THE EDITOR: I am writing this after the 49th anniversary of the second state of emergency that Dr Eric Williams imposed on NJAC and other progressive groups on October 19, 1971, and the 37th anniversary of the execution of Grenadian prime minister Maurice Bishop on October 19, 1983. The infamous US military invasion, ordered by president Ronald Reagan with the collusion of Dominica’s prime minister Eugenia Charles, followed six days after, on October 25.
These are two events which we should keep in memory because of their lessons for the contemporary Caribbean.
On these distressing anniversaries Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados and Jacinta Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, have provided me with examples of hope for statesmanship, good governance and compassion in contemporary politics. How I wish that they could be emulated in TT.
When I listened to Mottley make the opening address on October 15 at the inaugural Pivot Event organised by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), I noted how she was able to weave the accomplishments of Caribbean people into her speech.
She said, “The hard truth is that the Caribbean has not been, regrettably, in the business of moonshot sufficiently. Our region, in an age of rapid and bold digital innovation globally, has been slow to digitise and timid to innovate; not all, but not across the scale.”
She added, “Our governments, our financial institutions, our schools, our churches and our agencies have been regrettably too hostile to risk and resistant to new actions and new ideas. But why? After all, this is the region that produced [many greats].”
Her references to Caribbean greats was impressive. She started with our own and Guyana’s Peter Minshall. She called quite a number of other names. George Headley, CLR James, Errol Barrow, Kincaid, Eric Williams, Robert Nesta Marley, Sir Arthur Lewis, Brian Lara, Derek Walcott, Naipaul, Viv Richards, Shirley Chisholm, Usain Bolt, Sir Garfield Sobers, and Robyn Rihanna Fenty.
She put it to us that “we are a region that has already solved some of the most difficult of some of the so-called developed world’s problems.”
In other words, she roused us to our possibilities. I read the comments of people who followed her speech. One person on Facebook called her Mama Mia.
Regarding Ardern, it was said, “The victory was secured by the Ardern Government’s exceptional performance against covid19 and Ardern’s personal leadership qualities. She exuded empathy and authenticity.
“Through these events she has displayed consistency, good humour, empathy, optimism, courage, competence and compassion. She, her Cabinet and director general of health had the intelligence and mental agility to grasp the science of epidemiology and take firm, early action on the pandemic, which has placed the whole country on level one and on the road to recovery.”
I like the description of her leadership: “consistency, good humour, empathy, optimism, courage, competence and compassion.”
A call for compassion is implicit in a letter I recently wrote when I stated that “communication, co-operation and care must become TT’s vaccines against covid19.” I have also been very specific about how campaigning has taken the place of governance.
I referenced the late Chief Servant Makandal Daaga. I noted that “Daaga’s approach was always to engage listeners with concepts and issues that were provided to elevate the country.”
This nation should strive to have a leadership which cultivates the people’s development. There must be a harmonisation of the relationship between the people and the leaders.
Sadly, recent events in Parliament, with accusations of racism, led to a caution given to the Minister of National Security. To be fair, both sides are still campaigning. We are very far from statesmanship, good governance and compassion, which are necessary qualities if we have to overcome the serious problems that we are facing.