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Open letter to the PM and Dr K

By Sunity Maharaj

Dear Prime Minister and Dr Kublalsingh,

The differences between the two of you are real. They run deep and wide and carry the lacerating sting of betrayal. But no difference between you could be worth the loss of life or the pitting of our people against each other, family against family, neighbour against neighbour, village against village. To adopt the East African proverb, when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

We are an imaginative people. We have the capacity to think our way out of the trap of extreme positions. Instead of dancing on the bones of human desperation, let us apply ourselves to finding a solution to transform this moment into a breakthrough for our national salvation.

Dr K, I don't think you began this hunger strike intending to kill yourself, although if it comes to that, I do believe that you indeed have the will to accept a fate as a martyr to the cause against a political system that breeds arbitrary power.

Madam PM, no one doubts that if you were you in Opposition today, you would be right there alongside your Brother Wayne, doing your part, perhaps mopping his brow and penning a pre-action protocol, written in the blood of your bleeding heart.

Today, as leaders of contending interests, whatever you may think about the personal deficiencies of each other, let us try to understand the meaning of this drama in order to plot our way out of this box of hardline positions.

But first, can we agree that we, including you, Dr K, will not allow Wayne Kublalsingh to die or damage himself beyond repair? None of us has the right to burden our future with a failure of such horrific magnitude.

We may be a damaged people, but not so damaged as to clothe ourselves in self-righteousness while a human being, a good and decent man at that, starves himself to death before our eyes. It is simply not our way to watch someone die, even the suicidal, when we have it within our power to save them.

So, please, can we all agree on more intravenous and less invective? As I write, there is hope of a change in tone.

We are also beginning to see that this issue may not be about a highway at all. In the same way that the aluminium smelter confrontation was not about a smelter at all, or the rapid rail lobby wasn't about the rail at all.

This confrontation between activist and State is truly about governance in a political system that is blighted by an inexorable tendency to co-opt the power of all and centralise it in the State. In this colonial democracy of ours, we have long learnt the value of aligning with the State, lest we find ourselves on the wrong side of power.

Madam PM and Dr K, who could better understand this phenomenon than the two of you, who have lived the impotence of opposition politics in this winner-take-all system?

Outside the circumference of power, both of you have lived the hard reality of disenfranchisement by a system that denies the rights of those outside the pale of office. Out there in the cold, you have learnt that the power of numbers is the only weapon for challenging this mock democracy that masquerades as responsible government. And so, for the Opposition today, as it was for the enslaved masses two hundred years ago, those without office are condemned to using the only weapon they have, their bodies, strengthened by the solidarity of being in their numbers, marching, protesting and engaging in extreme actions such as hunger strikes in claiming a voice for the voiceless and a presence for the unrepresented.

Madam PM, as one who has been there, you would recognise Dr K's desperate act as an extreme expression of impotence against an unyielding state. Every rib is a damning reflection of the alienation from power. As a political person, you would know that this is the point of great danger.

In 1970, some of our best and brightest, young men and women of patriotic spirit, came to the conclusion that the political system had no room for them. The youths of the National Union of Freedom Fighters (NUFF) took up guns and went into the hills of the Northern Range, intent on saving their country. Many were eventually gunned down.

In 1990, the Jamaat al Muslimeen, up against what they considered an unyielding administration, took upon themselves the task of saving us while helping themselves. That day, we were lucky to be spared the murder of a prime minister.

Grenada wasn't so lucky and bears the scars to this day of Tuesday, October 25, 1983, when a generation was lost after they, too, felt they had no choice but to seek a solution outside the political system.

Madam PM and Dr K, history has cast you as protagonists in the oldest drama of Caribbean politics. Dr K, if you allow yourself to die, you will carry us across a dangerous line in the sand. Madam PM, as the one who now wears the brace of unfettered power, you should know the danger of the heavy hand and the explosive power of unreleased tension.

The path to resolution now lies through our imagination. We have what it takes to find a way beyond brinksmanship.

Despite the passions stirred by the Point Fortin Highway, it is obvious that very few people have the facts about this $7 billion-plus project, the costliest expansion of infrastructure in this country's history. No serious country that is running a $7 billion deficit in an environment of economic stagnation should decide on a $7 billion highway on the basis of simply whether some people want it or don't want it. It may well be the critical infrastructure required for transforming the southern half of the country, kick-starting the economy and creating jobs. But even so, it requires careful management of design, budget, process and engineering in order to achieve the best possible outcome for the entire country.

As citizens, we have been late to this conversation, leaving the discussion and debate up to the government, the Highway Re-Route Movement and other interests. We should be less negligent about such a major decision and investment.

Madam PM and Dr K, there is a place beyond the danger zone of demagoguery. Let's quickly find our way there for a rational and national discussion about the Pt Fortin Highway.

Peace.

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