"Totally embarrassed", was how I felt when the PNM Chief Whip Marlene McDonald called a press conference to talk about members of the Prime Minister's family living at the official Prime Minister's residence.
Here was a big, strong African Trinidadian woman who represents a constituency, Port of Spain South, in which African youths are murdering each other on a daily basis. Drug trafficking, robberies and banditry of every form is a reality of life in Marlene McDonald's constituency. Like the rest of the neighbouring constituencies in East Port of Spain, it is her party which has traditionally won the vote. Yet, despite more than three decades of PNM governance, the despicable state of affairs prevails in those constituencies as it relates to human life.
Pure and simple, Marlene McDonald's constituency is a 'gun town'. However, maybe, the goodly lady was simply following in the traditions of her Party of bacchanal politics when she chose to lambast the Prime Minister for her family affairs. Yours truly sees nothing wrong with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissesar's sister living with her at her official residence or her family members visiting her at the said residence. When the leader of Opposition Business in Parliament could spout such venom on the issue, it shows as the late calypsonian Conqueror once sang "tabanca (political) is a hard piece of meat to eat". "Old habits die hard" and it may not be far-fetched to expect the "same old" from Marlene McDonald in the future.
Politics, it is well dealt with could be a very uplifting science of life, which could be beneficial for the masses of people. The opposite could happen, if politics is used negatively.
Recently, I heard my good PNM brother Neil Wilson in a speech to the PNM faithful describing Tobagonians associated with the People's Partnership as "traitors". Now Neil Wilson is a brother I have admiration for, due to the fact that he is a true and genuine 'loyal soldier' to the PNM. He stuck with the Party when they were down and rose with them when the times changed around for them. Also, I am pleased with his sense of business organisation. However, when as a PNMite he chooses to follow folly and desperate politics of his Party and label some Tobagonians as traitors, I have to ask him who the real traitors and haters are of the struggle to better the lives of Tobagonians.
History always serves as a guide to almost every situation, so let us look back at our political history in Tobago to find out who are the traitors of the struggle of the people of Tobago for bread, peace and justice. It is now an established fact, that APT James was a true hero of the fight for a better life for Tobagonians during the 1950s. This is why James Park in Uptown Scarborough was named after him. James 'graduated' from the labour struggles led by Uriah 'Buzz' Butler in Trinidad during the 1930s and 40s when he was a worker at the Pitch Lake at La Brea.
James forged a unity with Butler, came back to Tobago and fought and won an election on a Butler Party ticket. He later united with the East Indian based DLP Party and fought election on a DLP ticket. Butler constantly championed the cause for an improved quality of life for Tobagonians. Could Brother Neil Wilson and the Tobago PNM describe James as a traitor for uniting with Indians and Africans in Trinidad?
Let us not forget it was the founding father of the PNM Dr Eric Williams who came to Tobago and together with the then Tobago PNM supported and waged a relentless war to destroy the Tobago patriot APT James. Firstly, they tried to 'cut down' James in the 1956 elections but James stood firm and defeated the PNM.
However, Williams and the Tobago PNM were intent on ridding Tobago of their true leader and in a very questionable election in 1961 the PNM who were then in Government claimed victory over James, It has been reported by a columnist in a daily newspaper that the election was stolen from James because more votes were counted than what was on the polling list. This article was written months ago and I have not heard anyone disrupting what was written. Also many elder Tobagonians have spoken about James being robbed in the 1961 election.
Worse than that, APT James whose only crime was standing up for the rights of Tobagonians was humiliated by Williams and the PNM Tobago supporters. They called him "boo boo man"; their female supporters heckled him and conducted themselves in unladylike fashion at his public meetings.
The records will show that APT James died a few months after the 1961 elections. The popular talk among Tobagonians then was "James took on the election result and became depressed and died." Who were the traitors?
Let us examine what happened to Tobago after the death of APT James. In the General Election of 1966, Tobago voted PNM.
Again, in 1971, Tobagonians gave the PNM their vote. After 15 years of voting for the PNM, what did Tobago get? Rundown social services such as bad roads, poor water supply, no industrial development, agriculture, mass unemployment, lack of top class academic opportunities, lack of business opportunities and mass migration were the order of the day, under the PNM.
All that time, the Tobago PNM was united with the Trinidad PNM. So as the calypso say, "there is a traitor on board, examine the horns."
Opoku Ware is
a freelance writer