Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 24th 2017 Contents Except for PNM-till-Ah-deads,
the public has been shocked and
outraged by the $59,000 phone
bill racked up by Tourism Minister
Shamfa Cudjoe during a four-day
trip to the Bahamas earlier this
Ms Cudjoe has offered three
excuses for her bill: (1) she didn't
know the roaming rates; (2) she
had to deal with Ministry matters
while on her trip; and (3) every
Government Minister puts their
phone on roaming when overseas.
Translated from politicese, this
means (1) "the government was
paying my phone bill so I didn't
need to find out the roaming
costs," (2) "I didn't want to miss
out on any Facebook posts/You-
Tube videos/kankatang and (3)
"My bill is small change compared
to some of them other Ministers."
Cudjoe also said that she had
ordered the Tourism Ministry
to launch an investigation with
TSTT, because apparently TSTT
is able to give the Government
information about Cudjoe's phone
charges but not the $225 million
purchase of Massy Communica-
Now according to Communica-
tions Minister Maxie Cuffie at last
Thursday's post-Cabinet news
briefing, the Bahamas roaming
rates are about 10 per cent high-
er than T&T's and, according to
TSTT's website, calling Trinidad
from other Caribbean islands
costs $1.11 per minute with roam-
ing rates of $2.25 per megabyte.
So, from the Bahamas, that works
out to about $1.22 per call and
about $2.50 per MB. Since Cud-
joe racked up $1,111 in calls and
$50,616.61 in roaming, this means
she either spoke every day of her
trip for an average of three hours
and 42 minutes or downloaded
3,000 videos of kittens doing cute
things. But the crux of the issue,
of course, is what Cudjoe actually
spoke for about nearly four hours
a day while on her trip. To answer
this question, I have reached out
to my contacts in TSTT, the CIA
and Mossad and, since they are all
imaginary, I received the follow-
ing transcripts for each day.
"How you doing?"
"You want me to get you any-
thing from the Bahamas?"
"You in the Bahamas?"
"Yes, dad, I told you I was going
to the Bahamas for a week and I
would call you."
"You not working today?"
"Yes, Daddy, I on work in the
"You gone to make roti in the
"What? Daddy, this is Shamfa."
"Shamfa, your daughter."
"I don't have a daughter name
Shamfa. What you trying to im-
ply? I love my daughter."
"You don't have a daughter
"No, my daughter's name is
"Oh, sorry, my mistake.
Your daughter has a nice name,
"Then you better find a way to
make people call you that."
"Hi, Realfa? Shamfa here."
"Hello? I not hearing you."
"This is Shamfa."
"Your sister, Shamfa."
"Your sister, Sham!"
"Yes! I calling from the Baha-
"Who you calling ah a--?"
"This is Shamfa! I am calling
from the Bahamas!"
"Yes, Shamfa. Is this Real?"
"Am I real?"
"Yes, are you Real?"
"No, I am not real."
"What? If you not Real, who are
"A figment of your imagina-
"Hello, Mama, this is your
"How you keeping?"
"Good, good, just de pain in de
"Doh use any CDAP drugs, eh.
I go get good medicine for you. I
here in the Bahamas, so I could
buy it from my expense account."
"But you just leave the house
ten minutes now. Dem planes so
"Oh, sorry, I think I have a
"You call de wrong Mama?"
"So I am not the Mama you
"No, you not the Mama."
"I could still get medicine from
"Hello, can you tell me the cost
of your dating services?"
"Our prices range from between
one hundred dollars to five hun-
dred dollars an hour."
"That in Bahamas dollars or US
"All our prices are in US dol-
"You gotta be kidding!"
"If you can afford to call this
900 number, you should be able
to afford our packages."
"I not paying for this call. I got
an expense account."
"We can arrange for our servic-
es to be charged to your expense
"But wouldn't it be itemised?"
"Not if you don't want it so."
"In that case, I got to have the
"I can get love?"
"For the right price."
"Or a full refund."
"So, let me get this straight---he
gotta love me?"
"Okay. How do we start?"
"Send your profile, including
photo, and we can get started."
"Sent. What next?"
• Email: kevin.baldeosingh@zoho.
com. Kevin Baldeosingh is a profes-
sional writer, author of three novels,
and co-author of a Caribbean history
guardian.co.tt Wednesday, May 24, 2017
THE VIEW FROM AL JAZEERA
The Al Jazeera documentary,
From Caribbean to Caliphate,
on Trinidad's seemingly outsize
per capita contribution to ISIS's
ranks wouldn't have been news to
anyone here with eyes, ears, and
average intelligence. Strangely
though, apart from a little flailing
about last week by the Attorney
General, the furore seems to have
subsided. The reason, I'd guess,
is that the fundamental facts of
the documentary can't really be
The truth is that militant Is-
lam finds a fertile field here. Its
first phase started in the 1980s
and culminated in 1990. Many
Trinidadians obsessed with "the
national image abroad" seem un-
aware this was the first salvo in
fundamentalist Islam's inevitable
confrontation with the West.
Twenty-seven years later thugs
dressed like Muslims in Trinidad
freely admit on camera to plan-
ning terrorist attacks and other
Knowing much of this in ad-
vance, Juliana Ruhfus and Dom
Rotheroe probably did come here
with a script already conceived.
But they found plenty evidence to
support it. The AG said Ruhfus in-
terviewed him at length, but none
of it appeared in the documentary.
No surprise there, as glibness and
prolixity are poor substitutes for
substance and facts when you're
talking to someone smart and
Former minister Gary Griffith
was given some time, but used it
to suggest young men and women
would join ISIS for a US$1,000 a
month salary, which is laughable.
It didn't counter the main idea
driving the story: Shane Crawford
and Fareed Mustapha, Trinidad's
first ISIS fighters, as a metonym
for a sick nation where a "rich
mix of violence, marginalisation
and disillusion (sic)" cause young
people to see solace in a glorious,
meaningful death for Islam.
This nihilism which affects
such a large part of the popula-
tion is barely acknowledged, but
it can't be dismissed. It's evident
to even an outsider. Its genesis
is in the huge underclass whose
numbers and composition official
intelligence (the CSO, government
agencies) seems clueless about.
The mood of the underclass is
evident from an article in an ISIS
magazine, where Crawford is
quoted as encouraging believers
to make Trinidadian streets "run
This appears to be a desire for
revenge more than religious fer-
vour. But revenge for what? Of
course: "oppression." The ISIS
recruits, ostensibly Afro and Indo,
didn't leave Trinidad in response
to the recent economic downturn.
They left (circa 2013) when money
was plentiful. But none of this
bounty accrued to them, hence
their retreat into Islam. Their
understanding of their plight is
articulated by Yasin Abu Bakr:
they were, he said, "the same old
slave population no one ever did
anything for. They just sit in the
ghetto and do nothing, and then
the drugs come in."
Following Bakr's explicit state-
ment, the documentary implicitly
endorses black oppression as a
reason for the spread of militant
Islam, beginning with the Jamaat
from the 1980s. The pervasive-
ness of this belief is evident not
only from the interview subjects---
Abu Bakr, his son, the gentleman
known as "Krysis," Ashmead
Mohammed, Umar Abdullah---but
also the visual language of the
documentary, in many images of
shacks, slums, squalor and ag-
gressive young black men.
And here (outside of corrupt,
malignant State institutions and
decades of unchecked illegal im-
migration creating a massive hid-
den underclass) is a major reason
for this rage which has expressed
itself in Islam: a pseudo-history of
oppression, whose main intercon-
nected themes are Carnivalism,
slavery and persistent ethnic in-
equity working against Africans.
Indo-Muslims have left for ISIS
as well, but the oppressor these
days in the minds of many Trin-
idadians is not the white world,
but the local Indian. It's a narra-
tive relentlessly repeated on talk
radio, in newspaper columns, in
academia. In last week's Express,
Selwyn Cudjoe began to beat the
drum again, saying Indians were
brought here to stymie the eco-
nomic progress of Africans.
I think the visiting journalists
understood this interlinking. The
documentary's opening shot is of
Carnival, which recurs as a leit-
motif, and the video ends with it.
But it's not seen as its apologists
intend. It is seen as decadence and
pathological escapism which en-
ables injustice and inequity, once
revellers could be jammin' still.
But paradoxically it is in the
Carnival that the theme of black
oppression finds its most con-
sistent expression and widest
platform. From the calypsoni-
ans' constant refrain of black
oppression to the re-enactment
of Canboulay, to the obscenely
funny determination to brand
it simultaneously as "national"
and African"---this assemblage of
ideas shapes the society's mindset
Here you have to ask why, in a
society with two public univer-
sities, a community college, free
education for the last decade and
more, has this moronic and toxic
complex of ideas gone unchecked
and unchallenged? How has it
gained such currency? It's not
complicated. Many academics
know exactly why Carnival was
instituted as the national festival:
to promote the Afro ethnic posi-
tion over the Indian opposition,
and they're good with that.
But academics also collude by
inaction. The present underclass
did not come from slavery. Many
of them (or their parents) came
here from the other islands in
the 60s, 70s and 80s to replace
emigrating Trinidadians. Why
has academia steadfastly refused
to investigate this? Where's the
geography of the squatter settle-
ments? The knowledge void left
by this inactivity has allowed the
mythology of oppression to flour-
ish, with the consequences we live
today. And it's a welcome accident
that the phenomenon, of poison-
ous ethnic mythology passing as
history creating massive prob-
lems, would flare up a week before
• To be continued
NOT CHEAP TALK
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