By Matthew Woolford
I am old enough to remember when Trinidad and Tobago was a positive place in which to live!
Growing up we had three local TV stations: TTT, AVM and TV6, respectively. Cable TV was not even part of our imagination and hits such as Mango Alley and No Boundaries helped to remind us of who we were as a people, always full of ambition in spite of the constant roar of ‘bacchanal’ that always seem to walk beside us. Scouting For Talent on a Saturday night, and Twelve & Under with Aunty Hazel on Sunday afternoons were must-see television.
For the sports enthusiasts, there was Caribbean Sports Digest, produced and hosted by Anthony Harford, always giving us the story to go along with the highlights.
Intermissions between programmes were almost always filled by Calypso music and their accompanying videos, not just commercials. To this day, Melanie Hudson’s rendition of the David Rudder composed, ‘I Will Always Be There For You’, still plays in my mind and my heart.
Essentially, we were a people informed of who we were, and, to a greater extent, where we were heading!
When I saw the front pages of the newspapers on Sunday, October 30, 2022, I actually thought that someone was threatening to break Brian Lara’s First-Class record of 501 not out. I was saddened to read that in a year that is moving as quickly as this one, post-pandemic lockdown, we are averaging 50 murders a month as a nation.
Why have things gotten so bad? In The Trouble With Nigeria, Chinua Achebe shared some insight that may assist in the soul-searching process should we collectively decide to embark on one.
In Chapter 1, entitled ‘Where the problem Lies’ he wrote in his opening paragraph: “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character… The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”
Likewise, I see nothing wrong with the Trinidadian and Tobagonian character. We have shown a capacity to excel and certainly compete in almost any sphere, and yet we have trouble hiring or replacing a Commissioner of Police.
Section 123 (1) of our Constitution gives the Police Service Commission the power to appoint persons to hold or act in the office of Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Police.
Why is confirmation in the position taking so long and how many other State agencies are handicapped by reluctant leadership?
In Chapter 3, ‘False Image of Ourselves’, he mentioned: “One of the commonest manifestations of under-development is a tendency among the ruling elite to live in a world of make-believe and unrealistic expectations…I know enough history to realize that civilization does not fall down from the sky; it has always been the result of people’s toil and sweat, the fruit of their long search for order and justice under brave and enlightened leaders.”
Are we still, as a nation, happy to profess that ‘God is a Trini’ and simply leave all the hard work and following-up to Him?
And in Chapter 4, under the sub-heading, ‘On Unity and Faith’, he commented:
“How valid is this notion of unity as an absolute good? Quite clearly it is nonsense. Unity can only be as good as the purpose for which it is desired. Obviously, it is good for a group of people to unite to build a school or a hospital or a nation, but supposing a group of other people get together in order to rob a bank. Their unity is deemed undesirable. Indeed, lawyers would call their kind of unity conspiracy. Therefore, we cannot extol the virtues of unity without first satisfying ourselves that the end to which the unity is directed is unimpeachable.”
Every five years or so we hear renewed calls for unity. Sadly, these calls do not appear to reverberate past the election season. And even sadder, the impeachable elements in society seem to be better organised and coordinated than the communities that should be forcing them out.
Which leads to a question of Local Government Reform. Are communities getting enough resources to be effective in the nation-building effort?
On Wednesday, October 5, 2022, darkness covered the Earth and then the floodgates opened, literally. One person died as a result of the flooding, and I do send my condolences to her family, and many suffered discomfort and property damage.
These phenomena are expected to become more frequent with the BBC reporting that even the Philippines, an archipelago accustomed to heavy rainfall complaining of its increase in recent years.
What is being done about housing, squatting and genuine long-term rural and urban development on our islands?
Would an improvement in this macro-economic/social sphere help in the alleviation of conditions fuelling crime within our nation?
Or do we really want to see how the other side lives?