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Sunday 23 September 2018
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The fires in Port of Spain


LIKE MOST people, I have been absolutely dismayed at the unrest that has been seething in east Port of Spain. There were quite a few people that I spoke to who were/are very against the rioters/demonstrators (or whatever you want to call them).

The general feeling was that the police should just go in and “clean them up,” by which I understood to mean that all the demonstrators should be killed and thrown in the Gulf of Paria. What these people saw was a threat to their very existence — their comfortable way of life.

What I saw was something different. I saw a beaten, downtrodden people who had literally reached the end of their rope. I saw a people who were still somehow hoping that somebody somewhere would somehow miraculously make things right for them and allow them to have a little place in the sun but losing faith that the prayed-for miracle will ever come. God, they feel, has really abandoned them.

What I am seeing is that it is not going to take a lot to push these people over the edge. If a man feels that he is in a corner and that there is no way out for him, then he won’t care if he takes the whole damned society down with him. And people are reaching that stage now – if they haven’t reached it already.

No. Now more than ever we need to sit down as a society and come up with solutions that will get us out of this terrible morass. We need to sit down and discuss a complete revamping of the education system which has failed us terribly — even our so-called prestige schools are little better than dumps. And don’t even talk about our healthcare system which is worse than awful. Our security system also needs a radical overhauling.

Look, the truth is that there is little difference (if any) between the policies of either the PNM or the UNC.

There are arguments about “who t’ief more” that can and will never be settled. There are also arguments about who are better administrators of the economy, but there are never any serious policy discussions and I defy anybody to lay out for me the policy differences between the two parties. Because I certainly can’t see them.

And let’s agree that we should stop blaming the Prime Minister and his government for everything. The problems that they are facing weren’t created overnight. But while not blaming them for everything let’s also tell them in no uncertain terms to lead, follow or get out of the way. If you don’t have a clue how to fix the problems then say so. And stop blaming the Opposition.

You won the election because we thought you could fix the problems. You said you could. There is only one reason for politics; there is only one reason for government: to make life better for the people. There is no other reason. Period. So fix it or go. But stop all the “shillyshallying.” Fix it. And let’s have no more excuses. Just fix it. Make our lives better.

That solutions do exist is a given. There are always solutions to every problem. Some may not be either acceptable or palatable, but there are solutions. If we really want to turn this place around we need to start a national dialogue now that is policy- and solution-oriented. We need to start discussing ideas without disparaging those whom we perceive to be against us.

I have a thousand ideas on how to make this little republic a better place. I have put forward some of them and will do so again in the future. Unfortunately, my efforts to discuss issues like education, healthcare, national security etc have all fallen so far on stony ground.

That’s all right. I don’t pretend to be the Oracle of Delphi with all the answers and will happily accept other ideas that can unite us and take us forward.

But right now, can we not see that people, real people, citizens of our country are really hurting? Can’t we stop being fearful of them and figure out how to help turn them into valuable and productive citizens?

Because if we don’t, the fire in east Port of Spain will spread and engulf all of us ... and probably sooner rather than later.

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