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No Surrender As The Bell Tolls

By Sunity Maharaj

 “…never send to know 

for whom the bell tolls.


It tolls for thee.”

 –John Donne


We weep for ourselves as much as we weep for Dana Seetahal. We grieve for her and for the death of our innocent assumptions of inviolability. We flinch before the bullet as it penetrated her skull and ricocheted across the land, piercing our protective armour of economic class, social stature, personal worthiness and the licensed gun within easy reach. 

We are reminded of our impotence now, as we were reminded on July 27, 1990, and again in 1995 by the killers of Selwyn Richardson, and then again on May 24, 1998 by the killer of Akiel Chambers, and over and over by the killers of state witnesses and other bearers of vengeance. Reminded, too, that nothing, neither law and order nor the hand of justice, stands between us and the increasingly powerful criminal forces rampaging through this gangster society in which any of us could become collateral damage on any given day. We have to wonder now whether we are alive only because no one wants us dead, badly enough. 

This killing is no ordinary crime but a declaration of power from forces confident in our well-proven powerlessness to hold them to account and bring them to justice. They take their cue from the rotten state of our affairs which has paralysed our institutions, compromised their purposes, corrupted their insides, and rendered them leaderless, flapping about like chickens without heads. Whatever the Republic of T&T lacks in organisation, leadership and will, the republic of crime has in abundance, given to them by our own careless hands.

The danger now is that the balance of power, already so tipped against us, has dipped even lower. In our bones we feel it, sapping our self-confidence and sending our soul into deep retreat. Nobody needs to tell us about the consequences of failing to halt the advance of this terrible force. But as it stands now, there is nothing to stop it. Insidious and sinister, the forces of the underworld are now so intimately intertwined with our institutions that we cannot detect the difference between the handshake by day and handgun by night.

The amateur responses of those with the responsibility to beat them back and take them down tell the story of our weakness, our compromised capacity and our failure to insist on better from those who represent us. In the battle for survival we are the underdogs because we have voluntarily surrendered our power by allowing the overlords of the underworld to bankroll our politics, corrupt our institutions and ride our backs to even greater heights of laundered power and glory.

In the face of the advancing enemy there is no time for depression, fatalism or empty verbosity. Whatever resources we have left must be deployed in mounting a national resistance with the authority to command those who lead us. Our impoverished politics must be forced to find within itself the capacity to abandon its ethos of partisan advantage at the expense of the national interest. It must trust us with the truth and trust itself to face and be freed by the truth.

 If the Augean stables of T&T politics are not cleaned now, we will be overwhelmed by the putridity of the stench and infectious bacteria. Who among our leaders has the self-confidence to break from the pack, lay their crown at the feet of the people, and risk defeat to save T&T with an imaginative intervention credible enough to earn public trust and win support for a rescue mission? Who has the moral authority to fashion a coalition of support among skeptical, wary rivals as a platform of national solidarity in defence of T&T? Who has the courage to face down those who would hijack the national patrimony? Nothing that we can see right now suggests anything but the same old rivalry leading to a war of such scorching brutality that in the end, we will all be losers, bar the prophets of war reaping their profits from warfare.

It is an open secret that our politics is carrying us deeper and deeper into the clutches of the powerful underworld where deals bordering on extortion are struck in an exchange of the votes of the many for opportunity for a few. The phenomenon is not new. Its origins lie in the unregulated State-funded programmes going back to over 40 years ago which created the power grid from which the politics of non-representation drew on the energy of power systems outside the politics. Our persistent failure to invest our politics with meaningful representation has fattened the monster to the point where we now stand puny before it. On a clear Sunday night one week ago, it set its sights on Dana Seetahal, and picked her off, seeming at will, unchallenged by any defence of our own. Suddenly, we are left to wonder if God might not be a Trini after all and, if not, what might be the debt to be paid. 

Overnight, our magnificent obsession with brinksmanship can be grasped for what it is: a dangerous, self-destructive alienation in which we still see ourselves outside the power equation, cheering on with no responsibility for what happens between the gladiators inside the gayelle.

In this gangster republic where truth is so often stranger than fiction, no theory is too wild to consider, no possibility too outlandish to explore in our sudden urge to understand the forces that now beset us. It is late, but not too late to seek our power in knowledge and informed action.On this day, we can start by honouring our grief, lifting our spirit and raising our voices in a vow of no surrender.

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