Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Backward suggestion from Chamber chief

 As an advocate for social justice, equity and human rights for many years, I was appalled and horrified to read an article headlined, “Phase out CEPEP’’, in the newspapers recently. This call was allegedly made by  the CEO of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Catherine Kumar at a graduation ceremony. 

I cannot believe that any right-thinking person would have the effrontery and gall to disrespect the CEPEP workers, the Government and the people of Trinidad and Tobago to propose such immoral, obscene, capitalistic, opportunistic, predatory and exploitative suggestions which reek of social and class profiling. She is also representing the views of the business sector, which is more frightening. 

I take serious umbrage to the following: “The money for CEPEP be directed towards helping the private sector find more meaningful employment for CEPEP workers.” Is not maintaining the environment meaningful enough? You want the Government to give you the money instead to mould them to your needs? 

I can hardly find words to describe how hateful and backward I find your position to be. Also attributed to Ms Kumar: “The private sector is crying out for people to fill job positions, but CEPEP was making it difficult.” How dishonest can people be? Just what are these positions that CEPEP workers are qualified to fill and be paid adequately? Don’t you all get it? These workers who benefit from CEPEP and URP are running away from you, with your low wages and long hours and no representation, and now you are again trying to capture them. 

Imagine, all you rich people grudging these people because they can now “eat ah food’’ and have a little comfort in their lives, like a fridge, stove, TV and computer with the Government watching their backs. You say they are better paid than the private sector and boldfaced enough to insinuate you want to change that.

How dare you? The Government should be complimented for continuing these social programmes, which provide a safety net to protect the unemployable, unemployed, single mothers and others who have missed the boat, unable to lift their heads with some self-esteem and pride. It is a small price to pay, in a country where millions of dollars are wasted and stolen every day and millionaires are created every day, where some of the money can  at least reach the grassroots before it all runs out and all fall down.

I cannot recall in my lifetime, when a respected head of an organisation would bring such ideas and suggestions to a nation that would set back gains made in the last 100 years in positive societal behaviour, in which the movement is towards respect for human rights and social justice and equity. 

I am afraid Ms Kumar has lost all credibility and moral authority as far as I am concerned. The days of exploitative capitalism at the expense of the human condition are over. The country deserves an apology from the CEO and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and possibly a resignation.

Joel Quintal

San Fernando