Unity key to flying red flag

 

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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 19 Mar 06

 

If curious aliens from Mars took a satellite picture of us, they would see an immobile mass, a country locked into its hunkered-down position—the only defence available to it against a removed leadership.

 

Left in that jaw-locked position, we could be dismissed as dead, if it weren’t for little figures who pop up from this inert mount waving a red flag—their movement always in air—and hope for the rest of us.

 

Businessman Stephen Cadiz raised a red flag last year by forming The Keith Noel 136 Committee, after his employee became the 136th murder victim last year and at a time when kidnappings were at an all-time high.

 

After presenting a petition signed by thousands of citizens to the President, Cadiz organised a march against crime.

 

Because Cadiz happens to be a middle-class, businessman, it was easy for those who prefer us to be a dead body of people to question its credibility, saying the flag was white not red.

 

But after Cadiz pointed out that his family had been here for 200 years, decades more than most of us, we could not deny his role in allowing some oxygen in to a suffocating population.

 

Dr Kirk Meighoo came up for air out of the ball of terrified inertia we had fallen into when he launched the Committee for Transformation and Progress (C4TAP) last September. In his speech, he was at pains to point out that C4TAP was not a political party. He said: “On the Government side, what we are faced with is cynical and reckless expenditure, with one eye obviously on the next general election and the other on self-preservation at any cost.

 

“On the Opposition side, we have confusion and selfishness...”

 

That red flag sent some puzzling signals as to its real intent. (Was he paving the way to politically cash in on a bad moment in the country while appearing not to do so?)

 

Still, he spoke up courageously, spoke for us all. And got us looking up a bit more.

 

The aliens would have to zoom in to see thousands of mini-flags, men and women talking in offices, homes, schools, car parks, restaurants, in porches, streets, bedrooms, hovels, taxis, etc.

 

Of conversations about oil money not filtering down, nothing working, of policemen being held for kidnapping? Of feeling unsafe.

 

Of asking: What was the army doing? Where are the tax dollars? People asking why they had to hustle, with their bodies, their guns, smooth talk for a living, rather than education.

 

Where was the training? Where were the jobs? Why did so many people they know die from brutal guns or badly-equipped hospitals?

 

But individual protests don’t make effective flags. Now flag-raiser Sheilah Solomon, co-ordinator of T&T Citizens Agenda Network (T&T CAN!) sent out a circular. She wrote: “The test of a democracy is whether citizens have the power to influence the policies of their representatives after they are elected. By that test, T&T has become a functional dictatorship, rather than a constitutional democracy.

 

“The role of Parliament as the watchdog of citizens’ rights has been cancelled by the overarching power of the Cabinet. “The right of individual citizens to vote or challenge government rulings in court does not in practice guarantee them any influence over the circumstances of their daily lives, or the consequences of government policies at local or central level.

 

“Burning tyres and marching in the streets are the only means available to them, collectively, to attract attention to urgent public issues.

 

“Both those means are subject to police permission. Much of the lawlessness in our society stems from the unequal distribution of power permitted by the present constitution.

 

“In effect, citizens have been marginalised. Marginalisation breeds frustration. Frustration breeds violence.

 

“A constitution is a Contract between citizens as to how their state is to be governed.

 

“It must not be changed from the top down by any government; it must reflect the true concerns of citizens from all walks of life.”

 

Just another flag..? Maybe. But if we stood up, linked arms, joined flags, we could collectively regain our power; our country.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur