January 11, 2001 By Keith Smith

Show them, T&T

AS I write, I am hearing behind me the panellists, who had, on TV6’s invitation, found time to talk about the current constitutional impasse, a formal representation, if you like, of the talk limes that have been going on in the country both before and after the election, but given point by the two dramatic interventions made by the President over the last two politically sensational weeks.

The ruling (well, in a manner of speaking) UNC had declined the invitation but that did not mean the party or the administration (again, in a manner of speaking) did not have people there to represent its view and it struck me that much of what I was hearing from the 12th floor of the Crowne Plaza from the high, as it were, I had heard in the streets on the ground, as it were.

If the language of the panellists was naturally more formal than the language on the streets, the arguments were similar and it struck me, not for the first time, that all levels in the society were engaged in the talk, the country joined in looking at itself in a real way for, perhaps, the very first time.

It has been said that the issue is dividing the country and that is true but only in the sense that it has brought to the boil, the divisions that, previously, had been simmering and I, for one, taking the measure of it, look beyond the troubles of the time to the triumph that may yet be.

I have to say “may” because I don’t know how the thing will go, both in how it will be resolved and the very process of that resolution and I can understand the sense of unease that is all about the country, people, instinctively, nervous about the seeming instability in a place that has long convinced others that it is an oasis of stability.

Before the big questions that have been unleashed, it is quite natural that we, in our somewhat unthinking innocence, should bend a little in the knees, but I find myself encouraged both by the restraint that continues to be displayed and the fact that the protagonists now occupying centre stage seem to have been historically selected if not to bring the thing to a dénouement certainly, to hasten it along.

All kinds of questions arise and not only those that are being asked either, so that while, on the one hand, people are taking positions vis-a-vis the Prime Minister and the President, on the other, they are asking another subset of questions, not least among them, being the people who are chosen to represent them and exactly what does that representation require.

Who would have thought that we would ever see the like and what does it mean that, precisely, when we have come to this pass Mr Panday and Mr Robinson are the people who, in their different ways, have brought us to it, the politics and personalities of the two men being so germane to the drama that I, for one, cannot think of any two other players who could have so consummately been chosen to be players in the piece.

I mean, after all the convulsions of ’37 and beyond, we find ourselves at what, one way or the other, will perhaps be the most telling point of departure none of the previous fits and starts having so involved so wide a citizenry, the issue being more than labour, more than colour, more than Laventille, more than Felicity, more than Trinidad, more than Tobago, more than politics, more than clan and community which is not to say, of course, that these elements are not contained therein.

Wisdom is the wish, of course, but wisdom does not descend like magic but has to be worked at and I have to take heart in the knowledge that, innocent though we may have been, it cannot be said that we lack experience, the history of this place having served to prepare us for the distillation that, without a doubt, is going to take place.

Nor do I think, either, that we do not have the people. Already, we are finding out that people are not as uncaringly selfish and materially individualistic as they have been made out to be. At least, no more or no less than people elsewhere. At least, I think so and one thing, for certain, is that over the next few days and weeks and months and, yes, years, we shall know. Show them, Trinidad, what, indeed, you are made of.

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