There are far too many weeks now when one wonders what sort of country one is living in, when one’s fear for the future when the oil and gas money, that buffers our faults and softens our mistakes, is gone, and this past week was one of them. The usual sense of unease that was exacerbated in the dying days of the Manning regime, by the constant crime and corruption, continues unabated after two years of the PP coalition. The crime problem continues. Nothing has been done about past corruption and there is a growing belief that the sceptics who boldly say “not a man ever make a jail in T&T for white-collar crime” are correct. Too much cocoa in the sun. Business, despite the growing numbers of expensive cars on the roads (acquaintances gleefully tell me that new car sales and prices are up), rampant real-estate sales and chookup malls, continues to complain that the money not moving. Politically, one member of the coalition, a very junior one, but one which represented labour, is gone, even if its former leader has decided to stay around for the ride. That of itself creates confusion. Only in T&T can a political party resign from a government and its main patron refuse to depart with them. Is this a trick? Is he a spy for labour?
To make things worse, the Prime Minister has just made some changes to her Cabinet that defy explanation. Forget the jokey number of ministers and the unattainable Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration. She has removed the respected brigadier from National Security and replaced him with a gentleman who has just resigned from FIFA after widespread allegations of corruption, FIFA itself now under suspicion for awarding the next two World Cups simultaneously to a couple of countries which contain nothing of note, football-wise, but which do contain sand, sun, lots of money and not much of a legal system. Mr Warner is routinely described in the media as “hard-working.” Hard-working he may well be, but to what avail? What has he actually done besides pave private roads and give press conferences and promises? What happened to the famous PH scheme? To the Priority Bus Route initiative? To the annual flooding in Woodbrook? To the Point For-tin highway? He should rightly be called “Mr Promise.”
The PM replaces the competent, hard-working and passionate Verna St Rose-Greaves in the Ministry of Gender Affairs, Youth and Child Development, who in one year was able to do what others could not in ten years—get the Children Bill passed in Parliament—with a stranger to women’s and children’s social problems.
There goes the gender policy, said one commentator. And the Children’s Authority, I would add. And any hope that there was for young people. Mrs Persad-Bissessar may also have just lost the support of many of the women’s organisations that she came from and that were amongst her staunchest supporters, and they are no fat-arse brigade. Elsewhere in the week, we had a number of observations, hallucinations even, that triggered off exclamations of surprise. Where else but in T&T you could stop a fete in the middle of a forest at 2 o’clock in the morning and have people complaining? And have the vice-chairman of the Chaguanas Development Authority that gave permission for the fete to declare that they have no problem with noise pollution from the fete. “Who you polluting out in the wilderness?” he is supposed to have exclaimed. “You not disturbing neighbours!” What a promise for eco-tourism in Tucker Valley.
Only in T&T would you have a children’s hospital being built ten miles from another half-empty children’s hospital, one still unable to have its full complement of doctors, nurses and technicians. Only in T&T would you have the Health Ministry introducing a new vaccine to try to prevent disease in the female population sometime in the future, at a time when there is no polio vaccine and no single dose measles-mumps-rubella vaccine in the health centres today. Only in T&T could you have a wall proudly being built around a hearing assessment centre to cut down on the sounds of traffic so that hearing-impaired people could get tested for hearing loss. In case no one knows, people are tested in soundproof booths, not in open offices with a wall around them. You must have absolute silence to be able to test hearing. Only in T&T do you have a media unwilling or unable to investigate these anomalies but able to declare happily that a hospital in Tobago is to be opened, “to be opened,” not opened, but “to be opened,” five years late, and to cheerfully publicise the launch of the National Oncology Centre for the second time in four years at the EWMSC. We still await the arrival of the long-promised linear accelerator at the National Radiotherapy Centre in St James, Port-of-Spain. Unease, uneasy, uneasiness!