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CABRERA: HOW INDEPENDENT ARE WE?

posted 30 Aug 2013, 19:59 by Gerry Kangalee
Vincent Cabrera, the President of the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union issued the following  statement on the occasion of T&T's fifty first anniversary of independence:
 
A National Parliament, a National Flag, a National Anthem, National colours, National birds, National flowers, a few forgotten National songs, pyrotechnics, a parade of the security forces and paramilitary forces and the bestowing of Natiional Awards. 

Is this the extent of our Independence? When the Union Jack was lowered for the last time on the 31st of August 1962, the overwhelming majority of the people had such high hopes. Today some fifty-one years later as we celebrate another Independence Day, the achievement now seems hollow and lacking in real meaning to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. 
 
The political parties that administered governance for more than half of a century have all failed to fundamentally transform the system of governance in our twin island State. The British left us with a colonial Constitution and a colonial Parliament, designed to oppress national interests. Since the granting of political independence precious little has been done to broaden our democracy. Instead, laws like the Summary Offences Act and the Industrial Relations Act have been passed to limit the democratic rights which the people enjoyed under colonial administration. While the political system in Britain has kept up with the times, by applying legislative reform, we have held on to essentially the same formula for governance. In fact our system of governance continues to be characterized by a Prime Ministerial dictatorship and cabinet rule over the Parliament. 
 
Nearly every post colonial territory which emerged from British colonialism sought to encourage State ownership over the strategic industries, which were then owned exclusively by foreign interests and a clique of super rich nationals who experienced great trepidation when our national flag replaced that of the British. The trade union movement actively campaigned for the post colonial state to move in this direction. Trinidad and Tobago was not unique in building up a stock of nationally owned enterprises which provided a means of achieving economic independence and economic restructuring of what was essentially a colonial economy described as “a British plantation economy.” 
 
We have now begun to see serious reversals to the gains made since 1962. In this respect, the past NAR government and what remains of the original People’s Partnership government, have engaged in a process of privitisation of nationally owned enterprises. The economic policy of the present government is one which promotes the de-nationalization of the entire economy. In this respect, no one in the government, including NJAC, which was in the leadership of the struggle for national ownership in the 1970’s, have stood up against this anti-people stance by the present government. 
 
As we celebrate this Independence Day, BIGWU wishes to remind the nation that the validity of our independence should not be based merely on symbols and parades. While these are important in the overall context of the post colonial period, the real measure of our independence is how much economic power we are able to exercise as a nation, how we have dealt with inequality in the society and how governance has benefitted the people in general. An objective analysis would inevitably show that we have fallen down on the job, which we were required to perform since 1962. 

How independent are we really, when babies and children continue to perish at our nation’s hospitals? How independent are we when our political leaders seek medical treatment in foreign medical institutions while we the ordinary citizens have no choice but to suffer the indignities and frustration which are involved in accessing medical care in Trinidad and Tobago? BIGWU joins with the nation in celebrating our anniversary of independence, but with falling and failing national standards and a horrific murder rate we do so with great foreboding and a general realization that there remains a massive task ahead of us, if we are to provide real meaning to the achievement of political independence by Trinidad and Tobago. 
 
Vincent Cabrera
President
BIGWU
30/8/2013
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