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Dotishness

Friday, May 19 2017

THE SAD FACT is race and politics go hand in hand, not only in this country but all over the world.

But unlike other countries, Trinidad and Tobago sometimes falls short when it comes to distilling issues amid its social complexity. So for example, by now no one denies race plays a pivotal role in the politics of countries such as the United States and in the European Union.

There, immigration issues and problems with the actions of law enforcement authorities have underlined often unstated tensions.

Race is a fact of Trinidad and Tobago society. Our racial diversity is what makes us unique; giving us a special way of doing things. It can also sometimes be our downfall.

Far too often race is a scapegoat.

The ironic thing about Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s dismissal of recent protests as “racial dotishness” is that in pointing the finger at one group of people and crying race, Rowley himself perpetuates the racial prism he seeks to deride. In one fell swoop, he deems his opponents racists, whether their arguments – which they have a right to make – are coherent or not.

What is preferable is sticking to the issues.

The Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba engages several. The first is the State’s abysmal failure with regard to procurement. The second is its inability to manage projects efficiently and without graft through successive administrations.

The third is the question of quality control on construction work. The fourth relates to the role of sport.

Sport, unlike politics, is the thing that brings us all together, no matter what race we are. We have no doubt that Brian Lara’s desire to have a stand named after his friend Sachin Tendulkar was personal and heartfelt. But the reality also is that Tendulkar is an inspirational figure to young cricketers in this country as well. The message that would be sent by having diversity in the naming of the stands is this: it is okay to share public acclaim with others from other backgrounds and other countries. The cricket, not the arbitrary things like race, is what is supreme.

But instead of quibbling over whether a piece of this facility should be named after Tendulkar, what we should be talking about is whether the facility is worthy of either Lara or Tendulkar in the first place.

The fact is, the PNM gave birth to and oversaw the disastrous swelling of the project, inclusive of costs and delays, while the People’s Partnership failed to bring the project to completion in a satisfactory manner. No one including the Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad- Bissessar, can here play Pontius Pilate. (The People’s Partnership cited safety and structural reports as a major cause of delay.) Meanwhile, it is the taxpayer who pays. Literally. Expenditure has been in the billions and there is no word on a police probe of Udecott and the former officials who held the purse strings. In fact, the figure at the helm of the project’s main contractor has long died.

But now the question for the State, having opened the cricket facility, is what will happen to the Couva Children’s Hospital – which is meant to treat both children and adults? From the moment it was formally commissioned, questions arose as to whether there was enough staff to run the facility. While this hospital, which has a central location that means it is in a prime position to serve the whole country, was being built, other hospitals all over the country needed repair and expansion.

At the end of the day what citizens want is better healthcare. Can more facilities, on its own, result in that? Citizens also want a more efficient use of the Treasury. When the Cabinet comes to its decision on Couva, it must take care not to create another Tarouba. That would be dotishness

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