Monday, February 19, 2018

Tribute to colonial governess

I have been watching the responses for and against the Highway Re-Route Movement and am greatly dismayed. Those against, like xenophobic office holders, are all too happy to reveal the shallowness of their attachment to civic action directed against them. They are wishing and promising fire and brimstone on the heads of protest leaders as if they live in Trinidad and Tobago alone.

Those for and those who are sympathetic to Wayne Kublalsingh's cause seem nonplussed by the unyielding hand of those who govern. On neither side does there seem any ability to perceive a middle ground for public action directed to a speedy, cost-effective and time-saving set of solutions.

One side is invested in the death and destruction of the protest. The other side is invested obdurately in an exclusive consummation of protest action that, finally, and at last wins the attention of one, Her Royal Highness, and brings a triumphant end to the fast.

What Michael Harris' November 26 piece in the Express on the subject ("Anatomy of a political act") did not say, or failed to acknowledge, is that the fasting Dr Kublalsingh is participating in an act, whatever his good or noble intentions, that is destined to reinforce the return of the colonial governess through Kamla Persad-Bissessar's caring style. That is the crux of the problem to my mind.

The attention of all citizens or patriots or members is directed to the leader in the Government, in the country and in the party. These otherwise wan ghosts are ever so often the alphas and omegas of every conceivable problem and solution. We make them veritable gods.

How different it would have been, on this highway re-route issue, if representatives from among the protest parties existed, and had speaking, debating and genuine legislative capabilities in the primary or local jurisdiction surrounding the proposed routes of the highway? What if, as a secondary or fall-back position, they could justly expect a national legislature, with clout independent of the executive and Cabinet, to table the issues, and summon expert witnesses to ventilate the matter to the satisfaction of all concerned?

What if we had the strength of character to forge reforms to put end to much futile expenditure of power as consumption-fuel in protest actions? Would we need patriots to spill their blood for more than what is required to put relevant constitutional reform of government in place?

At the core of Dr Kublalsingh's protests is not the protest per se but the deficiencies in the institutions of governance that are required to give the citizen-patriots ownership of the decision-making process that affects their lives and livelihoods. The carping over Section 34, for all the rich commentary, missed this salient observation. The Tobago reform issue will soon be vented in a way that either wakes up citizen-patriots in Trinidad or damns them.

To miss the relevance of these observations is to continue to tilt at windmills. That is the tragedy, to my mind, of Dr Kublalsingh's fast. It amounts to a veritable misdirection of protest power and political action. It does activate local initiative. But instead of empowering local initiative with real tools of self-governance, (or taking the time so to do and teach), it wastes such initiative on reinforcing the locus of central power. It does so by directing supporters' eyes and attention for solutions, toward executive authority, in a government in which the Prime Minister is a de facto monarch who can behave as exclusive lord of the fowl and the beast.

It should be first-primer politics that in our political system the PM is exclusive lord, dominates the Cabinet and, through the Cabinet, the legislature which, as independent or popular sovereign law-making agency, has limited relevance. We are a realm, but one dressed or masquerading under the guise of a British parliamentary system, masquerading under a presidential system, masquerading under the guise of a republic.

That adds to the confusion because we can trace no royal lineage. The lineage we can trace is that of the habits and culture of the colonial governess.

Bucking and ending that trend is the revolution we must make. That is among the tasks for which we need citizen-patriots more than ever.

* Lloyd Taylor is a former

executive officer of the

Tapia House Group