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T&T not ready for radical thinking
Dr Jerome Teelucksingh is warning that the current civil unrest in the Middle East could spread to the Caribbean, in particular, T&T. Teelucksingh, a lecturer in the Department of History at the University of the West Indies’ St Augustine campus, cautioned regional countries, including T&T, to be very “mindful and careful” that they do not end up facing civil unrest, similar to what Libya is currently battling and what Egypt encountered a few weeks before, because the Caribbean had a tendency to “mimic men.” “I believe that what we are seeing unfolding in the Middle East, those protests, we need to be very mindful and careful that this could spread to the Caribbean.”
Teelucksingh said regional countries had to examine themselves. Teelucksingh was responding to the question on whether the prevailing conditions which existed in T&T could create civil unrest. Teelucksingh said high levels of poverty, crime, unemployment and flooding had made the country believe that “there is a state of uneasiness in the atmosphere.” To compound matters, Teelucksingh said the recent scandal involving the appointment of Reshmi Ramnarine to head the SIA and the ongoing sick-out by some members of the T&T Police Service had put question marks over our security forces. “This has many people believing that the country is ripe for an unrest...ripe for a revolution.”
T&T not ready for revolution
Unfortunately, Teelucksingh said our society was not ready for any type of revolution or civil unrest. “A real revolution is neither short-lived nor simply a march with placards and chanting slogans. A real revolution means a new level of maturity, a different way of interacting with others and more concern for the less fortunate.” However, Teelucksingh said, a comprehensive revolution among our population would generate genuine patriotism, forces of unity and increased productivity for T&T. “Many in our society are not ready to follow someone or a group with revolutionary ideas and radical thinking. It is unfortunate that many of us are mesmerised by shallow artistes who tell us to wave our flags or drink rum.”
He explained that many people would not want a revolution, “if it means disrupting their lifestyle of attending parties and fetes.” With millions spent on Carnival 2011 and money wasted on two international conferences two years ago, Teelucksingh said this money could have been put to better use, such as salaries of underpaid public servants or for those suffering as a result of the Clico and HCU debacles. “If there was a revolution in Trinidad it could mean less money on our beloved culture and more money being spent on critical issues as health, education, unemployment, improving our prisons, enhancing the justice system, reducing corruption, finding solutions for flooding and reducing crime.
Put people first
The lecturer also noted that the first session of the inquiry into the 1990 attempted coup has also resuscitated memories. “And this is making the country believe that there could be something.” Teelucksingh said while people had a perception that T&T had all the ideal conditions for a revolution, it should not take place because it would push T&T 40 to 50 years backward. “The progress we have made will be eliminated.” A revolution, Teelucksingh said, could lead to violent racial and religious tensions as well as class polarisation. He drew reference to Cuba, which blindly proclaims a successful revolution, but had been riddled with poverty and hardship among its people.
Haiti, he said, also staged a revolution with Toussaint L’Ouverture and suffered years of dictatorship under Papa and Baby Docs. Teelucksingh issued a warning to both the Opposition and Government to use money obtained from the country’s natural resources such as oil and gas for its people. “Put our people first.”
Too much fete mentality
For T&T to avert a revolution, Teelucksingh said, citizens had to change their lifestyles, mentality and focus on an intellectual uprising, where people would become more empowered, harmonised, educated and where equality would reign supreme. “It’s too much of a fete mentality. We need to become serious and increase productivity. We hear a lot of rhetoric...” Teelucksingh said citizens no longer lived in unity, pointing out that there was segregation with the establishment of gated and ghetto communities. “In our country this should not be happening.”
Teelucksingh also called on politicians to stop using Parliament for picong, rhetoric and ole talk and attack the crime and health crisis facing the land. Countries such as France, Russia and United States, Teelucksingh stated, had revolutions which assisted in the evolution of democracy and progress of their societies. “A revolution does not have to be violent. It can be peaceful and produce positive effects.” Political scientist Dr Indira Rampersad, meanwhile, did not agree that T&T had all the conditions for an uprising, stating that this was triggered by deep economic recession and frustration which we are yet to experience.
Rampersad said citizens were still spending their money freely. She admitted, however, that there had been some disenchantment with people, mainly the appointment of Reshmi Ramnarine and lack of “arrests” of wrongdoers under the last administration. “People want rapid action given that the Government came in with all these lofty promises and promised to deliver; they are not getting that.” Rampersad said despite the disenchantment, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was still popular among her supporters.
“I think the disenchantment is not national. It is exceptional. I don’t think we have the culture of protests. The population will never be united enough for us to get together to stage a national protest. We are not a revolutionary kind of people like those in Latin America.” Rampersad said the staging of the 1990 coup was organised by a small group.
Kuboni: It’s superficial hysteria
Chairman of the Constitution Reform Forum Dr Olabisi Kuboni said she did not see a repeat of another coup at this time. “I think it is a superficial hysteria at this point in time.” Kuboni said fear-mongering was not the route for us to show our commitment to improve our society. “To get our minds in a framework of fear is not what is required now.” Kuboni said T&T needed to focus in a positive way in terms of redefining the relationship between people and government and “issues of holding Government accountable.”
Ramsamooj: I don’t see it happening
Political analyst Dr Derek Ramsamooj also agreed there was no evidence to suggest that an uprising was likely at any time soon. “I really don’t see it happening.”
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