There is an incivility, a kind of crassness which has developed over the decades in the public discourse of the society. It has been initiated mainly by politicians seeking to hold on to and achieve power, that being the name of the game. It is taking the country down the road to ultimate self-destruction.
Let’s start at the level of the politics in Tobago. There have been fundamental, structural difficulties in the political and social administration of Tobago from the 1950s, when that bold defender of the rights of Tobagonians, the venerable Mr A.P.T “Fargo” James, began petitioning for a better deal for his home island. Many have followed, including Mr A.N.R. Robinson, Mr Hochoy Charles, Mr Orville London now Chief Secretary Farley Augustine.
Constitutional changes have been enacted to more effectively govern the relationship between Tobago and Trinidad. The changes have not reached the level of autonomy and self-governing status required by those who believe that the Tobago House of Assembly needs greater latitude to adequately look after the welfare of the people on the island. And the above is notwithstanding the fact that two Tobagonians (Mr Robinson and the incumbent Dr Keith Rowley) have been prime minister of the twin-island state.
What is and has been disruptive and non-productive has been what passes for public dialogue and interaction between Port-of-Spain and Scarborough. To engage their differences, politicians on both sides play out their contentions in public brawls in a most unsavoury and ill-mannered way. Instead of producing a greater working relationship towards achievement of the ostensible objective, their acidic conflicts have infected and influenced bitterness between and amongst citizens and institutions on both islands.
Those exchanges are leading inexorably down a path which will surely not be in the interest of the nation.
As we know, the recrimination and negativity are at the heart of politics in Trinidad and are accentuated on the “big island” by racial conflict. At the heart of the conflict in Trinidad, like in Tobago, is the desire by the politicians and their parties to acquire and hold power supposedly in the interest of their tribes.
Both sides have worked earnestly and cleverly, in a very destructive manner over decades, to induce each tribe into believing it is being preyed upon, disinherited and discriminated against by the other. Seemingly unnoticed and uncaring of the groups, criminality is wrecking the country, assisted by the energy utilised to carry on the contestations. Countering crime through a range of anti-crime measures, legislation, policing, through the criminal justice system, human endeavours, family life efforts, the education system and more, is being robbed of the energy expended on the power quests.
So conflictual it has all become that genuine efforts to combat the real problems are denied the concerted national effort required. The beneficiaries are the criminals.
The issue which needs to be pursued with insight, energy and whatever measure of togetherness can be mustered in this discordant environment, is how to work towards resolution of problems without antagonism and animosity. Do we have respected states persons who can intervene in both tribal situations? If we don’t find a way, the society is doomed to failure.