Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 1st 2015 Contents "How could people like these,
without words to put to their emo-
tions and passions, manage? They
could, at best, only suffer dumbly.
Their pains and humiliations
would work themselves out in their
characters alone: like evil spirits
possessing a body, so that the body
itself might appear innocent of
what it did." ---V S Naipaul,
The Enigma of Arrival
The clues are being dropped
for us like breadcrumbs every
day all the time. A visitor
speaks of the beauty of the coun-
try but wonders why the service
is so "sullen" or as we would say,
"sour." The truth is, in our
"callaloo" country we are sour
because we are angry and feel
picked on. Everyone feels
wronged. Hard done-by. Apart
from individual lives where people
struggle with a country that gen-
erally doesn t work---(a former
diplomat told me with an exas-
peration that he once dialled a
government ministry obsessively---
like a 100 times, so he began to
feel on the border of insanity and
still failed to get a simple response
from a technocrat). And that frus-
tration comes from a privileged
person who doesn t have to worry
about food stamps and waiting for
the crazy driving maxi taxi opera-
The average person has two to
three hours sliced out of their day
in traffic, drive past policemen
and women holding guns with
terrifying looks on their faces, and
read the papers not for news of a
nation but the latest bullet-rid-
dled corpse. (Last week s regular
fare---a 19-year-old pregnant
woman was shot, a 46-year-old
woman shot dead, her daughters
bound and gagged).
So what are the people doing?
Firstly, lashing out at politicians.
With reason. With great reason.
We are so traumatised by rising
on the corruption index, rising on
the global murder rate, with the
willy-nilly hiring and firing of
incompetent ministers who are
genuinely bewildered at their job
descriptions. On Facebook, I
objected to a particularly nasty
but cleverly done meme of the
PM with a highly unflattering
photograph (demonstrating a con-
stant state of inebriation).
I wrote: "And how does this
ridicule help the discussion of
how to move the country further.
It would have been great if you
had used this time and space to
give a voice to the voiceless, pro-
vide suggestions on how we can
deal with poverty, illiteracy and
crime or even suggested a good
Caribbean book to elevate us. It s
this sort of drivel that keeps us an
immature banana republic."
FB user: "Hun C lightens the
moment the Government is
ALREADY holding us to ransom.
Is either we cry...get ah gun or
laugh...we LAUGHING for now
!!!"I wrote back in a kind of des-
peration: "Yes we could laugh, cry
like most people in developed
countries do, work, yes work,
study, help the community, be
good fathers and mothers, do our
best and if we see the Govern-
ment doing crap become part of
lobby groups for change. Yes we
could act too."
The meme Facebooker: "You
ever know any injustices that have
been dealt with in Trinidad?
Calder Hart. Walking free. Anil
Roberts free. Volney. Free. Anand.
Free Steups get off your f******
high horse and smell your horse
Then on the FB page, people
turned on one another based on
"Can someone put in a word
for the thousands who worked,
have worked and are working, but
are locked out of the job market
because they have the wrong skin
colour, wrong kind of hair texture
or live on the wrong side of the
social divide? Ms Mathur? Any-
Someone posted a Raymond
Ramcharitar column where he
claimed that the "Dimanche Gras"
has a "a strong, noxious racial
tinge to its worldview" was
"entirely dependent on the State
for its sustenance" and concluded
that "in effect, the State is keep-
ing hate alive."
Now I know there are prizes for
chutney. And the drivel I hear
there, of more broken inchoate
songs of rum and private parts,
and the sight of prepubescent
girls wiggling their hips to enter-
tain lascivious grown men is no
better than some other state-
funded events like Kiddies Carni-
val. I agree that a lot of it is pret-
ty and innocent but in essence,
these children are growing up to
see culture from the waist down.
To his credit, the columnist
asked a question I ask almost
weekly in this space. "Why is the
State starving other arts institu-
tions and new talent of state
funding? That I agreed with.
So what are the crumbs? White
Trinis complain that they are
relentlessly persecuted for being
perceived as privileged when often
they are not, and work hard or
harder than anyone else.
There are other grievances.
Everyone sounds like children
both in language and in terms of
need. None seems to be empow-
ered. People dependent on hand-
outs said food badges were in
short supply. Social workers don t
show up. The expression was of
hatred but it was also inchoate.
That Alta number of 400,000
functionally illiterate must be
must higher. We don t read. We
are burning with rage at one
another and frozen with impo-
And because we don t have the
words, we don t see that we need
now more than ever to band
together, to pull ourselves out of
our lethargy, to reclaim ourselves.
We have misread the problem.
It s not a case of Indian, Chi-
nese, Lebanese, Syrian, French
Creole, European and Africans
persecuting one another. It s a
case of a battered nation fending
off the blows of dependency, illit-
eracy, corruption, incompetent
We have to recognise that the
racial thing is a red herring.
Another word for our collective
rage. We then have to arm our-
selves not with guns but knowl-
edge, training, study, a work ethic,
and secondly, collectively, peace-
fully, say "No" to the horse s***
being fed to us daily by those
who govern us.
May 24, 2010, was a busy day.
T&T s election: Manning out,
Kamla in. Meanwhile, Jamaica s
Prime Minister Bruce Golding sent police
and army into Jamaica s Tivoli Gardens
to pick up Christopher "Dudus" Coke,
wanted in New York for drug trafficking.
Tivoli left 76 dead---at least 44 of
them cold-blooded extra-judicial killings,
according to a 2013 report by Jamaica s
then public defender, Earl Witter.
Last month, Golding and his key col-
leagues faced a commission of enquiry
chaired by Sir David Simmons, former
attorney general of Barbados; a familiar
face from T&T s 1990 coup enquiry.
They aren t looking pretty.
One huge issue is the chain of com-
mand. If the police and army killed 44
people in cold blood, who gave the
orders? Or, was it a free-for-all---in
which case, whose hand slipped the con-
Golding says he was told of bodies
piled in the morgue on Day One, May
24. He says there s still no evidence for a
"murderous spree." But "neither can it
be said that these people died of cardiac
Representing the public defender, Lord
Gifford---a British peer who lives in
Jamaica---asked: "as the head of the
Government, the minister of defence, the
chairman of the National Security Coun-
cil, do you recognise that it was your
responsibility---the buck stops with you?"
His answer was odd: "As prime minis-
ter I have to accept responsibility," but
"that doesn t mean that I take personal
Hang on. So when he s being prime
minister, he stops being Bruce Golding?
I m trying to work that out. Any
He spoke of "weaknesses in command
and perhaps lack of supervision on the
ground." He said: "The impression I have
was that every soldier and every police-
man that was there was virtually operat-
ing on his own; that there was nobody
to say Hey, no, don t do that ."
So, were the police and army under
control? Former police commissioner
Owen Ellington told the enquiry: "It is
difficult for untrained civilians to assess
the quality, stability and strength of
command and supervision on the
ground...There was no breakdown."
But some of his evidence looks odd.
Did the security forces wear masks to
hide identities when they went into
Tivoli? Said Ellington: "To the best of
our knowledge and belief, none of the
members of the security forces wore
But Sir David says he has "a substan-
tial body of evidence" that masks were
used. One big question seems to be
missing from Sir David s terms of refer-
ence. Bruce Golding s government
received a US extradition request in
August 2009. They waited nine long
months before acting on it. Why?
Sadly, that question belongs to Dorothy
Lightbourne, Golding s former attorney
Lord Gifford told Lightbourne: "the
tragedy of Tivoli" was caused by her
ministry s "unnecessary delay." The
extradition "should have been sent to the
resident magistrate s court for determina-
That s a toughie. Lightbourne said she
held back because the US request was
based on illegal wiretap evidence. But if
it was flawed in August 2009, when it
first came, it was still flawed in May
2010, when she eventually acted.
She was asked about arson attacks on
police stations ahead of May 24. She
wasn t aware of them.
"I do not read the newspapers or
watch TV news as they are usually very
Worldwide, plenty Cabinet ministers
don t read the papers. But most have a
staff member to prepare a digest of the
If you re attorney general and someone
starts burning police stations in your
capital, you ought to know.
Then there s the US surveillance plane
which flew over Tivoli. New Yorker jour-
nalist Mattathias Schwartz used his
country s Freedom of Information Act to
track down the facts. Golding now agrees
that the plane was over Tivoli on May
24, Day One. But he says he requested
air support only on May 25.
Lord Gifford showed him a letter from
his foreign ministry dated May 18,
accepting a US offer of air surveillance.
Said Golding: "I m seeing this for the
first time. I wasn t aware of it." He
didn t think his foreign minister knew
about it either.
That s an odd way to have run a gov-
"Dudus" heard early about the extradi-
tion request, and was spotted "heading
fast" into Tivoli. Former national security
minister Dwight Nelson was asked: "Did
you try to find out who may have tipped
him off?" "No, sir." Why? "Had I
received a formal report, I would have
That s an odd way to run a security
agency. If intelligence doesn t come on
headed notepaper, it gets ignored.
Everyone knows the root cause.
Jamaica s gang-linked political violence
runs back to the 1940s. Tivoli Gardens
falls inside Golding s former Kingston
Western seat. He told the enquiry he
"cut off all communication" with Coke
in January 2008, and "stopped support-
ing his community programmes." So
before that date, they were good part-
T&T police killed 46 last year. That s
Tivoli numbers; and work for David
West. If he finds too many of them
unjustified, we too may need an enquiry.
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt March 1, 2015
BURNING WITH RAGE, FROZEN WITH INCOMPETENCE IN T&T
GOLDING'S TIVOLI GRILLING
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