If you’re looking for a country whose people are adepts at getting in their own way, then Trinidad and Tobago can win first prize for this dishonourable mention.
It’s here that two prominent females have been able to brew a harmless storm in a teacup into a raging socio-political tsunami that’s now raging across the usually tranquil twin-island Caribbean republic.
Among the many public responses emerging out of this debacle’ of words was that of Israel B Rajah-Khan SC in a letter to the Trinidad Express dated June 7, 2022.
This was followed by former Finance Minister Wendell Mottley whose letter headlined Rethinking confrontation appeared in the Trinidad Guardian on Sunday June 5.
In his contribution to the now raging debate, Khan focused on the core problem about whether Public Utilities Minister Camille Robinson-Regis had been publicly by ridiculed Opposition Leader Kamla Sushilla Persad Bissessar who had used her African ethnic origin to describe Camille as still being burdened with the name of her “British colonial slave master”.
“ After reading and digesting the historical hatred and bigotry heaped upon our East Indian forefathers, I regained the inner strength from (Dr Mahase’s text (Why should we be called Coolies) to say now that I fully support Kamla Persad-Bissessar for putting Camille Robinson-Regis in her place for attempting to belittle and shame the East Indian name bestowed upon her by culture and heritage—especially when she, Camille Robinson-Regis, still holds on to her “slave name”, Khan stated.
In another quarter, the ever-alert Olympian Mottley used the analogy of how TT driving students are still sending hand-signals from rolled down car windows in 2022, as a metaphor for “the long-outmoded systems employed in our T&T public administration, with resultant low productivity and citizen consumer dissatisfaction”.
The two references are not as diametrically opposite as they may seem at first sight since they unintentionally identify a key issue that keeps constantly slicing away at the cutting edge of this dangerously exciting, diverse society.
This is the kind of place which, on any God-given day, can reverberate like a Venezuelan nuclear device concealed under a cool canopy of coconut trees waving joyfully on the misleadingly friendly beaches on the Cedros coastline in south Trinidad.
As local calypsonian Super Blue once asked:
What is the time Mr Wolf?
It’s Bacchanal/Bacchanal/Bacchanal/Bacchanal Time!
This increasingly deepened, repeated stress on one word to emphatically make your point, is a very common tactic used by all Trinis in every walk and level of life. Which is why Power responded agitatedly in song to Jessica who kept telling him:
Ah comin! Ah comin! Ah comin!
Or when Ras Shorty I unveiled the reality of the African-East Indian dilemma as he echoed old Indrani’s pleasurable cry in the lines:
Laidlow, Me Gi am Betah
Laidlow, Me Gi am betah
Laidlow, Me gi am betah
Uh Laidlow!/Uh Laidlow!/Uh Laidlow!/Laidlow!
I still remember how, as an ethnically ignorant young clerk working among a majority Indian staff at the San Fernando Court House in the late 1960s, I was pulled aside by my Indian senior who, on observing me was listening to Indrani on his portable radio, surreptitiously pulled me square and gave me an short lecture on this nation’s real culture by telling me with a stern smile: “Laidlow means Wood! And that is what old granny Indrani is eager to collect from the black man. You understand, boy?”Isn’t that reference drawn some 54 years ago still actively relevant to the way in which Camille Robinson-Regis called the Opposition Leader when she emphatically shouted out :
Kamla Sushilla Persad-Bissessar!
Kamla Sushilla Persad-Bissessar!
Kamla Sushilla Persad-Bissessar?
This was shortly after Dr Eric Williams had rallied his people on the road to Independence with the message:
Together, the various groups in Trinidad and Tobago have suffered, together they have aspired, together they have achieved. Only together can they succeed. And only together can they build a society, can they build a nation, can they build a homeland.
There can be no Mother India, for those whose ancestors came from India….there can be no Mother Africa, for those of African origin. There can be no Mother England and no dual loyalties…..There can be no Mother China, even if one could agree as to which China is the Mother; and there can be no Mother Syria and no Mother Lebanon.
A nation, like an individual, can have only one Mother. The only Mother we recognize is Mother Trinidad and Tobago, and Mother cannot discriminate between her children
Eric Williams: History of Trinidad and Tobago So what’s the big hulaballoo about Niggers and Coolies at a time when the place is teeming with a majority of douglas, mixed-up and mixed-in people
looking like Wade Mark, Gary Griffith, Phillip Alexander and Lauren Lezama Lee Sing who don’t know that they are the anointed ones to take in Kamla and Camille by Rowley’s big black bull horns and do like Patrice Roberts who knows how to
Drink water and mind my business!
Which seems to be an apt suggestion as to how the C+B duo can best put their idle hands to use, especially at this crucial time when you can no longer stop grey hairs from peeping out from under any kind of ethnic cover.And as these two political battle axes find themselves stuck in a lonely place somewhere outside Indrani’s wood world, and between PNM Man in UNC Pause, they may consider resorting to Wendell Mottley for driving lessons using Buick 1938 hand-waving signals, or reading from the ethic texts provided by UWI’s Professor Mahase and eloquently read by SC Israel Khan.
In that way, we should all be happy to sing along with Nigel Lewis who gave us the wise advice to
Take dat an Cool it!