The Union frequently comments on events or receives news of general interest and these are documented on this page.
FINANCIAL COBOS CIRCLE FCB; TTMF;
The Government is close to divesting Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance Company (TTMF) and the Home Mortgage Bank (HMB) as well as First Citizens Bank (FCB). Since the first Dookeran budget in 2010, they have made it clear that they want to transfer these publicly-owned assets into the pockets of the rapacious financial elite.
In his budget presentation to Parliament on 8th September, 2010, then Finance Minister Dookeran said: “We will clarify and confirm the mandates of these institutions (NIB, HDC, HMB, TTMF) and create a new holding company so that…
· The NIB and the HDC transfer their mortgage business for administration by TTMF as mortgage financing is not their core business;
· A new holding company, Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Bank, will be formed, with the TTMF, and the Home Mortgage Bank as subsidiaries with the latter the funding source. The Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Bank will buy out the existing shareholders of the subsidiary companies and offer an initial Public Offering on the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange allowing for more extensive ownership of this very important aspect of the nation’s financial and social wellbeing.”
The new bank the TTMB will buy out the shareholders of the TTMF and HMB and then sell them out to big business. The shareholders of the TTMF are the National Insurance Board (51%) and the government.
In the case of HMB the NIB owns 51.3% of the shares, while the Central Bank owns 15%. Republic Bank (which is, at this time, controlled by the government), owns 24%. TATIL, Bank of Nova Scotia and BAT (controlled by the government) own the other 9.7 %.
Proponents of privatisation claim that there must be a shift from state control and that ownership must be widened through public participation to develop the capital market and to expand the sphere of the private sector.
All of this is just fancy talk for routing public assets into the clutches of the very financial elite that is responsible for the endemic crisis of capitalism that is impoverishing workers worldwide while benefitting a shrinking band of mega-billionaires.
The intention is to get NIB out of low cost housing mortgages as co-owner with the state of TTMF. Dookeran claimed that mortgage financing is not part of the core business of NIB.
This is contrary to the National Insurance Act which establishes a DUTY under section 23(1) on the NIB to invest its funds in such securities as set out in the first schedule which authorises the NIB to invest in “Mortgages and other titles for repayment of loans secured by any of the securities described at paragraphs 1, 3 and 4.”
After divestment the TTMB will be controlled by big business. What are the implications of such a situation? Will the merger of TTMF and HMB result in the retrenchment of workers, many of whom are members of the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union? Will the divestment of FCB result in loss of jobs at that institution?
While the government may promise no loss of jobs as part of the divestment deal the new owners will not bind themselves to that when they take control. When Powergen took over T&TEC’s generating assets in 1994, there was a promise of no retrenchment. Seventy workers lost their jobs. Since the privatisation of ISCOTT in 1994, approximately five hundred and fifty jobs have disappeared. A promise is a comfort to a fool!
Big business will be in control of the already battered low cost housing market. This market will now be run commercially as the new shareholders will demand maximum return on investments; profit maximisation will be the order of the day.
This will affect severely young professionals and skilled workers. TTMF helped a lot of people who could not afford it otherwise to put a roof over their heads, because TTMF’s capital was financed through low cost bonds purchased by NIB. Under the new dispensation that will no longer happen.
First Citizens Bank is wholly owned by the government and it is one of those jewels in the crown that has the privateers rubbing their palms in glee and salivating over the prospect of divestment.
The citizens of the country made all the sacrifices to build this institution and now that it is doing well, it is to be handed over to the hustlers and international banksters. The divestment of FCB is designed to facilitate increased foreign ownership of local financial institutions in the wake of the re-entry of RBC into the country.
This policy would seem illogical and absurd in light of the widespread fraud and rip off of depositors and subsequently taxpayers’ bailouts at home and abroad. The bailout (class language for handout to capitalists) of CLICO cost $25 billion in public funds It seems to make no economic sense to divest FCB to the very institutions that have proved themselves interested only in concentration and accumulation of capital to the detriment of social welfare and equity.
The point is it makes sense to the capitalists, the banksters, financial conmen and tricksters and their agents and protectors who run the government. It would seem highly ridiculous to sell shares that the people already collectively own and then turn around and tell them to buy those shares and dub that a shareholders’ democracy, a la the late unlamented Margaret Thatcher (may she rust in peace!). The policy is class-driven. It is designed to pauperise the many and obscenely enrich the few.
The privateers argue that workers will be sold shares at a discount and would become owners of the company. Cecil Paul demolished that argument. He pointed out: “ESOP plans in their varying applications are nothing more than a management tool and a strategy to pacify workers. It effectively keeps out Unions and in cases where there is a Union considerably weakens the Union and gives workers a false sense of perceived ownership and control when in fact the companies remain under the control of the ruling business elites." (See Cecil Paul’s article The ESOP Illusion)
In a society divided into haves and have-nots, divestment actually weakens what little influence the masses have and strengthens the position of the rich and powerful. Those who have shares are in a more advantageous position than those who don’t. Those who have plenty shares are in a much more advantageous position than those who have a little. Who have more corn does feed more fowl!
The value produced by workers must be utilised not to further enrich the international bourgeoisie, who make up the richest 1% of humankind yet own 40% of the wealth. It must be used to provide increased and better quality services for all.
They want to further privatise health care and education. They are intent on privatising ports, airports, sanitation services and facilities management, public utilities, including the postal service and the provision of water (access to which is supposed to be a human right). Soon they will attempt to have us pay for the very air we breathe.
We must not allow the government to get away with this anti-people programme. We must ensure that our unions wage a sustained, vigorous fight back campaign.
We must engage in a campaign to educate the public about the dangers of privatisation and build a united front led by the trade unions to utterly defeat this latest capitalist assault.
On April 29th 2013, workers employed with the Brazilian firm Construtora OAS Ltd. on the Point Fortin-San Fernando Highway downed tools to protest what they considered poor conditions of work. The workers are not unionised, but as is typical in heavy construction projects in the South, they turned to the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) for support and assistance.
The workers on the controversial $7.2 billion project raised a range of issues that needed correcting. Health and Safety was at the top of the list. Workers complained that drinking water was not readily available at all locations; sanitary conveniences were not regularly cleaned; workers had no place to wash their hands and change their clothes; ambulance services were inadequate and first aid kits were not available at allocations.
Workers slammed the payment system which was supposed to be bi-monthly, but sometimes were paid after three weeks. They questioned the legibility of their pay slips and charged that industry standards for meal allowances were not observed. Safety and attendance incentive bonuses, fringe and Cost of Living Allowance, all normal on construction projects were not observed by the company.
In violation of the Retrenchment and Severance Benefit Act, the company did not observe the 45 day notice period for redundancy and instead observed a 14 day notice period. On rain-days workers are forced to absorb losses, although rain days are normally factored into contract bids.
Wages are way below industry standards. Skilled workers are paid less than government daily paid labourers. There were grouses over vacation pay and the length of the probationary period. Workers are arbitrarily reclassified and forced to work outside of the classification for which they signed up and the performance appraisal system is said to be slipshod, subjective and liable to be used to discriminate and intimidate workers.
One of the most important issues raised by the workers was the use of expatriate labour in areas where local labour was competent and available. Workers, while conceding that in certain circumstances there may be need for expatriate workers, argued that local sources should be exhaustively searched before expatriate labour was brought in.
Aaron Moyne, Labour Relations Officer of the OWTU was assigned to handle lead the negotiations.
The major issue of migrant workers as an increasingly important international issue was ventilated at a two day interactive workshop held at the Hotel Normandie in St. Ann’s on Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd. May 2013.
The workshop was titled – African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) National Training Workshop for Civil Society Organisations on Migration and Development. It was organised by The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Migration Facility
Among the participant were Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU), National Union of Domestic Employees (NUDE), National Workers Union (NWU), Emancipation Support Committee, Traditional African Women Association, Living Waters, and The Center for Grassroots Organization, representatives of government, the International Labour Organization and several other local non-governmental organizations (NGO’S).
Discussions centred on critical issues facing migrant workers such as their rights to Union representation, equal treatment, occupational safety and health conditions, fair wages and other benefits such as an eight hour day, accrued retirement benefits and other fair benefits extended to workers of the host country.
These rights are enshrined in several ILO conventions ratified by many countries including Trinidad and Tobago. However many countries, including ours, have failed to effect these conventions.
ILO Documents on migrant workers – ILO MULTILATERAL FRAMEWORK ON LABOUR MIGRATION and INTERNATIONAL LABOUR MIGRATION and DEVELOPMENT; THE ILO PERSPECTIVE – were used as reference points for the interactive sessions.
Some very informative facts were disclosed at the first day of the session -:
Migrant workers mainly result from unequal development in countries (developed and undeveloped) and the growing inequality in societies.
Migrant workers are sometimes the victims of human trafficking and human slavery, particularly in household and sex work.
Migrant workers transfer critical skills and help develop the host country.
Migrant workers bring new cultural forms to the host countries.
Migrant workers contribute to the GDP of the host country.
Migrant workers through remittances contribute to their home countries and in some cases these remittances constitute the highest portion of the home country’s GDP.
Migrant workers are subjected to violence and extortion from some employers and some law enforcement agencies.
Migrant workers suffer gross exploitation.
Migrant workers make extreme sacrifices to ensure that remittances are sent back home to take care of dependents in dire need.
Home countries consular services are sometimes not available to Migrant workers who are most times left to fend for themselves.
Migrant work is a two way street. Migrant Workers from Grenada and other islands helped build our oil industry. Workers from T&T and the Caribbean built the Panama Canal. Workers from T&T helped rebuild Britain after the devastation of the Second World War. Many of our workers are employed in all parts of the World. There is an agricultural migrant-worker program with T&T and Canada.
Mainly immigrants through the Cédula de Población of the 18th century peopled Trinidad and Tobago. This immigration has never stopped because of the relative prosperity of T&T and our population size over the last two hundred odd years. However within recent years immigration to T&T has increased.
Immigrants from the Caribbean, South America, Africa and Asia are increasingly coming to T&T to work, earn a meagre living and send back money to their home countries. With the exception of the elite immigrants in high paying jobs, the majority of immigrants work in low paying jobs in fast foods and restaurants, retail services, security, construction, domestic work, night club services and sex work
We, as descendents of immigrants, must ensure that our society treats these workers fairly and humanely. International Conventions protecting these workers must be applied to them. After all immigration is a two way street that is beneficial to the home country as well as the host country.
Cecil Paul represented the National Workers Union at the first day of the workshop and Rae Samuel attended the second day.
The second day of the conference sought to deepen the discussions of the first day. The dominant themes were: reasons for migration; issues arising out of the process e.g. the need to protect the 'human rights' of workers whatever the migratory status and the economic and social impact on the home country and the destination country..
As soon as the word "globalisation" re-appeared in the discussion, the whole atmosphere in the forum became more animated to the point where the moderator, acknowledging the value of the shift in animation, reminded that there was an agenda to complete. For at that point the discussion sought to define processes from different perspectives: What is development? Does one separate 'economic' and "human ' development?
Recognising that the general trend in migration, internal or external, is from the less developed to the more developed centres, the conference looked at the reality that some developing countries may be simply preparing their artisans, technicians and intellectuals to be more competitive in foreign labour markets.
In closing, the conference recognised that the issues raised were best addressed by organised labour since the primary stimulus for migratory movement is economic need. Organised labour has the responsibility to all workers in the host country to ensure protection coded in domestic legislation and to hold governments to honour international conventions which enshrine these human rights
On 21 April 2013, the Rodney Family wrote to President Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa, requesting that the South African Government withdraw or rescind The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo (Oliver Tambo Award) to Linden Forbes Burnham, a late President of Guyana.
In its letter, the family noted that it is critical to examine the historical basis for this national award. In 1998, the South African Presidential Advisory Council on National Orders revised its orders to reflect the spirit of a non-racial, non-sexist democracy where a culture of human rights prevails.
As such, the conduct and character of Forbes Burnham juxtaposes the reasons the award was established. The family's letter stated that it was the people of Guyana who made personal sacrifices to contribute to and stand in solidarity with the South African people in their struggle against apartheid.
A timely and critical article by Dr. Horace Campbell galvanized widespread support. Global petitions and grassroots action initiated in South Africa, Tanzania, the United States, Germany, Jamaica, Trinidad, the United Kingdom and Canada, to name a few, also called for cancellation.
Consequently, President Zuma and the South African government deferred the award indefinitely. On 30 April 2013, the Rodney family expressed its gratitude for the immediate intervention. The family is steadfast in its opposition to the Oliver Tambo Award being given posthumously to Forbes Burnham at any future date.
The Rodney family would like to thank everyone who expressed their commitment to human rights and social justice by opposing the award. The solidarity and continuing efforts to uphold the legacy of Walter Rodney are greatly appreciated.
For the third time, the government, through Finance Minister, Larry Howai, has promised to launch ATRIUS, the company to be formed on the winding up of CLICO/British American, companies which featured in the massive $25 billion taxpayer bailout of the Duprey Empire and which are now owned by the State.
The company’s announced launch date was originally supposed to have been January 1st 2013. It didn’t happen. The other announced launch date was May 1st 2013. It didn’t happen.
This latest promise was made by the Finance Minister to workers of CLICO and British American, members of the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU), as they staged a picket and candlelight vigil at the Central Bank in downtown Port of Spain on Friday May 3rd 2013.
Approval of the Board of Directors of ATRIUS has been approved, Howai claimed, and would be in place by Monday May 5th 2013. The Board would then begin to proceed with the agreements reached; implement the business plan and put management arrangements in place.
A decision was made one year ago to form the new company and a written commitment was given to the Union to honour severance payments to the more than 300 affected workers.
The picket/vigil was staged to protest the government’s “repeated indecisiveness” in meeting its stated commitment.
In a statement distributed during the picket, the workers described themselves as “silent victims and casualties of the obscene and runaway mismanagement that has been exposed in the Colman Enquiry, and which was presided over by multi-millionaire tycoons Lawrence Duprey and Andre Monteil and their trough-feeding cohorts at CL Financial.”
Because of the takeover action of the State workers have had “a freeze on improvements to their terms and conditions of employment for almost five years. The intervention of the Central Bank, according to th e workers, “effectively disrupted the Union-Management relationship at both companies giving the Central Bank ultimate power over the determination of terms and conditions of employment of workers.”
Because of the indecisiveness of the government, many workers “have had plans for new jobs, academic and other pursuits scuttled”. They spoke of their “inability to access loans from banks etc. due to the uncertainty of their continued employment.” According to Acting President of the CLICO branch of BIGWU, Roxanne Cuffy, the workers have been in limbo for five years.
If Minister Howai does not move quickly to defuse the workers’ growing frustration, the consequences political and otherwise, could be most severe. (See video of the workers’ picket here)
Sources close to the situation have said that employees of First Citizens Bank will be offered shares at a discount as part of the divestment process. Most likely this offer will take the shape of an Employees’ Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).
These plans (ESOP) are offered to employees of a company either voluntarily or in a few cases negotiated by a Union (sic!). A block of shares ranging from 10 to 15% of the total share capital is sold to workers. In some cases loans are given to workers to buy shares
In many cases the company involved is either in financial difficulty, wants to leave the country, is being privatised either by being sold off or by being divested. ESOP’s were offered to BWIA and Trinidad Cement workers when those companies were privatised.
The remaining majority shares (80 to 90%) are usually held by big business, rich individuals, the State or a combination of all. Therefore, the concept of workers owning the company is really tokenism as workers can make no decisions in terms of the direction of the company.
The ESOP shares are held in a Plan with an elected Management team; being led in most cases by top Management (considered workers and entitled to be in the ESOP) as most workers are unfamiliar with the workings of the Company and Board or thought to be incapable of dealing with the demands of “high finance”. Workers are left with very little voice save and except at the Annual Meeting of the ESOP usually controlled by various Management personnel.
In the event a worker leaves the company the shares are sold to the ESOP and then resold to a new worker or shared within the group.
Because the 10 - 15% block of shares are in the minority and in many cases the workforce is large, the workers holdings are very small and dividends are also very small. The real beneficiaries are the holders of large chunks of the share capital.
A case in point is Royal Bank of Canada in the 1980's who, through a Human Resource and Management guru named Nestor Lambert, architectured an ESOP when the Bank decided to leave T&T in the aftermath of the revolutionary upheavals of the 1970’s and the takeover by the State of a number of companies starting in the 1970's. This was referred to, in the Banking sector as localisation.
The workers of Royal Bank received shares but never had any meaningful say in the company as the decision making power rested with the Management who controlled the ESOP and the local companies who controlled the larger block of shares.
What the company got from this token 15% shares was hard work, loyalty and sacrifice from workers. Very little wage increases were had. The workers also saw no need for a Union This bank was never unionised and remains un-unionised even though the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) in recent years has made tremendous progress in organising.
Some twenty five odd years later, the Royal Bank of Canada decided to re-enter the local financial sector (due to the open market liberal agenda introduced in 1986 which has continued to the present with all Governments). The persons who made a killing from the sale of shares to RBC were the holders of large chunks, not the workers with their petty stock holdings.
To make matters worse even if some workers may not have wanted to sell to RBC they had no power to stop the sale.
ESOP plans in their varying applications are nothing more than a management tool and a strategy to pacify workers. It effectively keeps out Unions and in cases where there is a Union considerably weakens the Union and gives workers a false sense of perceived ownership and control when in fact the companies remain under the control of the ruling business elites.
According to the Guyanese newspaper Kaieteur News the South African government has deferred granting a national award (the Oliver Tambo Award) to the late Guyana President, Forbes Burnham, "in the wake of pressure from several quarters" including the National Workers Union, well-known Jamaican academic, Horace Campbell and two online petition campaigns.
Burnham's daughter Roxanne Van West Charles, was supposed to receive the award on Saturday April 27th as part of South Africa’s celebrations of Freedom Day. Unconfirmed reports also say that the deferring of the award was relayed by email from the South African government to the family of revolutionary intellectual and activist,Walter Rodney, who was assassinated by the Burnham regime in 1980. See Kaieteur News report here
Vice President Rosanna Robinson and Assistant Secretary Rendy Bedassie are among Executive officers of the Public Services Association (PSA) who have once again been suspended on the orders of PSA President Watson Duke. The others are Dimitrius Harrison and Raymond Butler, Yvonne De Peiza and Paula Prescott.
The suspensions, the third in less than two years, were reportedly imposed on Monday 29th April 2013 after the High Court ruled in their favour on Friday 26th April in the matter of their suspension on January 17th 2013.
The 26th April ruling by Justice Frank Seepersad found that the General Council of the PSA had acted “in breach of the rules of natural justice” in suspending the officers on January 17th and that it was not clear as to what were the alleged acts of misconduct by the members leading to their suspension.
However on Monday 29th April they were again served with letters alleging misconduct in office. Some were ordered to proceed immediately on accumulated vacation leave. Vice President Robinson was advised to go on vacation from May to October 2013. She stated also that she found the door to her office locked.
Justice Seepersad had granted an injunction on January 30th restraining the PSA general council from determining any allegations of misconduct and/or indiscipline against the suspended members. Duke and the general council were also restrained from preventing them from attending and/or participating in meetings of the executive and the general council.
The ousted members have been in touch with their lawyers and the matter appears to be heading back to court for a third time.
The resignation of Austin Jack Warner as Minister of National Security and Chairman of the United National Congress is just one chapter in the voluminous book of political immorality in Trinbago’s politics.
There are many more chapters to come as the political culture of our politicos has nothing to do with serving the people and everything to do with the use of political office to enrich themselves, their political financiers, their families and their friends.
Warner’s resignation is really just ‘One Man Gone but Plenty Men and Women still dey’ to steal our national patrimony. We cut the branches but the trunk and roots are still intact and the tree of corruption will again spring up.
So that while some of us celebrate in the name of our Party’s improved chances at the next elections and some of us mourn for nepotistic and “business” opportunities lost, we must not forget the days gone by.
We must remember the Caura Dam, Johnny ‘O’, Prevatt, The Racing Complex, Piarco Airport, UDECOTT and many others so numerous we tend to forget. Corruption is an all-inclusive disease of our political class and their business financiers.
You see, our politicians plunder our Treasury so often that we can’t remember all of the thievery. As a result we elect again and again the same parties backed by the same people who facilitated and benefited from the numerous acts of corruption.
The cycle is repeated time and time again. One gone; but many others remain untouched and corrupted as ever as they recruit new political elites to their parasitic practices. They continue with business as usual.
They view the exposure of one corrupted politico as an opportunity and a ’cleansing’ exercise and a refocus by the public away from their own corruption onto a colleague or another party. George Weekes used to say: “corruption have no party card.”
They too shamelessly join the chorus of condemnation of those caught while they continue with their sophisticated larceny of the people’s money. They now disown Jack Warner. But, who financed their political campaigns in several elections? Did the money come from TTFF and the Soca Warriors unpaid bonuses and corporate sponsors? Did it come from the more than $100M the CONCACAF Integrity Committee said was siphoned out by Warner from football organizations he controlled?
Did their campaign money come from the foreign sponsors with promises of World Cup games being awarded to their countries? Did they not know of all the talk going around about Warner and his suspected wheeling and dealing in FIFA and other football bodies? Did they not hear Panday the former leader of UNC accuse Warner of not accounting for political donations?
Did Prime Minister Kamla and her UNC not know of these allegations? Were the leaders of COP, MSJ, NJAC and TOP not aware of the numerous allegations of corruption made against Warner? Were they in Trinbago or were they unaware when more tickets were sold than available seats in the World Cup game against the USA at the National Stadium? Countless accusations and allegations were made against Warner. Where were these political leaders and operatives?
Yet this Financier and Monarch of all he surveyed became the de-facto political leader, chairman and political godfather of the Peoples Partnership Government and in true dictatorial style installed a puppet Party Leader and puppet Prime Minister. He also held several major ministerial positions and was until his resignations the Minister responsible for the Police (ironically Law and Order) and Military Affairs.
Now these politicians of UNC, COP, MSJ and NJAC disown Warner. They have been wined and dined by Warner. They have enjoined themselves with his politics and modus operandi. They have used his money to gain political office. Now that he has been condemned a second time by an International body and had to go, they have joined the chorus of the people to rid our politics of corruption while they continue with their corrupted ways.
Some were forced by the workers to smell the rat and left but only to save their opportunistic political ambitions. Some felt the weak leader would have acted to dismiss Warner and save their corrupted political future. Yet others felt the allegations would all go away and they would continue with their corrupted ways. But in an unexpected body blow the CONCACAF report came like a thief in the night and destroyed their dreams.
Politics in Trinbago is about getting rich through the acquisition of political office. It has nothing to do with national development and serving the people. These are mere slogans to entice voter support. The politicians prattle on about accountability, transparency, honesty and morality in political governance, but only an organised alert people can ensure that these buzzwords become reality.
These political ethics and virtues must not be left to the politicians to implement but must be implemented by the “ordinary” people in and through their organizations. These peoples’ organizations must be ready and willing to take Social Action at any given time to ensure “good governance”, “morality” in our political affairs and most important that our national patrimony be used for the benefit of our people and not be stolen by our corrupted politicians and their financiers.
Political corruption is a culture of Trinbago’s politics. The resignations of Jack Warner will not stop this vampire sucking the blood of our national patrimony and that of our people. Trinbagonians are denied the fruits of our country’s wealth and deprived of basic and essential goods, services and utilities consistent with our abilities to so provide.
Vigilance and willingness to take action when necessary are critical and urgent methods in addressing and correcting this evil of political corruption that has been visited upon us by our political vampires.
KEEP THE CHALICE SMOKING!
April 22, 2013
The National Foodcrop Farmers Association (NFFA) held a memorial to mark the Second Anniversary of the death of Norris Deonarine on April 6th 2013 at the Norris Deonarine Northern Wholesale Market in Macoya. The function was chaired by Priya Ganness-Nanton.
We reproduce here the text of Burton Sankeralli's address:
Norris was real! Yes he was always in the media. He knew how to utilize the media to get his message across. And some have tried following him. But for Norris it was not a matter of posturing, posing and profiling. Rather, for him the commitment was genuine (an understatement, I know). What you see is what you get!
Norris was a man of the people! This sounds like a cliché. But in the case of Norris it was not. Some of us can deal with people some of the time. But his door was always open. Literally 24-7… Literally! He was always on the go. It seemed as if he did not sleep.
Everybody knew Norris: from Cedros to Toco. He was a man organically rooted in his own community and embracing the whole. He was a patriot and a true Caribbean man. His funeral was remarkable. The ceremony was Hindu. This was followed by a farmers’ and workers’ leftist gathering in the Catholic Church yard and an Islamic caseeda was sung. The songs and messages at his cremation were calypso, midnight robber, Spiritual Baptist doption and about revolution.
Norris was disciplined! I once heard Norris use this word to describe himself and some may here express disbelief; even shock. When it came to punctuality Norris, as it were, kept his own time. But what Norris meant was that he had completely disciplined himself to focus utterly on the work…on the struggle. This, without any regard for personal gain! One is tempted to say that in this country this makes him unique.
Yes Norris was a full blooded Caribbean male he liked to lime and drink … and smoke (smile). But he never ever fell into dissolute behaviour. And he had no time for trivialities and distractions. For him the work always came first.
Norris was a fighter! I once heard this word used to describe him. His giving of himself to the struggle came from the most profound personal and serious commitment (and yes he was serious, very serious). And while he was very much a team player he was fully prepared, willing and able to carry this burden personally.
His focus was intense; his commitment unyielding. And he expected this from those of us around him. And I must confess I could not keep up. His struggle really was his life.
Norris was brilliant! He was capable of understanding profound philosophical concepts; to people; to the most complex situations. I can recall during the anti-smelter conflict in Chatham the situation in the community got very complicated. It could easily have fallen apart and lead to the unravelling of the entire resistance.
Yet Norris understood what was happening and what was required was utter clarity. (And again I confess in the middle of it I doubted him). Moreover I suspect his quiet behind the scenes interventions were critical and may have played a decisive role in bringing us to victory. Norris’s real genius lay in the power and practicality of his insight, vision and commitment.
Norris was a soldier! It bears repeating that his was an intense, unyielding unrelenting commitment to the struggle. He carried the burden and it literally cost him his life. In the end his body could not take it. In essence he died as a true soldier with his boots on. His final battle standing with disadvantaged farmers in the face of a violent vicious physical assault.
Norris was a socialist! For a time this was not something spoken of in polite company and thankfully Commander Chavez has changed this. Norris well understood Marxist-Leninism and Mao Tse-Tung Thought. But even more important he had profound insight in his concrete analysis of the concrete conditions of our material situation. I remember he told me that he had predicted there would basically be food riots in this country. So said…so done! Of course above all else it was not about empty theory and old talk but it was all about praxis; justice.
He was attuned as well to the issue of succession in this socialist struggle and the pivotal place of the young generation. Speaking to him once, I was made to realize that this was not a question to be treated casually. And he was definitely not going to pass the baton lightly. Sadly in the end the decision was not his.
While Norris clearly understood the critical role of organization he was fully prepared to carry the burden of socialist struggle all by himself whether it was fashionable or not. In this regard the harsh truth is we all failed Norris. The organization still awaits us. On the other hand I cannot imagine Norris being otherwise. And I certainly cannot conceive of him following hypothetical doctor’s advice that he “take it easy”. Norris? Taking it easy?
He has been truly described as the arrowhead of the movement. In his fifty two and a half years he lived far, far more than a single lifetime.
Norris Deonarine IS a revolutionary!