Daly Bread: Do they hear themselves? What a stunning lack of empathy to “justified complaints”

“How much for the vehicle yuh driving?”

This question was one amongst the torrent of words thrown at Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan and Minister of Rural Development and Local Government Faris Al-Rawi (demoted from attorney general) in the course of a walking tour in Bamboo No 2.

Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan (front) looks at the collapsed Sobo Extension Road in La Brea.
(via MOWT)

Typical of the dismissive attitude of the current government, derogatory terms about “clowns on the road” were reportedly employed in response to the frustration of citizens under pressure—no doubt intending to counter-attack the government’s political opponent, Inshan Ishmael, who was most present and is undoubtedly a handful.

On the basis of political enmity, sycophantic party followers of both Government and Opposition will justify the continuing verbal aggression, regardless of the further destruction of social cohesion.

However, the problem for this government is that it is aggressive and snarling towards us with very little provocation other than fully justified complaints about violent crime, catastrophic flooding and the huge disparity between the quality of life of average citizens and the luxury vehicle and tuxedo life style of our rulers.

A protest in Barrackpore over road conditions in 2018.
(Copyright TT Newsday)

Similar to the Trinidad Express’ habit of singling out its “Letter of the Day” from amongst its letters to the editor, I frequently take note of the insensitivity of the week. Accordingly, I asked myself what would make Minister Sinanan, during a media conference, seek to parse reference to “widespread” flooding?

He was quoted in LoopTT news as saying: “I don’t know that that statement is correct, that every time there is rain there is flooding across the country.”

Such parsing reminds me of President Bill Clinton’s famous remark “that depends on what the word ‘is’ is” at the time of dealing with the Monica Lewinsky matter.

Electronic information sharing among citizens has provided videos of Piccadilly Street and streets in Woodbrook and Maraval turning into rivers, Mafeking Village and Bamboo No 2, turning into lakes, the Manzanilla/Mayaro Road ripped up, road collapses also in Gran Couva, landslides in St James, Belmont, Lady Young Road and North Coast roads.

Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan (right) tours a collapsed road in Manzanilla/Mayaro.
(via MOWT)

Add Oropouche and many other areas too numerous to mention.

“Widespread flooding” is manifestly an appropriate description, with which it was mean-spirited to quibble.

Satirically, I thought that when he suggested there were places that were dry, Minister Sinanan was thinking of the balls of PNM Mayors. I had received a first-hand account from a close friend who went into one of the areas outside of Port-of-Spain by boat on a flooded road, as part of the spontaneous relief efforts of compassionate citizens.

It was so King Louis and Marie Antoinette to be partying and posing in tuxedo and long dress, while locations too numerous to mention were cut off by flood, accessible only by boats navigated on what are normally roads traversed by vehicles.

Minister of Rural Development and Local Government Faris Al-Rawi (second from left) and Tunapuna Piarco Regional Corporation chairman Kwasi Robinson (far right) tour Valsayn on 27 November 2022.
(via Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government)

Respect for human dignity requires restraint in describing the modesty of the dwellings ravaged by flood. Based on accounts of persons in the field, however, the realities of deprivation and flood on top of that—like the reality of murder—no longer vary between urban and rural.

Divisions between race and shade are disgusting and immaterial. One grows weary repeating Black Stalin’s aphorism: “Sufferers doh care about race”.

Then up pops Acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob, to give himself a B+ when the detection rate for murder is around 14 per cent and we average 50 murders a month.

Moreover, in an embarrassing display of how incompetents turn on others when calls for resignation mount and their cushy world might crumble, Jacob referred to the now well acknowledged entry of firearms through legal ports of entry, and then stated: “Why don’t we call for the head of Customs and other persons to go?” (Trinidad Guardian November 30, 2022).

Acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob.
(Copyright TTPS)

Outside of the make-believe land in which these officials live—within which there is a stunning lack of empathy for disadvantaged citizens—one might ask Mr Jacob: “Is he waiting for a call to investigate and prosecute the persons in these legal ports who let in the firearms?”

Like a significant part of the Government, he has checked out of his responsibility.

Don’t our rulers hear themselves and each other? Are they tone deaf?

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About Martin Daly

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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