I do not believe that decisions made earlier in relation to the 33 in Barbados by the government of Trinidad and Tobago were based on race. It is the easiest fallback position when other considerations are not properly ventilated, to assume the worst in others. I find it more than disturbing in our society that in a moment of stress, in a moment of crisis, it will divide itself by the actions or words of a few. Putting the most corrosive interpretation and the most damaging result to very serious and important questions.
Having been in government myself, I appreciate the very difficult task, it is for a minister of government or a prime minister to create conditions and stipulations that, in their mind, is justifiable for the protection of all of our citizens. Therefore, any decision to change, amend or adjust those conditions or stipulations must be dealt with the highest level of seriousness. If anything should go wrong, they are the ones who would be held responsible and accountable.
As I and others championed the cause for citizens to have returned to Trinidad and Tobago, it was based on my interpretation of balancing what is necessary and what is doable. In relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a heinous event in our society, there are challenges that can be met by proper testing and proper quarantine procedures which we are doing now with citizens who have been infected and tested positive.
There is something that goes much deeper, as a necessity, we need to change the way we think. Over the many years, I have been making the point that the only division I wish to see in this country is between good and bad, between that which is progressive and that which is regressive, between that which would make tomorrow a better day instead of that which will place Trinidad and Tobago in a worse position.
The words of an elderly man who, in moments of great frustration, anguish, desperation, and confusion and who could not have appreciated the enormity of the decisions that had to be made and therefore, resorted to his simple understanding of what was happening have created an unnecessary conflagration. I have had several conversations with Ramdial who has indicated to me that he regrets having made that statement and that at some point in time he wishes to apologize to the prime minister and the government and to the people of Trinidad and Tobago for his unfortunate and unthought-of words.
We have to make a decision as a society that is made up of people from different socio-economic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds, and with very different life experiences, that many who do not reside here, look upon and see as a great gift, that we must live in harmony today and into our future. Instead of the divisions or distinctions, I think we have to now more than ever approach our future with the knowledge that we are here in this little twin-island Republic together. We will decide by our words and our actions today whether tomorrow that will come is one in which we will want our children to live in peace and harmony or, by our very words or actions determine that this is a place that no one will want to inhabit. We have seen the action of divisions and destruction in other countries.
Let us be wise, let us be charitable to each other. Let us be understanding of the other person’s position. As my father taught me as a child, do not judge another person until you have stood in their shoes.
Trinidad and Tobago deserve a far better level of dialogue and responses. Leadership requires forbearance and wisdom. I am reminded of the scriptural verse in Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
Division and race can destroy a society. Accepting each other and loving each other can make us a great one. We cannot interpret actions taken or words used by others as a fallback position, that it can come only from racial discrimination. There may be other innocent interpretations.
The declaration of the State of Emergency by the People Partnership government was demonized as being racist, when it came from noble intentions. Equally, I take no comfort in the suspension of recent security patrols, where some have indicated that the resistance to it was racist. Even in our prime minister’s response in today’s media, he castigated unnamed members of the opposition and lawyers with the worse of intent without a shred of evidence causing potential great harm.
In times of crisis where anxieties are high, we have to very careful that whatever we say or do will be to the benefit of all of society. Today the crisis is COVID-19 tomorrow there may be other great challenges, we must ensure that crisis doesn’t bring out the worse of us but certainly bring out the best that we are capable of. God Bless.
Member of Parliament, St Augustine
Former Minister for Legal Affairs