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Examine Their Horns by Fay Roe

posted 22 Aug 2014, 10:30 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 22 Aug 2014, 10:36 ]
I went to a public forum organized, advertised and held by the San Fernando City Corporation on Wednesday 20th August at their palatial city hall auditorium. It was curiously entitled What to do about street dwellers. 

I knew I was not in the best of moods having journeyed from Port of Spain through heavy traffic to reach on time. My aim was to gauge for myself what was driving this rather new approach of connecting the city folk and the Council. 

Having missed a similar forum a couple weeks ago on the use of Skinner Park and forever planning to attend one of their statutory Council meetings which the public can attend (the last Tuesday in every month), I simply bypassed any other task and turned up. To put the experience in a few words I would say it was not encouraging to engender a substantial solution. 

I was part of an audience of some four dozen people, half of whom included the Corporation staff, councillors, police, public health and so forth who had to endure a thirty five minute late start and then allowed three minutes by the moderator for any contribution from the floor.

After an hour and a half of the proceedings I left while one of the ‘street dwellers’ was given another opportunity to ramble on as she saw fit. The key point I made was that street dwellers must be empowered to become productive members of the society and availed of treatment for their personal ailments and that this exercise cannot be done by just providing shelter, food and clothing alone.

To be fair, people were honestly trying to put forward solutions as they viewed and experienced the problem from their perspective but the underlying thread that I picked up, not from ‘John Public’ as such, but from the body language and implicit remarks of the insiders (my term for those who occupy the inside track of the body politic) is that there is an election due next year.

Then it struck me, not immediately of course, that I was caught up in the game of politics – Trinidad style. After six decades of being a born and bred resident of San Fernando and citizen of this Republic, past experience guided me to a conclusion that cannot be substantiated with unadulterated proof but consumes the entire psyche.

The name of the game is to activate as many public centred fora as possible, thus raising a visible profile to win the hearts and minds of the people. Anything that sounds progressive and achievable is massaged into an election manifesto with which our brightest sons and daughters (read those who have worked on their vocabulary, charm and outer image) will tell us what is best for us. I am therefore putting those who have eyes to see to be on the lookout for various public fora or town meetings as we ape the American presidential elections.

Expect a forum on the use of illicit drugs; stray dogs; crime; the education system; the health system; a new traffic plan; street vendors; etc. etc. Nothing is wrong with this approach as far as I am concerned. The masquerade ends immediately after the new set of ‘self proclaimed messiahs’ are in place to govern (how I hate this word in this context) us. The conclusions arrived at are shelved or stutter along for lack of money from central government for another four years while they fatten themselves at the trough.

So dear comrades examine their horns, try to find the key as to why this flurry of public connections, how will it end and be vigilant. I am suggesting a mantra to guide you in your deliberations and dealings with pied pipers in officialdom. From each according to his ability. To all according to their needs.