Celebrating a milestone
This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our Independence. Our ruling politicians are urging us to show pride and exuberance in this achievement. There was even a gala event hosted by the Prime Minster in celebration of this milestone. I wonder if Boysie Singh, Dole Chadee or Mano Benjamin were celebrating 50 years whether we would have rushed to the party.
Should we be celebrating a time milestone or should we be celebrating milestones of achievements? Today, we have an economy no nearer to diversification from oil and gas; crime is at its peak with one of the highest per capita homicide rates; there is a proliferation of gangs; corruption allegations swirl incessantly around; a significant percentage of our primary schools, particularly in Port of Spain and environs, repeatedly score below 30 per cent in mathematics and English language in national tests for primary school students; the health system is characterised by patients sleeping on benches; and our Minister of National Security was described by an international tribunal as not acting in accordance with the highest ethical standards (in reference to Bin Hamman): “his conduct, in collaboration with and most likely induced by Mr Warner, may not have complied with the highest ethical
standards that should govern the world of football and other sports.”
For the financial year 2010/2011, our total revenue amounted to almost $47 billion or $36,000 per citizen if distributed. What a wonderful windfall and how poorly it stands up against the litany of woes mentioned above that characterises our society. So, what exactly are we being asked to celebrate? A milestone of time? A chronology of events that have bettered the lives of our citizens? With the highest revenue stream in the English-speaking Caribbean, we are ranked 62 on the Human Development Index for 2011, below several other Caribbean countries such as Barbados, Bahamas and Antigua.
In the Transparency Institute 2011 Perception of Corruption Index, we are ranked 91st, with the nation perceived as the least corrupt being ranked No. 1. We can be found behind countries such as Barbados, Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Dominica and Jamaica. So, we have the unenviable boast of leading the Caribbean in perceptions of corruption.
In the environmental field, things have grown progressively worse with the Leader of the Opposition flouting the environmental laws of the land by having a sheep farm without the required certificate of environmental clearance and current government ministers, such as Jack Warner, rushing to praise and exalt an illegally established concrete-batching plant. At the heart of our environmental struggle is the Environmental Management Authority. This organisation has seemingly plunged to new depths with its Dallas-like intrigue.
Accusations of personal misconduct are being levelled against the CEO, Dr Joth Singh, “The Mirror also learnt that the questionable relationship between Singh and his corporate secretary, and manager of the Corporate Relations and Public Education Department, Tisha Marajh, is being blamed as the root cause of the problems at the EMA. It is because of their relationship, and I mean, not just a “friendship,” that all the issues affecting staff has come up. The truth is that the previous minister, Roodal Moonilal knew about them and their relationship.
They used to lime with him and his cronies in south all the time. They have been seen together in all kinds of fete, including Karamboulay, WASA, CAREC, Hyatt…all the top fetes, with complimentary VIP passes. They claim that the new line minister, in fact the entire Peoples’ Partnership cabinet is also aware of the situation, as well as EMA staffers.
“Why won’t the ministers speak out against Singh and Marajh as not being a correct situation, that it’s a conflict of interest?” the incensed source asked. “Sex, lies and the EMA”, By Irene Medina — August 12, 2012. These allegations are troubling and, if true, would appear to be undermining morale at the EMA as evidenced by numerous departures within recent times.
What we do know is that two years ago, Dr Singh approved the issuance of a final terms of reference for a project of the Ministry of Works and Transport under circumstances where public consultations for the draft terms of reference were not held, contrary to law. FFOS successfully challenged this decision and the EMA had to pay legal costs in the Environmental Commission.
So what are we expected to celebrate come August 31, 2012? We are asking for a non-celebration, a day of reflection on how we have squandered the last 50 years and moved from a caring, safe society to a vicious one where human life no longer has value.
A hard-working nation became one of special projects, LID, DEWD, URP AND CEPEP, all acronyms of shame. We are pleading for a day where we will renew our faith in nationhood and turn back from the path we have descended on with obscene haste; to do otherwise would doom future generations to remember this nation as “Paradise Lost”.
Happy Independence Day, Trinidad and Tobago.