HONOUR THE WIVES
By SEAN DOUGLAS Wednesday, March 24 2010
INDEPENDENT Senator Dana Seetahal yesterday in the Senate called on Government to honour the wives of four statesmen who helped build this country.
Speaking on a private motion by Independent Senator Gail Merhair who is seeking to have local landmarks renamed after four local statesmen, Seetahal proposed, “Let us name all of these things after the wives of the men who achieved greatness in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Merhair’s motion urges Government to take immediate steps to rename the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway to the Ellis Clarke Highway; the Hall of Justice to the Noor Hassanali Hall of Justice; Crown Point International Airport in Tobago to Arthur NR Robinson International Airport and Wrightson Road to George Chambers Avenue.
Hassanali, now deceased, was the country’s President as was Sir Ellis. Robinson was a former Prime Minister and former President while Chambers, now deceased, was the country’s former Prime Minister.
Seetahal said Merhair’s motion was well-intentioned but flawed, as it proposes to name another set of places after men.
Seetahal made the point that women tend to be under-recognised in this country including in the contribution they make to their menfolk’s success. “There seems to be very little acknowledgment that even, apart from their own substantive contribution, even in the case of great men, behind every great man is a woman or more - a mother, a wife, a daughter,” Seetahal said.
She recalled once being chided by a judge for having improperly ironed attire, only for her to retort, that unlike him, she did not have a wife. “That is the point, great men rely on their wives, to significantly if not mostly, contribute to their greatness,” she said.
Seetahal then made her novel suggestion to honour the wives of Hassanali, Robinson, Chambers and Clarke.
“If we are talking about say naming the Noor Hassanali Hall of Justice, one might contemplate naming it the Zalayhar Hassanali Hall of Justice, in recognition of the part that women really play underlying all of this greatness of men or the so-called greatness of men which is transitory in my respectful opinion,” Seetahal said.
Seetahal said the fact that yesterday, six of the nine Independent Senators are women showed the far-sightedness and good sense of President George Maxwell Richards. “But apparently it has not yet passed on to the rest of the society,” she said, in a likely reference to the Government and Opposition benches.
She hit society as being male-dominated with several landmarks named after men including the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba, Brian Lara Promenade, the Ato Boldon stadium, Dwight Yorke Stadium and the large Hasely Crawford Stadium while only a small complex nearby was named after netball great and former Sports Minister Jean Pierre.
Of the nation’s highways, Seetahal added: “You have one road, Audrey Jeffers, then you have the majority of others named after the male gender”. Seetahal said, “Every woman sitting in these chambers including those ladies from the Hansard will tell you that what I am saying is true.”
Seetahal said Government Ministers heavily rely on their permanent secretaries who are mostly women. “Ninety percent are women and those are the ones on whom the ministers depend — none of them are looking up at me, but they know it is true. Those are the ones on whom you depend — to fasten your ministry, to provide you with information, to assist you and to make the ministry what it is.”
Opposition Senator Verna St Rose-Greaves suggested the people of Tobago should discuss the renaming of the Crown Point International Airport. Independent Senator Corinne Baptiste- McKnight warned that icons could be dishonoured by a neglect of facilities named after them.
“Given our ingrained distaste for maintenance, do you want to put the names of your icons on the names of buildings that you know you are not putting money in the estimates to maintain?”
Baptiste-McKnight said Dr Eric Williams was now remembered by “a financial complex and a problem-riddled medical complex”. Querying plans to honour George Chambers, she said, “There is nothing to remind us of him but now we want to put a traffic congested road to put his name on it. My God. When will the disrespect end?”
Independent Senator Helen Drayton said while it was okay to honour the four local statesmen, it was inappropriate to ditch the names of Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, the UK and USA leaders of World War II. She said were it not for this duo, Trinidad and Tobago might have today faced a fate far worse than colonialism, a point echoed minutes later by temporary Independent Senator Dr Rolf Balgobin.
The Senate eventually passed a Government-amended version of Merhair’s motion to allow the Government to consult so as to establish a policy for honouring nationals, as first suggested by Opposition Senator Suruj Rambachan.