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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 06 Mar 05

 

Dear Prime Minister,

 

I am not so vain as to think you would have the time to read this column on a Sunday. Iím hoping though, that you might, if I wrote you an open letter.

 

Sir, you may have heard about the latest kidnapping in Trinidad. This time we couldnít pull the wool over our eyes and say it was drug related or a revenge kidnapping as we do, unwilling to acknowledge the savagery around us.

 

Dr Azizul Rahaman is a bright professional who has for decades tenderly tended creatures who donít have a voice; a man who combines his medical knowledge and compassion to care for animals. He brings that same intuitive touch towards human beings. He has the gift of seeing and healing the hurt in people by really seeing them for who they are rather than what they look like or what they own. There is so much more to say about Dr Rahaman. Little details that make doc, doc. The intellectual will tell you he grasps complex issues; the religious will tell you he is a good Muslim; his family says that if he could he would give away his money to the needy faster than he needs it; animal lovers swear by him. The thief who regularly stole his orchids will tell you that instead of reporting him, Dr Rahaman helped get him off the streets.

 

The thought of this slightly-built man with a large heart, who pleaded with his abductors who were about to shoot his staff, to leave them alone and take him instead, is heartbreaking.

 

As our premier you have always addressed your citizens as brothers and sisters. I want to tell you about them. They are suffering. I donít know what happens to people after they get into power. The bodyguards, the entertainment budget, the speeding cars, the power blinds them, turning their own brothers and sisters invisible.

 

I want to take your hand and lead you to your country, sir. Here is the East-West corridor, riddled with guns, illiteracy, poverty and Cepep jobs that plump up employment figures but destroy the manufacturing and construction sector, and smash human minds, reduce them to dependent vessels of entitlement.

 

This is Central Trinidad where the illiteracy is even higher, where poverty and alcoholism and incest are rife. Contrary to the myth of the happy villager, these people live like savages, barely able to read, write, scrape food together, havenít seen a toothbrush. They, too, are your brothers and sisters.

 

And here is the East Indian business community, dotted around this country amongst other businesses. Every entrepreneur here remembers walking barefoot to school and long, long hours of toil to build their houses, buy their cars, educate their children, contribute to their countryís economy.

 

Now this community is singled out for kidnapping.

 

Your brothers and sisters, hundreds of thousands of them are cowed, terrified by rising kidnapping, as voiceless, as helpless as the animals that Dr Rahaman has tended all his life.

 

As a father, son and husband you have felt unspeakable tenderness for your children, wife, parents, silently with your hand on their heads, prayed for their safety. Can you imagine how you would feel if that were snatched from you? Visit the Baksh and Rahaman families. A heavy cloud pressing on your heart, an unending scream of anguish.

 

Sir, I have personally informed your Education Minister of university statistics: Half of our population is semi-literate. Some 300,000 people canít read or write at all. Five hundred thousand people live below the poverty line. They have the watchful and empty stares of hollow men, looking for an opportunity. Theyíll kill for a pair of sneakers.

 

Look, we are in La Seiva at dusk. More than 600 people of every creed and race are walking with candles, to Dr Rahamanís practice, a silent protest, a flickering but tenacious hope that heíll be home. This brutality must be cut down, not with guns but with education and hope.

 

Go home, sir. Use your power to help your illiterate, poor, voiceless, helpless and your frightened people. Itís your job.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur