Currently, as has happened in the past, race talk has surfaced in the aftermath of a change of Government. Part of the problem is the widespread use and abuse of statutory corporations and so-called state enterprises as the vessels through which illegitimate or corrupt activity flows.
When an election is lost and the national cash register changes hands, the sweet, extravagant and unearned high life of many is interrupted. By way of example, only a few days ago in the course of a discussion about money flowing through the National Carnival Commission (NCC), certain extravagances were disclosed.
The subject of high life at the expense of the State in the case of lawyers is dealt with towards the end of this column, but I must first repeat a warning about careless race talk.
As long ago as February 2003, I warned against the kindling of passions, which if they spilled over into irrational action or violence, we would find ourselves in a situation where hatred would never turn back. This seems an appropriate time to remind us of the irreparable damage that race talk may cause.
Relationships in the wider Caribbean region, where race is not a factor, have become an important topic. It is useful for commentators to follow events in the region through online access to regional media. There is more that unites us in the Caribbean, good and bad, than divides us. I am sometimes interviewed on regional media, last week for example, in Jamaican media, on the occasion of our Prime Minister’s visit to Jamaica.
In the negative list days, passing through Customs was a nightmare because our bags had to be searched for every box of cereal, light bulb and garment of foreign origin that could be seized, unless of course one had the appropriate “contacts”.
These searches were a feature of the 1970s. It was so well known in Barbados that there were things we could not readily purchase in Trinidad, that when, in those days, a loud friend of mine entered a Bajan grocery and his accent was detected. One Bajan sales attendant addressed another and said: “one trini pack to go”.
Ordinarily, there is no longer much hassle at Immigration and Customs at our airport if you are a one or two modest suitcase traveller. Life at the airport however has not been so easy for some Jamaicans.
Refusal of their entry accompanied by detention in reportedly degrading conditions caused such an outcry in Jamaica that there was a call to boycott Trinidad and Tobago goods in Jamaica.
There is of course no reason why refusal of entry should attract a lengthy detention as though the traveller had committed a criminal offence, regardless of whether the detention conditions are satisfactory or not.
Not surprisingly, our Prime Minister and other officials went to Jamaica on a healing mission. According to the Jamaican media, the visit seems to have gone well to the extent that one newspaper reported that the Jamaica business community had softened its tone in a meeting between the Trinidad and Tobago delegation and the Jamaican business community.
Apparently not everyone in Jamaica was happy that the meetings were cordial. The critics described the meetings as too “licky licky” and one irate response said it was a case of “kin yuh teeth an dem tun fool”.
On a macro level, healing missions between countries in the Caribbean have acquired an importance additional to the difficult issues of freedom of movement within the region. The turbulence of the wider world, including the unpredictable outcome of Brexit, make it imperative that within the region we trade each other’s products according to our respective strengths.
For example, if the schooners do not come from Grenada and St. Vincent, we would eat even more processed food in Trinidad and Tobago. If we vex our Caribbean neighbours, as threatened in Jamaica, some of our manufactured goods would lose markets.
On a matter related to money flows from a spendthrift State and a Porsche life, the Law Association has an important meeting tomorrow. The outcome of this meeting may determine the Association’s viability as an organisation with an influential voice on matters of pending legislation and civil liberties.
Lawyers in our small community need urgently to re-discover the dividing line between acting on a client’s instructions and stepping over that line into partisan support of a client unrelated to the performance of professional duties on the client’s behalf. Hopefully there will be a substantial turnout at the meeting.
The reason the issue has become urgent is that very large sums, even “larger than those that have flowed through the NCC, have flowed through the legal profession from the national cash register with apparent compromise to the independence of the profession.
We can ill afford to lose or dilute the few groups to whom the public can look for enlightenment and not “tun fool”.