Monthly Archives: June 2014

‘Gun Man, Slow Yuh Role’ — From a Life Sport Participant

We had to share this.    After all that has been said about the Life Sport Programme, it is important to give voice to the participants who can tell their own story and reach out to those who need to put their guns down.   We cannot continue to criminalize Black men and boys in our society.

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Blindly Criminalizing Black Boys & Men: The Life Sport Narrative

 

How do you deal with the supposedly criminal elements in a society?   For the past month there has been much in the media about the Life Sport Programme.   So much so that the programme was removed from the Ministry of Sport and placed under the Ministry of National Security.   Additionally an audit is underway by the Ministry of Finance to bring some clarity or to bring to light any allegations of “wrong doing” in the Life Sport Programme.   We will address Life Sport from a perspective that is beyond the hype and analysis of the mainstream media and trying to bring all the connected pieces tonight in against the backdrop of the recent debate to censure Minster of Sport Anil Roberts.

 

According to Sport Minister Anil Roberts over 2000 young men (the majority of whom are “Afro-Trinidadians”) were enrolled in the Life Sport Programme all across the country.   He listed over 40 areas throughout Trinidad where Life Sport centers were opened to provide services, which included tutorials in Math and English. In sum, there are allegations out there about the Life Sport Programme, but these allegations including “1400 ghosts,” (still to be proven or not) strikes at the heart of something critical about our developing society and how we deal with crime and the supposed criminal elements in our society.

 

First, we all know where the “hotspots” are in terms of crime.   Sadly these hotspot areas are the most economically deprived parts of Trinidad but economic deprivation does not make them any less citizens of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.   Economic deprivation is a manifestation of the myriad of social problems that all communities’ face, but when resources are lacking and poor public policy stigmatizes and criminalizes geographic areas and the people who live in them we must examine the political structures and dynamics that has created the troubling things we see today.

 

Second, Trinidad as a society thrives on bachannal and hearsay. Given this, propaganda almost always trumps analysis (which is often missing).     However, at the Tobago Policy Forum we use history as a defense against propaganda and we reject the ideas of neocolonialism (the new colonizers who replaced the British), which has been the dominant political philosophy that has governed Trinidad and Tobago since 1962.     Against the backdrop of the racial politics that exists our attention now must be turned to those who have been politically manipulated and blindly misled even to the point of working against their own interest and in doing so creates and supports a narrative that criminalize their own children.

 

Third, what does political history of Trinidad and Tobago has to do with what is taking place today especially in terms of crime and the hotspot areas?   Dr. Kwame Nantambu, Professor Emeritus at Kent State University in an article entitled, Eric Williams: Opiate of the people sheds some light on this matter.   He states,

 

“Africa was their forbidden fruit. It is in this specific context that Prof. Eric Williams did more visible, mental and psychological damage to the psyche of the Africans in TnT compared to the visible, physical damage the Euro -colonial slave- master ever did.In terms of African history, Dr. Williams became the new Euro – centric-colonial Massa. He mis-educated /edjumacated Africans in TnT. During his tenure, African – Trinbagonians “‘ent see Africa” at all, at all, at all” while their historical – cultural glaucoma / cataract still persists and remains unabated, unattended and uninterrupted, as of this writing. During his tenure, the state / condition of the country’s libraries went to the dogs and their puppies, en masse. According to social commentator Dr. Hollis Liverpool:” Eric was ah avid reader lady; now dey close de central library.” During his tenure, Euro-centric historian Dr. Williams never gave Africans – Trinbagoians ” time to celebrate” and internalise their inherent Africanness to its maximum –the Prime Minister’s Best Village Programme not withstanding. Everything African was always posited within a feeling -good, looking – nice, carnival jump – up, having -ah-good-time, nutting serious, one -time -affair, party-time and liming atmosphere and context. It was never presented as anything of serious, sustained, historical, cultural, indigenous value and consequence- and still is not even today. The fact of the matter is that Eric Williams went on along with and/ or maybe initiated, encouraged and sanctioned this Euro- centric trivialization and programming of Africa. Today, everything African is just political mammaguay, congosa and pappyshow -One ah – day Africanising is the game a la Dr. Eric Williams. Prof. Eric Williams subjected Africans in TnT to Euro – centric “brainwash education”; no small wonder they continue to act like “Certificated” fools. Intellectually, Dr. Eric Williams never took African -Trinbagonians out of the European plantation sub-conscious mind-set; in other words, sub-consciously they continue to act like slaves while consciously, they are supposed to be emancipated. Pan African Nationalist, African – Trinbagonian Kwame Ture once stated: “If you don’t know who you are then you would not know what your interests are.”

 

Fourth, the criminalization of the Life Sport Programme and the blatant labeling of participants as criminal elements within the programme are beyond unfortunate.   Yes, the programmed should be audited and the required investigations should be done but should we enter the communities where Life Sport centers were opened, but we must examine the impact it had on the lives of these young men who participated in the programme.

 

The narrative presented by MP for Diego Martin Northeast, Colm Imbert must be condemned. He used the terms “criminal or criminality” at least 15 times during his Private Members motion to censure Anil Roberts until we lost track and stopped counting.     This is where we refocus on attempting to answer the first question we posed above, about dealing with the criminal elements within the society.

 

Some residents of Laventille who were tired of the crime in their community held a candle light vigil last Thursday.   This was commendable because in reality there are people who sleep under their beds and on the floors of their kitchen to avoid flying bullets. We must go beyond vigils to re-education. We must also consider the rather transient nature of these communities whereby there is a core of older folks who have lived in Laventille for many years and over time have housed their children and grandchildren; but many people have left the these urban hills of Port of Spain to take up residence elsewhere in Trinidad and Tobago or even abroad while others move in, often temporarily. The transient nature has removed the community structures (such as the village councils) that have were present in the past.

Nevertheless, there is a political structure that conveniently uses the residents of Laventille then criminalizes the very sons of their supporters after they have failed to provide any meaningful measures of employment and sustained economic development. The same can be said of Morvant, Covinge, and Carenage all of which are areas we have spent time in.

It is unacceptable to criminalize the Life Sport Programme and the impact so far it has made on the lives that might have been previously lost to the streets. We must see through the politics, the propaganda, and the self-serving people who are standing on the backs of exploited people to ride political waves.


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The Battle for East Port of Spain

An all out war has been declared on the Police Service of Trinidad and Tobago.   A rather disturbing threat was issued from the brother of one of the latest victims that was shot by the police in the East Port of Spain areas around St. Paul’s Street.   The death of this young man by the police prompted the latest wave of protests and tire burnings by angry residents.   Based on media reports, individuals within in the area were able to describe what “they saw” between the police and Keshorn Daniel, whose brother then declared the threat about police having to sign out for their guns while they don’t.

On Sunday Patrina Salandy, 39 and Rohan Riez, 16 were shot and killed by stray bullets. Salandy reportedly held her 4-month of baby as she was shot. Salandy and Riez were not shot by the police so their deaths did not deserve the anger and tire burnings of the residents of East Port of Spain.     By no attempt the residents of East Port of Spain should not be deliberately marginalized by the national community but the area remains a hotspot for criminal activity and likewise national attention.   Crime is not an easy fix for any government because the issues are rooted in historic social and economic problems.   Furthermore, problems of a social and economic nature are inextricably linked to political issues.

In any state where the citizens choose by live by the rule of law the presence of the police should be reassuring. While there are some rouge elements within any police force, citizens who live by the rule of law should not be fearful of the police. It is clear that there is a breakdown in the relationship between the police and the communities of East Port Spain and today it has deteriorated to an all time low.   The larger political problem looming above the violent crime is the chronic underdevelopment and underrepresentation of these communities.

With respect to representation the nation at large knows about the political history and voting patterns of this area; they are PNM strongholds.   Nothing is wrong with having political strongholds, they exist in all countries, but there is a failure on behalf of the elected representatives of East Port Spain. Where are the Members of Parliament for these constituencies? Where is the appeal they should be making to their constituents to put down their guns? How can you claim to effectively represent these people if your presence is missing in a time a crisis?   The political problem is one of representation and sadly the representation provided by the MP’s for this area over the last four years has been ineffective.

Representation is linked to development.     Members of Parliament, especially when serving in an opposition capacity have a responsibility to be the primary lobbyist for their constituences.     This entails cultivating relationships with members of the government, which includes; cutting deals that will bring viable programmes in your constituencies that effectively meet the needs of your constituents. As an MP you should always advocate for the social and upward mobility of your constituents.

What are the underemployment and unemployment rates of young men in the East Port of Spain community?   It is a question that must be asked. The 19-year-old “victim” who was shot by the police was an expectant father.   This is the genesis of social problems for the next generation, still in the womb but will enter this world without a father. The question we must ask is, what kind of economics were in place for entry of this child into the world by a 19-year-old father? A “chronic diet of 5-days and 10-days” has been the historic response of successive governments and it does not meet the economic needs of the area.   It is not difficult to see why a turf wars exist in the area.   There is not enough to go around to supplement the meager earnings of 5-days and 10-days temporary employment and young men en mass are turning to short term and often deadly solutions for temporary economic fixes, like buying pampers and klim.

The police must do their jobs and the safety of law-abiding citizens must take precedence over the safety of those who choose to engage in criminal activities.   The reaction of residents when the innocent people are killed versus their reaction when alleged criminal and gang members are killed is systematically flawed.

You cannot threaten the lives of the police and expect their protection when bullets of rival gangs are flying through your living room and bedroom windows and you are forced to sleep on the floor of your kitchen.

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Something Sexier: Cult Politics and Propaganda

So the running story line is Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is working some kind of zingay (obeah) and in doing so the children of the nation are being offered up as sacrifices to keep her government in office. There has been a spike in the deaths of children in Trinidad and Tobago.

In all reality it can be difficult to write pieces like this, but sooner or later you have to write them.   They often take weeks to conceptualize because it is something you have observed over a period of time, thought about for hours, scanned public opinion, and eventually align to what is happening in the country (and sometimes the world).

Our work is policy oriented in nature, our efforts are deliberately meant to raise the political discourse by raising critical points about issues relevant to the shared space we occupy in Trinidad and Tobago. Unlike policy work in the developed countries, understanding the local contextual issues, the overall culture and making connections to the political cultural is essential.

In a developing country like Trinidad and Tobago this type of work is multi-dimensional and much of it involves research, education, dissemination, lobbying, writing, and listening to what politicians are saying directly out of their mouths by spending countless hours reading the Hansard (the official record of parliamentary debates).

With this said, there is a stance that I must take to divorce myself from the issues much of which are sensationalized and propagandized leaving little room if any for intellectual discourse on the real issues that matter.   Furthermore in developed countries where the political culture has been firmly established, there are some things that people who work in the area of policy don’t deal with, like superstition; or better yet, obeah.

There is a place where culture, religion, politics, superstition (obeah), propaganda and the media intersect. Culture cannot be underestimated and religion is an essential element of culture but religion is founded on the basis of man’s inability to understand something so he invents a model that fits the unexplained into his mind and claims it to be the work of deities and devils.   In most religions the concept of sacrifice is fundamental: whether it is Christ in the Catholic Eucharist, the Pre-Colombian human sacrifices of the Mesoamerican civilizations of the Aztecs and Mayas, the offerings offered to Hindu deities, the blood of animals in voodoo and Shango ceremonies, or what Christians believe to be the ultimate sacrifice of Christ – the fact is it is a universal principle.  They are done to appease the gods or to appease ourselves to please the gods.

This leads us to a new video, propaganda in nature, about the children of Trinidad and Tobago being sacrificed. There has been increased in the number of deaths of children in Trinidad and Tobago. The loss of a child for any parent is an incomprehensible loss that you cannot understand unless it happens to you. First, to use the images of these children in a video made for the purposes of political propaganda is distasteful.   Furthermore, the logic of blaming the Prime Minister for the deaths of these children is simply incomprehensible and totally 6th century dark ages Europe.  This type of reasoning does not stand up to the test of rationality.   This is the chronic underdevelopment of the minds of people and it absolutely ridiculous that this is what we get for political debates. This is the strategy of cultish politics.

Like it or not a case must be made against cultish politics.   It promotes a shallow form of political engagement among the citizenry and those who create it and those ultimately misled by it are themselves the victims of the legacy of a chronically underdeveloped society.

If this is just the beginning of the 2015 General Election campaign perhaps there is hope that the political conversation will elevate itself and eventually the nation.   What are the plans for the next five years?   If the likes of this video are the heights of the discourse that we will witness over the next 11-13 months before the election, it is going to be a winning strategy for someone; but we will just have to wait until the votes are counted.

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Shall We have Chinese?

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Issues of immigration affect many nations and regardless of the country some of the natives tend to be unnerved when foreigners relocate to work and integrate themselves into the landscape of national community. Many countries throughout their histories have welcomed immigration and immigrants often assist in pushing the developmental thrust of their host countries.     There are numerous examples of this throughout the world and many connected via the Internet are likely to connect with people who may have migrated to another country.     The story of immigration/migration is the story of every family and in fact every country.

Even in the United States, a place in need of immigration reform, immigrants have integrated themselves into the fabric of the political, economic, and social structures of the nation.     Despite the current flaws in the US immigration system, there is a general feeling of welcome by the United States towards immigrants, regardless of where they come from, and should they all disappear tomorrow, the US will face some tough times. Even though current policies seem harsh, immigration is often a political football, with little or no political will to solve.   When students from foreign countries study at US Universities and complete professional and terminal degrees it is an asset to American human capital if these professionals are integrated into American society by living and working there despite the connections they may or may not have to their home countries.

In light of recent announcements by the Peoples Partnership government regarding the lifting of visa requirements for Chinese nationals there has been a buzz on social media and the airwaves that captures some of the attitudes of Trinidadians and Tobagonians about immigration.   Furthermore, there were talks about utilizing Chinese medical professions at the hospitals given the current shortages of healthcare professionals.

VISA requirements are a vexatious issue for some. When people are denied American Visas for entry into the United States it may leave some feelings of anger, especially when there is no refund.   Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago must work very hard to meet the US visa requirements and some just want the privilege of traveling not necessarily wanting the live in the United States. Others need the visa to migrate to the United States to be counted among the millions of undocumented “residents” who work tirelessly to gain documented status.

Nevertheless, the government of Trinidad and Tobago and China are working on several bilateral arrangements and it is obvious that the agreements that emerge will also include talks about the movement of people between the two countries.   Comparing populations, in terms of sheer numbers, more Chinese citizens will come to Trinidad and Tobago than citizens from Trinidad and Tobago will go to China.   There are several industries in Trinidad and Tobago that will benefit from a thrust of human capital injection and this should be welcomed and facilitated by measures to strengthen local capacity through exposure to international professional peers.

Questioning the need for international professionals whether they are Chinese or not speaks volumes about local attitudes towards foreigners and immigration.   This strikes on a vein not for this piece, but it also speaks volumes about local attitudes towards each other. While we still have a ways to go to be sensitized towards each others cultures (in all its diverse forms) in Trinidad and Tobago we need to educate our population to free themselves of the some of the stereotypes and sometimes racist beliefs they have of others, including the Chinese.

 

‘GUN THEM DOWN’: When truth (and justice) is missing

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Twenty-six men were shot and killed by the police in Trinidad and Tobago since the year began. First, we support the work that police officers do.   They have tough jobs and they put their lives on the line daily.   Nevertheless, there are always those among us who for one reason or another get themselves involved activities of a corrupt nature and tarnish an entire profession.   All teachers are not sexual predators neither are all police officers corrupt, (and likewise, not all politicians are thieves and liars).     With that out of the way, when the police kills 26 people in six months it is no surprise that we are dealing with a serious a problem.

The nature of the problem is very tricky.   After scrolling through the list of the 26 who were killed by the police just by mere eyeballing the list the average age of the fell somewhere in the 20’s.  For one reason or another they were shot and killed but if we should get down to the individual stories behind each the only thing that we know for sure is that they all had families and there is some level of pain, grief and loss.

If they were your family members the violent end of your loved one may influence your opinions of the police. Now imagine for a moment the spouses and children of the police officers who leave home daily to take the fight against crime to the criminals – to protect and serve the population.     While one life does not have value over the other, those who engage in murderous criminal activities does not operate on this value system.

When anger erupts because of competing narratives after the outcomes of police killings adds another so many dimensions to the issue of crime and our reactions as individuals (based on relationships) and as a society (based on media, culture) and the general direction, tone and feel of the country.     The population is being held hostage because of widespread fear of criminal behavior and activities. But the criminals are among us, they understand the fear of the population and they respond accordingly because they perceive the state (the police) to be weak.

The police operate on a system of morale like many other members of the public service.     Most people want to do their jobs and get home to their families but when violent crime is a major problem and rarely are they solved, the distribution of justice by the police in the form of shootings leaves us with even more questions than answers.     There are rogue elements in every profession – however, even though crime is high and the nation is living in fear of criminals – gunning down alleged criminals and gang members are not effective policing measures to solve crime in the short term or the long term.

It is easy to say better they gun them down than they gun down other people, but this is equivalent to saying that this is a faster way of solving crime.   If we are attributing most of the regular murders to gang-related activities and that criminals are killing criminals, when the police kill criminals we are rooting out the criminal element faster and sooner rather than later there would be no more violent crime among us.     If the policy is shoot to kill, corrupt police officers now have a license to kill indiscriminately to cover their tracks in the name of police work.

At the same token neighborhoods lash out because the police gunned down another young man and they are silent when one was gunned down because of alleged criminal activities. If the criminals are doing a better job at killing the criminals, should we make the criminals the police, are the criminals the police, certainly not all, but this nation is in confusion, too much confusion.  We are confused and sadly know one knows the truth anymore.
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New Political Party to Sweep 2015 General Election

Press Release:  Attention all editors, head of news and local T&T journalists

Party Headquarters: Room 201, any hotel

Introducing the PLG

Led by

Anil Roberts

formerly of the United National Congress of the People’s Partnership

Manifesto 

Peace, Love and Ganja

More peace, less crime
More love, less hate

“Legalize it, Grow it and Smoke It”

Taking T&T to new heights in

2015 and Beyond.

The preceding was a paid political announcement from Smoke Up T&T; the political action committee and propaganda group aimed at getting Anil Roberts elected the next Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago.
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