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SHAMELESS: BECKLES-ROBINSON & MONTANO by Gerry Kangalee

posted 16 Mar 2014, 20:09 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 16 Mar 2014, 20:27 ]

There is a popular saying, often attributed to Karl Marx, that shame is a revolutionary sentiment.

“Beckles-Robinson, noting her father’s career with the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), said she had lived through the revolutionary days of Bloody Tuesday, including watching police come for her father during those times. She was referring to the labour unrest in 1975 when the major unions representing oil workers and sugar workers marched in San Fernando and were met by brutal police resistance.” 
(Trinidad Guardian Friday February 14th 2014) 

When I saw the above report, my first response was that I should at least correct the historical record and even spoke to Cecil Paul about it. In the end; I just steupsed and rationalised that I had more pressing matters to see about and just filed it away as just another example of the shamelessness of our snout in the trough politicians.

One month later in the same newspaper (Trinidad Guardian Saturday March
15th 2014)
Danny Montano, who is contesting the PNM’s chairmanship on Beckles-Robinson’s slate is cited thus: “her father was arrested in the 1970s revolt and his father, national security minister at that time, would have jailed her father.”

I knew then that I should not have ignored the distortion of working class history propagated by Ms. Beckles-Robinson and now compounded by Danny Montano. It struck me that I was part of a project documenting certain ignored and/or not well known aspects of working class history, yet I was letting pass this blatant revision of a significant period of our history by these descendants of the very people who had done the most to derail the struggle of the labour movement over the years.

So here goes! Beckles-Robinson claims that due to her father’s “career with the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU),… she had lived through the revolutionary days of Bloody Tuesday, including watching police come for her father during those times.”

Now, her father Lionel Beckles’ career as General Secretary of the OWTU came to an end in 1972. Bloody Tuesday was March 18th 1975.  If Beckles-Robinson watched police coming for her father in 1975, it certainly wasn’t because of his union activity.

Danny Montano claimed that Lionel Beckles was arrested “in the 1970s revolt and his father, national security minister at that time, would have jailed her father.” The only truthful thing in that statement was that Danny Montano’s father, Gerard Montano, was the PNM’s, Minister of Home Affairs. That post is now referred to as National Security.

The records will show that the “1970s revolt” was marked by two states of emergency. The first ran from April to November 1970. The second state of emergency began in late 1971 and ended in June 1972. At the time of the two states of emergency Lionel Beckles was General Secretary of the OWTU, but he was not as Montano claims jailed by his (Montano’s) father.

The OWTU officers who were detained during those turbulent times were George Weekes, Nuevo Diaz and Winston Lennard. During the second state of emergency they were joined in detention by union activists Michael “Scobie” Joseph and Allan Campbell and by OWTU legal advisor, Jack Kelshall.

When George Weekes was released from prison in 1972, the union became embroiled in a bitter internal struggle revolving around the attempt by Lionel Beckles and First Vice President Verne Edwards to establish a reactionary leadership in the union during his period of incarceration. They refused to mobilise the membership to free the imprisoned union officers and were it not for Assistant General Secretary Lionel Bannister, the Union would not have waged a successful struggle against the Public Order Act.

On the 29th July 1972, the General Council of the OWTU passed a motion of no confidence in Beckles and Edwards and called on them to resign. This they refused to do and resorted to legal manoeuvres to remain in office. They filed ten High Court actions, two appeals to the Court of Appeal and a contempt motion. None of these saved them from bowing to the will of the workers.

How shameless of these PNM politicians to prostitute the history of the working class so that they could fool younger labour activists into supporting their latest bid for control of the hog trough…but shame, you see, is a revolutionary sentiment!
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