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Wednesday 18 October 2017
Letters to the Editor

Republic Day wake-up call

THE EDITOR: Today we celebrate our 41st anniversary as a republic. My father was an MP in the first Parliament of independent TT. After we gained independence in 1962, we gained republican status on August 1, 1976. Pa died in December 2016.

In assisting him in writing his autobiography, I recall how it pained him that although we had made some progress, we were not living up to our republican Constitution’s fundamental principles.

I am also concerned that we continue to act like ostriches and ignore the need, eg, for constitutional reform; to deal with our failing institutions; to develop effective plans/strategies/policies to address crime and violence, including corruption which diverts resources from the people.

The family is the bedrock of our society. We need to strengthen family life. Strong families build strong communities which, in turn, will build a strong nation.

Sadly, though, while many of those in TT’s prisons may come from broken homes, one-parent or dysfunctional families etc, many of our white-collar criminals come from privileged backgrounds and have no qualms about stealing from that which belongs to the people of TT.

While more than 500 student nurses are protesting because they have not been receiving their monthly stipend of $800 for more than a year, citizens are aghast at the alleged acts of corruption in the country. “Fighting corruption is not just good governance, it’s self-defence. It’s patriotism,” (Joe Biden).

Are we moving away from the values that our parents tried to inculcate in us? Murder and mayhem continue apace in TT. We are indisciplined in so many ways. A few minutes of rain leads to floods in key parts of TT, partly due to our own actions.

As a republican State, power rests in us, the citizens. We must act responsibly. We elect representatives whom we hope will be visionary, competent, and courageous; who will learn how to work across party lines to build the common good, creating conditions which will “enable individuals, families and organisations to achieve complete and effective fulfilment” (Pope St John XXIII). If TT is to progress, we need to ensure that people are at the centre of development.

After 41 years, there are too many on the margins of our society; too many who don’t have basic amenities. We need an overhaul of all our systems — healthcare, education, social services etc. And, as we engage in the Budget-making process for 2017-2018, let us not forget that effective diversification takes years.

Although we know that we can no longer rely on oil and gas to fill our coffers, we are not taking urgent steps to diversify. Effective diversification takes years. We have a yoke of growing debt around our necks because of years of Budget deficits. We continue to use the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund for recurrent expenditure. This is a recipe for disaster.

In June, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had discussions with Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s executive secretary, who stated that there was a need for the English-speaking Caribbean island states to reduce their debts.

No knight in shining armour is coming to our aid. Let’s “band our own belly” before the IMF is called in.

In spite of our social ills, remember Dr Abdul Kalam’s (former president of India) words: “We should not give up and we should not allow the problem to defeat us.”

LEELA RAMDEEN
chair, Catholic Commissionfor Social Justice

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