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Thursday, April 24, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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More facts and less emotional rhetoric
One of the saddest reactions to what is clearly a genuine attempt by an individual to influence change in a political culture of domination by Government is the vulgarity of elements of the political response. “He playing the fool.” “He’s behaving like a spoilt child…he has to grow up.”
Then there was the suggestion that hunger-striker Dr Wayne Kublalsingh goes home at night and gorges himself on food and drink. That was followed by a cheap assemblage of a rent-a-crowd in support of proceeding with the portion of the highway in question, the organisers even producing a counter hunger-striker.
There were also the statements from on high which sought to distort and mislead about the history of the events surrounding the hunger strike and the request/demand for a transparent and technical review of the project. One of the hilarious reactions clearly aimed at discrediting Dr Kublalsingh is talk by the national security minister and the Attorney General about the alleged illegality of the hunger strike.
So are the authorities to arrest and charge him for attempting to commit suicide? Are they calling on the police to throw him in a cell and force-feed him? More seriously, I describe the reactions as vulgar because they seek to reduce political activity that protests policies and programmes of the Government in a self-sacrificial manner to the popular eat-ah-food political culture that is all-absorbing and threatening to drain the society of its humanity and the possibility of integrity.
The reaction of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the UNC element of the Cabinet have as its objective, the deepening of the political culture of ignorance and the further entrenching of tribal loyalty and messianic, unquestioning leadership which have developed here during the 50 years of political independence.
I, like tens of thousands of other citizens, am waiting to be persuaded one way or the other by a technical report done by a team of independent professionals. Included in the distortion is the attempt to make as if the protesters are against the construction of the highway in its entirety. It was particularly sad that the principal of the St Augustine campus of UWI, Prof Clement Sankat, if he was fairly quoted in a newspaper report, supported that notion.
If Prof Sankat was comprehensively reported it would be frightening that the principal of a university, a place of thought and critical thinking, was not able to make a distinction between the call for a re-routing of a portion of the highway and the suggestion that the protest is against the entire highway.
Instead of engaging in a lot of emotional rhetoric, what the PM should have done when she met with journalists was to read from the technical report she says has been done. The statement should have been preceded by: who conducted the survey; what were the factors taken into consideration by the researchers and the mandate given. At the same time, the PM’s assistants should have prepared full copies of the report for the media.
Such an approach would have been invaluable to those who prefer to be persuaded by scientific facts, human and environmental impact surveys. Instead of seeding such a political culture to advance the politics, the PM is set to engage in a series of public party meetings to whip up emotional and even tribal loyalties and reactions.
How is this approach different from when Manning refused to have the country exposed to rationale and scientific arguments about the construction of smelter plants? There must have been an expectation that political leadership would have evolved in the three-to four-year period since.
The country is in no better position to determine whether one form of development has more benefits to the society over another and this is because of the politics of domination practised by all sides. Dr Kublalsingh has made his point with courage and integrity.
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