Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 28th 2014 Contents A26
letters on sunday Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt September 28, 2014
Vishesh Boodhai, right, offers Highway Re-route Movement leader Wayne Kublalsingh a bottle of grape
juice and chocolate on day 11 of his hunger strike outside the Prime Minister's office in St Clair, on Friday.
PHOTO: CLYDE LEWIS
REFRESHMENT FOR WAYNE
Iam writing to support
Wayne Kublalsingh s right to
starve for his beliefs---as I
believe that everyone should
have the right to express
their opinions and protest the
injustices of the world, if
they so choose, as well as the
right to end their lives, if
they so choose.
However, I think many T&T
people are too selfish and
cynical to really give a hoot
about any one man s death---
or about wider issues of
endemic corruption, or issues
of habitat destruction.
So I feel Kublalsingh is
really wasting his valuable
I m starting to think that
his starvation protest is both
extremist and ineffective in
our particular society.
Surely there are better,
more effective and creative
ways to protest a State deci-
sion or action which you feel
is unfair and/or corrupt
and/or destructive of com-
munity life and wildlife?
What about taking the
same elements of theatre and
heartfelt self-sacrifice, and
harnessing these qualities to
other more productive, and
more joyful, protest ideas:
such as, for instance, having
a ritual "performance" every
Friday lunchtime (in a public
space with lots of people),
harnessing the trappings of a
costumed ole mas band to
make some serious points?
You could give prizes for
the best designed costume,
the best expressed theme, the
best skit or robber-talk, and
document the whole thing,
putting it online or filming it,
to trigger folks to better
understand the issues, raise
awareness, and perhaps sign
Or use some other totally
different medium or cultural
expression to better get
across your message---and tie
this in to winning public
From a specific issue of the
displacement of some resi-
dents, the movement seems
to have expanded to include
issues of corruption, abusive
state power, killing of life in
the Northern Range hillsides,
and differing notions of
I have visited parts of the
village area through which
the disputed part of the
highway will pass. It seems
like an industrious, peaceful,
self-sufficient village, with
lots of greenery still intact.
There are bamboo groves
and mango trees, successful
small businesses and places
of worship. I was struck at
the lack of garbage, and the
absence of starving vagrants,
out-of-control crime and
polluting traffic---things so
common in Port-of-Spain.
That piece of the Southland
between Debe and Mon Desir
is like a pastoral Trinidad---
beautiful and green and
thriving, despite generations
of government neglect.
The people don t demand
government handouts and
don t burn tyres in the mid-
dle of the road to protest.
They help each other, and
quietly get on with working
their land and running their
I heard a villager there
comment that he didn t want
any highway to disturb all of
this---to shatter the together-
ness of the village, and bring
destructive values, urban
chaos, violence and mess into
this largely peaceful, rural,
close-knit community of
I have to agree with him.
Though I don t agree, any
more, with the starvation
form of protest.
THE RIGHT TO STARVE...
BUT AT WHAT COST?
My Republic Day was well spent.
I went to Debe to see what all the
hullaballoo was all about. Here is
what I found.
Most people didn t really care and
had no opinion at all.
Those people who were against
[the Highway Re-route Movement
proposals] were all intimately con-
nected to the UNC!
Then there was this small group
of people whose lives were being
brutally interrupted by what I could
see was an ill-conceived plan, and
who, even so, believed that the traf-
fic congestion could be solved using
What the rest of Trinidad needs
to know is that what started brutal-
ly with the destruction of the camp
by the armed forces is sure to end
If good sense does not prevail, it
will end brutally for those villagers
whose fate will be sealed when the
highway runs through their village
and their existing roads end abrupt-
ly at the highway---excommunicat-
ing one section of their village from
the other. It has already ended bru-
tally for the species of wildlife that
inhabit the lagoon.
It will end brutally for the South-
lands whose ecosystem will be for-
It will end brutally for the areas
of the Northern Range which have
been raped and indiscriminately
quarried to provide the fill for the
It will end brutally for those vil-
lages at the foothills of the North-
ern Range--- villages which will be
washed away by the deluge which
will follow the rains.
It will end brutally when that
same Northern Range cannot pro-
vide water for all, because its
watershed has been reduced by this
To say that this process of build-
ing the highway started brutally and
will end brutally is no small under-
If good sense does not prevail, it
will end brutally for Dr Wayne
Kublalsingh, whose ravaged and
emaciated body will not last much
DEBE: A TOWN DIVIDED
In the Republic Day Guardian newspa-
per, I saw another example of a good
man who refuses to remain silent while
dissembling prevails---like Derek Ram-
samooj on TV, dispelling the myth of
welfare as service to the people, com-
pared to empowering them through
their own growth and development to
better cope with an inevitable future
without gas and oil.
In this instance, it was Peter Minshall,
mas man extrordinaire, putting a com-
pelling slant on the Re-route Movement
issue by suggesting that the resistance
to the latter is simply to benefit friends
and family of the Government: if an al-
ternative route were chosen, the mone-
tary benefits accruing from the demands
of preparing the present site would sud-
Amazing, but coming from a man like
Minshall, we are bound look up and won-
der!My concern is not so much with the
alleged dissembling to raid the public
purse, but at the fact that there are men
in this country like Ramsamooj and Min-
shall who can point to the many "incon-
venient truths" that lie beneath the chaff
of seeming good intentions which so
many are prepared to accept without
We can understand simpleminded
grassroots people taking things at face
value---but when the intelligentsia do so
to avoid compromising the patronage
they seek with the Government, then
what hope is there for a better tomor-
A nation's character is built around
men like Ramsamooj and Minshall.
There are too many around us who
are ever-ready to sacrifice the truth for
self-interest, which is why I am excited
by the progressive stance of these men.
They are flickers of light in this all-con-
suming darkness of dissembling and de-
ceit, patronage and privilege.
If there others like them---I am sure
there are---one day we shall truly "rise"
as a people.
Dr Errol Benjamin
Flickers of light in the
darkness of deceit
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Highway Re-route Movement members protesting last October.
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