Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 25th 2015 Contents Why write? "I don't remember
deciding to become a writer. You
decide to become a dentist or a
postman. For me, writing is like
being gay. You finally admit that
this is who you are, you come
out and hope that no one runs
It s time I came out of my
book closet. What it was like
all those years about wanting to
write a book, about talking about
writing and reading in a country
where barely anyone reads. Why
I went away for a year to learn
to write a novel.
If Barry Padarath, the MP for
Princes Town, refused to be
intimidated to silence after being
called "princess" by Sport and
Youth Affairs Minister Darryl
Smith during the budget debate
last week, then it allows more of
us to stand in the light, be our
Instead of slinking away,
Padarath called Smith on his sly
remark that only suggested
homophobia, and openly called it
what it was---"bullying". This is
when I was most heartened by
my people. Instead of jumping
on the picong and homophobic
bandwagon was a barrage of
criticism levelled against Smith
for his nasty remark across social
media, non-governmental organi-
sations and the Coalition Advo-
cating For Inclusion of Sexual
Orientation (Caiso) group, lobby-
ists for the LGBT community in
T&T. That there are such organi-
sations in T&T is also hearten-
Now that we are showing signs
of moving towards a more open,
liberal and humane society, I too
want to come out. As someone
who loves reading and writing
more than the sea, more than
soca, more than fetes, more than
food or football. For decades I
have tried to fit in. In some
senses I have. Journalism has
given me access into the bowels
of our country. I ve seen pan on
cool Christmassy nights, and
danced to soca in the rain, and
felt exhilarated by Carnival. But
that was always a tiny part of
I got some of that yearning to
be amongst people who love
books and ideas out in this col-
umn over the last two decades,
but what I ve always wanted to
be is a novelist which is almost
the opposite of journalism. You
need to slow the story right
down, the climax comes towards
the end, and there is redemption.
In journalism we scream the cli-
max out in the headline.
This last year in London has
been scary for me as an island
woman away from the familiarity
how we move , the chameleons
that we are, the fact that we can
wine down to the ground but
scarcely tell people the truth of
who we are. I interviewed the
whores and went wading into
the Beetham, into hospices where
there was no morphine, and
stood amongst boys who were
living and some dead by the gun.
I understood early on moving
to Trinidad that it was weird to
talk about books. "So what are
you reading now?" brought a
blank stare. Equally, talk of
cricket and band launchings and
Christmas curtains bewildered
me. I found consolation in the
depth of our people, the
resilience, the tolerance, the
unique wit, the cunning insight
that could be found in everyone
from the judge to the doubles
But I did find I couldn t come
out about books. I must reveal
that my husband s library
induced me to marry him in a
shot in my first year in Trinidad.
By then, I had seen too many
houses---some with marble floors
and imported Italian kitchens,
others on stilts, but no books.
That sprinkling community of
book readers was revealed later.
We are now a growing literary
community thanks to the Bocas
festival, the film festival, the
burgeoning of the arts. Yes, there
are curious arty people who see
the pan and doubles, and shark
and bake, but also the passion of
reading and writing.
There was another reason that
I remained in the closet about
books. In Trinidad, talking about
books felt obscene, as if I was
talking about caviar when people
were starving. We have been
starved in a way, of humanity,
and if I didn t write about that I
wouldn t be a proper journalist.
So instead of writing about
book prizes, I wrote about blood
dripping from the ceiling as
women s throats were slit, of the
beheaded man, of the drowned
and brutally raped boy.
It s happened again. I wanted
to talk about the walks you can
do in London, the stomping
grounds of Shakespeare and
Dickens, Bronte, Wilde, and the
Bloomsbury set. I wanted to
write of the terror of inviting
strangers into the work you care
more about more than anything,
and find generosity, critiques that
don t crush but push you to be
But I can t, not just yet,
because the first thing I saw
when I opened my laptop this
morning was the murder of a
British man and his partner in
Tobago. Yet, another double
murder of a foreigner that has
made world news.
I have come out of a closet full
of books. I am not one for
politicians, but the Padarath
incident made me see that
Trinidad is burgeoning and there
is now room for all sorts, includ-
ing the fringe literary community.
It also showed me that so much
of what we can be is stifled lit-
erally by fear of the next murder.
Our brutality, verbal and physical
crowds out almost everything we
can be. That s why we are a
gridlock nation and when there
is movement, it s one step for-
ward, and two steps back. Bru-
tality stopped me writing, and
humanity will bring me home.
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt October 25, 2015
"Could be a second Angola,"
an ExxonMobil source last
week told Upstream magazine.
That s Guyana s offshore oil dis-
covery. Angola produces close to
two million barrels a day, around
the same as Nigeria.
In August, T&T was producing
ExxonMobil announced its
Liza-1 oil find in May. Then they
They re talking a 2018 start-up
with 60,000 barrels, ramping up
quickly to three times that
amount. They will use a floating
production storage and offloading
vessel, with no time-consuming
ExxonMobil plans four wells
offshore Guyana next year. That
will cost perhaps US$800 mil-
Half a dozen rigs are moored
in Trinidad waters. Once con-
tracts and equipment are sorted,
they could be up and drilling
within days. There s talk of a
For Guyana, the next two years
will be difficult. Beyond that, it
looks like an oil boom.
For 40 years, Guyana has been
Caricom s laughed-at loser. Des-
perate Guyanese take low-end
jobs---if they get past surly
That could quickly reverse.
Guyana could be the long-
spurned cousin, suddenly suc-
cessful and sought-after.
T&T s energy service industry
has already won Guyanese off-
shore business. We ll see more of
Companies like ANSA McAL
and Republic Bank have invested
in Guyana. If Guyana booms,
those investments will bring div-
idends. If T&T s own economy is
set for trouble, Guyanese busi-
ness will matter.
The problem lies with Caracas,
and its spurious claim to two-
thirds of Guyana.
Liza-1 and Ranger lie offshore
from land which is indisputably
Guyanese, even if the Venezuelan
claim made sense. But right after
ExxonMobil s May announce-
ment, Venezuela s president
Nicolás Maduro claimed those
Since then, he has trekked
around Caricom, offering sweet-
ies. Quite what he expects in
return has not been spelt out---at
least not in public.
Just over a week ago, he went
to Suriname. He agreed to give
them 150 prefabricated houses
and a rice export deal.
He went to Antigua, where he
finalised a 25 per cent stake in
the troubled West Indies Oil
Company. He agreed to set up a
regional bank, and build a joint-
ly-owned Simon Bolivar resort.
Antigua will become an "entre-
preneurial socialist" state.
He went to Grenada where he
offered to negotiate a maritime
boundary, to help start oil and
gas exploration, and establish a
regional economic zone. He went
to St Lucia. His government
meanwhile sent a threatening
letter to the Canadian owners of
a new Guyanese gold mine.
Last month, he went to
Jamaica, St Kitts-Nevis and
Dominica. In August, his vice
president was in Belize.
Also last month, Venezuela
signed yet another agreement
with T&T on Loran Manatee,
taking proposals for cross-border
gas a step forward.
Back home, Maduro faces a
National Assembly election on
December 6. His opponents have
a massive opinion poll lead---but
the electoral system is loaded to
favour his party.
Whatever the outcome,
Maduro remains president. But if
he loses control of the National
Assembly, he would be fighting
for his political life, exposed to
the threat of a recall referendum.
Nobody with a cash-strapped
economy breaks off a close-
fought election campaign to do a
Caribbean cheque-writing tour
unless there s something to gain.
Just what, though?
Let s take the January scenario.
ExxonMobil is drilling. Maduro is
still president. The Opposition
narrowly controls Congress. It
has already accused Maduro of
being soft on Guyana.
Does Maduro make a grand-
charge speech? Almost certainly,
yes. But after that, what s next?
Does he back off and do noth-
ing, to taunts from the Opposi-
tion? Or does he send in his
On the navy option, there is
form. Two years ago, in October
2013, the Venezuelan navy
"arrested" a survey ship working
for US oil company Anadarko
inside Guyana s Exclusive Eco-
nomic Zone. They forced it to
set course for the Venezuelan
island of Margarita.
It s not just Venezuela and
Guyana. US-owned ExxonMobil
holds a 45 per cent stake in
Liza-1; another US company,
Hess, has 30 per cent. The
remaining 25 per cent is held by
a subsidiary of China National
Offshore Oil Corporation. They
won t want to lose their cash.
Venezuela s oil industry is
deeply in debt to China. In a
face-off, China will have to
decide where to jump. And so
T&T A GRIDLOCK NATION
MADURO OR GUYANA? CARICOM'S CHOICE
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