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Tuesday 14 August 2018
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Commentary

Alphonse Karr was right

Reginald Dumas writes a weekly column for the Newsday.

Consider the following quotations.

“I must admit that I have considerable sympathy with the complaint from Tobago where regular steamer communications have been interrupted …” (Letter of September 18, 1929, from the acting governor of TT to Lord Passfield, colonial secretary, London.)

“Passenger accommodation … is insufficient to meet the present needs.” (Report of June 1938 by a committee appointed by the acting governor in April 1938 “to advise government whether the existing coastal steamer service between Trinidad and Tobago is adequate for the present needs; and … to make recommendations…”)

“(There is) the particular suitability of Tobago as a tourist and holiday resort (and) the number of holiday makers from Trinidad is increasing rapidly.” (June 1938 report.)

“The most important factor affecting the island of Tobago as a whole is communications, and although representations have been made at frequent intervals to government on the various aspects of this matter, the deficiency remains and the situation is now serious and merits immediate action ...

“[The inter-island] steamers are now, and have been for two years, quite inadequate in size and accommodation to handle the rapidly increasing traffic between Tobago and [Trinidad].” (Memorandum of December 1938 from the Tobago Chamber of Commerce to the Moyne Commission.)

“It is not apparent that there is any profitable industrial field [in Tobago] open to the investor of capital [except] the tourist industry … The commercial interests concerned, particularly hotel and guest house proprietors, also motor transport proprietors, have invested during the past three years very considerable sums in this industry.

“The government obligation is to provide efficient and adequate steamship communication … which [is] required immediately if grave injustice to the commercial interests involved is to be avoided.” (December 1938 memorandum.)

“It is urged that government should more frequently consult representative bodies in Tobago, including the Tobago Chamber of Commerce, on matters connected with the social and economic welfare of the island.” (December 1938 memorandum.)

“The policy of ‘running the [inter-island] ships to death’ with whatever hope government may have had of replacing them was reckless and improvident … The absence of a proper policy of repair and the tight schedules to which the two ships have been unremittingly committed together constitute the effective cause of the breakdown in the service …

“If government continue to operate the coastal steamers service, the ships employed should at all times be maintained up to the standards set by Lloyd’s and similar societies and the service should be conducted under the sanctions of the Merchant Shipping Ordinance.

“The most satisfactory way of achieving this would be to place the service in the hands of some competent and responsible authority, either private or public, which would manage and control the ships and their crews. ” (Report of May 1957 by the Wharton Commission on the coastal steamer service.)

“There are two government-owned passenger-cargo vessels supplemented by two chartered cargo vessels in the operation of [the coastal] service. However, the service has for decades been inadequate to meet even the basic need for the carriage of passengers and vital food supplies to Tobago. The report of a ministerial committee dated June 1979 cited the inadequacy of the sea transport link as the major problem area and ‘perhaps the greatest source of irritation to the people of Tobago.’” (Source unclear, but believed to be a harbour master’s report.)

“The domestic market, which represents a large part of our turnover and revenue, has now been severely crippled because of the fact that we don’t have an existing or reliable ferry service … and there are still existing problems with the management of Caribbean Airlines.” (Winston Pereira, general manager, Miller’s Guesthouse, Buccoo, quoted in Newsday, January 11, 2018.)

“(T)he T&T Express, which is 20 years old, will have to be replaced.” (Colm Imbert, reported in the TT Guardian, January 11, 2018.)

“When [the new] vessel is here and both the Spirit and the Express have completed their refurbishment … we will have three vessels on the route.” (Colm Imbert, quoted in the Express, January 19, 2018.)

“Chairman of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, Chris James, (said) there had been no consultation with Tobago stakeholders on the purchase of the $17.4 million vessel … He said there ought to have been consultation before such an important purchase was made.” (Sunday Express, January 21, 2018.) “There will always be critics in everything you do … Sometimes you have to do what you have to do in order to ensure that the system does not collapse.” (Rohan Sinanan responding to the charge of non-consultation, quoted in the Express, January 24, 2018.)

“T&T Express breaks down again: sailing cancelled.” (Express, January 25, 2018.) Alphonse Karr? He was the 19th century Parisian who gave the world the enduring epigram “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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