Daly Bread: Bounce or bounce down; how long will govt’s Covid-19 ‘high’ last?

The prejudice thing, usually ill-concealed, is more plainly visible because members and ambassadors of the privileged classes persist in making incautious statements as they feel the heat generated by the George Floyd killing in the US.

However, as the soon-come General Election 2020 is taking over the top news spot, I must move on to the very positive Covid-19 bounce in public opinion, which the government is currently enjoying.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley tends to his home garden in May 2020.
(via Dr Keith Rowley Facebook page)

There is one immutable negative, however. It is murder-200 plus to date. In respect of the vast majority of murders, the police still cannot detect the perpetrators—no matter how many media briefings and photo-ops they pile on us.

I would like to speculate about Monday 7 September, 2020.

The President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) has said that the Ministry of Education had come to them with an October date on which to hold the Secondary School Entrance examination (SEA), which was postponed because of Covid.

The SEA is the critical but cruel and discriminatory examination that determines which secondary schools primary school pupils ‘pass for’. Replacing the SEA system is the most important structural change required to diminish current inequalities but that is always evaded as ‘a conversation for another time’.

When recently the Minister of Education announced a date for the SEA, it was not an October date. The date fixed is 20 August with the consequential direction that Standard Five students will return to school on 20 July in order to be prepared for the exam.

If TTUTA’s claim that an October date was in the pipeline is true, why did the government bounce the date backward to August? Maybe the government wants the exam finished before the General Election is held because schools are used as polling stations.

Photo: Students at the Sangre Grande Hindu School focus on their Trinidad Guardian SEA practice test.
(Courtesy bpartofit)

Let’s remember that this Government was successful in the last General election, which was held on Monday 7 September, 2015. Is that a lucky 7? My ole pardner Derek would have said ‘capriche boy’!

Have I made a melancholy conclusion that the exam became subordinate to a preferred election date and a failure to think through alternative SEA arrangements?

Melancholy, as readers know, is a feeling of thoughtful sadness. I borrowed the phrase to be my label this week from a Privy Council decision, which corrected a misguided assessment of a man’s worth because he was unconventional and living in an abandoned shed in Point Fortin.

This man was regarded as a ‘cockroach’, I suppose, since the case arose out of a malicious prosecution and the accused was unable to raise bail—stuck in imprisonment on remand, until acquitted on a no case to answer basis.

His lowly status, by whatever derogatory term described, is why when our country’s civil courts came to assess his damages in 2007, the judge awarded him too little and this decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

In a stunning piece of irony, the colonial era based Privy Council corrected our learned judges, pointing out that: “The appellant may not have been a high ranking member of society. That does not mean that his reputation was of any less significance than that of those who were.”

Photo: A homeless man in San Fernando explains that, with a sharp drop in foot traffic, he had a much harder time sustaining himself during the Covid-19 pandemic.
(Copyright Ghansham Mohammed/GhanShyam Photography/Wired868)

Back to the Covid bounce. The government deserves it so far. Its clear demarcation of quarantine, its creation of separate Covid hospitals and its conservative lockdown policy served us well, despite low rates of testing.

The opposition seemed to flip-flop on the extent and release of the lockdown and it did not recognise that qualified support should have been given to the government’s measures at a time of fear and crisis.

Can the Covid bounce be reversed? That depends in part on whether the government continues its sequence of own goals and alarming displays of authoritarian anger outside of Covid healthcare management.

Unfortunately for the opposition, when it wrote its letter to the US Embassy about the Venezuela issues, it trapped itself in an image of traitor or snitch and thereby made many citizens distrustful of it.

Perhaps however, the real bounce is the bounce down we are all going to get if the economy collapses after the General Election.

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