yes the borrowing from China is a regular billion dollar experience, because the IMF have too much paper work. As our Antiguan minister of finance controls the Central Bank and the loyal lackey there agrees to everything.
    Soon it will be Chinidad

    Folks the future is bright as the PM said he weaning citizens off the treasury, but not weaning the treasury off them. The Centralized Revenue Authority will be able to see how much money you have in the bank and elsewhere. The PNM control over your lives will silence descent and create a perfected dictatorship. Sleep well for now, stateism is on the rise and if you don’t kiss the hand of the balisier brigade they may empty your account. Meanwhile we all waiting on Abu to make his next move…

  5. Mamoo, one of the things I am very good at is my ability to speak for myself. You are UNC and will never say anything good about the PNM, thats your style and I have no problem with your simplistic way of articulating yourself and your distaste for the PNM. Property tax is not ‘my thing’. Property tax is a universal form of taxation by which municipalities or local governments fund projects and utilities for the benefit of its citizens. You and the UNC’s version of taxation is that there should be no taxes, but when your citizens are in trouble or you suffer dislocation because of natural disasters, you call upon government the relieve you of your difficulties. Basic logic will call that kind of thinking as welfare and greed. You have a twisted logic whereby you print figures that only alone privy to and when it represents bad you say its the PNM when its good you say its UNC. When I speak you can justify my logic and I certainly do not need you to speak for me. Read my posts any my logic is very clear and can stank up to scrutiny.

    1. Kian wrote “Property tax is not ‘my thing’. Property tax is a universal form of taxation by which municipalities or local governments fund projects and utilities for the benefit of its citizens. You and the UNC’s version of taxation is that there should be no taxes, but when your citizens are in trouble or you suffer dislocation because of natural disasters, you call upon government the relieve you of your difficulties”

      Yes the UNC dont like tax. In fact during the time KPB was PM she never raised a single tax but lowered tax and during religious holidays eliminated tax on basic items. When you tax people to death, you stifle growth. Trinidad natural resources should go towards fixing roads and drains. Oil, gas, pitch, should be plowed back into infrastructural development.

      The PNM is the biggest culprit in wasting tax payers dollars. Every project they undertook had massive cost over runs. Will you Kian pay tax to support waste? Please give me a break.

      1. Mamoo, the only people who don’t want to pay taxes in Trinidad are Indians. They live in low lying areas and when they loose one little thing during a disaster, they always say they loose “everything”. You write like a ten year old who don’t understand how government works. KPB is no better, because she has emptied the treasury so much, that we were financially dysfunctional at the end of her reign. Those who are against property taxes are people whose ownership of land are dubious at best. COME January, I hope you pay your taxes and if you fail you should be locked up. For those who are listening to your stupidity about property taxes, let them be warned that the WHOLE WESTERN WORLD PAYS PROPERTYT TAXES. THE UNC IS WRONG WRONG WRONG and their reasons for not wanting to pay, has nothing to do with good governance.

        1. Here is a list of 21 countries with minimum or no property tax.

          Cook Islands
          Cayman Islands
          Norfolk Island
          Sri Lanka
          Turks and Caicos Islands
          Faroe Islands
          Saudi Arabia
          United Arab Emirates

          Yes not the whole western world….. And stop spreading the PNM lies that KPB emptied the treasury.

          1. None of those countries is Trinidad and Tobago and hopefully none of them have people like you. You seem to be obsessed with income tax but want the ‘guvament’
            to give you everything. Thats what leeches do. PAY YOUR TAXES!!!!!

  6. n the face of revelations of hundreds of millions of dollars in losses on failed projects, the Chairman of the National Gas “Company (NGC) Conrad Enill has denied that the company was reckless in its investment in Atlantic LNG Train 1 and its $200 million investment in the Beachfield project which it later realised was not necessary.

    In a full page advertisement in today’s Sunday Guardian, Enill insisted that even though the company lost close to a half a billion dollars on two failed projects in the last three years it was done after careful analysis.”

    Tax lover Kian this is how the PNM “spent” tax dollars take a careful read. Enill was there with the three failed Petrotrin project worth $12 billion. And your guru Rowley reappointed him to waste some more….. well yes, you better sell your house and pay up the taxes to help your buddy Rowley.

    1. You seem to forget that we are both a democracy and a capitalist country. That means on some investments there will be gains and others loss. The PNM is the only government that has taken us from obscurity to the comfort of capital gains. So much so that we have idiots who think that they should only enjoy the profits from investments without paying taxes. Leeches …… The UNC has only spent money. Never invested in projects that returned profits but theses losers can only criticize. Steups……. There is no point in me continuing this conversation because it lacks integrity and is outside the norm of what constitute good practices. Bye bye on this matter Mamoo. DONT PAY YOUR TAXES BUDDY ABD ADVISE ALL YOUR UNC COMPATRIOTS TO DO SAME. But please don’t let me hear you guys complaining about flooding and disaster while asking the guvament fo help.

      1. Between God and PNM you will choose PNM. I understand the incredibly love you have for your party and of course you are a card carrying member of the blame KPB/UNC movement.
        PNM member: they raising gas—-that okay is just a few dollars more. They raising it a second time: boy thing tough Kamla spend we the money. : they raising VAT: that’s okay just a few dollars: they raising property tax—well you know they need the money… NGC loss $400 million, Petrotrin loss $12 billion, Lara Stadium cost $1.6 billion, Scarborough Hospital cost $700 million. PNM member : we cool with that.

        Kian wrote “You seem to forget that we are both a democracy and a capitalist country. That means on some investments there will be gains and others loss.” Kian name me one investment in 6 years under this Rowley regime that gained….please do.

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