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The Union frequently comments on events or receives news of general interest and these are documented on this page.

BACKHOE? by Rae Samuel

posted by Gerry Kangalee

So there is another video out there of another parent 'disciplining' a child with a shovel. What amazes me is that some of the strongest supporters of the mother who 'disciplined' her daughter for the 'selfies' she posted on Facebook and posted same, these very avid fans of corporal punishment are now saying "Nah, she should not have used a shovel''. 

I have been asking them "Why not?'' Licks is licks! The rationale used the last time was that the level and form of violence is relative to the perceived threat. So if the present #1 video "Barbarism Gone Wild'' is a step up from "Brutality Gone Wild'' we have to accept it on the same principle. That is why I am sure the next viral video will show the use of a backhoe on some child who is perceived to be 'at risk'.

The educators and martinets in the ranks of firm disciplinarians will assure us that the particular child will “never do that again''. Sounds much like the Gary/Kamla duo doesn't it? "Raise the threat level to orange and release the dogs of war as we take the fight to the enemy''.

Colour me orange now becomes "Threat level orange'. Soldiers will now patrol these 'hotspots'. What is a 'hotspot? Anywhere poor working class....sorry am being redundant here...anywhere presently marginalised, unemployed people are hemmed in and pressured from all sides and are surviving by any means necessary: under the guns of the gangs or of the police/soldiers, which of whom it is almost impossible to tell.

Given the reports coming out of these 'sectors' (see I am using the language and style of the ruling class media: these lawless 'elements' live in 'sectors') I am reminded of a saying they use in Kenya: "The police and the army are the tribes with the guns”. So have the police and army become our gangs in uniform? Are the soldiers not patrolling with their faces covered with balaclavas?

So there is a link to St. Michael’s Home for Boys to what transpired in the Princes Town "Light him afire' police station, the Youth Training Facility, the orphanages and Remand yards. Some of us do not realise that this is a system and that light is being shone on dark corners. Do we imagine it is a co-incidence that rebellions are occurring at all these institutions? Yesterday St. Jude’s; today St. Michael’s; a while back St.Mary's Home? Damn! Let's start with a name change. These saints ain't wukkin!

Those of us who are imagining that come May 2015 a 'change is gonna come' had better wake up. The Prime Minister in waiting has more important things to do. He has already voted for enhanced benefits for himself and his crew. See, dear friends, the poor do not finance election campaigns..They just vote for who is going to fool them.

THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY by Rae Samuel

posted 16 Jul 2014 20:15 by Gerry Kangalee

"The Gods must be crazy?" Isn't that what the average Brazilian football fan thinking? Or they must be against such wasteful economics, of which the Woe Cup might be one form. To suffer such a melt down is almost inconceivable in football: not unheard of if you follow the constant misfortunes of the West Indian cricket team. They manage embarrassing loss after loss without inputs from the Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister. 
 
Now Pele, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Romario know what Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd and Andy Roberts have lived through. Inconceivable, unimaginable and incredible: it is as if we heard one morning that Mother Theresa had donned a pair of tight shorts, had taken a couple tattoos, was wearing a low cut top and was thumbing rides in a Calcutta neighbourhood. No one would believe the Room 201 video with the Hindi voiceovers. Guess in a case like that we would all blame the Pope.

Scolari has in his own lifetime become legend. No one in Brazilian football has been an architect of such epic disaster. The 3rd place play-off was supposed to offer some respite after "Seven-up'' had become the national drink of Brazil. Now the most popular song in Brazil has to be Mighty Sparrow's "Ten to one is Woe Cup'.

Maybe Neymar is thanking, in some ironic way, the Columbian defender who helped him avoid this debacle. Like the Manchester United footballers who were not on board when their team's flight went down in 1957, this young man's burden, temporarily lifted through injury will return tenfold since he will be expected, in some corners, to lead a Brazilian football recovery. Let us hope he does better than Brian Lara who actively sought captaincy of the West indies cricket team, a task for which he proved monumentally unsuited..

I look forward to seeing soon on social media Scolari and Otis Gibson exchanging pennants and jerseys.

I wonder what Jack's take on all of this is? Nostalgia and sneaking admiration for the official who reportedly pulled off a U$ 52m. dollar scam? Regret that he is the one man who could have saved Scolari's hide by offering a job as Trinidad and Tobago's coach? It is the only country in the world that would offer him a job right now and get the government to pay for it.

Big Phil would be the latest in the line of dead beat coaches Jack managed to hire during his reign as "Special Adviser'' to the local federation. In passing; you all remember Vranes who was our national coach almost two decades ago? He is back in the local mix according to media reports…and why not? Eastern Europe has tended to be politically hot of late.

Do we realise this is the first time Jack has watched the World Cup on a big screen T.V? I wonder if they missed him in Brazil. He could not even share his big screen with Errol who himself could not accompany the P.M. Somebody has to stay here and take the fall vis-a-vis Watson Duke and call for the jailing of trade unionists who are legitimately defending the interests of workers, maverick style notwithstanding.

Hard to believe this Minister was first vice president of a union, fourteen of whose members were jailed in 1982 for refusing to obey a court injunction instructing them to vacate their occupation of the Bermudez Biscuit Company. It is interesting that none of the others seem anxious to act in the P.M's absence. I guess with just about ten months to go in office they have more important things to do than try to sound powerful and statesman-like to a totally cynical national audience.

WE MUST FACE OUR FEARS by Ken Howell

posted 15 Jul 2014 08:44 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 15 Jul 2014 08:45 ]

Some of our ancestors arrived in this place not by choice or necessity. They were kidnapped and brought here as slaves. Others came by choice and necessity and had to endure
conditions not much different from slavery. The socio-economic conditions existing at that time were not of their making. In fact in our history, there are many accounts of organised resistance against the system of slavery and indentureship. 

After slavery was abolished, the struggle took on a different character as the relationship at the economic level changed from that of slave and slave master to that of worker and employer. This was because the introduction of indentured labour into the colony, notwithstanding the restrictions the law placed on that type of labour, brought with it a change in the employment relationship.

If you were to attempt to paint a picture of Trinidad and perhaps Tobago at that time, what you would see was a country in which you had the Governor and all the British subjects who formed part of the state apparatus and the commercial establishment; the French planters who controlled the fertile lands in the country and the former slaves and those who came as indentured immigrants. 

The last two groups had no say in the administration of the country, and although the ex-slaves were no longer the property of a slave master, they were still regarded as raw material for use in the production process. 

According to Dr. Bridget Brereton, by the year 1870 however, the political landscape had already seen “the emergence of a coloured and black middle class espousing the ideology of Black Nationalism”. In her book Race Relations in Colonial Trinidad 1870-1900 she said that group “held the key to the political future of Trinidad.” 

As things turned out that statement was proven over and over to be true because it was the middle class who was always available to act as an obstacle in the class struggle against the interest of the working class whose only desire was to bring about political and economic change in a system which had and still has as its main objective the exploitation of the working class. 

The emergence of a middle class was not a result of some plot hatched by those who were regarded as being of that class. This was the natural outcome of the education system existing at that time, for the purpose of producing a certain category of personnel for the labour market and also to be used as a buffer between the ruling class and the working class in times of heightened class conflict. 

But in that period 1870 to 1900, one would obviously ask, where did this middle class come from? Well, the middle class was the product also, of a generation of former house slaves who the plantation owners, of necessity, had to train to perform several functions, without which the plantation system could not operate efficiently and those who were described as being of the middle class were the children of these ex-house slaves.  

We must also remember that religion played a major role in the education system then, and still does now. So that through the use of religion, the middle class was schooled in the culture of the ruling class and as a result felt a certain closeness to that class.

They were made to feel different in status and in their station in society. Therefore, through social conditioning (social engineering), the middle class believed themselves to be higher in status than the working class.  


Cipriani
It was against this background that those who were members of the Trinidad Working Men’s Association approached Captain Cipriani to lead them, after their Association collapsed under the blows of the colonial government after the general strike of 1919; thus the Trinidad Labour Party was formed. It is reasonable to speculate that during the early years, of the twentieth century while the political climate on the international scene was volatile-with wars in Europe- conditions in Trinidad were also unsettled.  

The major access to news about what was happening was through sailors who visited these shores and through the literature that they sometimes brought into the country. It is not difficult therefore to understand why the port of Port of Spain was a hotbed of labour unrest.  

The Port was the first major industry and also a place where the workers came into contact with all types of foreigners; those who were from countries where Unions were engaged in campaigns against the war; those who were affiliated to revolutionary organisations and so on. In those circumstances, it is easy to see how the Port would have been a place where revolutionary ideas would have taken root and spread into the rest of the Island.  

These ideas quite naturally would have fed the revolutionary spirit of the people thereby reinforcing their determination to fight for change and perhaps to the extent that they wanted to change not only the political system but the economic structure as well. This fact can be gleaned from the position which was later taken by the Butler Party, which was not only campaigning for political independence, but for economic independence as well. 
 
Our ancestors of African and East Indian origin were never supporters of capitalism. But with the resources available to them, the only option was to fight for reforms. And that was where the struggles took them. From 1937 to the present time all we have been struggling for is reforms to the oppressive capitalist system. 
 
It is true that we have seen some improvement in the quality of life of our citizens largely due to the resilience and struggles of our people. The problem however, is that while we have demonstrated the capacity to wage struggle and achieve our objectives in the past, our attempts to take the struggle to a higher level have been meeting with failure.  

The question which must be in the forefront of our minds is who or what has been responsible for our failures? Well, the answer is to be found in the way we choose our leaders and the fact that working people always hold the belief that their interest will be served by persons who claim to be for the working class. And so, consistent with the desire for change and democracy for the underclass, we have been placing our trust in different political parties who make grand promises on the campaign trail and argue, subsequently, that they did not mean what they said. 

The strike called by the Trinidad Working Men’s Association at the port of Port of Spain in 1919 quickly bloomed into the first general strike in the country. This meant for the colonial powers that a new threat to their authority was looming on the political landscape. The strike was broken and the leaders arrested and imprisoned. Since many of the strikers were from the smaller islands, many who were regarded as leaders were deported back to their respective territories. 
 
Following the destruction of the Association and the formation of the Trinidad Labour Party, the movement was taken over by middle class elements led by Captain Arthur Cipriani who contested a seat on the legislative council and went on to represent the party in that place. 
 
It is said that the Chief Servant Uriah Buzz Butler and Cipriani did not see eye to eye because while Cipriani was regarded in some quarters as the champion of the barefoot man, in others he was suspected of having a foot in the camp of the ruling class. So that the influence of the middle class on the party might have served its purpose up to a particular point, but because of the class contradictions inherent within its relations with the two contending classes it was not able to represent the class interest of the working people by taking the struggle to a higher level. 
 
This is because the middle class tends not to see a connection between its class interest and that of the workers. In this case where the working people were mainly interested in achieving political and economic change the middle class elements were not. The middle class represents a kind of buffer zone in the class struggle, which is never stable; it is always shifting in the direction of the class which it perceives to have the power and in whose favour the balance of forces might have shifted. 
 
When in the 1930s workers focused their attention on the inhuman conditions under which they had to work in the oilfields and the sugar estates the struggle for the right to form Trade Unions and to negotiate terms and conditions of employment began. As we know, the Oilfields Workers Trades Union and the All Trinidad Sugar Estates and Factory Workers Trades Union were formed in 1937 as was the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union. 
 
Gomes
Following this development it is clear that the leaders of the mass movement realised that they had won a major battle and as a result they mobilized and launched another major political offensive against the colonial powers demanding the right to vote and won that right in 1946. In that period leading up to 1946, and after, there were many other political parties who entered the political arena, one such party was led by
Albert Gomes and had support within the working class. 
 
The struggle for democracy was gaining ground in a place where rights and freedoms for the former slaves and indentured immigrants did not exist before. This fact could not have been good news for the colonial office and as a result they had to find a way to respond to the threat posed by this unhealthy development: for them of course.  

Ten years after that major victory
Dr. Eric Williams, appeared on the political scene. Prior to his entry into the politics, he was an

Williams
employee of the colonial office, he was from the middle class and he was well educated and because of the position he held in that office, he was knowledgeable about all the leading personalities in the politics of the 1940s. 
 
He was therefore ideally suited for the task of directing the struggle for political and economic change down the road of more reforms and away from meaningful change; and he succeeded in so doing to the point where today the task ahead of us to break the mould is a daunting one. 
 
In 1965-66 trade union leaders, persons who were affiliated to Marxist study groups and certain progressive elements with interest in the working class, as well as some progressive members of the middle class, came together and formed the Workers and Farmers Party. 
 
That party had within its ranks persons who, were considered to be schooled in the ideology of the working class. Therefore their commitment to the working class was beyond question. And so, when the election date was announced the W.F.P. went on the campaign trail competing with parties such as the People's National Movement and the Democratic Labour Party in the belief that its credentials were of such outstanding quality that in the eyes of the workers it was the right choice. When the votes were counted the results showed that all the candidates lost their deposits. 
 
An analysis as to the reasons why that party lost the elections will reveal the fact that it is not sufficient to be committed ideologically and politically to the working class; one must also have unbreakable links within the communities where the workers live, play and work. It is not sufficient to be a leader of a trade union and expect that fact will win you enough respect in the eyes of the working class. We have to feel what they are feeling and live what they are living. 
 
Working class leaders who are fighting in the trenches against the exploitative nature of capitalism must be able to counter the propaganda war on which the capitalist has embarked and which is aimed at the minds and hearts of the working class. In order to win that war we must become closer to the workers in all spheres of their daily lives. 
 
That task can only be achieved when the party of the working class is close to the people; when the leaders are down in the trenches with them and when the working people are prepared to defend the party with their lives. Because the capitalists intend to win the propaganda battle and if they win the battle for the minds they know that they can win the war.   

The major battle that is being fought today is the battle for the minds of the people. The weapon that is being used in that battle is all the branches of the media and information technology: the internet. Mind you, the internet and info tech is good. But the fact is who controls the flow of information can control what you know do and think; it's a mind game! 
 
Whereas in the past the use of force and fear were the tools being used by the powers that be to control the population, the advances made in the area of technology have provided new tools which are added to the old which have been tried and tested. But notwithstanding these developments, we must face our fears and take charge of our destiny. We must not continue to place our destiny in the hands of middle class elements that purport to be committed to the struggle of the working class in words but not in deeds. 
 
Our task now is to place the struggle for true political and economic change back on the agenda and never again must we allow ourselves to be diverted away from the struggle and the task that our ancestors had set themselves which was to rid our country not only of colonialism but also of capitalism. 
 
So, one will agree, that there is a common thread running through all of the struggles from the 1900s through to the 1970s and that thread is connected to the task of building a political party which is strong; with leaders who are committed in mind, body and spirit to the difficult task of leading the working class out of the bondage of capitalist exploitation and into a new political and economic arrangement. 
 
Subsequent to the brutal attack launched on a demonstration of workers in San Fernando by the Police (Bloody Tuesday March 18th 1975), a number of Trade Unions and individuals came together and formed the United Labour Front. Many political groups of different ideological shades were involved in the formation of that party. The party contested the election in 1976 and succeeded in forming the opposition in the Parliament. 
 
Most of the left groups might have committed themselves to the task of ridding this country of capitalism but they all failed to achieve their objective because they allowed themselves to be caught in the political conflict which was raging between Eastern Europe (the U.S.S.R.) and the U.S.A during the period of the cold war. 
 
All of those organisations had committed comrades within their ranks, but they could not see beyond the ideological conflicts in which they were engaged. There were those who believed that the time was appropriate to take the struggle to the ultimate limit. That course of action failed to bring about the required result, not because it is not a tool of the struggle, but because it was a decision whose execution was not appropriately suited to the circumstances which presented themselves then. 

Against the background of the failures experienced in our attempts to form a Party of the Working Class with the capacity to weather the political storms, there are lessons which we must learn. One such lesson is that at no time must we seek to travel - politically and ideologically- ahead of the people's desires and aspirations. 

However, we must always be prepared, to take the next step when and only when the working people are ready to do so. This does not mean that we should not call the brothers and sisters to a time and place where we can begin the discussions about the party of the working class and what type of policies and programmes and objectives it must set itself. We must initiate the discussions now.

INSTRUMENTS OF BRITISH IMPERIALISM by Lloyd Taylor

posted 14 Jul 2014 20:36 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 14 Jul 2014 20:37 ]

Thanks is in order to Gerry Kangalee, Cecil Paul and those at the National Workers Union for providing pretty comprehensive coverage of the launching of the book VICTORY AT DAMIEH: CIPRIANI’S SOLDIERS IN PALESTINE.

I myself was not aware of it even though I am here for a few days. It goes to show how much one can be out of touch. The writing, completion and eventual launching of the book by Arthur L. McShine is a very commendable event and I join with others in offering heartiest congratulations. Arthur L. Mc Shine never seems to allow it to be known that he was working on Cipriani's victory at Damieh. The doggedness required to do such a work is a rare quality, especially in a country that places a low value on archives and museums.

Points of additional work to be done should be noted well: one by Professor Brereton that the life of Captain Arthur Andrew Cipriani, meaning a full length biography has never been written; Raffique Shah's observation that the tactical aspects of the battle remain to be told as part of 'our' military history although under conditions of imperial rule. It is somewhat hard to claim ownership even though the choice to fight and the request to do so were necessary to be on the battlefield in active combat. Cipriani would have done us justice to document that himself.

On an altogether different matter is the observation made by Raffique Shah that war seems to be part of the human DNA. Wars in history are essentially events initiated by ruling classes most everywhere and more wars in today's world are conducted more often in poor countries with rich mineral resources. Mankind is largely  peaceful in my interpretation of history.

One needs also to revisit the role of Lawrence of Arabia, a British agent, officer and archaeologist who was something of a virgin maverick that led Arabs into battle against the Turks. He seemed not to have shared imperial policy in Arabia by the fact that his primary objective was to rally Arab nationalism and to construct an Arab nation state.

British ruling and political classes would have none of that foolishness. In the end Lawrence's valiant activity was in vain. The Arab lands under the Ottoman Empire were cut up by two public servants representing Britain and France, and became known as the Sykes-Pico Agreement and new boundary lines were drawn.

The rail transport which was constructed under the Turks to service the Arabs was destroyed. Today we wonder why there is so much bitterness among Arabs and we misconstrue it as one Harvard professor, Samuel P Huntington (1993, 1996) has done, as a religiously motivated clash of civilizations.

The irony is that the Turks and Turkey are now ensconced in the European Union as a restless instrument for NATO forces to reach into Syria, Libya and Iraq. Saudi Arabian rulers were left alone because at the time the imperial powers had no knowledge that below the ground was the largest concentration of hydrocarbon resources. They have forged an alliance with British interests and is a middle management player in foreign relations of the great powers.

Although we have to own the history of those who were born into colonialism and who had no citizenship or rights, I do believe there is not much we have to celebrate or any point in lamentations here. We have to describe the fact of that world and time and factor it into the reconstruction of a brave and bright new world and civilization that shuts its face firmly against asymmetric warfare now conducted writ large among the poorest places and people on planet earth..

We have to celebrate the world we will and must create here in these still wretched islands driven to small common purpose. Manley and Butler and Cipriani did their thing after demobilizing from the wars but after seventy five years of effort we have barely scratched the road to progress. Mr McShine deserves our congratulations.

YOU HAVE TO KILL THE DOG by Ken Howell

posted 10 Jul 2014 05:27 by Gerry Kangalee

It is amazing, how some politicians behave as though they don't live in this country. It is well known that since in the days of Dr. Eric Williams, there have been so-called social programmes such as Crash Programme, Special Works, LID, URP.

Now we have C.E.P.E.P and the Life Sport. These programmes are designed to target, “at risk” youths and unemployed, unskilled individuals in depressed areas of the country. Therefore, there was never a time when individuals who ran into trouble with the law were not in these programmes. That was so in the 1960s and it is so today. So to behave as though funds from these projects never went into the pockets of “criminal elements” in the past is to pretend that this is the doing of this government only. 


I am certain most of us can recall that during the time of the last PNM government when contracts were being awarded to persons to paint the H.D.C. houses on Charlotte Street in Port of Spain and Maloney,  violence erupted over the question of which group of individuals were entitled to receive these contracts, and as a result some individuals lost their lives. 

 

You may recall that a young man, whose nickname was Fresh, who it was alleged had a contract worth $2.5 million to paint those houses, was killed when he was called out of a function at a Union Hall on Henry Street in Port of Spain? What is important to note, is that from the available evidence, these killings appear to have more to do with government contracts and less to do with the drug trade. If the evidence could be believed, funds from these contracts finance the purchase of drugs and guns. That was so then and it is still so today.

 

I wish to make it clear; I am not condoning the misappropriation of public funds to finance illegal activities, or defending the current corrupt government, I am just pointing out that members of previous governments cannot point fingers. Let us face it. The situation where crime is concerned, from then to now has worsened. In the days of Marabuntas,  Applejackers, San Juan All Stars, Desperados, Tokyo and so on, guns were not the weapons of choice. It was cutlass and razors, or ice picks and bottles.

 

Ganja was sold legally in shops in the 1940s and still sold up to the 1950s; in the 1960s it disappeared from Chinese shops. Illegal drugs existed then, but it was not widely used by the lower classes and the youths in the rural and depressed communities. But crime was not as prevalent as it is today. It was only when crack cocaine was introduced into these communities that we begin to see an upward surge in gun crimes, and crack cocaine became popular because it was affordable.

 

If we have to find a starting point for this new wave of crime in this country, we might wish to place it at a time subsequent to the rise in the price of crude oil in the middle of the 1970s: when the country was drunk with oil wealth and money was no problem. The government abandoned planning and spent money as if it was going out of style.                                                                                       

 

The communities that were described as depressed in those days and for which these programmes were established continue to be seen in that light today. Why? Because, the citizens of these communities, were led to believe the government of the day would have taken care of all their problems and nothing was done.  The government failed to recognize, that it had a duty also to prepare the community to stand on its own two feet. What the government did, was to feed them with fish: the projects, the inefficient management of the Port of Port of Spain (where it was alleged a certain employee was in receipt of a salary close to that of the President),  allowed them to live in National Housing Apartments without paying their rents of $9.00 and $12.00 per month.

 

The problems we face today, is one deliberately created by a government which never had the interest of the people as its number one priority. The PNM government had the opportunity to treat with the problems of those communities because it had the full trust and confidence of the people for a large part of its thirty years in office.  But since it was building a capitalist society it needed to ensure that a substantial number of the population remain in a state of dependence so that the ruling classes would have a source of cheap labour.

 

If we follow that line of thinking, we will begin to understand the reason for the large classes in the Government Secondary Schools. We will realise that such a system, ultimately, leads to a large percentage of drop-outs. Teachers cannot give the necessary attention to the slow learners, who might also have problems at home, and who might also be victims of dyslexia.

 

Because of the non-existence of trained teachers who can identify these problems, these students are left to learn as they could which leads to them becoming very disruptive.  Our school system is really operating an assembly line, with the S.E.A exam and C.X.C. functioning as quality control. It is expected that a certain percentage must “fail”.  

It is important to understand, that the capitalist system needs to have a constant supply of skilled and unskilled labour and the source of that supply is the education system. The system also needs to regulate the supply and demand as well. In the same way that it treats with other goods and services. All of these things are connected.
  When you add to that the massive unemployment crisis, which followed the crash in the price of oil in the 1980s, and the number of companies which went into receivership, what you end up with is a large number of the members of these communities being unemployed and families being ripped apart.

 

What we have as a result, is a bunch of angry young people who believe that the whole world is against them because of the “misfortune” which they are experiencing and which no doubt might have resulted from the economic crisis which led to their parents being unemployed. Such young persons have been victimized over and over: by being thrown out of school; by their family life being destroyed, and by becoming victims of the drug trade. They are striking back at any and everybody and everything. Why? Because circumstances have conspired against them; leading to them becoming a threat to “society”.

 

For those who control the criminal underworld, these young men and women, represent a pool of human resources available to be exploited, and to be used as cannon fodder while serving the evil ends of those who walk the corridors of power at both the corporate and government levels. You see, as long as we continue to believe that the current political and economic system, is the best thing since slice bread, we will continue to experience corruption at all levels, even in the face of so-called good governance and transparency; even when proper procurement procedures and practices are enacted into law.

 

We have to come to the realization that capitalism breeds corruption and crime. It is the oil that keeps and holds the society  together. It is unrealistic to expect that all dogs come without fleas. The fleas come with the dog. And no amount of “Front-line” spray treatment to get rid of the fleas will help. The ills of the society which we are currently experiencing are the negative effects of the capitalist political and economic system. That is the reality in the USA, in Europe, Brazil, China, the Middle East and here in this country. Therefore, in order to kill the fleas you have to kill the dog.

CATTU SEEKS INFO FROM ABROAD

posted 8 Jul 2014 11:48 by Gerry Kangalee

The matter concerning the Communication Transport and General Workers Trade Union’s (CATTU) application for successorship at Caribbean Airlines (CAL) is still in the Industrial Court and proceeding very slowly. The matter has been before the Court since 2007. 

The Union has finished presenting its case. Altogether six witness statements were submitted by five witnesses. All the Union's witnesses were working with BWIA on 31st December 2006 and started working with CAL on 1st January 2007 doing substantially the same jobs as with BWIA.

This is important as the matter before the Court is to show that CAL was essentially BWIA in another name and that substantially the same work was continuing in substantially the same way.

An application was made for BWIA/CAL to disclose the applications they made to the civil aviation authorities in the respective countries. This was done because evidence from the Canadian Transportation Agency made it clear that BWIA had put forward the position that the change to CAL was essentially management restructuring. The union wanted to find out whether they had made similar applications to other countries.

This application was withdrawn when BWIA said that, after all this time, they were unable to find the original applications. The union, however, is trying to get information directly from Canada and the UK using the Freedom of Information Acts in those two countries.

The hearings that were listed for Monday 7th July and Wednesday 9th July have been adjourned at the request of CAL.

Attorney Douglas Mendes is handling the matter for CATTU.

NO MORE TEARS! NO MORE FEARS!

posted 7 Jul 2014 12:20 by Gerry Kangalee

On Friday 4th July 2014 workers of CLICO/BAICO once again hit the streets as they picketed the central bank on independence Square, Port of Spain.

The picket was to draw attention, yet again, to their plight as the almost forgotten victims of the CL financial scandal that may have cost more than $20 billion in public funds to bail out the Duprey empire which came crashing down in 2009 due to the unsustainability of the financial practices and blatant greed of those who posed as masters of the universe and have since been exposed as no more than common crooks: briefcase bandits.

The workers have been strung along by the central bank which has assumed ultimate control of the companies and through the Ministry of Finance has been proposing different scenarios for the future of the companies, yet hasn't been able to settle on any.

Since 2012, finance minister Larry Howai promised that the companies would be merged and a new company called ATRIUS would be formed. this would enable the workers to receive termination benefits and even to be re-hired  at the new company. When no action was forthcoming workers took to the streets in May 2013.

During that picket, Minister Howai, once again promised that the company was being set up, that a board would have been appointed the next week.  More than a year has gone by since. now the government is saying that that they have shelved the Atrius project and are attempting to sell the assets of the companies

In the meantime, the workers' lives have been stagnated and they are demanding that a decision be made as to the future of the companies so that they could receive termination benefits and move on with their lives.

Rae Samuel of the National Workers union was at the picket and filed the following report

CHAGUARAMAS FARMERS UNDER PRESSURE! by Eugene A. Reynald

posted 2 Jul 2014 16:49 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 2 Jul 2014 17:02 ]

CDA DESTROYS MORE CROPS


The attached FOIA Enquiry and accompanying documents were sent as addressed and on the date shown on the attached letter to the EMA (Environmental Management Authority). 

The latter posed specific questions about a CEC (Certificate of Environmental Clearance) issued by the EMA which led to the destruction of 4000 plus plantain trees by persons authorised to do so by the CDA (Chaguaramas Development Authority) and the larceny of most of the plantain crop. (The attached photographs, taken before and after the destruction, show part of the

plantain field; with the farmers in the foreground).
 
This action was preceded by similar acts of destruction and will no doubt be followed by more. (See the record of such at the Facebook page "Guave Road Farmers Chaguaramas").
 
The larceny was reported to the Praedial Larceny Squad on the date shown in the attached letter but for reasons best known to them, to date no one from that Squad has even visited the scene of the crime. 

Despite the history of the CDA in carrying out such acts of destruction (see Facebook page referenced below) they have denied any knowledge of the crime – despite the fact that it took place within a few hundred yards of the CDA’s main security post and in an area which is heavily patrolled by a range of Police and security officers employed by them – as do the drugs that enter the general area on a regular basis. 

If persons employed at the CDA were not required to be deemed honourable it would not be unreasonable to assume that the CDA are into drugs and praedial larceny. (More photographs/videos and information can be seen at the Facebook page: “Guave Road Farmers Chaguaramas”).
 
The persons in the attached photograph were the farmers/owners of the field of plantain who will also soon be dispossessed of their land because the CDA wants to build a cable car set up and is taking the land for the construction of a car park so they earn revenues. And that will be the beginning or acceleration of the transformation into commercial use of the country’s last area where its best agricultural lands can be found.
 
The next step, we understand, is to extend the golf course onto the largest remaining area of such fertile lands in the Chaguaramas Peninsular and the country. Most of us may not use the cable cars or play golf but we certainly all eat the food that these farmers cultivate so the common good or public interest should be clear to the decision makers in this madness...if self interest, greed and deception could be set aside.
 
In a request for an injunction brought by the farmers to temporarily restrain the CDA - pending a claim for adverse possession to be brought before the Courts, Justice Boodoosingh refused to grant such; thereby allowing the CDA to continue with their destruction and to dispossess the farmers of land which they have been farming since the 1950s. 

The decision of the Judge was based on certain untruths – some of which are referenced in the attached. We will deal with the Judgement more comprehensively when a written copy of it is in our possession.

I do not believe that the “CDA” is responsible for the lies and deception that is obvious in all of this – it is “people” who made the decisions that have led to the establishment in the CDA of this culture of lies and deception – to say the least. A visit to the Facebook page will graphically illustrate and contradict most of the lies and deception being propagated by those at the CDA.
 
The persons who instruct on all that goes on in the CDA are Danny Solomon, Bhoe Tewarie and Joycelyn Hargreaves.

TAKE YOUR PICK: PEOPLE’S REVOLUTION OR BARBARISM by Cecil Paul

posted 29 Jun 2014 20:22 by Gerry Kangalee

Trinbago has entered into the stage of barbarism. That is, behavioural patterns that are extremely violent, uncivilized, extremely greedy, uncaring towards women, children and the aged and where immorality and dishonesty prevails in important institutions that regulate, service and provide governance to the people. 

There is a collapse of policing as criminals commit murderous acts and other crimes with the vast majority going undetected and unsolved. The police have been unable to get rid of the gangs, arrest the drug dealers and protect the majority law abiding and peaceful citizens in the crime infested areas. There is a persistent view that the most deadly gangs in the country are made up of police officers. 

It is proven that criminals in these areas are a small minority of the area’s population. With a Minister of National Security and a Police Commissioner viewed as incompetent, our National Security is in a mess and needs urgent interventions. 

Political corruption has penetrated into all areas of government and has spread like the plague through all areas where the ruling politicians control. Government contract procurement, foreign exchange, state enterprises, social services, health and utilities are all arenas of consistent corrupt practices. 

Even the parliament has now introduced a new arena of legislative corruption with the introduction of massive pension benefits to parliamentarians. In a show of class solidarity and greed the PNM has joined the PP government at the hip on these obscene benefits for our corrupted politicos. The independent voters may now be in a quandary and may be of the view that one party is Massa Cow and the other Massa Bull. 

The Health Sector is collapsing and is now being diverted to the private sector medical institutions at monumental costs to taxpayers. Imagine a government in the year 2014 boasting that fifty-six percent (56%) of people now have water with no mention that he remaining forty-four percent (44 %) or half a million people have no reliable supply of water. This advertisement demonstrates the contempt, disrespect and insensitive nature of our politicians. Half of your people are denied a regular supply of an essential commodity and you see an opening to bray about some “achievement”. Shame on them! But shame is a revolutionary sentiment, isn’t it? 

National morality and efficiency is at an all time low with high levels of political corruption, heinous crimes, human trafficking, substandard education and health services, police incompetence, rumours of death squads, inability to get passports renewed, long delays in the transport offices and capital flight to name a few. 

It is rumoured that the shortage of foreign exchange results from (1) the demand for foreign exchange to purchase illicit drugs and guns which fuels the uncontrollable crime rates in our country and (2) large scale capital flight by the politicians and other elites who have lost faith in the country’s ability to survive an ongoing descent into barbarism. 

The politicians are bent on dismantling the state sector as they divest the state enterprises to the elites thereby reducing the treasury’s intake of revenue to fund social projects that benefit the poor, lower income and middle class citizens. FCB, PP Gas Processors, Government holdings in CLICO have gone or are going and all the other state entities are carded to be divested to the local elite who will then sell to the foreign corporationsto make huge profits as with Royal Bank. 

It is clear that in the next ten years or so our economy will be almost totally foreign owned. As a result governments will have less revenue to provide essential services to our people. Nepotism in the hiring of inefficient management, corruption in contract awards and kickbacks from inexperienced contractors have all greatly damaged our state enterprises providing the “justification” for divestment. 

Foreign companies own most of our natural energy resources. All we receive are rents in the form of taxes and fees. A country whose major earning entities are foreign owned is a country that is not truly independent but dependent on external forces. Trinbago is in a state of neo colonialism and therefore unable to not only provide for its citizens but also unable to chart its destiny. Our young people and those unborn citizens will therefore have a difficult and uncertain future. 

The labour movement is divided. There are no strategic goals formulated or articulated to deal with these national crises. Trade union membership is shrinking drastically while an estimated eighty-three percent of workers are unorganized and extremely exploited. A march here and a Labour Day there is not enough. The national crisis demands a national response. The work is difficult but necessary. 

The peoples’ organizations must be brought together and organized into a national united front to save our country from the barbaric politicians. The regime (made up of two parties) must be brought to its knees. Elections will not solve the problems. A social revolution is unavoidable if we are to cleanse our country from corruption, crime, incompetence and wholesale nepotism. We did it several times in our history during colonialism and independence. We have the capacity once we unite, organize and take strategic and decisive action.

The barbarism has already descended upon us. The only solution is social revolution

MCSHINE LAUNCHES CIPRIANI BOOK

posted 27 Jun 2014 21:39 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 15 Jul 2014 12:09 ]


Arthur L. Mcshine
On Tuesday 24 June 2014 at NALIS in Port of Spain, a book by Arthur L. Mc Shine was launched describing some of the exploits of Captain Andrew Arthur Cipriani one of our country’s foremost anti-colonial politicians, fighters and advocate for working peoples’ rights. The book is titled “VICTORY AT DAMIEH – CIPRIANI'S SOLDIERS IN PALESTINE. 

Cipriani’s exploits in the first World War which began in 1914 is covered in Arthur Mc Shine’s book as well as some important speeches made by Cipriani which will certainly be an eye opener for many students of our history 

The author Arthur L. Mc Shine is a descendant of the Mc Shines and Pujadas who like Cipriani were anti-colonial fighters and associates of Cipriani in his struggles against discrimination, crown colony rule and for the improvement of the lives of workers. Mc Shine was educated at Queens Royal College, did editing for a PAHO conference, was a fellow at Princeton University and contributed articles to the
Trinidad and Tobago Review. He is also a board member of TTARP. 

The book is very informative and provides a bit of war history unknown to Trinbagonians. In addition to Cipriani’s fight against the British in defence of West Indian soldiers, he was successful in persuading the military officers to have the West Indian soldiers engage in combat which proved decisive in the victory over the occupying Ottoman Turks in Damieh, Palestine during the First World War 

McShine’s research came up with some astonishing surprises. Two of which were Cipriani’s association with the famed Lawrence of Arabia and his encounter with Sir Hubert Young who eventually became Governor of Trinidad and Tobago. Both were instrumental in the division of the Arab World which up to the present time is a source of violent conflict. 

In the second part of the book the author reprinted some of the famous speeches of Captain Cipriani in his battles against colonial rule and discrimination against citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. This section of the book with the fiery speeches is great reading for students of Trinidad and Tobago’s history. 
 
Speakers at the launch were the author who gave brief but interesting aspects of the book. The Chairman of proceedings was Cecil Paul former 1st Vice President of the OWTU and now Vice President of National Workers Union (NWU). 

Paul congratulated the author and made the historical connection of Cipriani with TUB Butler, Adrian Cola Rienzi (Krishna Deonarine) Jim Barrette, Elma Francois and Christina King the anti-colonial and freedom fighters of the period. They all had their disagreements with Cipriani and went on to form their own organizations and made valuable contributions to the development of the modern working class and trade union movement in Trinbago. 

Professor Emeritus Bridget Brereton of the University of the West Indies gave an account of books dealing with the struggles of Captain Cipriani by authors like Bukka Rennie and CLR James. However she said none of the authors have dealt with his life in a detailed manner. She announced that she is currently working on the introduction of a reprint of the CLR James book “The life of Captain Cipriani”. 

Attorney at Law Vashist Maharaj, a close relative of politician and representative of that period, Chanka Maharaj dealt with some of the contradictions in the ideology of Captain Cipriani and quoted extensively from statements made by Cipriani. He also read statements made about Cipriani during the heyday of the Captain’s struggles. 
  
At the ending of the launch, the author reflected on his work on the book and those he came in contact with while doing his research. He also read messages and commendations from military officers Major General Ralph Brown, and former lieutenant Raffique Shah. Noted national historical author Fr. Anthony de Verteuil also sent congratulations to Arthur Mc Shine on his informative piece of work.


VICTORY AT DAMIEH: AN APPRECIATION

by Raffique Shah

 


My apologies for not being present with you at the launch of Arthur McShine’s ‘Victory at Damieh’.

 

I commend Mr McShine for having the foresight to produce a publication that deals with aspects of the First World War that are relevant to us in Trinidad and Tobago during the centenary year of the Great War that was touted as ‘the war to end all wars’. One hundred years later, we know that not only did the Great War spawn an even bigger and more barbaric sequel (World War II), but that warfare seems to be part of the DNA of mankind, that world history is written in the blood of mainly young men who are made to fight wars devised by older men.

But I digress. The book ‘Victory at Damieh’ records the role played by troops of the British West Indies Regiment in a decisive battle in the Middle East theatre of the First World War. The author tells us that Captain Cipriani had to lobby to have the BWIR (British West Indies Regiment) troops engage in combat against forces of the Ottoman Empire, which was a hell of a thing—soldiers fighting for the right to fight!

That, however, was reality in the skewed world 100 years ago. In a war that would result in the deaths of an estimated 10 million combat personnel and seven million civilians, the Allies were not inclined to allow black soldiers to fight against white men. These trained men, who had volunteered for battle, were consigned to peeling potatoes, digging trenches, hauling artillery and lending logistical support—only because of their race.

Interestingly, other WIR troops had already engaged in combat action against the Germans in West and East Africa (Cameroons, Kenya, Tanganyika), with some soldiers distinguishing themselves by bravery.

In Palestine, as the author of this book records, it was different. When, grudgingly, the British high command allowed them the opportunity at Damieh, they fought doggedly against the seasoned Turks, and were part of a larger force that triggered the retreat and eventual routing of the enemy, the beginning of the end of four years of brutal war.

The book highlights the pivotal part played by Captain Cipriani in getting the BWIR troops on the front line. Caribbean troops deployed in the European theatre of that war faced similar discrimination. In fact, the book refers to an incident in Taranto, Italy, that occurred shortly after the war had ended. West Indian soldiers found themselves doing menial tasks—loading ammunition, cleaning latrines, etc. The breaking point came when white British soldiers were awarded a pay hike and blacks were excluded.

Led by a group of sergeants, the West Indian soldiers mutinied. In the aftermath, many of the leaders were jailed and the WIR troops were denied the honour of participating in the victory parade. They returned to the Caribbean and demobilised. They were also demoralised—no jobs, no housing, nothing.

It was against that background and such discriminatory treatment that some of these ex-soldiers became champions of the people in the struggle to dismantle colonialism. Cipriani in Trinidad emerged as the ‘champion of the barefoot man’. Norman Manley, an artillery gunner from Jamaica, would likewise lead the anti-colonial movement there and later become Jamaica’s first prime minister. And Grenadian soldier Uriah Butler would migrate to Trinidad to work in the oilfields and give birth to the trade union movement in 1937.

This book does not detail these peripheral but important sequels to what happened in Palestine in the First World War. The author confines his focus to Captain Cipriani and his troops and the battle at Damieh. He focuses, too, on the introduction of the then superior Lewis machine gun that gave the Allied forces an advantage.

He weaves into the story two other personalities, one the legendary Lawrence of Arabia, the other Sir Hubert Young. Post-war, these two men would be assigned to carve up much of the Middle East and North Africa into countries and colonies with arbitrary borders that to this day remain contentious. Lawrence left his mark in the Arab world and Young would end up Governor of Trinidad and Tobago. His wife carved her name into our landscape — think Lady Young Road.

Outside of the war, Mr McShine’s book comprises a selection of Cipriani’s speeches. The Captain, who went on to be the first populist political leader of the 20th Century, was no intellectual. But from what CLR James wrote, he was a great orator and fighter for the downtrodden...until he was overtaken by history, displaced by Butler.

His speeches are important when placed in an historical context, not in the pantheon of intellectual contributions. Recently, I re-read Dr Eric Williams’ ‘Massa Day Done’ for the umpteenth time, and I was enthralled as ever by its depth,  his wit, and his ability to command the attention of a large partisan crowd in a politically-charged environment with so much pedantic material.

Cipriani was not from that stratosphere. But he could nevertheless move the masses, and that is what mattered in a legislature dominated by the Governor and agents of the Crown. His was the voice or the ordinary citizen who did not yet have the vote, far less a say in his own affairs.

Mr McShine did well to re-publish some of his speeches at this time when, sadly, mudslinging and superficiality are all we get from today’s politicians.

Being a student of military history and a trained soldier, I expected to find in the book more details of the actual Battle of Damieh—strategy, tactics, commanders deploying their troops and armaments on the battlefield. Cipriani was a captain, so he must have had a battalion commander, an overall field commander, and so on.

His subordinates—NCOs and junior officers—will have played some part in that battle and in the lead-up to it. Most battles are won by these lesser mortals who, in any event, conduct most of the fighting. It is they, not the generals, who man the machine guns, engage in frontal assault, engage the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

Bear in mind that was an era in which bayonet charges were still commonplace, when the cavalry meant horses (and camels in the desert), when infantrymen trekked on foot for hundreds of miles as they pursued the enemy. Tanks and motorised divisions were unknown to man, and jet fighters and bombers were only ideas.

In so many ways, the battlefields were primitive.

I was disappointed to find little or no mention of Cipriani’s soldiers or greater details of the Battle of Damieh. I know accessing such information is a huge challenge for writers and researchers. Still, now that the book is in print, I hope Mr McShine musters the courage and finds the time to do a second edition that will contain these missing elements.

What the book exposes, though, is our near-complete ignorance of our own military history. That thousands of West Indians were involved in the First World War, many of them seeing combat and more than a few dying on battlefields far from home, is unknown to almost everyone in this country. Even serving soldiers do not have this sense of history, and here I speak from personal experience.

On Remembrance Day every November, when we adorn ourselves with poppies and parade at the Cenotaph at Memorial Park, do we really understand the homage we pay to those who fell in two world wars?  Do we know how critical Trinidad’s oil and aviation fuel were to the Allied war machine in World War II? Are we aware that the Gulf of Paria, the biggest natural harbour in these parts, was the assembly point for huge convoys of vessels that transported food and war materiel from South America and the Caribbean to a besieged Britain?

In the Second World War, many more sons and daughters of this country fought bravely against fascism, only to find themselves prisoners of imperialism after the Allied forces had vanquished the axis of Germany, Italy and Japan.

Ironically, in the immediate aftermath of that war, Germany, Italy and Japan became more important to the USA, Britain and Western Europe than colonies such as Trinidad and Tobago. Because that war was followed by the so-called Cold War that pitted the communist Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies against the West, the enemies of yesterday, Germany, Italy and Japan, received more monetary aid than colonies such as ours that sacrificed so much and contributed even more to stave off the march of fascism.

Mr McShine’s book is a small effort to capture a miniscule part of our military and political history. We need many more people like him who are prepared to do the necessary research and who have the courage to document our history. More than that, institutions such as our universities and the relevant ministries and agencies must support such exercises, which, I can tell you, are time consuming and call for much sacrifice.

I commend Mr McShine for having written, compiled and published ‘Victory at Damieh’. I hope it inspires him to improve on his own book, and it inspires others to document so much of our history that is unrecorded.

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