Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Wayne's world


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UNFORTUNATELY, I had to miss the Prime Minister's media luncheon on Thursday.

When I heard they didn't have a place set for Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, I felt it would be in poor taste to go and stuff my face with Christmas fare while someone was starving himself for a cause.

Hopefully, the poor fella is still alive by the time this is published.

Not that everyone would have seen it my way, because one friend—we'll call him Pappy—said that they should forcibly remove Kublalsingh from his place of protest outside the Prime Minister's office.

Actually, they should arrest him, he said, because attempting suicide is a crime.

Pappy compared the nation's most famous hunger striker to a vagrant, lying down on the pavement, and he was most upset that the Mayor of Port of Spain, who claims to want to clean up the capital city, came and showed his support for Kublalsingh.

"Louis Lee Sing come and shake his hand…he should be moving his ass off the pavement!"

Another friend was a patient of Dr Fuad Khan, so Dr Wayne lost his sympathy when he cursed the Health Minister, who has helped a lot of people with kidney stones and other urinary tract ailments.

And there are the many cynics amongst us, convinced that the goodly gentleman was taking some sort of nourishment at night at his place of abode, away from the full glare of the media.

And just to throw some added spice in the pot, a man down in Penal, who had a lot more pounds to lose than Kublalsingh, said he was going on a hunger strike for them to build the highway.

Only in Trinidad, where for five straight days and counting, there was no bigger story and no skinnier protagonist, even if he was behaving like a "spoilt child", according to cherubic and callous Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal, who Kublalsingh claims is a former colleague in the fight against construction of the highway to Point Fortin.

Kublalsingh and the Highway Re-route Movement are making their stand on environmental grounds, pointing out the adverse effect of a certain section of the highway, which could cause more flooding in an already flood-prone area.

And there is the humanitarian aspect, with a few residents upset over having to move off property that they have lived on for years, generations for some of them.

But thousands of other people who have to deal with the daily grind of gridlock on the narrow roads down south are eagerly awaiting relief from the frustrating traffic.

They don't want to hear about any possible ecological problems in years to come. They just want the highway now! And so what if the Prime Minister gave her assurance that work would not start on the contentious section until court action against the construction is decided, one way or the other.

So I hope by the time this gets to print, Kublalsingh will realise that he has made his very noble point—that there are issues worth fighting for and sacrifices have to be made…and the Prime Minister does not keep her word—but he should live to fight another day.

And Dr Wayne will join the likes of Eden Shand and Ishmael Samad who have not been afraid to raise their voices even when the majority turned a blind eye, all for the sake of progress.

Shand, who sat down on the pitch in the middle of the once grassy Queen's Park Savannah and had a dump truck full of gravel poured on him, was upset over the relentless paving of the Big Yard.

And Samad, who went to Calder Hart's house to make a citizen's arrest, took a sledge hammer to the UDeCOTT chairman's gate, damaging his hand in the process with his "weapon", which weighed more than him.

The same Samad who carries out a lone protest outside the Hall of Justice over police killings of supposedly innocent bystanders.

The same Hall of Justice where Lincoln Myers laid his mat in the mid-1980s in a public stand over corruption, rallying popular support which eventually swept the People's National Movement out of office in 1986 after so many years of uninterrupted and unchecked power.

That seems so many years ago, as it will not too long into the future when motorists will be zooming along the Point Fortin Highway and very few will even think twice about Kublalsingh's best efforts to halt its construction.

But in this land of apathy, where if you show me a genuine social activist I'll show you a thousand ordinary citizens who only want to "eat ah food" and will dance to any tune the piper plays, we need people like Dr Wayne to keep the powers-that-be in check.

To make us aware that there is a price to be paid for progress and someone will foot the bill somewhere down the line.

So Madam Prime Minister, I apologise for not attending your luncheon, but if you gave out those neatly-wrapped hampers to members of the media as you did last year, can you send mine to Rebirth House in Chaguaramas where some formerly lost souls are performing a thankless task in rehabilitating fellow addicted brethren… all without much or any state assistance.

They are not in the limelight and on the front pages like Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, but they too deserve some sympathy as they seek another chance to put their lives in order.

Because I know Kublalsingh definitely won't take the hamper and, anyway, you wouldn't want to give it to him after all the bother he has caused you and your heartless Government.