Thursday, November 22, 2012

From our archives - Progress means some inconvenience

FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2012

Commentary: Progress means some inconvenience

The demolished Highway Re-Route camp in Debe
The overwhelming response to what happened Wednesday at the Highway Re-Route Movement camp in Debe has been negative. Long before anybody knew the facts Jack Warner had become the demon, attacking "poor innocent folks".

I'm always bothered by such knee-jerk reaction. And having read reports from both sides of the story and knowing some of the background from writing about it, I think people are shutting their eyes to reality.

Jack claims that Wayne Kublalsingh slapped a law enforcement officer; Kublalsingh says that's not true. However, Kublalsingh has corrobrated Jack's story that he was there to try to prevent the soldiers and police from demolishing the camp.

Kublalsingh has also suggested that what happened Wednesday would solidify a political movement against the government. That has not got a lot of airplay.

Kublalsingh is getting support from known political players, especially the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) and its most vocal member, the Oilfield Workers' Trade Union (OWTU). It is common knowledge that the OWTU has vowed to do all it can to bring down the government and Kublalsingh has boasted that the support of the union would strengthen his political muscle.

Political partners determined to bring down the government - Wayne Kublalsingh and Ancel Roget. "This new political formation will defeat the political elite": Kublalsingh

These facts are mostly absent from most of the media reports and the online condemnation of the minister and the State.

If you pause and reflect on this movement and scratch the surface you will find beneath a political movement that is determined to do whatever it can to cause the fall of the People's Partnership government. And it is using people as pawns in its game, many of whom sincerely believe the whole issue is about them.

Sure there are some people who would prefer not to move. After all they have lived in that stretch of land for generations and have built their lives around it. But there are others who are ready to move. And Kublalsingh and company are preventing them from doing so, in effect violating their rights. 

Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, who has now joined this protest political group, is the one person who should remember that sometimes you have to get out of the way for progress.

He and Hulsie Bhaggan fought in much the same manner to block the Guaymare section of the Uriah Butler Highway more than two decades ago, burning the constitution and holding protests over an extended period of time. In the end the state won and after years of unnecessary delay, the government built the highway, which everyone has welcomed.

When Jack was the Works Minister he suspended work on the disputed Mon Desir/Debe section of the highway to Point Fortin to allow technocracts to have another look to see if the route can be changed. He agreed to temporarily stop work entirely in that section.

That was more than a reasonable compromise. But what did Kublalsingh and his supporters do? They insisted that they would set up camp and try to bully the state into letting them have their way. That is not how you conduct a negotiation. Still the authorities didn't bother them. Then they pulled the Indian Arrival Day stunt in Debe, trying to embarrass the Prime Minister. That also failed.
It is clear that they were not interested on a compromise; they would have it their way or no way. So when the issue came up this week both Jack in his new incarnation as National Security Minister and the new works minister, Emmanuel George, decided to do something about it. And they did!

The state must take decisions that appear harsh at times in the interest of the wider population. You might recall a squatters land grab at Cashew Gardens in central Trinidad. People were just moving in and putting up homes on State lands hoping that the government would just give in. It didn't work. 
Demolition of squatter's home in Cashew Gardens
Roodal Moonilal read the riot act and moved in. The tough action was condemned but in the end the problem was solved. There is a right way and a wrong way to do things and all that the state was saying is that if you want land and housing do it the right way. And Moonilal as the housing minister is working with the Land Settlement Agency to help everyone who needs a home.

The digression is important because it addresses an inherent lawless attitude among our people who feel that all they need to do is burn tyres, block roads and set up camps - all illegal activities - and they would get their way. And the problem is compounded by those who have a strong anti-government agenda, hoping that such civil action would undermine the government and cause its eventual fall.

Whatever the merits of the Highway Re-Route Movement, the fact remains that the State has an obligation to conduct its affairs without hindrance. Having offered to study the proposals and having halted the project, a responsible group would have waited for the result before escalating their action. But that didn't happen. And there are reports that some people in the community have been threatened for failing to support the re-route agenda.

It's important to look at the whole picture. Did Jack, Colin and the law enforcement officers break the law? It doesn't appear so, but if they did then there is a way to handle that as well. 
Jack himself has said so. "If any laws have been breached, there are ways of having that resolved. My advice has been and continues to be that the lands belong to the Government and the campers are occupiers and they are there illegally and therefore the best advice I can give is the one given to me by the Attorney General, which is that they are there illegally,” he told reporters. 

The People's Partnership government has made it clear that it wants to develop the country - the whole country, not just the urban areas. 

It means that to do this some people would have to make sacrifices and compromises. Those who live along the path of the new highway have been offered fair compensation and some of them are happy to accept it. 

But Kublalsingh and his supporters are not interested in compromise and solutions. Theirs is a political movement determined to overthrow the present administration. And in that case the State has every right to protect its interest on behalf of all its citizens.

Jai parasram | Toronto 28 June 2012

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai