Worse the Leader of the Opposition has taken up from the Report of the Artists Coalition that there were serious flaws in the construction of the National Academy for the Performing Arts. The whole shebang according to the Minister, was nothing less than “to create public mischief.” Whatever Minister McDonald’s feelings about the National Academy for the Performing Arts, whatever her loyalty to Mr Manning and to Mr Calder Hart, it is highly unusual for a Minister to address an institution set up by actors in the area of her own Ministerial competence in this way.
But what about the Pat Bishop story. There are some people in any society, who are recognised as somehow reflecting the society’s vision of the best of themselves. Pat Bishop is one of these “Icons” they are sometimes called. One cannot pull rank over these social Icons: they are outside of our categories. This needs to be stated and re-stated in the event that politicians own self-ranking creates its own reality to the impoverishment of our society.
A week or so before the news of the Minister of Culture — Artists broke, there were the remarks of Minister Dick-Forde. We had “hounded” an individual, a citizen, Mr Calder Hart, to our shame and to the danger of the nation’s “soul.” I found myself thinking wickedly that the nation could not have much of a soul, if the “hounding” of one man however severe endangers it. And even if we take the “hounding” of Cipriani and Richards in Albert Gomes “The Beacon,” the “hounding of Gomes, Bryan and Tang, in the first political campaign that the PNM fought the “hounding” in the struggle against the ONR, the “hounding” of Robinson in 1990 and 1991, the hounding sagas within the UNC and so on. This “hounding” does not take place in a vacuum. It usually takes place where information is available only in bits and pieces outside of a coherent framework and over a longish period of time. It is this, and not “hounding” per se, which provides the snow-balling effect.
The second problem with “hounding” is that of “resignation.” In most countries there is either a fixed number of terms for a Prime Minister or an Executive President, or there is a strong if informal tradition of resignation. We have neither. We do not have the fixed term and only one repeat, of the American system. We do not have a tradition of resignations even when the Political Leader of the party has seen his policies rejected by the majority of the population. “Hounding” becomes the mechanism through which resignations are obtained and a space is created within which democratic choice may be reasserted.
In the case of Calder Hart and Udecott his twinning with the Prime Minister, the defacto elimination of intermediate structures, in this case the line Minister, between Calder Hart and the Prime Minister, were important factors in the “hounding.” When the “hounding” statement is taken together with the comments of Minister Dick-Forde, I am left with two impressions. Firstly, it seems that ministers see themselves as only the executing agents of the Prime Minister’s policies and wishes. These policies and wishes they see as radically valid. It is this which makes opposition likely to be seen as “creating mischief.” The real order is “verily verily I say unto you.”
Secondly, the institutions are seen as in some way belonging to the Prime Minister who is then the benevolent or fatherly “leader.” The benevolent leader as it is now emerging is nearer more modern forms of absolutism. Few, if any have lasted.
When Mr Manning says “development” he means what used to be prudently called “infrastructure” until the economic crisis of the last 18 months. This put into question the model of development represented by an over-reliance on any form of property development. The countries hit hardest were those whose economies were dependent on property development and for financial speculation. This was spectacularly so in the case of Dubai which only escaped bankruptcy through the massive intervention of other Gulf States. What has been absent from Mr Manning’s speeches has been engaging with the people of Trinidad and Tobago and with their history except in terms of potential voters at the next election. Well could Verna Greaves St Rose weep. In most European countries figures for recidivism are taken into account when assessing how well Governments are dealing with crime. They are not here. They therefore do not enter that public debate which can affect electoral chances. It isn’t only recidivism. We know, and Prof Deosaran as well as Fr Clyde Harvey have stressed it, that crime and gang membership is highly correlated with a low level of literacy and of comprehension. We also know, or ought to know that schools serving our poor areas are often also “poor,” that teacher absenteeism is likely to be greater than in middle class areas and that these schools are likely to do badly in SEA exams. And yet there is nothing to make me believe that the elimination of poverty, supposedly a national priority, is reflected in the country’s education policy. Part of the reason is there in Mr Manning’s 53 minute speech on Church and State. It is there underlying the comments of Minister Dick-Forde and Minister Marlene McDonald.
Continuing the Colonial Model
In his 53 minute speech, ostensibly on Church and State but in reality a defence of the granting of land to his Spiritual Adviser for the purpose of constructing a $20 million or $30 million church or cathedral, Mr Manning listed the amount of money given to other churches. The predominance of religions in education was the result of the failure of the Government in the 19th century. In 1870 a colonial government decision was taken that governed a dual educational system. At secondary level the Colonial Government left education largely to the religious denominations. It was religions who took the first steps in providing education in the Colony. It was not until 1857 that serious moves were made to establish QRC. No other Government Secondary School was founded until 1953. The truth is that whether it is education or social services the Colonial Policy of the “on the cheap” particularly for the poor, was the governments real policy. Mainstream religions were only convenient whipping boys.