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Time for Change

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
February 15, 2012

I can still hear Kamla Persad Bissessar's voice as it caressed the late afternoon air at the UNC's Final Rally at Aranguez Savannah on May 22, 2010 as she offered the following paean: "Thank you to those who are here-thank you to those watching at home. Two days... We have been counting down together... And now it's just two days until we together begin to forge a new Trinidad and Tobago...I can sense we are all ready for a change...Are you ready to change our country...?"

As lovely as those words sounded Kamla did not tell us whether such change would have been for the better or the worse. Twenty months later and change has mutated into rum-shop politics where mumblings are taken for wisdom and bombast is misrepresented as policy. All of a sudden the clowns are on display reminding us of the ole mas that comes alive at this time of year.

Just think about it. When it is not Jack it's Gafoor; when it is not Gafoor, it's Gibbs; when it's not Gibbs it's Goopeesingh; when it's not Gopeesingh it's Rambachan; when it's not Rambachan it's Ghany and so the gallery of fools continue to spin their fabrication upon the national stage.

Without endorsing Naipaul's characterization of our people (he calls us a 'picaroon' society) everyone in T&T acts like a Big Sawatee showing little respect for himself or other members of the society. Each tries to get in his licks first and to hell with everyone else.

Take the latest manifestation of this behavior. Gibbs and his men raid Newsday's office to gather information on Bagoo. The same day, Gafoor is suspended from her position in the Integrity Commission. Gafoor says no one informed her of her suspension.

Stung by what seems to be a slippage in the truth, the President replies: "In the interest of clarity, the Office of the President advises that during visits paid to His Excellency the President, beginning 9th January, 2012, the matter of disharmony within the Integrity Commission was discussed with Mrs. Gladys Gafoor."

Feeling insulted Gafoor retorts: "He could do whatever he likes. He could contradict as much as he likes. I know things that I should not reveal now...Whatever His Excellency, the President wishes to say, that is his right and privilege. But I stand by my word---that I knew nothing about what his actions were going to be."

Ah could say that Gafoor says that the President lying but how dat go sound. So I think it is better to say that Ms. Gafoor believes that the President misrepresented the truth.

But the matter does not end there. The President sends out his statement about Gafoor's suspension to the Government Information Services (GIS) so that it could be disseminated to the public since the GIS falls under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The latter office takes it upon itself to replace the President's letter head with its own letter head and even changes the President's language.

Forced to retreat from this Orwellian world of manipulation and distortion, Suruj Rambachan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, assured the public that "nothing was changed in terms of content of the President's release. Though it was restructured by an officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, nothing of substance was altered in the release."

As though this lopsided thinking was not good enough-we call it the fallacy of the mistaken reversal-- Professor Hamid Ghany jumps into the fray and offers his scholarly brand of illogic. He says that Ken Gordon, Chairman of the Integrity Commission, should have been suspended after the latter and the Commission made "contradictory statements on a report on CNC3 morning talk show on December 20, 2011."

Leaping into the absurd, Professor Ghany pronounces: "That now becomes the heart and soul of the [Integrity] story. That is what led them to go after Andre Bagoo and Newsday...If you are investigating one for a reported breach, investigate the other for the contradiction. The President should have entertained Gordon's suspension at the very point the contradiction took place."

He argues further: If Newsday and Bagoo were subject to raids, then the "Integrity Commission's offices, commissioners and others should have been subjected to the same treatment." Given the logical sequence, the only thing he forgot to say was that the President's office should have been raided as well and just to complete the circle, then the AG's office should be raided also since the AG's office was enmeshed in all of this from the get go. The police corruption branch is under the AG's jurisdiction.

Reading all of this nonsense, one could not but think of the following exchange in Alice in Wonderland:

"You should say what you mean," the March Hare went on.

"I do," Alice hastily replied; "at least-at least I mean what I say-that's the same thing, you know."

"Not the same thing a bit," said the Hatter. "You might just as well say that 'I see what I eat' is the same thing as 'I eat what I see...'"

"You might just as well say, added the Doormouse, who seemed to be taking in his sleep, 'that I breathe when I sleep' is the same thing as "I sleep when I breathe.'"

In Trinidad language is not always the "persistent kind of creation and re-creation [and] dynamic presence and a constant regenerative process" that it ought to be. In the wrong hands, it comes over as a babble of fools who have lost their way and cannot tell where they are going.

But then it doesn't really matter. Since UNC and its operatives don't know where they are going, any road is likely to take them there.

And that is alright. But when the other intelligent members of the society begin to fall into the same trap one has to ask what Kamla had in mind when she declared on May 22: "Trinidad and Tobago our best days are ahead of us."

Professor Cudjoe's email address is

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