I RESPOND to Louis W Williams’s commentary titled “Prayers an insult? How absurd” in the Newsday (March 23) purely as a matter of dharma, or good manners to the secular population. Williams addressed me by name and as an elected Member of Parliament I am accountable to the public.
Williams takes offence at my response following Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher’s remark on her crime plan to the Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce, where she said she, and we, needed the Almighty’s help in solving the crime problem, and my responding that it constituted an insult.
His point is that as human beings we instinctively reach for the divine in times of trouble, and this is what the CoP was doing. Indeed, Williams seems to have understood text and subtext of the CoP’s remarks – “it goes without saying the CoP has to find the right balance regarding public disclosure of plans and strategies of the TTPS, as it would be a travesty if those with nefarious intent” seized upon the plans.
This is disingenuous, to put it mildly. It also occurs to me that when people pray, they close their eyes. And this call to prayer is a tune, or hymn, the PNM has sung before, and to which I have responded in the same manner. Last year, I said to the Prime Minister that prayers were not needed when he made a plea for a national day of prayer.
Now, not quite three months into the new year, the CoP repeats the sentiment. The difference is that she is not a politician; she has been a part of a chain of command in an institution which has managed the TTPS’s campaigns against crime for decades. Campaigns which have almost never worked, as anyone living in Trinidad would know.
So for the CoP to outline yet another series of strategies is almost
pro forma, a mere formality. To add that it will only work with the help of the Almighty amounts to an advance admission of failure – taking in front, if you will. This much has been acknowledged by the three daily papers in their editorials on the matter.
As to Williams’s claims of my own lack of spiritual awareness, I admit my appreciation of the spiritual dimension of humanity is a work in progress. I am a Hindu and practise my religion as assiduously as I can. My religion teaches that God will help if called upon, but human beings’ practice of free will can subvert even the most prodigious blessings.
In the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, even a God (Krishna) could not prevent one arm of a family from waging war against another arm, and the God became a combatant, a charioteer for the army’s general.
In the Christian tradition, I am reminded of Old Testament Hebrew kings who prayed for God’s blessings, but could not stop God’s chosen people being delivered into centuries of enslavement.
The point is that God will not subvert what human beings choose to do out of free will. More prosaically, if I drive my car for a year without servicing it, God will not prevent its breakdown. If I indulge in bodily excesses, God will not prevent my illness. If I walk in front of a speeding truck, God will not prevent my certain demise.
This is what the CoP is doing – attempting to invoke the divine when human incompetence has run its full course. To implicate God at this moment in our nation’s history is cynical, insulting to people of faith and victims of crime.
Mr Williams appreciates all this as he writes that “the religious texts…[affirm]that God helps those who help themselves.” So having said that, what is the purpose of his article? Williams’s further statements display it.
He continues that I and my fellow UNC parliamentarians should give support to the “passage of appropriate legislation to ensure that justice is served.” Which he follows with that “relevant agencies” should ensure the judiciary and police are “adequately resourced.”
These are government talking points, fed to its supporters via talk radio and social media. But the
coup de grâce is his closing argument, about white-collar crime and the attorneys who exploit loopholes. It is almost a
non sequitur given his initial statement about spirituality, but its purpose is to pull in Basdeo Panday’s 18-year case being thrown out by the DPP.
This is the intention of the article and many like it: to link the criminal issues to the Opposition, past and present. All these talking points are intended to shift the blame from those managing the society, and those who select the Commissioner of Police, and who control all the resources, to the Opposition. The strategy is a transparent one.
I doubt my response will change many minds on the other side of the chamber, and the thousands who swallow their drivel. However, I offer these words to people of faith, in whose number I count myself, and to those who think, reason and understand that we cannot burn down our own house and then cry to God to rebuild it. And with its open subversion of institutions like the legal and protective services, the PNM is doing just that: burning down our house. God will not help us in this instance. We must help ourselves.
Dinesh Rambally is the MP for Chaguanas West