Daly Bread: Sorting reality from the spin

I was brought up in a household that loathed pretentiousness. Had my mother, Celia, been alive she would have been wryly amused at the buss pipe in the new Ministry of Health multi-million dollar palace.

The uncontrolled gushing of water can be seen as symbolic of the gushes of words frequently deployed by the Ministry to claim good things about its self-touted “revolution” in respect of obtaining blood donations, when the revolution is nowhere near to fulfilling the need for 40,000 units of blood per year.

A blood donor makes a contribution.

I introduce my background into this week’s column because I will never forget my mother’s interest, while I was a child, in the arrest of a British gangster, Dennis Stafford, who had escaped jail in Britain and was living large in Trinidad, and her mirth at the exposure of the uncritical attitude towards supposedly high-life foreigners.

Then, as now, we remain easy targets for foreign accents and the wealthy of all shades. Readers will recall the careless pronouncements, made on camera to the late Anthony Bourdain in 2017, from on high at a home in a suburb west of Port of Spain when he was a dinner guest there.

The pronouncements were later apologetically said to have been related to “excitement”.

Late US television personality Anthony Bourdain (centre) has dinner with representatives from Trinidad and Tobago’s Syrian/Lebanese community in 2017.

No surprise therefore that, according to the Trinidad Express last Wednesday, the government was caught unaware of the track record of a foreign billionaire businessman to whom it was, perhaps also too excitedly, trying to offload the controversially mothballed Petrotrin refinery.

The British gangster, Dennis Stafford, aka Dennis Birch, was arrested in Trinidad in the mid-fifties.  The arresting party included a young Corporal Burroughs.

What was amusing about this foreign visitor of premium shade, was the ease with which he was accepted into society circles.

Escaped prisoner Dennis Stafford (second from left) arrives at the London Airport from Trinidad, under escort of two Scotland Yard detectives.
Stafford, who fleed the Wormwood Scrubs prison in London in November 1956,
was taken to Newcastle to face charges of false pretences.
Photo: PA Images via Getty Images

Well known broadcaster, Dominic Kallipersad, has recalled the incident in an Instagram post in which he states about Stafford: “He hid out in an apartment in Bergerac hotel in Maraval. Here, the suave con-man became the toast of the local cocktail circuit, embraced as a rich young businessman, albeit of unspecified enterprise.”

Dominic places Stafford’s arrest in July 1957 and records that he was “extradited to England in a blaze of publicity”.

He also sets out the details of a later murder in which Stafford was involved and says that it “inspired the Michael Caine character in the film Get Carter”.

Actor Michael Caine’s depiction of a gangster in the movie Get Carter was said to be based on con man Dennis Stafford.

According to “the tong (town) say” of the time Stafford was even being seen as a prospective husband for a well-placed young woman. Stafford had reportedly made her acquaintance and that of her family while at a dance in an exclusive club in proximity to the hotel where he was staying in Maraval.

Perhaps in an application of Dominic’s delightful phrase we could say this Government embraced a business man of “unspecified track record”, just as other Governments have done before now.

In the spirit of dislike of pretension I examined the additional recent statements of the Ministry of Health concerning blood donation. Last week, we had yet another media release about registration of blood donors without reference to quantities and a restatement of the intention “to scrap the chit system”.

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament)

The chit system provides a record of donation from blood donors, which is supposed to give smooth access to those donors or their relatives when blood in the bank is needed. It cannot prevent the use of the donated blood for other patients because the blood is perishable.

Is it therefore a superficial moralistic assessment to portray the chit system as “not altruistic”? It might be considered to be merely fragile insurance against a contingency that no one wants to materialize.

Are the “revolutionary” alternatives to the chit system really going to succeed in supplying the required volumes of donated blood? Thanks to a valuable question raised by Independent Senator Deoroop Teemul it appears that the answer is no.

A blood donor caravan.
Photo: Ministry of Health

Will the volume of blood donations in fact decrease once the chit system is scrapped?

How do we sort the reality from the spin about fundamental deficiencies in the blood bank itself and in the economic life bloods of Government revenue and future natural gas access?

Meanwhile what will the Kamla Persad-Bissessar re-embedded UNC stand for?

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