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


posted 21 Sep 2016, 12:08 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 21 Sep 2016, 13:26 ]

Cathal Healy-Singh is a Civil and Environmental Engineer by training with twenty-four years of experience combining technical, socio-economic and environmental aspects of development in management.

He has worked with donor and other multilateral organisations, national governments, private sector, local elected village councils, and community based organizations, including indigenous peoples, in all thirteen members of Caricom.

Our weak "socio-economic" condition, a current talking point of mainstream media, is also reflected by our degraded environment.  Armed with weak legislation (Environmental Act, 2000), a timid regulatory "Authority" was always destined to fail at ensuring our "environmental well-being" - an obscure concept despite the endless talk, talk, talk of "managing a balance" between economic activity and environmental impact.

After a century of harvesting petroleum hydrocarbons we are now a "mature energy province", this just means our oil/gas is running out and becoming more and more costly to harvest. We have poisoned fish, polluted waters and pauperized a once thriving sector. Now the fish are sick in La Brea, sick from oil. There is not yet proof of source - crude spill, refined spill or dispersed after big spill (17th December 2013). But there is oil in the bottom feeding fish. Anywhere from 0.5g/kg to 2.4g/kg - a drop to a few drops in every kg. The poor eat catfish and are vulnerable. The State says the dead fish are discarded catch. This can't be true. By-catch does not reach the shore.

This is another consequence of having an unregulated economy when it comes to negative impacts on public and environmental health. It is grim because the State feels the need to practice damage control rather than confront the problem in a transparent way.  Unregulated land based mineral extraction has had the same effect - degraded watersheds, life-less rivers disadvantaged communities and major losses of biodiversity. The mainstream political-business class is unmoved, unfazed.

Successive Energy Ministers responsible for mining accepted "life time membership" from the Quarry Association - a reward for shielding the sector from environmental and social obligations that would have been expected from an industry, which if unchecked, would have had, and has had, catastrophic impact on our drinking water supplies. This has passed unnoticed, without a whisper. 

On Friday 16th September quarry developer, Blue Diamond Engineering Ltd., had paid consultants Eco-Engineering (who were hired by ALCOA to deliver the Chatham smelter) host a meeting in Maracas Valley to tell the public of their plans to quarry in the Acono-Caurita watershed. This is their second attempt. The community held them back in 2007 when the political class opened the doors to the destruction of the Northern Range by quarries. 

About 150 plus persons came out to the public consultation at the Maracas Valley Community Center, despite it being 5pm on a Friday evening. This demonstrates the importance of the consultation to residents. People came from Acono and the wider Valley. 

Their voices were unanimous: "Acono and Maracas Valley people are stridently opposed to Blue Diamond or any new quarries and want the existing quarry operated by Coosal to be fixed"

By "fixed" it means that Coosal needs to re-engineer operations to meet the discharge standards set out in the EMA's Water Pollution Rules so that the river that runs through the watershed where the quarry is located can be redirected (as originally intended) into WASA's Acono Water Treatment Plant. This will add water into the local supply system and help relieve the chronic water shortages experienced in Acono. 

Under no circumstances should Blue Diamond be given permission to establish a quarry in the Caurita Watershed as this will pollute the river water making it unusable. Caurita residents, some 2000 persons, depend almost exclusively on the water in the River. There should be no ambiguity now. The Blue Diamond quarry developers were advised to arrest and terminate their project. There was unanimity in this regard. The EMA needs to take note. 

Coosal needs now to take urgent steps to
1) allow the river in the quarried catchment to return to sufficient quality to allow that water to be treated by WASA. 
2) urgently implement best practices on his quarry. 

It should be noted that there were also loud calls for Coosal to be shut down and the Valley be free of all quarries. 

There were also calls for a broader, long term and sustainable approach to infrastructure and development planning in the Valley. Finally, there were many calls again from Acono for recreational grounds to be created within Acono so that the youths have a safe and dedicated area for football, basketball and other forms of sport, and not have to play in the road and risk being knocked down by vehicles 

To avoid the problem of polluted freshwater our political class pulled out the "desalination" option committing large amounts of energy to separate salt from water in 
Image result for COOSALS LIMESTONE QUARRY IN ACONOthe polluted Gulf, and handing out long-term lucrative 'take or pay' contracts to the lucky contractor. "Water security" and "energy security" are clearly anathema to our political class. 
We are in a 'post-civilization' mode in God's favorite twin-island State. We have given the proverbial 'finger' to Nature and the climate that preserves Her. Our obsession to preserve the plantation economy which concentrates and exports wealth for a few and creates dependency for the majority has been the hall mark of our times. Our colonial constitution remains the same 54 years after Independence. 
All the consultations of the previous Administration yielded naught. Nothing! But alas there is no "boom" on the horizon. And there will be none to come. Global capitalism collapsed almost a decade ago. This system of concentrating wealth, creating wars and forcing open markets everywhere is in decline. No amount of money printing at the 'Fed' (US) can recover this.


1) The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) received 39 applications for new quarries since the beginning of 2015.

2) On 15th March, 2015 Coosal's Acono Quarry applied to the EMA for a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) to quarry an additional 78.8 hectares (almost 200 acres). On 22nd May 2015, the EMA issued Coosal permission for this without requiring any Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). 

3) The chain of communication between the EMA and Coosal shows that the EMA upheld a request by Coosal to keep information on "production of material" (presumably the amount to be extracted) confidential.

4) In May 2007 Caribbean Quarries Limited (CQL)) applied for a CEC for a 19 acre quarry between Coosal and Ortinola (run-off from the proposed location would have discharged into the Ortinola River upstream of WASA's treatment Plant. CQL engaged Eco-engineering to do the required EIA. There was a hostile opposition to the new quarry from the Acono community demonstrated at the Public Consultations. 

5) On 11th May, 2015, Caribbean Quarries Ltd re-applied to the EMA for a CEC for a 7.3 hectare quarry (about 19 acres). CQL requested that the EMA keep confidential (not allow public access) to their proposed "environmental management systems".

The EMA denied the request. In considering their application, the EMA requested that CQL submit additional information including "that the neighbouring landowners carrying out subsistence agriculture on lands surrounding the proposed project site, residents along Acono Road and other stakeholders be informed about the proposed project and given the opportunity to share any opinion of the proposed activity".

6) On 29th March 2015 Blue Diamond Quarries Ltd. applied to the EMA for a CEC to operate a quarry immediately behind (east of and adjacent to Coosal's existing quarry, accessed via Caurita Road). On 29th March 2016 BDQ reapplied to the EMA for a CEC for the same quarry identifying Eco-engineering as their EIA consultants.

7) The BDQ "project area" is 100 acres of which 65 acres are to be mined and 35 acres to be retained as a "buffer zone". BDQ has leased this land from Viking Caribou Holdings Ltd which had itself attempted to get permission for a quarry at this location in 2007 but withdrew after seeing the community opposition faced by CQL.


1) Coosal is supposed to have applied for a Water Pollution Permit for river discharges from current operations (he has actually claimed the whole river flowing past his quarry polluting it and preventing it from being directed through WASA's Acono Water Works resulting in a near 50% loss of water supply). It would be interesting to follow up on this.  

2) It is not clear what Caribbean Quarries are doing now.

3) BDQ environmental consultants are apparently actively carrying out the EIA.

4) We know from experience that Coosal would prefer that no other quarries be given permission to operate in Acono.

5) We know that the Acono and Marcas Valley community oppose any new quarries and ALSO oppose any expansion of Coosal. In fact this community wants Coosal to be regulated such that some restoration of Acono River water quality is possible as well as restoration of areas already quarried. While this is highly unlikely, the Water Pollution Rules offer some window to scrutinize the impacts of Coosal.

6) The EMA's official internal operating procedures require that when the EMA makes a decision on whether or not to require an EIA for an activity that requires a CEC, that they give reasons. The process for decision making is laid out in their Practitioners Guide" and "Standard Operating Procedures". There is no evidence on file to suggest that the EMA followed their own Guide and Procedures in approving Coosal's expansion

As for Acono quarrying, Coosal got his 70 hectare expansion approved by the EMA (my estimate is that he has 1000 acres currently under quarry) without environmental assessment.

A small but growing number of people are responding in their own back yards, communities and towns by growing food and feeding themselves. They are attempting to avoid intake of the massive unregulated import of pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified pro
duce and seeds - the silent killers already in our midst for years. (To this our political-business class is again unfazed). 
We hear so much talk every day on the radio, everyone defending either PNM or UNC. This has obscured the fact that they both have approached the problem in the same way and neither has a solution. While I pray that our political class evolves, I do not hold my breath. 

The UNC-COP has to rid itself of the corrupt elements responsible for the loss at the last elections. The PNM need not be afraid of criticism either. Fear not truth. Go and pull up your garden flowers my friends and plant food. Catch and store your rainwater. Speak with your children. The time of responsible governance is upon us. Not by choice but necessity. Speak up!


Image result for QUARRY IN ACONO
In 2007, there were protests against Coosal's Quarries by Acono residents. 

In 2016 residents protests against Blue Diamond Quarry


posted 20 Sep 2016, 08:53 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 20 Sep 2016, 10:01 ]

Rawle Ramjag

"For the rich, by the rich."

Every government office now, Passport Offices, Schools, Licensing Offices, Social Welfare (!) and the list goes on, has in bold, on its entrance : 








What is this about? Are we now criminalizing wear? How can short pants be illegal? What, essentially, is the difference between a short pants and a skirt? Imagine our taxes are now being used to pay an officer to prevent us from entering a building for which our taxes have paid. And why?

In Guyana too
This nation, which promotes, as part of our carnival culture, all year round, women who could not wear less, (as yet), performing the most suggestive mating dances, is refusing to allow entry to a woman in sleeveless. And doing so in the presence of officers who are attired in sleeveless! And what about young men who wear their pants down by their thighs with their drawers and half their arses exposed? This is okay? What is 'revealing clothes'? Is this qualifiable? Quantifiable? What are the yardsticks?

I witnessed 5 women being told that they could not sit, nor be attended to, at the Social Welfare Office in Tunapuna because of their dress. This reeks of unconstitutionalism and moral misappropriation. Although I agree that dress plays an important role in our general conduct, this, like manners, cannot be treated in a legal framework. To do so will lead to the criminalization of certain types of wear. In a plural society such as ours, we cannot afford to legalize, institutionalize nor regularize the way our people dress. Who will be the moral police? Who are they now? Who are these purists who conceal themselves behind the veil of 'management' and draft up these archaic rules?

When the 5th woman was being chased out (by a female security officer), I had enough and decided to intervene on her behalf. The security shouted at me that I “should go dong tuh de market an’ buy a bra an ah panty an’ put it on an try tuh see if yuh could come back in hyere”.

The next officer called for backup and I was surrounded by five security officers - all this, for questioning the discretion of their code of dress. Civilians must be vigilant of their rights else it will be taken away by governments and their puppet security forces. See what happened in France (police forcing women to wear less)! Imagine, in a country (France) where women bare their bottoms, breasts and vaginas, a woman cannot wear a veil!

Ironically, in Trinidad & Tobago, both the prime minister's wife and the president's wife often

wear sleeveless to official functions locally and abroad. And how is a tube top different from the president's wife's 'skin-coloured belt'? In fact, judging from the news, sleeveless seems to be one of Sharon Rowley's favourite forms of dress, just like the queen of England (in her youth), just like the First Lady of USA, and Mexico, and France. (Frankly, we allow heads of state to carry their wives all over the world modelling in the most expensive dresses, as if they (wives) are contributing something to the meetings, while we cannot even take our wives to our staff lunch. We don't see Putin exposing his biceps). 

If these women can represent their country in sleeveless, what is the problem with someone entering a government office in similar dress? But they do not have to. We do not see the likes of them lining up in government offices. Have you? Has anyone you know? If the rich and powerful had t
o line up like the rest of us, things would change for the better, would it not? 

Maybe if Mrs Rowley and Mrs Carmona were poor and destitute, like many of the women who have to face (off) with Social Welfare Offices and other similar oppressive places, they would seek to retract this advantageous regulation. But a poor person cannot enter a Social Welfare Office in sleeveless. What hypocrisy! 

The 2nd irony was that there were 4 officers or workers behind the desks dressed in sleeveless. The 3rd 
irony was that the only other person to lend support to the poor woman was a man. Not only did no woman support the distressed woman, but they accused her of dressing immorally, ('It good fuh she!' Do we need Rachid Nekkaz to come and fight for our women?) Interestingly, the woman chased out was young and beautiful; the women chastising her were neither. 

And finally, when I went back to my seat, on the TV in front of me was one of our carnival scenes showing 2 obese, bikini-clad women, one bent over and the other thrusting at her from behind. (But that's ok. Even our prime minister takes an occasional public wine.) Not only that, but there were a few women in tights so tight that every crease and fold were outlined. But that's ok too, just no sleeveless.

And what about people like Kirk? He has severe damage to both his knees making it painful for him to dress in long pants. But he must wear long pants to be admitted into the health clinic. To examine his knees, the doctor asks him to either remove the pants or roll it up to his thighs. Would it not be sensible for him to just wear short pants? How about if he just wears a short skirt -seeing that this is allowed?

What about people with damage to their arms? Certainly these rules have not been thought out carefully. A walk through the hospital wards will reveal people slung up and exposed in the most embarrassing manner. How does the hospital administration plan to deal with this?

Zena not Xena
But they (the government) are not done with us yet. Look! The Ministry of Education along with the National Parent/Teacher Association headed by Zena Ramatali, is now seeking to instruct teachers how to dress. And let me say it for them - female teachers are not dressing appropriately. Shame on you, ladies! Cover up your sexy breasts. Hide that arse. Waist-to-hip ratio too small? Wear baggy clothes! Tie that long hair in a bun. You are not here for your looks, you know!

They want you to look as unfeminine and repressed as possible. We want our schools to be as
Xena not Zena
removed from the real world as possible. We do not want our youth to be aware that sex sells! Give them a chance and all teachers will look like Zena, (sorry, not the Warrior Princess). Look out, teachers: here come the new dress codes! One for each department: Science, Sports, Art, Industrial Arts and the rest.

On the bright side though, the Ministry will be giving teachers a clothing allowance; but with what they pay teachers, we can expect to see more of them. And how dare Franklin Khan suggest that teachers are demonstrating a lack of discipline! All educated people are aware that those who are not subjected to discipline at home will get it at school.

There are far more important issues for the Ministry to address - prompt teacher replacement, unsuitable curricula in most government secondary schools, incompetent school supervisors, poor infrastructure in primary schools, science component in primary schools. Mr Khan, Mr Garcia and Ms Ramatali should be appreciative of the tremendous work that teachers are performing in this country. It is primarily because of this that we are at the top in the Caribbean.

The problem is exacerbated when we consider the advocates of these absurd regulations. This issue of the rights of civilians to dress as they see fit is an extremely important one. Contrary to what people like Ms Springer, Ms Chote and Ms Tyla may think, this is not a matter of racial nor gender discrimination. I do not hear men complaining about women's wear, but I am always hearing women spewing their negative criticism on other women. (Hence the popularity of American shows like What Not To Wear and Fashion Police).

It was the Rani of Travancore who declared that 'women had no right to wear upper clothes like most non-Brahmin castes of Kerala', eventually leading to the Channar Lahala (revolt). It was the Queen of Attingal who sentenced women to have their breasts cut off for covering their bosom. And it was a man, Ayyankali, who fought for the rights of the Dalit women to wear upper body clothing. It was the Brahmins who instituted the Mulakkaram (breast tax, based on size). Not only that, but these oppressive Brahmins also taxed the Dalits for the wearing of jewellery and taxed men for their moustaches.

It is the women of Africa who perform the sexual mutilation of young girls. It is imperialist France who is trying to
Image result for france police burqini shame Muslim women. It is the security forces (a woman in this case) in America who would degrade a woman and bring her to court without her clothes. It was the Australian puppet police who banned the Papunya community from using a public park to practice a traditional Aboriginal dance because they were bare-breasted. 

These sumptuary laws have existed for millennia: the first written one being the Greek Locrian Code circa 700 BCE. They also existed in most of the “advanced civilizations” worldwide: Rome, circa 200 BCE; Tyrian purple law; China, circa 200 BCE, under the Qin Dynasty; Germany, 1657, the Nurembery Law, blatantly states that the law must serve to differentiate between the different classes; Japan; circa 1650, the Shogunate decreed that the Eta and Hinin classes (filthy and non-humans) could not wear the same clothing as them; Italy, the Renaissance period; France again, circa 1600; and America, circa 1600, the Massachusetts Bay Colony legislated what could be worn according to one’s fortune.

ians must speak up! Too few of us have. Just to mention a few: Errol Kalpatoo stood up against the government decades ago for his right not to wear the mandatory necktie; Stephen Joseph objected strongly to the bank's insistence to remove his cap in 2012 and Rita Le Blanc objected to the Ministry of Education's sleeveless dress code recently. In each case, there is a common thread - it is the rich (and powerful) acting against the poor - the rich, continually frustrating, exploiting and wasting the time of the poor, to keep them there, so they can amass their fortunes by taxing them to death. 

Like most of mankind's troubles, it has arisen because of greed; formulated by the rich to separate themselves from everyone else. 'Some pigs cannot be more equal than others'. We must be wary of laws - made by the rich, for the rich.


posted 19 Sep 2016, 21:51 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 Sep 2016, 21:53 ]

"Waaaaaaaaaiiii.'' We never figure him out for a back in times man but last week it seems the CJ, like his namesake in the ‘60s, well 'buck dem up'”.

His Honour's call, riding a riddim from King Striker's hit - hello, hello...order in de court. The name of the song was Archie BUCK them up. Take yuh mind out of the gutter before yuh end up in front of a non-existent jury.

Archie made a call for abolition of trial by jury, thus igniting a furore within the legal fraternity who inhabit that chimera - the justice system. And if there was any doubt about how broken it is, the Sunday after the call was made, women prisoners at Golden Grove had to stage protests about the conditions under which they are detained. Not that Archie was around to hear them. All yuh kyah stop him from travelling at all yuh expense…all yuh could only talk! He was headed to Guyana to attend a legal conference at State's expense of course.

Why Guyana? Ai...what happen to yuh? Guyana is the home of good calypsonians and a place for good songs. Sparrow did say "One B.G. plantain does full up de pot''. Or Sparrow's "Dey go be puttin' mih out mih way/If dey tackle Tiger Bay/And bun down de hotel whey all them "wahbeen'' does stay.'' Guyana is also the home of the Great calypsonian King Fighter and Dave Martin and the Tradewinds. (Check out Cricket in the Jungle).

One of the more pertinent responses to Archie's comments is not the lengthy trial by jury process but the time it takes to get to trial. In the recently concluded Vindra Naipaul-Coolman case the process took ten years when it was manifestly clear to many that the case never had a chance. What does one tell an individual who has been served that kind of justice?

A 20 year old who has been through that would have seen his/her peers, recent school mates, former co-workers move on, attempt to build lives and raise families. The legal fees would have long ruined his relatives. As George Jackson/Soledad brother so aptly put it “those who are not broken can never be 'normal' either...”

Why is this matter not attended to urgently? Capitalism, profit, exploitation - facts of everyday life in a society! A prisoner has to be processed, housed, fed, arraigned, transported, clothed, guarded and re-cycled. Do we really imagine Amalgamated would like to see the prisons emptied?

Dear friends, east of the prison complex at Golden Grove is an area fenced off with barbed wire which is not coming down anytime soon. It is the site of our next "Max Row', maximum security prison. As soon as the present administration takes time off from writing autobiographies a contract will be awarded to complete it. Somebody has to fill it and it will NOT be former politicians, heads of housing corporations, corrupt policemen, shotcallers, dodgy lawyers, corporate land grabbers, tax evaders or drug lords. What about columnists and bloggers? In any case some of us are too old to go to jail...right? What you mean "you stop dey?"

What next now that we have moved from contempt of court to contempt of the jury system? Your guess is as good as mine! Poom poom shorts and door prizes in the Magistrates’ court?

Archie buck dem up/Archie *&%$#!! dem up!


posted 13 Sep 2016, 03:21 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 13 Sep 2016, 03:29 ]

In order to understand the four Daagas one must have knowledge of the social, political and economic history of Trinidad and Tobago. Daaga grew up in a society of inequity and as a black man, was compelled to make the necessary changes which were expected to bring about an equal distribution of wealth and dignity for the ordinary people in the country. 

George Weekes
Quite a few of us were disgusted with the slow pace of the Dr. Eric Williams PNM government and, as a result, eventually became enemies of the then government. At that point all who were opposed to the PNM (e.g.: George Weekes, Daaga, Robinson inter alia) joined together and therefore a bitter relationship developed with them and the PNM.

Errol McLeod made the same mistake as Weekes, and that is, the hatred they harboured over the years of frustration with the PNM, forced them to join with any political party which was opposed to the PNM government and had some chance of removing the PNM.

Remember Weekes joined the NAR, which made him so unpopular that people did not even want to see him (the great George Weekes joined with a government who took away workers COLA); McLeod, did the same thing like Weekes (yuh notice you don't see nor hear him). The sell out Daaga did the same thing like George and Errol.

The point is that these men had so much animosity for the PNM that they joined with anybody not thinking that they were jumping from the frying pan into the fire. The funerals of both Weekes and Daaga would have been more eventful if they had stayed the course and so would be the funeral of McLeod when ever. This is a lesson for future revolutionists who do not stay their course.


posted 10 Sep 2016, 09:27 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 10 Sep 2016, 09:42 ]

Alva Allen is the Education and Research Officer of the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union
“I have learnt...
Of men dreaming and living
And hungering in a room without a light
Who could not die since death was far too poor
Who did not sleep to dream, but dreamed to change the world!”

Martin Carter

Just like so many of us who grew up in the 1960’s and early seventies, Ralph Haynes (1949-2016) was profoundly affected by the 1970 uprising. Not yet twenty one, this Vance River raised East West corridor youth’s future trajectory was irrevocably set. He embarked on a lifetime of activism in the service of working people and the poor that had a great influence on the history of this country.

Ralph was a lot of things to a lot of people: panman; revolutionary political activist; militant trade unionist; football manager...but I will concentrate on those areas through which I knew him best.

In the early 1973/1974 period Ralph and I were part of a collective which studied Marxism-Leninism, but more importantly applied its perspective to our tasks as revolutionary activists wherever we found ourselves – in the political sphere, the trade union movement, the cultural arena, in community organising, in the academic and intellectual fields. It is this perspective that would inform his approach to the contribution he would make to the struggles of the workers of WASA and those of the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW).

The Ralph Haynes I knew was an exceptional comrade; in that he was one of history’s fortunate few to see some of his dreams come true. One of his dreams was to see the members of the NUGFW having an opportunity to elect their leaders through one member one vote.

After Ralph was dismissed from Century Eslon for organising workers to become members of the Transport and Industrial Workers Union, he found employment at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) and became a member of NUGFW.

I (then employed at the Electricity Commission (T&TEC) and active in the Oilfields Workers Trade Union) interacted with him and a few others (like Jimmy Singh and Warner) who were committed to the cause of democratising the NUGFW. In that era, the union’s leadership was elected by the delegate system and not along the lines of one member one vote. 

But these comrades faced the odds and gradually gained widespread support among the workers and branch officers after many years of intense struggle in the Union. The momentum became unstoppable and eventually NUGFW’S Triennial Conference of Delegates in 1982 adopted a resolution to elect its leadership using the principle of ONE MEMBER ONE VOTE. Thus the rank and file members of the Union would now have a say in who would be their leaders for the first time. Even though it took another twenty six years for the leadership of NUGFW to put the conference decision in place, Ralph lived long enough to see this dream come true through hard work and sacrifice 

Another dream was to bring WASA workers on par with their counterparts in T&TEC. I remember Ralph challenging then Minister of Public Utilities, Pam Nicholson, as to why a Foreman in WASA should continue to be paid less than a Labourer at T&TEC. Ralph played his role as Chairman of the WASA Section, leading the workers in many battles to correct this great injustice. He has to be thanked for his contribution when at long last the Union and WASA Management signed the parity agreement in 1999/2000. The salary increase was just over 50%. This epic battle for parity intensified at a time when the NAR Government had implemented Structural Adjustment
measures. Another dream became reality.

I vividly remember Ralph’s undying belief in the principle of retaining national ownership of our public utilities and state enterprises. He had every confidence that WASA could become a better utility if only the WASA workers were given the opportunity to impact upon the decision-making. Ralph and the workers of WASA were vehemently opposed to the privatisation of WASA. 

When the UNC Government implemented the PNM’s decision to hand over the management of WASA to Severn Trent, all hell broke loose and the workers fought back at every opportunity. Severn Trent’s tenure was coming to an end and they were seeking a long term contract. Ralph was able to bring tangible evidence to show the miserable failure of Severn Trent to a Ministerial Committee on which we both represented the Union (I was then employed at NUGFW). The Union’s recommendations were accepted and Severn Trent was sent packing. Ralph had made his contribution and lived to see that dream come true.

Without question, Ralph had confidence in a better tomorrow for the people of Trinidad and Tobago. His contribution to the realisation of his dreams bore testimony to the maxim that we can shape the future by taking hold of today. Thanks Ralph. Thanks much!

… A GIANT STANDING TALL… by Dr. Louis Regis

posted 7 Sep 2016, 10:03 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 7 Sep 2016, 10:28 ]

Dr. Louis Regis: Lecturer Literatures in English (University of the West Indies. St Augustine); researcher; author.

Publications include
: Popular music as communication: the political calypso in Trinidad and Tobago 1962-1987; 

Black Stalin, the Caribbean Man; 

Maestro: The True Master; 

The African Presence in the Pre-Emancipation Trinidad Carnival; 

Ethnicity and Nationalism in the Post-1970 Calypso of Trinidad and Tobago; 

La contribución de la música hispánica al calipso. (Translation: Andrés Seijas).

My first distinct memory of Dennis “Charlie” Phillip is of a centre-half standing massively at the heart of the off-campus defence in the UWI St. Augustine Inter-Hall football tournament of 1972/73. While I was dazzled by the amazing skill of midfielder Martin Bourne, I do remember Charlie anchoring the defence with an uncompromising man-or-ball approach which stopped Canada Hall and Milner Hall players in their dancing forays towards the off-campus goal.

In September 1973 when I joined birdsong he was there literally behind the guitar, and remained there doggedly trying to master the arranging styles of Pat Bishop, Earl Wright, Bertie Fraser, Boogsie and birdsong’s resident arranger whom I knew only as Joe Beatle formerly of Starlift (editor’s note: Selwyn Jones).

I was never particularly surprised to see him striding through the campus’ north gate equipped only with cello sticks in hand because his entire circle, captained by Teddy Belgrave, religiously added pan sticks to the schoolbags in which Dr Williams expected us to carry the nation’s future.

I remember his imperturbable calm throughout that long September-December 1973 season when birdsong played at every single blockorama organised by steelbands along the East-West Corridor. I remember him calming and reassuring the many excitable Corridor panmen who participated in birdsong’s first blockorama at the JFK parking lot, a massive festival that went into the night.

But his characteristic calm deserted him at Panorama 1974 when we were crossing the stage and he exploded in a frenzy of excitement pounding at the hapless guitars with the enthusiasm with which, according to one steelband creation myth, Winston Thick Lip Bartholomew of John John dented in his namesake’s kettle drum and so inadvertently initiated the birth of the steelpan.

After my undergrad career ended I became lost in the mechanics of my own survival and lost contact with the band and with the steelband movement in general. I did hear though that birdsong was evolving into an academy of music and was a living model of corporate citizenship. One evening I met Charlie at the JFK building where he was waiting to escort the blind player (Nyol Manswell) from a class and he raved at the player’s musical talent. He did not claim a role for birdsong in the development of this amazing talent. (I only found this out when the player made it public at the town meeting.)

Then came Monday 29 August 2016. Charlie opened the town meeting by saying that this wasn’t a wake, meaning that birdsong wasn’t dead. Sometime later he declared that he was glad that matters had come to this head because it meant a new beginning for the academy. Replaying the town meeting in my head it occurred to me that at no time did Charlie excoriate the passing parade of politicians past and present, nor did he eviscerate the evicting businessman. It was as though he had taken them out of his mind, to borrow from Jordan Kush Ngubane. All that he wanted on that Monday evening is to publicly declare birdsong’s history and current position, stressing the culture of self-sufficiency, independence and hard wuk. He also wanted to thank publicly The UWI, Vasant Barath, Exodus, Sound Specialists and all those who rallied round birdsong in its time of need.

I think that he welcomed the presence and support of birdsong parents, committee members and supporters; of Keith Diaz and Richard Forteau, Pan Trinbago’s president and PRO respectively; of pan fanatic Martin Daly SC; I have chosen to believe that he was glad to see the birdsong old boys: David Abdulah, on national duty for the past 40 years; Gerry Kangalee, now on over-extended loan to Southern Marines; and me, who just drifted along. But I suspect that, even as he listened to us, his mind was racing ahead to the four-storey building cum basement which would be birdsong’s new home, not yet built on a property not yet acquired but a reality in his imagination.

He is very grateful for all the support, sympathy never entered his thoughts, but what he really needs is time, time for the system to sort itself out and so allow birdsong to complete the purchase which it initiated some years ago, time to amass the money needed for the new building. Given this one can understand his irritation provoked by media dissemination of unjust unreasonable conclusions drawn irresponsibly from misapprehensions about the situation.

When I was about to leave I looked for Charlie but he was helping the sound men with their equipment. This seemed like a menial task for the man of the moment but the Charlie I know moved birdsong from place to place on the Cave Hill campus when as part of the St Augustine contingent we played at the Inter-Campus Games in 1974. I did help him then, (my 90-pound frame managing only front-line instruments and moveable stands) but if I hadn’t he would have moved the entire band by himself, without complaint, just as, and this is Gerry Kangalee’s memory, he toted those drums up and down the stairs of Daaga Hall before a mysterious fire conveniently extinguished the tension between the band and the campus.

So, the band was evicted then and now but birdsong will play on because Charlie has willed this to be.


posted 7 Sep 2016, 05:47 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 7 Sep 2016, 05:56 ]

frank sears

In keeping with my interest in a wide range of sporting disciplines I thought it fulfilling to give a birdsImage result for chess-eye view of how Chess is organized at its highest level. For the record I am also interested in swimming, diving, cycling, football, boxing, table-tennis, weight-lifting, even race-walking as disciplines I would really like to see and be involved in some limited way with their development at a professional level in T&T.

The 42nd Chess Olympiad is now underway in Baku, Azerbaijan with 176 countries taking part in the Open section and at least 146 countries registered for the women section. It is a team event that is held every two years. Russia is again the top seed in the Open section but they have not won the gold medal (1st place) in the post-Kasparov era from 2004 – 2014. [Gary Kasparov of Russia was considered the strongest chess champion ever when he retired. He actually visited Trinidad two years ago seeking our vote to become President of the world body but he failed in his effort]

China is rated third based on average players’ ratings is the defending champion with the USA rated second, fielding its highest rated team of five which includes a reserve player. America is not known to be a nation where Chess is a prominent sport but it seems their policy of attracting top players from abroad with incentives has gradually propelled them near the summit.

In fact they have on their roster the number three male players in the top ten of the world and these individuals have as their ‘mother’ country, the Philippines (Wesley So); Fabiano Caruana (France) Hikaru Nakamura (Japan). Social media is wondering whether twin sisters from an east European country would be eligible for the next Olympiad to be held in Batumi, Georgia.

Image result for azerbaijanOther top teams contending for podium places are Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, France, India, England and the hosts themselves in this eleven round tournament. There are at least 14 countries from the Caribbean headed by Cuba and including Trinidad and Tobago which has two teams in Baku.

Chess is considered an ancient game but organizing it has evolved to reflect the world of today. For instance, no chess player can enter the playing hall with a watch, a pen, an electronic device or a notebook. Spectators cannot enter with a mobile telephone and electronic devices will not be allowed.

Before the start of each round the players and captains (who are non-playing participants) must walk through x-ray frames at the entrance while security staff will check their bags. They will have to leave mobile phones, smart watches and pens in a designated storage area and collect same on leaving. The default time for the start of the games will be 15 minutes which means this is a player’s grace period to start his game or else it is an automatic forfeit. From the twelve hotels assigned to the teams for accommodation, buses are provided and adjustments must be made by the teams to cater for queues awaiting security checks: a reflection of the pervasive influence of technology on sport, in this case Chess.

PAN IN DANGER: TIME FOR A NATIONAL POLICY ON PAN! by Michael "Brother Scobie" Joseph

posted 1 Sep 2016, 20:17 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 1 Sep 2016, 20:22 ]

Birdsong Steelpan Academy, epitomizes the phrase, 'a king has no honor In his own land'. Pantrinbago must take heed, because a blow to one is a blow to all. I tried looking at the unpleasant predicament of Birdsong with unbiased eyes and an open mind knowing full well that this was a private arrangement between the band and an independent land owner. 

In spite of that situation, a number of relevant issues keep clouding my thoughts. One is an article in the Guardian Newspapers 30/08/16, page A6. The line Minister of the CDA, was making reference to the Chaguaramas development where the Five Islands Water and Fun Park and the Chaguaramas Safari Adventure were in the process of some infrastructural development in an area, where according to law, it should not be.

But, based on the amount of money spent, there was no way, they claimed that they could tell the amusement park people to break down their structure. That, to them, made no sense. This says clearly, one law for the rich, and another for the broke. When yuh big yuh bad!

Birdsong Steelpan Academy has been a beacon in their community for over twenty eight years (28), and the result of their thrust into youth development is unparalleled. Their activities exemplify the statement of the late professor Lloyd Best, "School in Pan."

Notwithstanding the fact that most Steelbands across Trinidad and Tobago are involved in like projects, Birdsong Steelpan Academy took it to a supreme level; I guess given its UWI origins. They have been producing highly qualified students in music literacy and academics that this Twin Islands nation can be proud of.

We are truly blessed as a nation to have so much talent and even be the producers of the only musical instrument invented in the twentieth century, which we proclaimed to be our National Instrument, and which the world is embracing. Today, the Steelpan flies our national colours high all over the world. For this, we should be very proud.

We as a people should see it as a national disgrace, when days before we celebrated our fifty fourth (54th) year of Independence from colonialism, an iconic Steelband like Birdsong could be literally kicked out onto the streets. What message are we sending to these foreign landlords who have no care, knowledge or understanding of our alien culture?

While I write I am in Brooklyn, New York, where most Steelbands are nomadic, moving from place to place, suffering from lack of rehearsal space. Should the landlords now say to them, you are an outcast in your homeland, what the heck you want me to do for you out here?

Birdsong's track record and the fact that Steelpan is our National Instrument should warrant government protection. Where is the love and appreciation for what is ours? As a matter of fact, what is the national policy on our national instrument? I should not be asking that question, because the skeletal remains of what should be the headquarters of the Steelpan fraternity in Trincity says volumes on policy.

Birdsong's predicament at this time of national celebration is as good an occasion as any for the government to sit down with Pantrinbago and develop clear guidelines and policies to protect the National Instrument of Trinidad and Tobago; starting from pre –school; letting our youths grow up understanding and appreciating all our national symbols, emblems, birds, anthem and all other images of national importance.

What has become of the Steelpan land regularization program and the Steelbands infrastructure upgrade program initiated by the previous regime? Are we to believe that once there is a change of regime, all programs started by the previous administration automatically ceases? Where is the developmental continuity? This type of political gerrymandering must be abolished if we are to move forward as one nation. Politicians must not be allowed to squander taxpayers’ dollars in such a scandalous manner. Laws must be passed to protect us from this type of abuse.

To the membership of Birdsong Steelpan Academy and its community, I do hope that this unpleasant impasse is resolved swiftly and favourably, so you can continue your great work. And, may this be the very last time the Steelpan fraternity is faced with such a dilemma in this our native land.

I take this opportunity to wish the people of our Twin Islands nation, a bright and prosperous fifty fourth birthday, as we strive to develop national pride on the road to securing Nationhood.

May God bless our nation!


posted 29 Aug 2016, 10:37 by Gerry Kangalee

For many years Professor Mary King has written extensively on the need for the government to diversify the on-shore economy. While the various political parties that controlled the government agreed with her positions in principle, each party has so far failed to pursue any meaningful policies that will diversify the economy away from oil and natural gas. Instead, we are witnessing the private-sector embark on a new kind of diversification that I term “Franchise capitalism.” 

Image result for mcdonaldIt is the investment by a franchisee in an established business owned by a franchisor. In the case of Trinidad and Tobago, these investments are mainly in the fast food industry. Over the years, we have seen the proliferation of such enterprises like TGI, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Subway, Starbucks, and Chuck E Cheese, etc. These investments are not creating added-value to the economy because of their high import content. For example, the inputs used are imported which causes a drain on the country’s scarce foreign reserves.

Additionally, when fees and other payments are factored in, it further exacerbates the nation’s current financial situation. Additionally, these enterprises employ non-unionized workers at minimum wage. While jobs are created, the investments don’t significantly impact the high unemployment rate because of high job turn over in the fast food industry.

Is “Franchise capitalism” the best way to diversify the economy? In this dispensation of neo-liberal globalization, there are those forces in Trinidad and Tobago who contend that the country must open its markets to foreign companies. They argue that citizens of Trinidad and Tobago have the right to consume goods and services from other countries.

Moreover, they assert that the county has to modernize and become like any city in North America. Alternatively, others note that the proliferation of franchises damages the country economically, politically, culturally, and physically. Given the country’s agreements with the International Monetary Fund and the government’s position that the private-sector should be the prime mover of the economy, it appears that for now that there is consensus among the ruling elites that “Franchise capitalism” is the
best policy to diversify the economy. Professor King, where are you? Please say it is not so.

The “Four Daagas” by Dr. Godfey Vincent

posted 26 Aug 2016, 09:22 by Gerry Kangalee

Before I delve into the essay on Makandal Daaga, I send condolences to the Daaga family and NJAC organization. I can’t claim to know the former leader of NJAC. My only interaction with him was in 2009 when I visited Trinidad to conduct Field research for my dissertation on the OWTU.

Originally, Daaga had agreed to grant an interview which Carolyn Sampson had worked so hard to set up. On the day in question, Daaga refused the request and he began to ramble some nonsense about the elections. I left the Duke street headquarters of NJAC very disappointed that I didn’t get the interview because I knew Dagga and George Weekes had developed a close relationship during the hey days of the 1970 Black Power Revolution.

Even though I was disappointed, I felt rather saddened by the news I received from my good friend (a former NJAC official) that NJAC received money from the PP to join them to contest the General election. It is in this context that I have entitled the essay The “Four Daagas” because Daaga’s life and contribution should be placed in different time periods and contexts: Dagga as Geddes Granger, Dagga as Makandal Daaga, Dagga as the Maximum leader and Daaga as the sold out leader.

From my perspective, it is critical that we engage in a discourse on the contribution of Daaga by examining the NJAC archives, and manuscripts located nationally, regionally, and globally. Only when historians begin to mine these documents we will have a clear picture of Dagga’s contribution to Trinidad and Tobago. As a trained historian, I reject the “Great Man theory” that places heroes at the centre of history.

This theory states, “… history can be largely explained by the impact of "great men", or heroes, highly influential individuals who, due to their personal, intelligence, wisdom, or political skill utilized their power in a way that had a decisive historical impact.”

I write from the perspective of “History from Below” and argue that it is the people who are in the vanguard of any revolutionary movement. While I agree that leaders arise to speak on behalf of the movement, often, their vision is diametrically opposed to that of the people they purport to lead.

Therefore, let us all dismiss the emotional talk in the streets that suggest Daaga deserved the perks he received from the PP government. If that is the case, then, we can make the case for other leaders who once spouted revolutionary rhetoric and became willing agents of the system that they once opposed.

With the passage of time, and with the unearthing of more historical evidence, let us as historians engage in meaningful discourse on Daaga from different perspectives and write a body of work that will add to the historiography of the 1970 Black Power Revolution. Farewell Daaga, you played your part. Now, let the historians write about the “Four Daagas".

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