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The right foot forward

September 09, 2001
By Selwyn R. Cudjoe

THE National Association for the Empowerment of African People (NAEAP) has been in existence for close to four years. Many persons in our community have come to see us as a one-dimensional institution concerned primarily with ethnic advancement and group activism. Some persons have also said that we have become too political while others prefer to see us as a racist organisation. Over the years, we have accomplished much. We have conducted a Vacation School for young persons out of which about ten of our graduates have gone on to universities here and abroad. We have also conducted a basketball camp, a film festival and other such events. Yet there are those who prefer to remember us only as initiating the "Red Day(s) of Resistance."

Initiating the Red Day of Resistance has been empowering, since it allowed us to focus on some of the fundamental rights that are being threatened by the State. When we see how the State is used to carry out the will of one fraction of the uncivilised national crooks against another, then every day ought to be red resistance day since each such action works towards the further entrenchment of a police state. Thus, whether we like Unanan Persad or not, whether we like Bishop Barbara Burke or not, the co-incidence of their support for the Gang of Four and the reprisal against their property is a scary thing. It cannot be that only last week the Government learnt that Persad may have been in possession of "dangerous drugs" or that Bishop Burke may have constructed houses illegally on her compound. Yet, there seems to a feeling that if I disagree with you, I can use the army, the police, or the courts as my private enforcers and that cannot be good for our democracy. I care little for Persad and do not know Bishop Burke very well. However, I support their right unflinchingly to be treated with the same restraint and impartiality as any other member of the community.

Yet, as the UNC carries its demagoguery to new lows and the incivility of its members carry on over even into Parliament, I suspect that even Persad begins to understand what I mean when I dub the UNC the uncivilised national crooks. Even their erstwhile supporters feel ashamed of their performance, being identified with the incivility of its members and the absolute bad-mindedness of its leader. Hate Ramesh if one wills, but he is one of the hardest working members of the UNC. Pity Ralph Maraj if you must, he is one of the most decent of the gangsters, a drowning man trying to navigate the treacherous shoals of a shallow party, bereft of principles and perspectives. Yet, there was always the sinking feeling it was only time before this unfortunate conglomerate of individuals showed their true colours.

When I wrote about Panday previously and the ease with which he embraced the parasitic oligarchy, the alacrity with which he made his handstands to accommodate their wishes and the speed with which he flew off to Miami to godfather the off spring of the arch-enemy, many were contemptuous. Now, we see that he is even willing to sell off the country's patrimony just to revel in the company of the wealthy.

I also remember when my place of residence was shot at and the Latin American Human Rights Commission intervened, Ramesh was as cold as a dead fish. Oh, how I wished then, he could have been a bit more sensitive to human life. His response was callous and uncaring. There was no such evidence and Cudjoe had better chill. Now, he admits that he is human and that persons do get a bit worried when threats are made against their lives. I sympathise with his fears.

And then there is the question of the expression of one's inherent right to petition one's government not on the beaches of Las Cuevas but in the presence of our government, especially when they meet to conduct our business. Now, Ramesh acknowledges that such rights should not only be respected but, in light of his advocacy of the right to vote, he realises how zealously fundamental rights ought to be respected and enforced. Then there are his relations with his leader. I am not sure how he will sort it out. Yet, it leaves one with the sick feeling that if "they could do that to their own, how would they treat those who are not their own?" At least, that is what my neighbour tells me.

Amidst all these antics, NAEAP continues its forward thrust towards the empowerment of African people. Yesterday, NAEAP tried to alert its people to the power of financial planning, creating wealth and becoming conscious consumers. At NAEAP, we insist that the need to be introspective and the wisdom to recognise that he who swims alone, drowns alone. Responding to the excitement our conference generated, Brian Moore noted: "African people are excited by the possibilities of what can flow from what is being sparked here. The African community," he says, "has some major deficiencies but are now right to embrace proper leadership on any matter. Everything we do will not be correct but members of our community must help to put the wrong right."

Afro-Trinbagonians' prosperity must be built on the cornerstones of savings and investments. We squander too much money and consume too conspicuously. In the age of globalisation, African liberation must consist in the wise use of money instruments. We need to create more entrepreneurs, brothers and sisters who are willing to take risks so as to optimise their possibilities for a better life. The secure job and the assured salary must be replaced by brassfaceness that celebrates the creativity of being on the edge and dedicating oneself to upward mobility.

Let us not be gleeful about the missteps of the crooks. Let us put our right foot forward and utilise our God-given talents and abilities to be better than we are, to secure our individual happiness and to deepen the wealth and solidarity of the group.

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