Open letter to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar

To The Editor:

Please allow me to address the following remarks to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar over a recent statement attributed to her about Trinidad and Tobago assistance to her hurricane-ravaged neighbors.

Dear Madam Prime Minister:

Many of my friends in Trinidad and Tobago spoke freely of their anticipation of your election to office. They saw it as a much needed change to the political landscape in the twin-island republic.

Your platform was, for the most part, novel and appealing. You sought to create a united coalition to oust what you claimed was a corrupt, old government that had plundered and underprivileged the people of your country. We were all concerned about your “Trinidad first” stance, but after your speech in Jamaica where you boasted of your time spent there and of your “regional experience,” I forgave you for your unwelcome “ATM card” comments. But now, with all due respect, Madam prime minister, you have gone too far.

I read about your recent comments concerning assistance to St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados, three of your neighbors recently affectd by Hurricane Tomas, and felt deeply disappointed and disheartened. It has been reported that you stated that, “there must some way in which Trinidad and Tobago would also benefit” from your storm damage assistance to your three neighbors.

On the surface, your statements run counter to regional objectives and integration, which deeply distressed me, especially since you are supposed to be part of the ‘new guard’ in Caribbean politics. However, the core of your sentiments is disturbingly inhumane, selfish and insensitive.

I do not agree that this was a diplomatic gaffe. Madam prime minister, the islands affected by Tomas are not beggars at the steps of the temple. They are your neighbors who have lost loved ones, who have had their infrastructure destroyed and their livelihoods washed away. I am in Jamaica and have friends who were personally affected. Helping them in this present crisis should be our first priority.

Madam prime minister, we can all agree that each Caribbean territory is guilty of not managing our resources wisely. We are blessed beyond measure, but because of years of mismanagement and political tribalism we all (including Trinidad and Tobago) have failed to reach our full potential.

But you recognized this in the Trinbagonian context; which is why you ran on a platform of unity. You recognized that myopic segregation in your own territory was a major factor in holding back true development. In our present Caribbean condition, the same reality applies!

At the basic level, this is as much about the lives of Lucians, Bajans and Vincies as it is about the lives of the Trinbagonians who elected you. It is positive steps towards integration in other territories that have allowed for cross-border investment and market access for goods that has diversified your economy. Madam prime minister, at the regional level, the compass of progress points towards unity and I urge you to follow its lead.

Unfortunately, your stance and the aloof attitude of many of our prime ministers towards the CCJ have taught me not to expect anything different from your generation. My generation will therefore be taking steps to change the system so that the unwavering demands of regional integration will be placed squarely on the shoulders of the politicians of the future. We will not forget these lessons and will use our power to make regional integration an unavoidable issue for our politicians to address.

I look forward to a time when comments like yours will draw calls for a resignation. Unfortunately, I have no standing to make any such calls as I was born a Caribbean citizen with a homeland that only exists in my heart and on a paper (fascinatingly bearing the name of a town in Trinidad). I therefore humbly demand an apology on behalf of my brothers and sisters.

I look forward to you doing the right thing, Madam prime minister.

Best Regards,

Caribbean citizen.

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