Traffic around the Savannah snarled to gridlock before 3 pm on Tuesday, partly because of the near-simultaneous ends of school, on the one hand, and Opposition Leader Keith Rowley’s anti-Section 34 protest march on the other, but mainly because of the sheer Trinidadian cussedness that leads every driver to gain a single car-length for himself at the cost of blocking a roundabout exit and preventing other cars from leaving the Savannah, which was itself the only way of freeing the gridlock. Often, when the Savannah perimeter is paralysed unnecessarily this way, you will discover, after 90 minutes’ creep around the whole park, that, from the Ministry of Agriculture and St Ann’s roundabouts, traffic flows freely. So, having entered it at Belmont Circular Rd after picking up my pass from the T&T Film Festival office, I got off the Savannah as quickly as I could, at Memorial Park, and headed for downtown. It took 45 minutes to get from Apsara restaurant to the top of St Vincent Street, though, because, at every junction—Jerningham Ave and Queen’s Park East, Charlotte and Keate Streets, Frederick and Keate, Frederick and Gordon, Gordon and Pembroke, Gordon and Abercromby, Abercromby and St Vincent—drivers coming from every direction drove into lanes they should have left free for others proceeding in other directions, and forced their way into the intersection, thereby blocking the exits for the others; the worst offenders were driving the most expensive cars.
Away from the Savannah lunacy, roads were as empty as our Cabinet members’ heads. I drove from the top of St Vincent Street, outside Bishop Anstey’s wall, to Wrightson Road in under a minute; but, just two or three blocks north, you couldn’t squeeze through an intersection on a bicycle. I could take no comfort from thinking the inconvenience had arisen out of a protest—the one against Section 34(1) of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act—that I myself called for last Friday. Had the entire country been shut down, or had the Congress of the People left the government, in truth, I might have; but Tuesday’s gridlock, like Tuesday’s protests, weren’t against Section 34, and for the public good (even if only because protest leader Dr Rowley himself voted for it three times); the protests were against the particular group of clowns in power, and for private gain (even if that private gain was a single car-length that blocked an otherwise empty exit or a 90-second media interview that blocked any hope of an exit strategy). There is only one way to block the Section 34 whirlpool before Trinbagonian civic society itself goes down the drain, and it can be done, and just as easily, by the same united Parliament that convened in a hurry to repeal the section. Parliament, the supreme lawmaking body in the State, need only convene to pass the Administration of Justice (Ishwar Galbaransingh & Steve Ferguson Extradition) Act. The legislation need be only one section long and need only declare that, notwithstanding any other legal actions taking place, Ish & Steve are to be handed over to the US authorities who have been patiently pursuing them for more than a decade.
The individual citizens themselves have the right to continue their appeals here in Trinidad and Tobago while actively going through the judicial process of the United States. Importantly, they are not criminals, but accused persons and should get their trial. In Miami. It is no objection to say that Parliament cannot deliberately pass legislation to target two individuals; we have a living example within this very Parliament of the institution having done just that. The solution is simple and fits the situation perfectly. I would bet my last cent that every appeal here in Trinidad would be withdrawn. Let the constitutional lawyers howl about it; better that than the whole nation bear the psychological burden of such patent injustice. Our pre-eminent crisis in Trinidad has always been one of leadership and its legitimacy. In the bad old days when we had leaders imposed on us, like Governor Picton (1797-1803), civic duty, if it could be understood by slaves and indentures (and their descendants), required open, active rebellion against the indifferent cruelty of the administration. That has not changed in 200 years. It’s one of the oddities of our “system” that, no matter who takes over the government, nothing changes. The most upright citizen becomes corrupt, the most ardent defender of liberty immediately takes out the chains or the states of emergencies. Kamla has proved worse than Patrick, who was worse than Bas, who was worse than Robbie, who was worse than Georgie, and they are all lined from the same bad dog, Eric. But it’s not their fault. It’s ours.
We don’t care about the whole, just the bit of it we stand to benefit from. We choose to elect rulers, not governments. No matter which flawed, failed clown we put to take over the circus tent, we treat him as a ringmaster. When we should take to the streets in anger, we prefer to enter the throne rooms of thieves, cap in hand and leave weeping, either from their blows or in gratitude for their boons. In its expectation that Section 34 would pass unnoticed in the rush, the People’s Partnership for Gaining Personal Benefit at Any Cost has revealed the utter contempt in which it holds the republic. It should be brought down by the mass of citizens it has driven to the wall in its indifferent cruelty. But that public, even in its pappyshow protest against Section 34, by its own repeated choice, would rather sit, stuck in their fancy air-conditioned cars, around the Savannah, than stand on principle. Even the exemplars; especially the exemplars.
BC Pires is spinning top in mud. Happy bir’day Kai