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Wayne’s world

ANDRE BAGOO Sunday, December 2 2012

THE TURNING point for Dr Wayne Kublalsingh was when he decided to cuss out Dr Fuad Khan. Khan, the Minister of Health, who is also a doctor, had gone at the request of the Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, to meet Kublalsingh, not to discuss politics or the highway between Debe and Mon Desir. Accompanied by an ambulance, Khan went to offer medical assistance. Yet, Kublalsingh chased him away, hurling expletives and insults. It was like watching a soldier in combat attacking the Red Cross: it was unwarranted, disproportionate, irrational and undermined the very idea of peaceful protest which Kublalsingh claimed to be an exponent of. What made it worse is the fact that Khan has had absolutely no direct involvement in the highway project, aside from his membership in the Cabinet. Was Kublalsingh then signalling that he would attack the Cabinet at large? This was the wrong approach for a bi-partisan project that ran under the NAR, was tendered under the PNM and now implemented by the UNC/PP.

It has become clear that the entire affair has been a political circus the likes of which this country has never before seen. Consider the fact that Verna St Rose Greaves appeared, ringing a bell and spurting water around the Office of the Prime Minister. Not even VS Naipaul or Derek Walcott could have imagined this (though Walcott’s play, Beef, No Chicken, is eerily prescient of the current fiasco).

Yes, Kublalsingh has a right to expound a cause. It is a surely sign that our democracy is alive and well, that last week he was on a hunger strike on the same day that teachers marched, Muslimeem contractors protested, and the family of a woman who died after a police raid picketed! But we must not confuse two issues. They are these: (1) the soundness of Government’s decision to proceed with the PNM highway tender process, and (2) the conduct of Kublalsingh.

Kublalsingh is attempting to get us to focus on (1) via (2). However, his conduct (2) has been so damaging that it has turned people off (1). Firstly, his conduct trivialises the value of life and the devastating impact of suicide. Does anyone truly believe that a self-inflicted death will advance his cause? Secondly, the conduct sends the wrong message. It says if you cannot get somebody to agree with you, you should try blackmail and duress. To decline to let the people decide and to, instead, seek to force a prime minister to meet you, to block her at public events repeatedly and to set up camp outside of her private home is to enter a strange realm. A hunger strike is supposed to be a humble affair, but we have been witnessing bullying. There would be complete anarchy if this conduct becomes an acceptable way to deal with issues.

It is absurd to argue that persons are not entitled to criticise Kublalsingh. For his protest action is premised on freedom of expression. His critics may speak — however soundly or not. Kublalsingh has certainly not minced his words. Khan can testify to this.

As for (1), even if an independent review team is appointed, it will still be the Government doing the appointments of the reviewers. Also, won’t the Government have a legal right to simply shelve the independent report? Should Kublalsingh not seek the court’s ruling in the lawsuit he has brought, sworn affidavits to and attended court for? If he is right and he wins that case, he would surely have a better chance of preventing future breaches for generations to come through the precedent set.

Email:abagoo@newsday.co.tt

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