Friday, February 23, 2018

Rally round ‘Soul of the Nation’

“Somebody thiefing the soul of meh nation

Somebody gone with the love that we had

Somebody thiefing the soul of meh nation

Somebody driving this country mad

And we, yes, you and me

We have to stop this conspiracy

Ah telling you, we, yes you and me

We have to stop this conspiracy”. 

So sang calypsonian Winston “Gypsy” Peters in his 1999 song  “Soul of the Nation”.

Ironically, this song was yesterday used as a rallying cry by opponents to the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2014 brought by the People’s Partnership of which Peters is a member.

Debate on the controversial bill which proposes a term limit for the office of the Prime Minister, a recall provision and a run-off poll in elections for the House of Representatives began at Tower D of the Waterfront Complex in Port of Spain yesterday.

The Lower House sitting started around 10.30 a.m. Citizens were kept abreast of the Parliament’s proceedings via a large screen television located on the Waterfront near the Femmes du Chalet.

On this end of the Waterfront the majority of those opposed to the government’s constitutional amendments, in particular the run-off provision, gathered.

A microphone and speakers were also set up in that area. Music was  supplied. When Peters’ song “Soul of the Nation” was played those nearby sang along, clapped and raised clenched fists.

“Ah telling you, we, yes you and me, we have to stop this conspiracy,” one dreadlocked man sang with his eyes closed.

National flags were waved. Those hoping to show their patriotism could have bought a flag from a nearby vendor. Several did. Reggae icon Bob Marley’s classic “Get up, Stand up” was also used as a rallying cry.

“Get up stand up, stand up for your rights!” a woman shouted.

One woman who claimed to be a worker with the Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) said she was defying her boss’ orders by being present with those opposed to the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2014.

She claimed she got a call from her boss in the morning telling her as part of her job function she would have to be present outside the Parliament wearing a yellow jersey. 

She would be paid $50 for it, the woman claimed.

“I couldn’t do that. I is a PNM (People’s National Movement). And I not supporting that bill,” she professed.

A white paper was passed along the crowd calling for those present to sign a petition calling for the debate on the bill to be halted until proper consultation was done. Somewhere along the lines the paper got lost.

Many of those present claimed they were outside the Parliament to lend support to Dr Merle Hodge, a member of the Constitution Review Commission.

In front the entrance to the Parliament was a sea of yellow.

Closer to that end of the Waterfront were those in support of the  bill.

The mood there was more sombre.

“We are here to support the government. The constitution needs to be amended but people are just afraid of change,” a woman told the Express.