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Staring down the abyss

By Winford James

Trinbagonian Child, the worst problems we face in Trinidad and Tobago are a bagatelle when compared to those other peoples face on an eternal basis, so it seems. And I sometimes think that our Government’s conscience is not troubled at all about the problems it creates for us, given the more execrable state of affairs in other parts of the world that makes them look so benign. But they are our problems, nonetheless.
In Syria, there is a civil war that has claimed over 100,000 lives and grievously wounded millions, but the tyrant carries on regardless, his toxic hold on power even tighter than before.
In Libya, since the violent rout of the tyrant, the liberators have found they cannot govern that fractured nation in peace, beset on all sides by militias who don’t share their agenda for change.
In Ukraine, the newest civil war hotspot, the newly elected government is faced with a dreadful Russia-backed rebellion from ethnic Russian separatists emboldened by Russia’s annexation of Crimea. It is another place where the lives of young men and women in the armies, innocent parents and children, and even strangers flying in a plane high up in the air above it are snuffed out. And another tyrant has dreams of empire .
And we haven’t even got to the atrocities in Gaza yet.
Worried Child, there is no tyrant in Trinidad and Tobago; all we have is a government that keeps reeling from one blunder to the next. The brazen appointment of ethnic incompetents in sensitive positions of management and leadership. The packing of state boards with ethnics who will ensure that contracts are awarded to ethnic supporters and financiers. The passing of brown paper bags—both under and on top of the table—filled with the rewards from contract giving. The passing of legislation—the infamous Section 34, you remember?—to protect privileged financiers from criminal prosecution. The establishment of LifeSport and the unmonitored prosecution of reckless greed and graft within it. The emasculation of the leadership of the Police Service. Snide and facile rejection of the wise judgment of a high court judge that there should be transparency and accountability in the award of contracts and in the giving of related information.
There is no joy in recounting the blunders—all of them egregious. And there is little joy this Government brings us. We are, Innocent Child, at the edge of the abyss, staring down into a deep, unfathomable darkness.
As a direct result of these Government actions, some of the institutions that are there to protect our freedoms and our democracy are stuttering, confused as to their roles, dazed by the evolving don’t-care political culture. So the army goes on opportunistic patrol in the hot spots of Laventille, stung into a vengeful mood by the brutal assassination of one of their own, but—they don’t have powers of arrest. What then if they think they are sufficiently provoked by a difficult resident or two? And to make matters worse, the Ag Commissioner of Police threatens to arrest soldiers on patrol for illegally being on patrol! Deadly confusion in the place!
And the police, despite the loudest prior indications for them to act on suspicious conduct in LifeSport, have waited for the Prime Minister to both order her Finance Minister to conduct an audit and to send the audit to them before they can act.
The police waiting for the Prime Minister to motivate them to act instead of being proactive as their role requires them to!
How preposterous, Discerning Child! How tragic!
The country seems to think that the big consequence of the audit with its damning parade of greed, theft, misuse of public funds, and lack of patriotism should be either the resignation or firing of the creator of LifeSport, Anil Roberts. It is not! The big consequence ought to be the resignation of the Government.

This is not a call for them to resign though, Cynical Child, just an observation of what ought to happen in any self-respecting democracy. By not firing themselves, the Prime Minister is saying to us all that it is okay for her Government not to monitor the progress of huge-budget innovative programmes that they themselves come up with, it is okay for ministers not to accept responsibility for how their ministries run, and it is okay for ministers to hide behind the clearer transgressions of public servants.
Balderdash! As one of the elders of my village used to say.
Beloved Child, this is not the inheritance I contemplated for you. This is not the kind of political space I envisioned for you.
Your generation will have to change it, I fear.
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