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The Sun Also Rises

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
August 18, 2010

When Kamla Persad Bissessar took her oath of office she swore on the Bhagavad Gita, one of the holiest scripts of the Hindus. As a Yoruba man, I am not as acquainted with the Gita as I should but true to my bifurcated beginning I was taught something about the Holy Bible. I like the King James Version of the Bible and receive great spiritual sustenance there from.

I was always taken with Ecclesiastes in which the Preacher David who reflected on the foibles of men. He exclaimed: "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity./What profit hath a man of all this labor which he taketh under the sun?/ One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever."

I cannot help but think of David's sentiment as Kamla and her ministers strut about the national (and the international) stage; seeming adrift with nothing serious to offer the country. One looks for direction but it isn't there. Apart from occasional acts of generosity (a few thousands here and a few thousands there), the question remains: where are they taking the nation?

They couldn't wait to see the back of Manning and the PNM. They accused them of hubris, arrogance and squander mania. But what can we expect of the PP (People's Partnership)? They committed themselves to a "Memorandum of Understanding" but, apart from agreeing to agree, no one knows the substance of that agreement.

After three months vanity (the quality of being empty and valueless) has replaced hubris (exaggerated pride); ordinariness (deficiency in quality) has replaced arrogance (an attitude of superiority); and flippant prolificacy (careless spending) has replaced squander mania (spending foolishly). This leads us to ask: where's the beef; what's the plan?

When Kamla took office she blanked Hilary Clinton, the US secretary of state, because she had not been sworn in yet. Then she went to Jamaica, partied a bit and then went off to Miami to see her sister; just another leisurely week in the life of a prime minister. Then, she really could not miss the pageantry of the India Day Parade in New York.

For good measure she took along one quarter of her Cabinet (six ministers) with her. Nothing like bonding in the Apple and clubbing until dawn. I am sure that the Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs met with the youths of New York. It is a large borough and contains many youths. The Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism was certainly in his glee. New York is the Mecca of the arts so he made many profitable contacts. I dreamt that Mike Bloomberg, New York's mayor, walked our Minister of Public Finance through NYC's $63 million budget and told him about the painful cuts the city has to make. Since the PP is preparing its budget it was a sensible thing to do.

This mission also had untold value for the other ministers as well. Being in New York City, during in the summer, is really the most propitious place to be and best possible way for our newly elected officials to spend our money.

Needless to say, when in Rome one always does what the Romans do. So, it was not a surprise that the delegation met with the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) and the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA). With a straight face Deosaran Bisnath, president of the Trinidad section of GOPIO, reminded us that Kamla's visit "could possibly open the gates to stronger bilateral ties between the tiny island nation and the eastern giant" which leaves this viewer to ask: why should Kamla go to New York to visit GOPIO to strengthen bilateral ties when she unceremoniously blanked Hilary at a forum that is designed to do exactly that.

Her visit to FIA was just as successful. Biserath informs us that it is "one of the largest and most powerful umbrella organizations in the Indian community" from which I am sure untold blessing would flow. Bisnath also reprimands us. He asserted that "too many of us see 'Indian' and 'African' in T&T context-loaded with connotations of race and tribal politics; the world out there does not. Trade and investments flow to the best locations, regardless of race, nationality, etc." Kamla, he says, "grasped the opportunity to showcase T&T before such a large and important audience, internationally, and not just Indians."

And so we are faced with a paradox. An organization this is dedicated to protecting the rights of Indians tells us that we must not talk about Indians and Africans any longer and an economy that was down in the dumps under the PNM is now one of the "better locations" into which trade can flow, regardless of race.

Two years after the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) won the Federal Elections in 1958 Badase Sagan Maraj, the leader of the DLP, was badly beaten in the 1961 election which led eventually to his political demise.

Kamla has been in office for three months but she has spent three weeks or a quarter of her term on vacation. Next month she goes to the United Nations to speak about the intricacies of a government that she hardly knows. One really wonders how long can this continue; when in fact she will get down to do the people's business. It is nice to travel and vacate. It is equally as important to do the people's work which is what she should be dedicating her next months in office to.

But we need not worry. Preacher David was right after all. He said: "The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose."

My mother was just as wise as David. She use to say, "what you sow is what you reap." It might be too early, but let us hope that the people don't come to the realization that PP might just want to have a longer, more permanent vacation.

"Go 'long Madame Prime Minister!" Remember that what's good for the goose is also good for the gander. There is no good reason why they should support in one what they despised in another.

Professor Cudjoe's email address is

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