I totally agree with you that we are in a crisis from which only the citizens themselves can extract us. But there is the other side of the dilemma: citizens need some guarantee that there will be some kind of “buy-in” from Government to LISTEN to them otherwise they may as well burn tyres in the road. (TTCAN’s ongoing efforts to stimulate a Citizens Manifesto have been dogged by that cynicism.)
So see below my attempt to carpe diem.
“We are confident that our well-tested Citizen Consultation methodology is politician proof.” Even if the Government chooses to ignore the outcome, our Citizens Manifesto will exist and become a rallying point for action.
August 28, 2013.
This is my last desperate plea for the Government to attempt to lead the nation toward a new and higher vision for our 51st anniversary. If you are prepared to invite TTCAN! to organise a State-funded National Citizens Consultation on Building a Humane, Equitable and Well-Governed Society, I believe that our 20-year track record of non-partisan citizen consultation activities would provide credibility and hope for citizens seeking a vision of the future that they can trust.
Let us thus encourage citizens to rally around a process of articulating what kind of society we long to live in.
Better than my words could, the above e-mail correspondence from Sheilah Solomon describes the patriot that she was.
While we sleep, party and politick, there are some among us who carry us on their shoulders, lifting us beyond our lethargy and toward some higher boundary of possibility. Sheilah Solomon was one of them—a woman of untiring energy, dogged certainty and unrelenting optimism.
Early Monday morning, in the height of the election campaign season, this warrior for local government and constitution reform released her heart from further duty and closed her eyes for eternity. No matter when Death came, it would have found her as she was then—on the cusp of yet another assault on the colonial culture of centralised government. For, as many times as she was beaten back, she came forward.
In this last round, she was in the midst of preparing to convince yet another administration the only viable government was one based on the citizens’ agenda. Distilling that agenda into a Citizens’ Manifesto was the purpose of the National Citizens Consultation that, as coordinator of TT Citizens Agenda Network (TTCAN!), she so diligently pursued, right down to the moment when she passed the baton and left the field.
After some delay, the plea above to her long-standing associate and Minister of Planning Bhoe Tewarie had borne fruit. Last Friday, TTCAN! was scheduled to meet with him and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to promote its proposal for a National Citizens’ Consultation. While State support was needed and would be welcome, the TTCAN! initiative was to be uncompromisingly independent.
By her persistence, Sheilah Solomon did more than most to focus our attention on the nature of power in Caribbean society and the challenge of political transformation.
As if we needed further evidence, along came the local government campaign to remind us of the dysfunctionality of the Westminster mockery that we pass off as democracy, happily confusing freeness with freedom and delusion with democracy.
Under the limbo bar, the world is closing in on us. After centuries of making space where already there was none, we are now flat on our backs.
Assuming we even want to, what will it take to summon the strength to lift ourselves and claim a space above the confines of the limbo bar?
For Sheilah Solomon, sistren of the New World and Tapia movements and international advocate for the disempowered, the process would have to begin with the individual citizen. With the core team of Hollis Charles, Graham Rostant and the late William Latchman, TTCAN! has been actively promoting the National Citizens Consultation as a mechanism for activating people and bringing them into the political process on their own terms, speaking in their own voice. To this process, Sheilah brought her long professional experience in United Nations methodology which she felt certain would make the consultation process “politician-proof”. Perhaps.
In all of this, TTCAN! and Sheilah standsteadfastly on the right side of history. Even through the clouds of our self-induced delusion, we know we can’t go on this way. It is only a matter of time. We have milked our impotence to the point of sourness. Nausea and self-revulsion are our prevailing condition. Lying there under the limbo bar, watching the world move on without us, we know we have no choice now but to stir.
Optimist that she was and ever alert to indications of change, Sheilah would have sensed the stirring born out of our discontent with the enveloping paralysis.
Tomorrow, thousands will go to the polls to vote, many walking with no spring in their step or song in their heart. Still, they will cast their ballots knowing that, though the system is broken and has run its course, voting remains the single act of individual power available to them. But it will not appease the discontent which we know, from experience, can escalate without warning at a rate too great to bear.
To the end, Sheilah Solomon was possessed with the need to create a pathway from discontent to democracy. In this season of discontent, her idea of a National Citizens Consultation that brings us into a common conversation about ourselves and the world in which we wish to live offers the chance of a peaceful transition.
Let’s hasten toward it.
Walk good, Caribbean Sister.