“Unite to move country forward,” so said our President Paula-Mae Weekes in her maiden Independence Day message; and in the midst of the closure of Petrotrin’s 100-year-old refinery in Point-a-Pierre, we have no choice but to answer the call as suggested by the President for a unified Trinidad and Tobago.
How many times have we heard for national unity? How many times have we listened to calypsos and speeches from religious leaders or from political rhetoric about uniting for better T&T?
And as always, when there is a national crisis we have a knee-jerk reaction and call for unity or a “day of rest, prayer and reflection”, a mantra by the leaders in the trade union movement, a shallow cry of self-interest and bravado. Certainly by now, we should be so sanctified, wrapped up and enfolded that we should be fused and sealed.
Unity is strength, but for most of us individualism is centre for our own ego. We are enveloped in our emotions; we have all the answers but share only negativity and pessimism for our own ambitions. We know that in Trinbago we have trouble approaching but we will not lift a hand because we are selfish and self-centred.
According to VS Naipaul: “You can see trouble coming and you can’t do a damn thing to prevent it coming. You just got to sit and watch and wait.”
But can we really wait it out or should we do something that will prevent a catastrophic end?
The call to unite is another way of calling for bipartisanship to at least remove the cloak of partisan politics and show a mature and harmonious pursuit of ideals. There are so many ills that we are facing in our country that it is ludicrous to think any one person has all the answers.
Bipartisanship requires a broad organizing of national talents, a great cooperative effort that transcends red and yellow bickering, mudslinging and skepticism across the political aisles. What’s needed, in the bipartisan ideal, is for red and yellow to pitch in and go to work, united in at least moderate agreement to tackle the myriad of concerns that citizens face on a daily basis.
Now, I know that partisan politics has its place, and to think that by engaging and having consensus and participating in bipartisanship that all our national concerns and issues would automatically vanish is unrealistic. We have known nothing other than the political system of individual parties in our country; in fact partisanship is deeply entrenched in the history of our nation development.
According to an article in the Boston Globe: “Democracy depends on partisanship – the kind of strong and critical advocacy that opens public debate, forces the parties to explain their ideas, and clarifies choices for voters.”
In other words, partisan causes are often bold and innovative ideas that originate outside organized parties.
Though such ideas can initially be divisive, but they can also offer the electorate a genuinely new path forward. Similarly, researchers also describe that partisan attachment has a sense of party identification (PID), for example the symbol of the Balisier, where there is a long-term, sentimental, psychological identification with one’s preferred political party.
It is time that serious debates on bills and legislation are brought to the house and bills that need to be amended are ventilated in the best interest of the country. We need to strengthen our laws and put forward bills that are directed to help the poor and socially displaced in our society.
There are no positives in adversarial politics nor are there any winners when opposition opposes only for their own interest, or create gridlock and frustration just to win weak political points. Moreover it’s not all about creating new taxes but about what is humane and benevolent that is needed for all in our society to reap the resources of our land.
How can we move forward when we witness our divisiveness and petty squabbles by politicians? How can we be team Trinbago when we refuse to give credit for the things that have seen us developed and improved and the contribution of those gone before?
Surely Her Excellency in her eloquence reminds us that though our country is developing, it must continue to display a maturity that is indicative of our strength to keep our democracy strong and moving forward without yielding to those persons who are bent on destroying rather than unifying.