Friday, December 15, 2017

The darkness deepens


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"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled." This line from the Sermon on the Mount comes from Matthew 5:6 of the King James Version of the Bible, the simplest of language, the most beautiful and moving prose, words that reach deep into the heart and soul. The problem, as Martin Luther King said about equal rights in his "I have a dream" speech, is that it is a promissory note, and while it might strike a responsive chord from the harps of the angels up there in heaven, down here on earth, it is a deep discord, especially when you take on the establishment.

Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, an academic and social activist, thought that those who had ears to hear and were not minding his plea for a review of a highway project that would disrupt the lives of many people in one of the agricultural areas of south Trinidad would be moved to listen if he embarked on a hunger strike or "fast". Hunger is a slow death but not half as slow as the Government to at least empathise with Dr Kublalsingh's idealism, if not his cause, and not half as fast as their counter-attack on his motives, character, mother, family, and credibility.

The Minister of National Security in Trinidad and Tobago is Jack Warner of FIFA fame. True to form, his immediate response was to make Dr Kublalsingh a political football and kick him while he was down, debilitated and dessicated. Mr Warner has been described by the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as a person who "appears to be prone to an economy with the truth". There was Warner, on a hastily erected anti-Kublalsingh political platform, describing Dr Kublalsingh as a "conman" and treating the crowd to some gallows humour, "They say the Prime Minister is killing Wayne Kublalsingh, but he is killing himself, and he better do it quickly!" Mr Warner, who may now have to face an enquiry for not telling the truth in Parliament and is reported as being investigated by different national and international law enforcement agencies, disclosed that Kublalsingh was staying at homes in Maraval, a northern suburb, and Marabella in south Trinidad and "eating more hearty than you". He embellished his claim further, "My advice is that when he (Kublalsingh) goes to his secret homes in Maraval and Vistabella, he has a hearty meal. I am even advised that last week, he was lying on the back seat of his vehicle eating a doubles. And it was not even a Debe doubles."

For the benefit of my non-Trini readers, Debe is a village in the centre of the highway storm, and a "doubles" is a sandwich made with two small, fried flatbreads and curried, spicy chick-peas or "channa". If there are three instead of two flatbreads, it is called a "triple". This also described the attack on Dr Kublalsingh's veracity and intentions.

First, they doubled up on him. The Minister of Works, Emmanuel George, a former disc-jockey known as "Hurricane George", lashed Dr Kublalsingh like Sandy on the Jersey shore. Consistent with Warner's determination to make the matter a political football, George blamed Kublalsingh for "moving the goal post". Then they mounted a triple threat. Environment Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal got his kicks from attacking the Kublalsingh family. A newspaper report quotes Moonilal as saying, "There is something surreal about this family. It appears to be a cult. Kublalsingh's mother has not intervened to save the life of her son. We must keep an eye on this family. What they did this week was bad, but they have now gone into radical political expression. There is one more step; the next step is violence." Moonilal added, "Wayne is a fraudster, a trickster and a hoaxer. This fella has given instructions that his family can do what they want, but they have to make sure that he don't die. He wants to crawl to the grave but not jump in. The day after we lower the price of 7,000 food items, he decide to stop eating."

Despite all these attempts to stir up the people with the spectre of violence, the Government, through former DJ George, is playing the same tune again and again, accusing Dr Kublalsingh of "using emotion to fight his cause".

Wikipedia's definition of a hunger strike is instructive. It says that a "hunger strike is a method of non-violent resistance or pressure in which participants fast as an act of political protest, or to provoke feelings of guilt in others, usually with the objective to achieve a specific goal, such as a policy change…the hunger strike is often terminated by the custodial entity through the use of force-feeding".

Like the beloved Apostle Matthew, Wikipedia did not take into account the Trinidad Government. First of all, neither Kublalsingh nor Matthew, or even the Almighty for that matter, can provoke any feelings of guilt in the T&T Government. Wayne Kublalsingh can hunger and thirst for all he wants but, as one of my colleagues commented, if you know where a highway is going to be built and can buy the land cheaply, it is a question of gilt versus guilt. He also pointed out that it is not Kublalsingh that is being force-fed but the people who believe Warner and the others.

My view is that the Trinidadian pronunciation of the word "fast" holds the key. In this sense while Wayne is fasting, the Government is on a massive "farce".

• Tony Deyal was last seen saying that given Jack Warner's reputation, if Minister George wants to know who really moved the goal post, he should check with Jack.