The Union frequently comments on events or receives news of general interest and these are documented on this page.
News & Comment
I do not imagine there is much joy in our relay team's camp. Yes the records will show that the team is now double silver medallists in successive Olympics. But they would have missed out on mounting the podium in a higher position in front of all the world. It is much like receiving your diploma in the Principal's office 4 weeks after graduation at the Hyatt Regency..
But that is not the story here. It is that the bar has been lowered and that expectancy, cynical as it may sound to state, has been fulfilled. Gatlin who has been twice banned is running faster than ever at 32, after a 4 year lay off for a similar offence in 2001. This is a man who suffers/suffered from a 'sleep deficiency order'. Clearly he runs like hell at the sound of a gunshot. He has the fastest time for 2015 in the 100 metres .and a fat Nike contract. Guess Nike is breaking into the pharmaceutical industry...
Tyson Gay, unable to deal with the Caribbean sprint kings from Jamaica, Trinidad/Tobago and Bahamas, openly stated when caught that he was guilty. For his 'co-operation' his ban was reduced and he is back in action; as is Asafa Powell whom we can only describe as the fastest letdown the region has seen having also admitted to cheating. He too 'is back' winning at last Jamaica invitational
In the case of the Americans I assume they have given up hope of matching the Caribbean in sprints which was their domain for decades. Something occurred in the London Olympics that had never before occurred in Olympic history which I keep pointing out to persons in the local athletic community: the USA failed to win a single men’s sprint title..They were defeated in all the relays and sprints. The Jamaican women also dominated though not as completely.
This was not done by Russia, China or Europe. It was done by a region of less than 5 million people who do not have the resources these countries have. That, to them, must be beyond all rational explanation. In Beijing the domination was near while in London it was total and it continued in Worlds' Athletics' games in between the Olympiads. More astounding to them must be our region producing two 19 year old Olympic champions one of whom came from a country of population 100 000, Grenada. Both were competing in their first Olympics
I am suggesting that their thinking must be to lower the bar, relax the rules, to allow 'convicts' back into the game to stop the Caribbean runaway horse. We are not seeing new clean sensations emerging on the American scene while the Jamaican machine keeps churning out new sprint sensations with Rio Olympics just one year away. Bolt is still there willing and able to lead the Jamaican charge. He too must be dreaming of a third Olympic sprint crown; something, if achieved, no one will match for a long, long time, drugs or not..
Guess this must be another case of the Empire striking back!
The Forum on the Future of the Caribbean was hosted by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, the University of the West Indies (UWI) together with the UNDP on May 5-7, 2015. I only attended the last day so my own participation was limited but I do share my reflections some of which are not original but I draw from remarks heard from people in attendance.
As is evident in the organization, the approach of the conference was top down and elitist. And it was framed by the dominant bureaucratic apparatus. However it did seek to gather important academics and others thus it had some significance and was not altogether useless. Indeed there were present participants even presenters who may be defined as progressive.
Topics covered dealt with such areas as economics, finance, poverty diplomacy etc. There was even a paper on the Caribbean and space exploration.
More significant were the areas not properly addressed namely serious engagement of the people and their culture. One would expect that here is to be found the true future of the Caribbean. Our rich and deep community life, religious social expressions and spirituality, music, our art and craft, explosive creativity as seen in Carnival, our literature, our history of struggle against oppression.
All this it appears was largely ignored by the forum which was dominated by a Eurocentric, elitist, bureaucratic, technocratic approach held in our most exclusive hotel in an extremely formal setting. So much so that one participant asked why so many people were dressed in (formal) black. I heard another remark that the discourse had not really changed since the 1970s.
The event was of course laced with jargon – disruptive thinking, bold action, practical outcomes… “convergence” and even talk of “radical” ideas. By the way it needs to be noted how the status quo appropriates progressive and progressive sounding terminology for its own purposes. One would think that if they were really serious about creative disruption and progressive ideas a great deal of attention would be paid to the Cuban and Bolivarian Revolutions.
And here is another limitation. The dominant vision of the region was really that of the Caricom Anglo-Caribbean. There is a widespread ludicrous assumption here that the English speaking Caribbean is the Caribbean. So there was of course a complete and utter absence in the forum’s discourse of hemispheric thinking. The Venezuelan presentation on Petro Caribe and ALBA was ignored. I heard the comment that the Trinidadian response to Petro Caribe is to pretend that it does not exist.
This writer was moved to ask whether most Caricom citizens even know the phrase “Our America”. In actuality the very vast majority do not. Not even those of us who are supposedly educated.
But as was said a gathering of Caribbean academics and Caribbeanists was important and some, hopefully the majority, did have intelligent things to say. I did note two rather insightful remarks. One presenter pointed out the uselessness of economists in predicting what is going to happen next year far more fifty years from now, he said he preferred reading science fiction. Another (it was I believe Wendy Grenade of the UWI campus in Barbados) asked us to imagine a future Caribbean without political parties.
The same speaker mentioned the elephant in the room and there were quite a few. Most disturbing about the dominant discourse was that it largely ignored Imperialism, exploitative global capitalism, cultural hegemony and something called the US military. There was an assumption that we have in place democratic systems but of course globalization is presided over by an oligarchy and the same applies to the majority of our Caribbean states.
This of course means that this entire edifice of discourse supposedly involving creative, critical and disruptive thinking was founded on a radical and comprehensive mis-analysis. But there seems to be no examination of this.
So when a speaker (Camille Wardrop Alleyne a Trinidadian aerospace engineer at NASA) presented on space exploration and the Caribbean there was as far as I could tell no mention of Cayenne (in the Caribbean region) the French department where the European Union launches its rockets. How are our Caribbean people involved in and benefit from this? What does this mean for the people’s desire for real self-determination?
Needless to say the participants on the floor were quite marginalized in the whole exercise and at the end one sensed their frustration.
It occurs to me that this entire academic exercise was really all about slavery. And here I refer to the specific historical system and our general Caribbean condition.
Our quest for a “future” is really our ongoing struggle for liberation, to be a Caribbean people. But of course the discourse of the forum cannot address this because to all appearances it is being conducted by a mindset that wants desperately to be European. This was once referred to as “Afro-Saxon”.
It is this ongoing colonial hegemony that needs to be fundamentally dismantled and destroyed. What needs to be disrupted is the present global (dis)order: the cause for which Hugo Chavez gave his life; this, as we seek to realize the possibility of fully being a Caribbean people defining our own Caribbean space. It is such bold action that is called for; failing this the only practical outcome of the forum is a free lunch.
Or are we slaves?
Some of us media people were standing outside the San Fernando Magistrates’ court awaiting the return of the May Day demonstration. The JTUM, a bit unwisely in my view, had decided to march up and down the streets of San Fernando and, in San Fernando, you do march up and down - something we senior journalists can no longer do.
While we were there waiting, a young man approached and asked "Which big shot dey lock up?" We laughingly told him we were awaiting the return of the marchers and then a colleague told us that he had been upstairs covering a 'loitering case'.
Suddenly the same colleague shouted 'look him' and pointed. A slim male/female looking figure whom we commonly call a 'transvestite/drag queen' was heading west. It turns out that the night before he/she had appeared on the street, harmed no one, shot nobody and broke no windscreens but based on the clothes he/she was wearing had been charged with loitering.
Loitering? If that were a punishable crime half of Parliament aka 'backbenchers', many of our sporting administrations, the Integrity Commission and the Recognition Board would be behind bars.
But the incident resonated because two nights before, the news stated that a young man of 17 had been charged with ''having sex with a minor'. Now, in our promiscuous society, where sex is used to sell everything from lumber to cars to White Rum and where Vernella is a national hero to some, it is interesting to note that 'having sex' is a crime/offense. Oh with a minor? Okay…this minor reportedly left her school, went to another minor’s (the boy's) home where misreading her desire to play videos games he committed the crime/offense.
If one wishes to provide guidelines re sexual conduct is the police station the place to do it? Especially in Central? I can see the lead, “A team of investigators raided a house in Crown Trace where they found and arrested 2 persons, one male one female for 'having sex'. Police also seized a quantity of condoms, 3 Viagra and a dildo. The young people, both teenagers, are to appear before their parents, school Principals and Pastor Dottin next week’. Head of the Central Division is warning males to 'keep yuh penises outta Central. Don't bring yuh toetee here!"
It reminded me of a story told by the legendary Lenny Bruce of a man who was repeatedly arrested and charged with sniffing panties hung out on a line And he would win the case every time because it was his own panties.
But back to South Eastern's non-participation. In these Districts the divisional games have been funded by corporate sponsors for years: Milo in Port of Spain, NGC in Caroni and St. Patrick and Atlantic Energy in South Eastern. Sponsorship has not been the problem. Due diligent enquiry, carried out by this journalist revealed that it was a question of financial accountability as in record keeping. So everything was put on hold till that problem was/is resolved which apparently it has not been.
So the solution, or means of finding one, had created a much larger problem, i.e. the absence of South Eastern
Those of us in the towns or communities where the club system is developed or where stadia are a few minutes away may not appreciate what these games do in these counties. It allows mass participation unlike the team sports. Track and field is running/jumping/throwing individually in 7 events. Parents and communities get behind the youngsters to make it to the Stadium in town for the final. The communities and schools are still social enough to look forward to the outing. Moruga Games are a fine example of this.
Contrast this with Hampton's International heats where hundreds of youngsters participated in what turned out to be a lead up event to the National games. This type of activity and opportunity is routine to most of them.
The other set back is cancellation of training programmes in the rural areas for the qualifiers. Such programmes have been developed through some sponsors as part of the youngsters’ development. What occurs naturally in places such as Port of Spain, St. George East and the all conquering Tobago through their developed track and field culture, has to be nurtured through the schools down there.
The children are taught the basics not solely with competition in mind. Some of these children have to adjust to BEING on the track in a stadium. Don't laugh! Some of our great sprinters have told me of hearing their names called at a Grand Prix meet in front of 20 000 silent spectators at the start of a race and having to adjust to that.
Then there are 3 registered track and field clubs between San Fernando and Guayaguayare. How they manage and survive is a story of dedication and commitment. The biggest challenge in 2016 will be to motivate a generation of fickle teachers and disappointed parents to maintain an interest. Given our political and administrative culture it is very easy to become cynical and to tell the children 'study yuh book'. Children will also migrate to other sports where there is more opportunity for participation. Compare organising football games, cricket or netball matches to an athletic meet. The latter too are all year round while track and field is seasonal.
I have suggested to some of the persons involved that there be a comprehensive review of how track and field is run/done in our school system. No no, no!! Not the Jamaican model which will NOT work here for historical and cultural reasons. Track and field cannot help drive education in Trinidad and Tobago the way it does, has done in Jamaica. My suggestion is based on the calamitous decline of the Secondary Schools’ meets where at National finals athletes and officials seem to outnumber spectators and of course events being described in this article.
Unfortunately the Teachers union, the governing body for track and field and an insufficient number of parents do not see these issues as their business...which it really is
I have no problems with Minister of National Diversity and Social Integration Roger Samuel calling some of the former Black Power detainees, heroes.
However, I have a big problem with the government that he represents for threatening Ancel Roget, the President General of the OWTU with legal action. Celebrating Black Power while trying to destroy the OWTU is a contradiction!
The OWTU was central to the Black Power Movement. The OWTU bore the brunt of the government’s onslaught against the union when it raided Paramount Building, took away union records and detained several of its members, including George Weekes. I also have a big problem with folks like Daaga, Kambon and the rest of “sellouts” who remain silent rather than come to the defense of the OWTU.
The OWTU became a refuge for many of them when they were in the
political wilderness. The OWTU gave them jobs and all types of financial assistance. Now that they are “eat ah government food and drink ah government juice”, these so-called Black Power heroes have refused to come to Roget’s defense.
These Black Power heroes are content to live on nostalgia while the working class and working people are suffering under a government that subscribes to IMF policies that NJAC once challenged. They are no longer challenging the IMF because they have sold their souls for positions like “Ambassador Plenipotentiary.”
Today they are being called heroes by the representatives of the ruling class who have “smashed their brains in” with the Neo-liberal baton. Today they are being celebrated by the representatives of the ruling class who violently destroyed the movement. Today they are being celebrated by the representatives of the ruling class who want to destroy the OWTU in particular, and the trade union movement in general.
Based on complaints from a wide cross-section of workers in the health care system our involvement in the Regional Health Authorities was guided by a basic tenet that health care workers needed their own organization much like the various protective services and other professional bodies such as teachers.
What incensed our sense of justice was management’s plantation style approach to labour, complemented by a blasé, vociferous, unstructured response by the purveyors of industrial relations. As a result, according to a senior worker, over the years workers were left battered, bruised and bewildered.
Some left a system that massaged foreign health care workers but treated them as second class workers; some are treated like indentured labourers who must survive from contract to contract.
Others, with no alternative at their disposal, simply go through the motion of earning a living. Meanwhile, management, as to be expected, sees no need to change the culture into a professional one.
Management, seemingly as ignorant of twenty first century industrial relations as their overseer in the Ministry of Health relies, in its relationship with its workers, on a mishmash of thirty year old memoranda that was issued for the guidance of public officers (which RHA employees are not), public service handbooks, SWRHA manuals, ancient letters and instructions the origin of which nobody can trace.
The nonsense which passes for industrial relations throughout the RHA system was exemplified by the attack launched by the Minister of Health last Christmas on nurses’ commitment to their patients - the same seemingly bipolar politician who in one breath threatens to close down hospitals, fire local nurses and import thousands of foreign nurses and in another breath talks about giving them housing allowances and praising them to the skies for their dedication.
But what do you expect from an individual who wanted to be minister of health in the morning and millionaire surgeon in the evening. To make matters worse, Dan Mahabirsingh, an NCRHA reject, was put in charge of Industrial Relations and in a few short months, he has totally destabilised the relationship between employer and employee. He has upset shift arrangements that have been in place for years and is trying to force an eight hour cycle into a seven day week. Overtime pay arrangements have all gone to hell under his watch and he has now issued instructions that no union representatives will be given time off with pay to handle workers’ grievances.
This industrial relations “expert” does not seem to know that every worker has the right to raise grievances with their immediate supervisor in the first instance and if there is no accepted dispute handling procedure (which the NHWU has proposed and from which he keeps ducking) a normal part of which is that union reps be afforded time off with pay to handle said grievances, he is laying the foundation for anarchy and wildness in the employer-employee relationship.
But then what can you expect of an individual whose attitude towards the union reeks of discourtesy through slow responses to agreed upon disclosures, the switching of meeting places at the last minute and a refusal to deal in an equitable manner with the NHWU.
He should take note of the old creole saying who doh hear go feel!
Workers of Tube City IMS Limited, a firm contracted to Arcelor Mittal, one of the leading steel conglomerates in the world, staged a protest at the Point Lisas roundabout on Tuesday April 14th 2015.
In this twentieth century with laws that gives workers the right to join any union of their choice this capitalist Canadian with those words has placed over 200 citizens of this country on the bread line: single mothers, sole bread winners; workers with 25 to 30 years service.” The Union President vowed to fight with all their strength until the workers are re-employed.
Branch President Anthony Charles of the representing Steel Workers' Union spoke to Comrade Rae Samuel of the National Workers Union (see video)
They peddled the vulgar fiction and fraud called the PP as the solution to our economic, political, social, health, security, cultural and all other problems, including acne, just like the other snake-oil salesmen, 'bush doctors' and 'healers' who regale us daily with like promises.
My comrades, and like minded patriots, identified their offer for what is was then, and still is now, and we denounced and rejected it. We made clear we would not support that pick-up side and any leadership comprising known anti-worker, ethnic chauvinist, caste-motivated, closet-Nazi types like Kamla (who did not support the CCJ because its first bench had no "Indian" judge on it).
We predicted that they, MSJ and Daaga included, would betray the people and ensure that they, their inner circle 'cabal' and friends, would enrich themselves by 'eating ah food' at taxpayers expense like swine in a feeding frenzy at a hog trough called the public purse.
They would advance and defend the interests of transnationals, big business and anything that would keep working people and other citizens in the same place Manning's PNM had kept us.
We rejected the call to "sleep" with any coalition of political crapauds and prostitutes hastily cobbled together to remove the PNM at any cost because under the present political system there is no true democracy.
For those old enough to recall, long ago if you “make a fairs” you would make a trip down Wrightson Road. by the 'dongs tree' to deal with what is now referred to as an acute case of STD.
Objectively, only one party was really on the ballot paper in 2010 - the UNCOPNMSJ. It’s six of one; half a dozen of the other, no matter who you vote for. None of them would act to change the game! Of course, ours was a minority and unpopular position but proven correct in time.
Soon as they came to power they began to PP on us, starting with the renege on the promise to pay all pensioners $3000/ monthly, then the Gopaul/NP contract scandal, then Reshmigate, then…ad nauseam!
The elections are coming again and once more the real question to be addressed by patriotic citizens is: who will acquire power, in whose interests will it be wielded and how can we, the, citizens make power accountable to us, no matter who wields it, whether its President, Chief Justice, PM, AG, Speaker of the House, MP, Minister, CDS, Ag. Cop, Perm. Sec. or any other officials we give power to.
That is the elephant in the room, the real issues to be dealt with, and some people will continue to see, hear, speak and write about anything else but this reality. They will continue to deny this reality and avoid the demand for action which confronting this question forces all patriots to face. CLR James said 'if you don't change the rules, the rules will change you’!
We must find ways to make ourselves ' rule changers'.
United States Under Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson said recently that she feels disappointed by the large Latin American rejection of the sanctions imposed by the US against Venezuela and said that such sanctions sought not harm the Venezuelan people and the entire government of Caracas.
She admitted that the matter evokes historical differences between her country and Latin America, which she declined to specify, but it is an unambiguous reference to the traditional policy of Washington against the rest of the continent: its support and promotion of reprehensible dictatorships, military invasions of sovereign nations, inveterate plundering of natural resources and constant interference in the internal affairs of countries of the subcontinent; the latest chapter is precisely the set of statements and hostile measures of the White House to Caracas.
As you may recall, last March 9 President Barack Obama called the South American country an extraordinary and unusual threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.
He ordered a blockade of Venezuelan accounts and banned from entering US territory seven officials of the Nicolás Maduro government. In response to such nonsense either because there is no concrete facts that the Government of Caracas somehow could threaten the security of the superpower, individual governments and regional bodies such as the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) criticized the actions of Washington and called on Obama to repeal them.
If the State Department’s Roberta Jacobson, can call herself surprised at the strength and unanimity of the Latin American response, this can only be explained by the neglect of US diplomacy towards the region in the last two decades.
Indeed, until late last century such a reaction would have been unthinkable, but from then until today processes have developed in the southern portion of the continent that vindicate national sovereignty and regional integration and have transformed paradigms.
Latin American governments which have turned their back on these processes such as those in: Mexico, Colombia and Peru, instead, have persisted in maintaining the traditional political, economic and diplomatic subordination to the power of the North.
Now Washington meets previously unthinkable continental realities that make an attempt to isolate one of their peer countries to subdue it through financial and even military means, or by the active support to internal sedition, as US has been doing increasingly in Latin America with governments that stand for sovereignty and social transformation.
The US effort against Venezuela is even more bizarre, If you consider that the White House has just taken concrete steps towards détente with Cuba, on which for half a century it has maintained an implacable economic blockade, a policy of constant harassment, and even an active support to terrorist groups of anti-Castro exiles.
Regardless of the posture adopted about the tense political situation in Venezuela, no government in Latin America can, without blushing, agree with the nonsense expressed a month ago by Obama, among other reasons, because it is clear that things are exactly the opposite: it is Washington that threatens the national security of Venezuela, and its active belligerence of supporting Maduro`s opponents is a clear example of this.