A WAKE UP CALL To the Editor
Guyana Chronicle
May 27, 2002

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Since the introduction of adult suffrage constitutional democratic governance has been determined by the expression of the majority will of the governed people as expressed via supervised elections. In all but totalitarian states, therefore, it may truly be stated that "the Voice of the People is the Voice of God", or put another way, Democracy is government by the people, for the people, of the people". Tragically, in T&T since 24th December 01 the Voice of the People, as expressed on 10th Dec. 01, has been ignored by Presidential decree.

Since that Republic is of vital importance in this hemisphere to the unity, economic or otherwise, sought by those victims of Imperial exploitation seeking now to avoid economic re-colonisation, it is incumbent upon all Caribbean leaders to note and be aware of the threat posed to the entire region by events currently unfolding in T&T.

A review of the recent history of T&T reveals the fact that twice in the last three decades there have been attempts to overthrow the legally elected Government by the bullet rather than the ballot. The first occurred in 1970 and the second as recently as 1990. Each such occasion was preceded by a vacuum at the centre of governance and as we all should be well aware, Nature abhors a vacuum

Today once more a vacuum has been created in T&T. This time by Presidential decree. The Manning administration which has attempted to rule since 24th Dec. 01 sans mandate from the electorate and sans the respectability of a convened Parliament, where on 5/6 Apr. 02 he failed to demonstrate that he does, in fact, command a majority in that House, is clearly another open invitation to insurrection. This prospect is the more appealing since neither leaders nor participants in the events of either 1970 or 1990 were made to suffer more than token retribution for their crimes. Indeed Abu Bakr and his Black Muslim sect escaped any retribution at all on the grounds of an amnesty negotiated at gunpoint while the Cabinet was held hostage in Parliament. Further, the latter were handsomely compensated from the Public Purse for damage incurred to their own property as a result of the insurrection they had initiated! Thus has the dangerous precedent of insurrection with impunity been established and confirmed in T&T.

Trinidad has long occupied a position of influence within the hemisphere out of all proportion to its size. It is not, therefore, unreasonable or unrealistic to anticipate that as Trinidad goes today, several of its smaller neighbours are likely to follow - or attempt so to do - tomorrow. It, therefore, places an onerous and urgent responsibility upon the leaders of Caricom to recognise this fact and act decisively in view of the following.

(1) In an election on 10th Dec. 01, contested by four parties under the first past the post Westminster system, the two major parties received a parity in seats, i.e. 18 each, the incumbent Party polled more than the total vote of the other three parties combined (53.75% of the total Poll); while the Manning Opposition polled less than 46%. Yet, in defiance of both popular will and Westminster precedent, that Opposition was elevated to govern. This can only represent contempt for and distortion of the process of democracy. This was again repeated when the nominated Prime Minister, having failed to command a majority in order to convene Parliament, has had same - with Presidential approval - prorogued rather than dissolved with a return to the Polls. He continues to rule, with Presidential approval, as if he were possessed of a popular mandate so to do, utilising every strategem to postpone any date for a return to the Polls. Perhaps the reputed imminence of another mega oil boom may explain the determination of an illegitimate administration to retain power at any price?

(2) This situtation is further complicated by the fact that the deposed incumbent Government, supported primarily by the Indo Trinidadian community (comprising approximately 50% of the total populace) is basically that same group of individuals deprived of authority by PM Robinson in the aftermath of the 1986 coalition which defeated the PNM after 30 years in power. It is, therefore, difficult, if not impossible; to construe the Presidential decision as anything less than an act of blatant racial bias since the minority supported Government so elevated is demonstrably of Afrocentric composition. This has been reinforced by the conduct of the new Government both in their messianic zeal to investigate and punish alleged acts of corruption and misbehaviour in every public office and State Board and the replacement of individuals in every Government funded institution based obviously on ethnicity and/or party affiliation. This latter has been independently described by an Afrocentric local politician connected to neither party as "ethnic cleansing" and has precluded any significant attempt to promote the National well being.

(3) PM Manning by his utterances and conduct in office demonstrates a woeful incapacity for the role of National leader. He has now effectively squandered whatever goodwill may have attended his illegitimate accession to power. Despite, therefore, reassurances to the contrary from the new dispensation that all is well in T&T this is a situation that cannot long endure and is a recipe for disaster.

In light of the foregoing the present vacuum in the governance of T&T, when coupled with the precedent of insurrection with impunity, represents the gravest threat to the already elusive ideal of an economically viable and democratic unified Caribbean community.

It is therefore, incumbent upon all responsible leaders in the Caribbean Basin to recognise the fact that a neighbour's house is on fire. Should they fail to make every attempt to extinguish the conflagration the flames may spread and consume not merely the neighbouring property but the entire block. This analogy is, I contend, very apt when viewing current events in that Republic.

Far be it from me to advocate interference into the internal affairs of a neighbouring member of the Caricom family. It is, however, incumbent upon all those concerned enough for the sanctity of democracy to have dispatched a foredoomed observer mission to far off Zimbabwe to have ere now dispatched to neighboring T&T more than the window dressing represented by the initiative of PM's Gonsalves and Ingram in Jan. 02 to deal with a threat of such magnitude located upon their own doorstep. Continuing failure to effectively address the problem may yet see the unchecked spread of the anti-democratic flame, as this sorry event in T&T is not one, which will disappear if ignored - far from it.

Unless, therefore, search and meaningful investigation by Caricom fails to support my analysis the Caribbean family must be prepared to speak out forcefully and fearlessly in a demand for the restoration of democratic respectability in that Republic, lest Caricom be forced to bear a burden heavier than that of Haiti.

It is my sincerest hope, therefore, that the foregoing will be taken as a Wake Up Call to all concerned from an equally concerned private citizen.
TG Mendes