STREET VIBES: What scene you on, Mr PM? Open we doors and shut we mouth?

The discussion currently dominating social media revolves around an offer made by the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, extending an invitation to citizens of hurricane-ravaged Dominica to come to T&T. This, according to the PM, is his idea of lending assistance to a fellow nation in the region.

Photo: A satellite image of Hurricane Irma, which devastated a couple of islands in the north of the archipelago but spared Dominica, which Maria would subsequently devastate.
(Copyright CBC News)

The discussion has taken on a life of its own, with every Tom, Dick and Harrilal chipping in his two cents. I have observed how the discussions have turned vitriolic at times, with supporters of the PM accusing opponents of being “racists,” simply on the grounds of disagreement. And in a nation politically divided along ethnic lines, we are asked “not to see race as a factor.”

As a social scientist, I have indicated before and maintain now that it is virtually impossible to get an objective, intelligent discussion going in this land simply because of what is euphemistically called the UNC/PNM political divide. In many instances, this is merely code for Africans versus Indians, red versus yellow or, even more subtly, Christians versus Hindus.

Into this mix must be added our lack of trust of others in general, and politicians in particular, brought about by the systematic neglect and abuse by those who over the past 55 years have been elected and/or selected to govern the nation’s affairs. These people have all but abandoned their primary responsibilities, some of them going on to become overnight millionaires.

Photo: Current Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC.
(Copyright Stabroek News)

Citizens of this nation have a history of being abused by the representatives of the colour-coded power structures and hence they arguably have reasonable grounds to be suspicious of anything coming from the lips of politicians.

While Irma and Maria created havoc in many of our neighbouring islands to the north, the destruction they wreaked could not have come at a more opportune time for members of the power structure of this small island providing, as it did, a well-timed distraction from the fake oil and the Tobago ferry issues. So it is only fair that we as citizens express concerns about a hidden agenda on the part of the PM who is asking us to welcome citizens of ravaged Dominica with open arms.

Many citizens of this land, including some of his once die-hard supporters, now hold that he is a “raging bull” while others hold that he is the epitome of incompetence. In my opinion, there is ample evidence to support both points if view.

If we accept that politics is simply about power—getting it and holding on to it—then inviting citizens of a commonwealth nation into T&T can reasonably be viewed as a political move; after one year of being residents, I think, they will be eligible for voting rights. So while the claim that the PM is totally incompetent may not be 100% accurate, he might just be assuming that citizens of this nation are, if not idiots, at least ignoramuses.

Photo: The dead body of Christopher Phillips outside the Port-of-Spain General Hospital Administration Building.

Listening to the conversations and monitoring the discussions, I too have heard the references to our being brother’s keeper. Yet, this nation saw one of our senior citizens die slow death on the lawn of one of the nation’s hospitals with not so much as a squeak from our caring PM.

We have had citizens from Guyana turned away from Mt Hopeless simply on the grounds that they were “foreigners.” We walk around and alongside vagrants in the nation’s capital without so much as seeing them. We house our homeless in a carpark and look on helplessly as they are moved from one park to another by the City Corporation. We heap scorn on citizens of Venezuela, Guyana, Nigeria, China and India, all of whom come seeking to improve their social and economic conditions, just as we do when we travel to the USA, Canada or England.

While helping others in need is indisputably a noble effort, I am not sure that inviting them into our homes is such a brilliant idea. I, for one, am not accepting anyone into my home; not even family members are welcome. Sending help like deploying members of the Coast Guard, Regiment, the Air Guard, ODPM, cadets and scouts, even CEPEP, along with building materials and foodstuff to help rebuild is a much more practical attempt to assist.

So I cannot help but suspect a hidden agenda behind the PM’s offer; after the earthquake which killed hundreds of thousands and destroyed the nation’s infrastructure a few years ago, did we hear any suggestion that Haitians should be welcome here?

So miss us with the BS, Brother Keith.

Photo: Ex-FIFA vice-president Jack Warner delivers water to Haiti in the wake of a devastating earthquake.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)
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  1. As a social scientist is a good thing you don’t work for Customs and Immigration
    Cause you’d be too fakkin stupid to know that only Da citizens with family or close family friends in Trinidad are going to land at Piarco International
    Those people either going to
    • stay there and rebuild
    • stay with family members elsewhere until they can safely restart

    They are not going to come to a strange land to be beggars

    Or, maybe u missed the “family” part …..

  2. You call yourself a Sociologist etc, it is you Rudy must miss us with your b s, your bigotry disguised with fancy words and your coded messages to your base is exactly why this country is so polarized. Many are aware of your writings which seek to inflame rather that educate and for you to throw in the ferry fiasco etc into mix citing a need to change the conversation is nothing short of intellectual dishonesty and a crass crude way of defending your party.

  3. proper records to be kept with immigration. spelling mistakes -pls, forgive

  4. the island and trinidad should welcome any cozen from the carribean countries affected, once they have a house and persons to assist them,

  5. The education system has failed many people and English is apparently their second language. Exactly were in his statement did Dr Rowley state that ALL citizens MUST open up their homes to the Dominicans. Some are deliberately engaging in semantics and twisting the words of the Prime Minister, and if that is not bad enough, the obscenity, the racist the bigotry has made its way into the discussions. Sad very sad indeed

  6. Haitians came to UWI – so they were welcome here after the earthquake.

  7. Anybody commenting against Dr Rowley’s proposal should revisit a map of the region and gauge who our natural allies are based on history and circumstance. This selfishness is the real indicator of our moral decline.

    • I agree. When did people become so jaded? Is not just Sat and his crap to blame. Somehow over the years we have forgotten how to be kind and compassionate. As poor as we were my mother took in orphans for holidays when I was growing up. And as a child I remember doing gift boxes with toiletries to give to the old folks home in Belmont. Greed and selfishness have taken over and politicians milking that.

  8. Well it’s clear that the letter writer is no fan of the PM or the PNM for that matter. And the outright assertion that nobody welcome in his home..not even family speaks to a lack of compassion and empathy that may have no bearing on his political persuasion. I don’t believe Rowley was advocating throwing open the borders for homeless and hopeless Dominicans to flood the country. It was more a call for citizens to consider taking in displaced people and for family and friends of Dominicans to welcome them in their homes. Once they can make their way here and have a support system the govt will make it easier for them to do it. It sounds like a very altruistic and compassionate gesture and I refuse to look at it as a distraction from fake oil investigations. The writer is welcome to his xenophobic and jaded view.

  9. Woe is me that I should live on this tiny murderous rock of an island that’s fast embracing fascism, blatant racism, hypocrisy and elitism! Woe is me O Lord!

    These days yuh could barely order a drink without a Venezuelan lookin back at you! How many Guyanese nationals we have in Trinidad living here normal normal? I tell people the population of Trinidad and Tobago is approximately 3 million, 1 million between the 2 islands and 2 million outside in parts like USA, Canada and yes, up the islands!

    How many Trickydadians went and claim refugee status in Canada citing rape back in the 1980s?

    Woe unto me that Keith Rowley can summon a category 5 hurricane to devastate an island of 90 000 people so he could distract the blind, foolish and heartless people of my nation because, you know, these people who have lost everything literally overnight is deserving to be used as political fodder!

    To call y’all mongrels and swine is to do dis-service to such animals!

    Woe unto all of us here on in this cesspool of a mudflat that refuse to acknowledge each other as fellow brothers and sisters, but Africans or Indians. Woe!

    Charity indeed begins at home and I have been fortunate to call the Caribbean my home. Please look past our differences and continue to help those in need, less we find ourselves as a nation worse off than those affected by the hurricanes.

  10. Having read all the comments thus far, I feel the pain stemming from the tide of illiteracy which permeates this nation; many reflected in the comments. The piece began by outlining the difficulties we have as a nation, having a simple thing as an “intelligent, objective conversation.” It discusses the lack of trust we have in each other, and politicians in particular.
    Unfortunately, I was raised on an aphorism which reminded me at every turn that “charity begins at home.” When 300,000 of our people (25%) survive on less that $1000 a month, our health care is in shambles,our criminal justice system is dysfunctional, as area all our other institutions, but the minister of education is in talk to bring in foreigners and have them placed in St Mary’s and Fatima, while our own children have to suffer at state schools, our priorities are distorted. Call me cold!
    When we have a jackass as minster of finance whose only understanding of diversifying the economy relies on taxing citizens to death, along with cabinet with an equal amount of incompetents, facing another set of incompetent-bandits on the opposition benches, if that is not a natural disaster, then Zeno knows best.

    • I suspect Rowley’s comment was a bit of politicking that went too far – i.e. it was taken too seriously.

      Practically speaking, no country can take in large numbers of migrants, for humane reasons or otherwise. Your point is well noted that Trinidad is barely supporting its own, much less for ‘foreigners’. Will they be given infinite ‘charity’ or expected to work? What about housing? Will HDC provide them with homes above the local citizens, some of whom have been waiting for decades? Jobs? They will be competing for jobs with citizens who are struggling to find employment themselves.

      For those who talk about Trinis being heartless, I say put your money where your mouth is – are you willing to send 100% of your savings to Dominica to pay for materials and labour to start rebuilding? 50%? 25%? 10%?

      I’m not saying don’t help, but help can only be given within affordable means… and Trinidad can’t afford large-scale hosting… unless the PM wants to host them in the tsunami stadium and let them such sugar cane.

  11. I am proud of the efforts on the Ground today 2 pallet loads of Relief aid was delivered and I observed what is happening around the country PROUD Chairman of CTTRC – Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation YOU ALL, for those who want to turn a Humanitarian Crisis into your own agenda I say Ignorance is a mental illness check yourselves into St Ann’s and let those who Genuinely care to get on with it.

  12. We are all brothers in caricom when crap happened to the other islands

  13. At the end of the day every few Dominicans will come here. They hardly come here anyway. But the vile mean-spiritedness of some Trinis towards people at their lowest point won’t be soon forgotten.

  14. Can’t please everyone. If the PM had declared that we aren’t in a position to aid anyone because of our own predicament, the same people condemning him now would turn and say how’s he’s heartless and these ppl need help. They would oppose any position he takes.

  15. If he had done as the columnist suggest they would say those resources would be better used here to help our own…smh

  16. i cant give them complete wrong. we have a level of self interest that must be part of the conversation. checks and balances must be put in place to make sure it doesnt get out of hand. but not this…its shameful

  17. bunch of robots masquerading as humans…smh

  18. its upseting how myopic our politics and our people can be

  19. Time to help the people rebuild..maybe those same gauvament contractors can get the ball rolling. Elias is now not distracted with TSTT and is a contractor, he and others rise up to the challenge

  20. I disagree with the assertion that these events are a distraction. Dr Rowley availed himself to the JSC and A&V oil had a live broadcast today. They are serious about clearing their name and suing the Opposition Leader, so I see no distraction.

  21. Fake Oil Gate and Ferry Gate aint going nowhere

  22. God don’t like ugly. Ask the Israelites of the pass, they learnt a hard lesson. What if the USA said that, oh by the way they saying that. Or the great Canada. Many family members will be on a plane back to here. No job no house no place.

  23. It’s amazing that one with more moral authority than anyone else in Trinidad & Tobago, would say: “Head of the Living Waters Community Rhonda Maingot said Rowley’s initiative was “a wonderful gesture,” and one which she felt certain would be “greatly appreciated” by the people of Dominica.

    “I applaud the Prime Minister for this,” Maingot said.

    She is hoping other Caribbean nations will “take a page out of the book of the Prime Minister.”

    Thank you Rhonda for shedding some light on this situation. I would only add that we here in T&T should listen to her words – for there’s an unintentional warning: “She said “God forbid we should be in that position one day and want other countries to take us in… especially children and families with nothing.”

  24. Strange that this purported strategy on the PM’s part to distract from the ferry issue, was deployed RIGHT before he personally brought the issue to a head at the opening of the court of justice…

    But I understand where the suspicion comes from – after 5 years being ruled by a woman who ruled 99% by distraction, and rarely got out of bed except for a photo op, long distance flight or cocktail party, yes, I would understand how you would recoil snarling from any action by the government that followed, regardless of its character.

    Also – believe the PM said they are welcome for 6 months, so why are you paranoid of them gaining voting rights after a year, and voting at the next election in 2021…? Must be PTSD… our maybe PPPSD…

    • Because that was what their preferred party did. Remember, we judge others by our own standard.

    • Carl Jung would say that we project the darkness within ourselves onto ‘others’ and this leads to fear of people who we perceive to be different to ourselves. The fear is amplified within social groups who act as an echo chamber – he believed this psychological human weakness was the root cause of ethnic tensions along racial, religious, and national lines. Politics makes this worse, as there is considerable incentive to use this psychological phenomenon to your advantage, intentionally manipulating information to ‘confirm’ biases…

  25. Really what devastation of a natural disaster have we experienced in T&T compared to Dominic, ST Lucia, Grenada etc. , Really Trinidadians grow up ,you people for real?

  26. Typical Trinis “my four and no more” this self centred nature is one reason for corruption.

  27. Trinidad and Tobago is very well placed to help Caribbean people displaced by Irma and Maria, either through limited temporary refugee intake or direct aid. No question at all. Heck if you have two slices of bread, you can still share.

    • There were 12 of us and we could have, would have shared one slice had the need arisen. But first you have to feel part of the family, which, I think, is the problem here; often the family is “me one.”

  28. He had a golden opportunity to prove himself a leader who cares about citizens across the board when Bret lick up deep south,but one of his ministers had to talk about ‘Building house on Lagoon’,what else would you expect from the same people you were ridiculing.

  29. Hmm …. he might have a point there, if the offer to help Dominica is indeed an attempt to divert attention from ongoing bacchanal re ferry at al, that would be an amazing strategic move on the part of the PNM, maybe they’ve learnt a thing or two from the UNC ….

  30. Difficult piece to comment on. It was a charitable proposal from the PM but I think he often comes across as a stranger to the culture of the land. When you say open up your homes you have to add large swathe of detail. Otherwise, you get what has transpired this week.

    I want to help but the more I think about it the more I realise the only way I can is if I had a second house somewhere. Would a stranger trust me with their children? No. Dey doh know me.
    Would I accept an entire family in my house? No. That would be ridiculously uncomfortable and I couldn’t feed them.
    Could I accept a mother and child? Probably. But then there are all sorts of risks that come with that.

    We simply needed more detail as to a possible arrangement. And, as is now regularly the case, the PM spoke too little, too quickly, with not enough though.

    • Par for the Rowley course, Steupz; Ralph Maraj has consistently made the point that no serious work was done over the five years spent in opposition. It’s hard not to agree.
      But as a timely response to a crisis, which this indisputably is, would you fault the call to open our homes–voluntarily!–to our suffering brethren? How would you rate it?

      • Not at all. I think the call was a rare glimpse of statesmanship from Dr. Rowley. But this is Trinidad & Tobago; where every issue begins with 40% of the country side-eyeing you. He should have made a far more serious, detailed statement…this was almost Address to the Nation worthy.
        He should have had the relevant Ministers at his side as he announced a suite of measures for possible refugees. There could have been an immediate announcement regarding school places, food cards etc. But, I suspect he knew that there would be trouble. I suspect he was loathe to offer Government housing because the obvious response would have been ‘so now yuh could find house for people?’
        So he just threw it to us and hoped that we’d do the right thing. We don’t do the ‘right thing’ on a large scale. Any Trini or Tobagonian could tell you that. We do bits and pieces – water, tin cans, clothes. We don’t do hard sacrifice.

  31. We can spin this which way we want , the reality is T&T not starving we not in political turmoil or instability. We are ablessed country so give GOD thanks and done all this foolish talk , our neighbours over 72,000 in Dominica are without food and shelter and we need to help. Stop the race talk, hatred and nonsensical chitter chatter. Frivolity and using comparison at this time is simply nonsense. Trinis never fought for anything, oil has provided a comfortable life for us so we can’ see beyond or nose, GOD in his wisdom know we have no mountain to protect us, should storm or hurricane hit us. We would be living in tents like Haitians and the Rohyinga people, Trinis are selfish and greedy

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