Bukka Rennie

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Singing for supper

August 24, 2002
By Bukka Rennie

Suddenly I am being told that I do "rare forays into political commentary". I was of the impression that that is exactly what I have been doing consistently since 1988. Every single column of mine is political. But then this is T&T where people have these weird conceptions about what "politics" entails.

Now today, not surprising, given the debasing and demeaning of "politics", there are individuals who seem to have even extended their jackass logic to infer that the mere re-sheeting of roads and repairing of buildings is tantamount to "comprehensive infrastructural, social and economic progress" and therefore the greatest "politics" witnessed here in 40 years. What madness!

Reminds me of the young woman at Rienzi who, in jubilation when UNC first assumed office, shouted out: "Thank God, thank God, we free from bondage..." Or a certain Susan Singh from Central who wrote that the "UNC had taken T&T out of the stone age..." And that these two people, the former being quite young, could shout and write such malicious drivel even with the pylons lights of Point Lisas shining in their eyes tells us how sick and mentally twisted some of our people are or have been nurtured to become.

However, if they happen to know better and were simply singing for their supper, then they are even worse than the cretins are.

Now we are being told that what the previous regime did in condoning the dispensing of largesse and the breaching of all tendering procedures and public service regulations under the guise of contracts to pave roads to the tune of some $1 billion was not criminal but instead was the "circumventing of bureaucracy".

So we are being asked to accept that the litany of scams from the $30 million rice to the blatant theft in the NWRHA, to the recent revelations of the Tidco disaster are not criminal acts but the mere "circumventing of bureaucracy". And the proof that there was no real feeding frenzy is the fact that the UNC handed over a healthy Treasury.

What we are not told however is that the public debt jumped from $8 billion in 1995 to $30 billion in 2001, a period of just six short years, due to borrowings to finance their splurge. Those figures were first released by none other than Trevor Sudama himself who left the UNC in disgust and was the major reason why the Dhanysar Mahabir committee was to suggest "caution" even though the Treasury was healthy.

But the question is why circumvent only the bureaucracy relevant to government contracts, what about circumventing the other areas of bureaucracy that militates against progress in other areas like the EBC and all the commissions that run the Police Service, the Public Service, etc? They were agreed to by Eric Williams and Rudy Capildeo at the Malborough negotiations for Independence.

I discussed that in a column back in 1998 titled "Remembering heady 1962", pointing out that Rudy was the watchdog to guarantee that such commissions remain independent of the State and that "Indo-Trinidadians were not displaced in the natural course of the post-Independence development".

I said then that Williams initiated this agreement by simply saying, "Rudy, let us talk!" and I asked readers to "compare that with the shouting and infernal noise with which we are faced today".

The point is that today all these commissions have become glaringly obsolete. How come we are not attempting to "circumvent them" or revisit them with the intention to transform them.

Those commissions, in fact the very Constitution out of which they emanate, comprise the "bureaucratic mine-field that awaits any administration elected to office" today. Why then the concern only with government contracts?

In the meantime one can sense a deepening alienation all over today. People need to feel they belong to something, they need to feel that there is a greater good, they need to feel and cling to purpose, they need to attach value to their lives.

That is not possible once the modus operandi and raison d'etre are about frenetic grabbing and fighting over spoils.

We have said before in this space that the globalisation process, now over 500 years old, has the effect of reducing all and sundry to a common denominator, to this very "nothingness", to a "sickening sameness" of no value, and that the masses of people the world over have been objecting instinctively to such reduction.

Hence the great rise of ethnic demands all over and the new consciousness of "harmony in diversity", also the rise of the non-conformist churches that allow people to testify to the value of their own lives, to the understanding of their own lives, and to do so collectively in communities that provide for them that much needed sense of belonging to something that has some greater purpose.

And out of this sense of belonging comes that crucial right to self-determination and political empowerment. But it all starts with community, the very source that globalisation and its inherent economic tenets seek to destroy.

While our "bright stars" seek the dollar and the mad grabbing and view those who do not as "stupid", the mass of people seek some form of community.

Therefore it stands to reason that it is from this point, this sense of community, that real politics has to begin. And that brings us back to where we started.

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