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Category: Trinidad Society 25 Jan 15

What would happen if the Prime Minister came on national television and announced the following?

“Citizens of our beloved islands, it is with a heavy heart that I announce that this year, Carnival is cancelled. Now, my countrymen, before you leap up in rage and anarchy, burning tyres, attacking institutions, knocking down government ministers— before you turn us into the most murderous country in the world instead of number ten, hear me out.

“I have had enough of partisan sycophants and Machiavellian power-hungry men advising me what to do. I decided to take charge. I began looking towards the finest minds, the Nobel Laureates of our islands for inspiration.

“Sir Vidia Naipaul was harsh. He said ‘I can’t see a Monkey— you can use a capital M, that’s an affectionate word for the generality— reading my work…These people live purely physical lives, which I find contemptible...It makes them only interesting to chaps in universities who want to do compassionate studies about brutes.’

“He dismissed us, was nasty about our ignorance, lack of curiosity, lack of reading. So I went to Walcott, whose Omeros is a paean to our islands. He loves us, but once asked God to ‘save him from a society whose centre begins from the waist down.’

“I looked to the intrepid, patriotic journalist Raoul Pantin, who died this month ruined by the brutality of the attempted coup. He described our green islands as an intellectual desert. “He said the majority of us, like sheep, gravitate to the dross; we cater to the lowest common denominator. He said the ‘the vast majority of the laid-back, fun-loving, party-going, creative, nine-day-wonder, Carnivalesque people of T&T have little or no idea’ what 1990 did. It unleashed lawlessness like licks, like fire.

“Why, you might ask, am I denying you this right? I am aware that for many of you Carnival is not just a party but also a psychological release to the everyday horror of our lives. We are a society grieving for the dead and brutalised. Last year, 403 people were murdered.

Another 140 road deaths. Dozens of women were raped. “Many of you were robbed of cars, phones, homes, had guns held to your heads, were chopped. Thousands grieve, suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. I know many wake up at 4 am, cook, make lunch for your children, and try to beat the traffic.

“I know life is frustrating. Some work hard to do as little as possible. Others lording it over juniors. We bring down people who show us up. I know many of you are waiting for court cases to be called. Many of you are ill—we are among the most obese in the world, beset with hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. We have overcrowded hospitals and unreported cases of malpractice. I want this dealt with.

“I will deal with the environment. Our dumps are toxic. The bottle bill hasn’t been passed. It’s a health hazard to our citizens. The Central Statistical Office needs work. We can’t target risk areas if we don’t know what they are. I know we slipped in the transparency index. I will redouble our efforts to tackle corruption.

“I know our police force needs cleaning up. Maybe now that Jack Warner has left, I will bring Gibbs back. He was an efficient man who needed support.

“I know many of you walk around unable to read, write, or express yourselves. I don’t like the numbers I get from Alta (Adult Literacy Tutors Association) which says that over 400,000 of us are functionally illiterate but it’s a problem at every level: service, crime, productivity, health. I reassured you recently about the falling oil price but I want us all to be equipped to deal with it.

“As a result, I have decided to do the following:

•   Start a school for adult and music literacy

•   Give Walcott back the old fire station as a theatre so we deepen our identity through expression

•   I will start an advanced teachers’ training college and pay teachers the same as doctors. We need teachers and social workers to ensure each child goes to school and not more guns to solve crime

•   I will slash ‘make-work’ programmes, another underworld

•   I will support families whose children do well in school, where parents are productive and responsible. I will work towards an industrious society

•   I will start a massive public awareness programme that creates pride in a fantastic work ethic

•   I will create a massive cadre of social workers to ensure that every one of our children is taken off the street and sent to school or to train for a skill. I will systematically work with experts to clean up our institutions

•   I’m not denying you your democratic right to party, but you need to work on Carnival Monday and Tuesday as usual

•   I will enforce the law on speeding, and with breathalysers

•   The State will not fund fetes, costumes or chutney or soca competitions. I will open a school to teach music literacy alongside functional literacy. This will promote excellence. Our panmen will compose music that equals the excellence of all classical music worldwide. The pan will be integrated into orchestras in the Royal Albert Hall, in Vienna, in St Lucia, in New York. That comes with study, not rote playing

•   We will open a school and museum of the mass led by our visionary masman, Peter Minshall

•   We will tackle every issue systematically.

“I ask you to join me to sacrifice now to be part of a brave, safe, civilised new world in the future. Will you?”


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur