By: Jack Warner
Today I bleed for my country and the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
I would have never believed that my country would have reached the point where the poor would be abandoned. The socially displaced would have been ignored and the mentally challenged would have been treated as forgotten. But this is the place to which we have arrived in Trinidad and Tobago under the leadership of Dr. Keith Christopher Rowley.
What is sad and painful for many is that on the night of May 24, 2010, after the PNM lost the General Election to the Kamla Persad Bissessar-led People’s Partnership, the nation watched on national television the manner in which former Prime Minister Patrick Manning was humiliated at Balisier House and driven out like a dog by the people who once adored him.
On that night many believed that it was the right thing to do. Many felt that Patrick Manning had betrayed the trust of his people. He had chosen Calder Hart and minions like Utharo Rao over the people who trusted him with their vote. He took the word of Prophetess Juliana Pena and wasted the country resources to provide her with the kind of life meant for kings and emperors. And his hubris drove him to the point where the people of this country seemed valueless to him.
During the next five years, during the era of the People’s Partnership Government, many shared the view that the shift from Manning to Rowley was a good choice. Rowley sounded like a statesman, sounded like one who was prepared to reintroduce that common touch that all great leaders possessed, sounded like a man on a mission to restore this country and return it to hands of our citizens.
The shift from Manning to Rowley
But now after more than four years since he has been given the opportunity to rule, I am sure that not a single person who raised their voice in condemnation against Patrick Manning on May 24, 2010, could look back and honestly believe that the shift from Manning to Rowley was the right thing to do.
Look what we have got!
It is as though Dr. Keith Rowley has a personal war with the oil industry. A war that has resulted in the removal of all subsidies on fuel. A war that led him to destroy Petrotrin by displacing 6000 workers and placing a threat on the future of those children whose innocent parents worked assiduously believing that each was contributing to the development of our country.
Look what he has done!
After he shut the refinery down, he now hands it over to the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), the very people he accused of running the refinery down for a price he knows that is extremely oppressive to pay.
Throughout the entire transaction, as we view his movements step by step; there is not a single act that can be identified so as to indicate that Dr. Rowley is working in the interest of the poor and the dispossessed in Trinidad and Tobago.
He is yet to present a programme that would benefit the people; yet to come up with a plan that shows that he has the grassroots in mind.
Budget after budget over the past four years has been oppressive. Inflation is back at the 2017 rate. Unemployment has risen. The cost of living has skyrocketed. And even as he nears his first term in office Dr Rowley continues merrily along the way to abandon the ones who live way below the poverty line and he has not designed a plan to help them.
The little boy from Les Coteaux
One would have thought that the little boy from Les Coteaux, Tobago who grew up in poverty would have sought to emancipate his people just as Kamla showed interest in developing East Indian communities that had seemed forgotten after decades of PNM rule.
One would have thought that national revenue streams would have been created. Outstanding VAT, now in the billions, would have been collected. A proper and common sense property tax, not one predicated on how many toilets you have in your house, would have been instituted. But to date, nothing of this nature has been done.
Instead of seeing growth in the right areas, we see growth in the number of street children we now have roaming the capital. We see growth in the number of mentally challenged citizens among us. And I am not even alluding to the 69 who were rescued in Arouca by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
Instead of seeing growth of which we could be proud we see the number of homeless people increase by numbers of which we can no longer keep track. And, as I muse in regret, I sigh knowing that this is the man for whom we voted to replace the Honourable Patrick Manning, God bless his soul.
An excellent idea
For decades now there has been talk of providing a Centre for the Homeless, allocating land upon which we can erect an edifice of excellence to hide the shame that litter our city.
It was an excellent idea, a great one because if some of us spend some time trying to understand some of the situations that have brought these brothers and sisters to our pavements, we would feel the kind of unspoken empathy that words could never create.
I met a man, a very poor man, whose house was razed to the ground by fire and who lost everything. And yet no kind of assistance has been offered to this poor man who, on that fateful night, lost everything he owned except the clothes on his back.
I met a woman, a sick woman whose family ejected her in an act of cruelty after her mother died so as to get the mother’s property. Because she was not mentally stable and in spite of having legislation which would have forced the Government to take care of her, she was ignored, abandoned and left on the streets to the elements of nature.
The abuse of women
Dr. Keith Rowley does not understand the streets or maybe he does which serves as the reason why year after year in office he has failed to address the plight of the poor.
But I have listened first-hand about the abuse of women, the rapes they have had to endure and the selling of their sacred bodies to satisfy their hunger.
I have heard first-hand of the violence that is meted out to the elderly by children who play sick jokes on our unfortunate; throwing water on them while they are asleep, kicking them, committing all kinds of unthinkable acts on people who are unprotected in our society.
But instead of focusing on doing something good for once for his people, look at what my Prime Minister has done!
Whether it is China Town or Chinatown, the people of this nation really do not care because at the end of the day instead of focusing on the distribution of land to build a home for the homeless, to take them out of the squalor that has become the shame of our city, once again the poor are ignored and abandoned.
My advice to this Prime Minister has nothing to do with Chinatown at least not yet but definitely later. It has to do with the treatment of the weak and the mendicant among us.
Dr Rowley, please do not let your legacy be about the failed Sandals project or the destruction of the business community in Tobago. Do not let it be about how you destabilised the air and sea bridge during your term of office or weakened the fabric of our society with the Venezuelan invasion.
My advice is that before you demit office do something for the poor people in your country and allocate land to emancipate them from this wretched life that no Trinbagonian should be forced to live.