Wayne Kublalsingh is creating history in Trinidad and Tobago. He is a leader dying for his cause. This has never been done here. This man has now taken struggle to the ultimate. For days, his life has waned, seen on his sinking face and thinning frame; death gripping within but his spirit battling and unyielding. It is riveting, awesome, disturbing, inspiring. This is no fasting in the day but eating at night. This is the real stuff.
It should provoke deep reflection, unless we are "rocks, stones, worse than senseless things''. There is a dreadful wonder in his fast. Could this driven, emaciated man reveal something magnificent, that in spite of ourselves, we can experience conviction enough for self-transformation, to become a powerful people, feared by politicians, no longer victims of our superficiality, but at last in command of our space and time? Because, whatever the outcome, Wayne has pointed to possibility. The message should be clear. If this man is willing to give his life to protect a community and the environment then what are the rest of us prepared to do, we who have been directly brutalised by underdevelopment for the past 50 years, our children stunted for generations, whilst our governments have been largely incompetent, arrogant and wasteful and allowed thieves to steal so many billions since Independence?
This Kublalsingh experience exposes our paltry politicians even more. Members of Cabinet enthusiastically embraced him in Opposition, but now, with dehumanising description, they think him a "spoilt child'' and his female supporters "bags of aloo''. Now he is a criminal who should be jailed. And the Prime Minister, once his ardent supporter, tries, like Pilate, to wash her hands, calling for his mother's intervention as though Kublalsingh is a mere wayward teenager "breaking biche''. Incarnations of inadequacy! Completely out of their depths! Agree or disagree with him, this man is a believer, one of conviction; a rare phenomenon. And he has our politicians floored, because in this country politics is not a furnace for ideas but a cesspit of wheeling and dealing; thievery, trickery and tribalism; buying votes with bribes and baubles; silencing dissension with insults and intimidation. So the Prime Minister calls on Mrs Kublalsingh, in a maudlin, meaningless, "mother to mother'' letter. But Wayne has moved on from being just the son of a woman. He is principally a citizen and a leader, making the ultimate sacrifice for his beliefs. He is saying "take my life, if it is required''. As Fr Harvey intimated, few make that journey. Jesus did it. Could Mary have saved him from the cross? So Kamla, there you go again in your woeful insufficiency, trying deviously to put the burden on Wayne's mother, creating more pain for that poor lady. Will you ever become a leader? If Wayne dies, it is on your hands; and history would forever condemn you for it. Few newborn girls would be called Kamla after that.
Our plague is that our leaders, though from humble origins, end up agents of a State, brutal against the vulnerable but protective of the rich and influential. Why attack the Re- Route Movement and not our robber barons? Can you answer that, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, daughter of Penal/ Siparia? You gave Kublalsingh a sham review committee on his issue and your government arbitrarily jailed hundreds of poor young blacks under the State of Emergency. But an escape route was provided for those accused of stealing billions in the airport scandal! "Plate sin with gold, and the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks; arm it in rags, a pygmy's straw does pierce it.'' Is this your "new'' governance, Prime Minister?
Kublalsingh says revolution is needed. He is right. This is not violence. Two of the greatest revolutionaries or the last century practised non-violence and brought great change to India and the United States. But we have never had a real revolution here. Independence was given and the suffocating colonial structures retained in an excessively powerful Prime Minister and Parliament dominated by the executive. And whilst Black Power brought black consciousness, more blacks in the banks, and national control of key industries, nothing fundamental changed.
It got worse. The "parasitic oligarchy'' grew stronger. Now "political investors'' buy political parties lock, stock and barrel; playing all sides and gobbling the national patrimony, no matter who rules. They have absolute power now, demonstrated in the most damning and dangerous development of our history: the manipulation of the Cabinet and the Parliament to set corruption-accused free; all scandalously done under the very noses of the Opposition and the Independent bench, put there to protect the people. We are the pits.
The nation is ripe for revolution. But there is little stirring. We have some noise and marching, inadequate for a spiritual awakening in this social and political graveyard. No ideas, no conviction leadership in sight. Only the spreading swampland. And yet the way is so clear, making inadequacies stand out all the more. "The more fair and crystal is the sky, the uglier seem the clouds that in it fly."
None among our present leaders is rising to the challenge. They lack the fire within, the capacity for the ultimate sacrifice. Can any attain Robinson's "attack with full force''? Do any have Kublalsingh's totality? The bar has been raised.
But today, everything is failing Trinbago: politics, society, education, religion, culture. Nothing stirs heroism, commitment, conviction. Revolutionary loins and lineage have dried. The society no longer breeds the revolutionary spirit. The present is the product of a mechanical engendering in a nation which, like "a dull, stale, tired bed keeps creating a whole tribe of fops, got between sleep and awake''.
Enter, Dr Kublalsingh. We'll see.
• Ralph Maraj is a former