That’s dangerous, Madam PM
Published: 3 Nov 2010
“There are dangers to this country’s economy, to its image and to the regional integration movement associated with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar being so hard-nosed about giving assistance to our Caricom partners on the basis of this country getting something in return from lending a hand in a time of need. As with her comment of T&T not being an ABM for Caricom, this statement requiring a pound of flesh for assistance can seem to be offensive and demeaning to our Caricom neighbours. Assistance to countries which are victims of natural disasters is a well-established practice in international relations, even between and amongst countries geographically, culturally and politically far apart as Argentina and the New Hebrides in the South Pacific. More so for Caribbean countries with deep historical ties, cultural, familial and economic trading links; frankly, countries which are tied together in their economic and social future.”
This was the start of an editorial in today’s newspapers, the Express had a similar tone, Newsday of course chose to say nothing. My two cents for what it's worth, I was hugely incredulous that she had made the comment. Several months ago when the Honourable PM made the comment in Jamaica that TnT was not the Caribbean ATM I was similarly aghast, especially since the goodly lady later pounced on a microphone and conducted Karaoke night complete with dancing careless of the insult she offered to our trading partners.
As Marge would say, this is simply Not Done. When people need your help you help. The comments on Facebook, on-line versions of the newspapers, blogs etc were instructive. They underlined the divide in our maturity levels. For example, random comment, the person posted their name but I won’t use it here;
“Hang on a minute, has anyone ever been to these countries to see the second rate status many of our products manufactured or made in T&T is given? While you're at it, try walking the streets of Jamaica with a Red, White and Black flag on your chest and you will understand. You see more Jamaican flags on Frederick and High Street in a day than you would ever see in Jamaica in a month. The blanking has been going on for a long time now, it's nothing new, only she has the guts to speak up about it. “
What does this have to do with anything? If your neighbour’s house was burning, would you only agree to run your hose if they were your friends? This is not the time for hard feelings. Fortunately this type of comment was in the minority. Mostly Trinidadians near and far were appalled by the statements and were trying to reassure their Caribbean counterparts that we weren’t all thinking in such small-minded terms.
For the record, in my travels through the Caribbean, by far and large the products mostly found in supermarkets etc, Trinidadian. And so what if they are not as prominently displayed abroad, we don’t promote other people’s products over ours either. I’m sure that the manufacturers are even now quietly getting together shipments to affected countries all the while holding their heads and praying that the fall out will not be a total washout. If they haven’t already they should consider it. What if Caricom really decided to take their business elsewhere? Are we prepared for that exigency?
What this latest brouhaha speaks to is that all politicians have to learn that they cannot use every situation as a political tool to batter their opponents There are times you have to rise above the urge and be a bigger person. In the end you will win, you’ll appear compassionate and a statesman. Diplomacy and tact are not bad words, no matter what personal opinions you have, you must watch your words, they represent more than you.
The fall out has been swift and amazing, BBM, Facebook, Twitter, it’s everywhere and people are weighing in from all over the world. Many of us have family and friends living “up the islands” who have been communicating the varying degrees of shame and distaste; it's a sad day for Trinidadians.