Daly Bread: Hope! Can T&T find way past “dire social disorder”?

EPL Infrafred Sauna

My first column on the subject of hope was written in July 2002.

Currently, it is not possible to avoid a retrospective tone in these columns. This is because those in leadership positions in many sectors in our country have evaded confronting the widespread and rampantly growing societal problems with disastrous results.

Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds (third from right) talks to police officers in the vicinity of the Rose Hill FC Primary School on 3 November 2022.
(Copyright Ministry of National Security)

Our leadership has also relentlessly failed to confront the stagnation of our politics, divided as it is into two tribal camps between whom governmental power occasionally alternates. On those few occasions when the normally dominant party was defeated, political change meant little more than a change of hands inside the national cash register—as I renamed the Treasury a long time ago.

This type of political game provides short-term re-distributions of spoils, the enjoyment of which, after the catastrophic events of 1990, is preferred to any kind of attempt at reform.

It also suits the leadership of business insiders, who gain privileged acquisition of wealth while make-work programmes—frequently subject to deadly gang rivalry—are provided for the under-privileged.

This approach has been embraced with little regard for the desirable goals of equal opportunity and objective justice.

Resident Roland Gilbert talks to Maria Nunes in December 2021 about the deplorable state of Africa Road, John John, due to a WASA overflow.

In July 2002, I quoted from the remarks made at a Caricom Summit in Guyana by the experienced social scientist, Professor Emerita Dr Rhoda Reddock, asserting the need to develop “alternative political approaches” as “the model of governance we inherited was no longer useful to us”.

Sadly, there was no need to take this seriously because revenues derived from the energy sector were also used to provide (with apologies to David Rudder) a constant “welcome, welcome to the land of fete”—thereby diverting critical attention.

My insistence that a socio-economic model that condemned very many citizens to a life of permanent disadvantage and dependency would end badly, was met with derision by those disdainfully comfortable in the top levels of the model. Now there is fright within those levels as every part of the country is jumpy about the ruthless killers and bandits among us.

A protester shows off his placard after the death of 23-year-old Andrea Bharatt.

Nevertheless, smug officials last week grinned and twinned East Port of Spain with the interests of far away and differently governed mainland China, days after Theodore Lewis had described the farce of the Secondary Entrance Assessment exam presenting illusory opportunities for unevenly circumstanced children.

He lamented, that “there are 19 failing primary schools within walking distance of Parliament and men with guns battling in the streets”. Will these children benefit from the twinning?

In response to a challenge by close friends to specify where is the hope, I published the first column on hope in July 2002, with just that question as the title. Now we have become desperate for hope as scenes of dire social disorder and dislocation and a brutish life unfold.

The Tranquillity Secondary principal (top, centre) is temporarily floored during a fight between students.

I was stimulated to return to that 2002 column because I was reminded of the formidable activities of ITNAC (Is There Not A Cause). Additionally, the management of SewaTT messaged me to say that in providing flood relief it was able “to concurrently function in 10 locations on a voluntary basis with self-trained assistants risking personal resources in dangerous situations”.

SewaTT suggested: “If we can get this type of action from 1,000 15 to 25 year olds for 10 years, they will change this nation by 2045.”

In 2002, I had asserted that the only way back from the arrogance of the oil and gas money and from the divisive battering was for each of us to give a little shove towards a different dispensation: “one that would equip all children within their varying individual abilities to face the adult world with their own genuine hope.”

A resident receives bottled water from a SEWA TT official during flooding in Trinidad.
(via SEWA TT)

As described then, the way forward remains: “enduring individual interlocking commitment to be brought to bear on the issues such as meaningful education, floods and other degrading conditions and the menacing distribution of hard drugs. The first common objective is re-humanising some fundamental aspects of life in this country.”

Persons who form or support our repeatedly failing governments rarely show such a commitment. Many of our heroic Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), like ITNAC and SewaTT, resolutely try to meet it.

Let’s help out all our committed NGOs. They are probably our only hope.

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About Martin Daly

Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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