Monday, October 13, 2014


I have stayed out of the Highway Re-route Movement's (HRM) contra temps with the Government for all kinds of reasons which are irrelevant to the point I wish to make here. In my mind, the question of Dr. Kublalsingh's sincerity in his beliefs is not in issue, or, put another way, ought not to be in issue. We should assume (though not necessarily accept) for the sake of argument that he is being sincere rather than get into an argument about that  ... which would only serve to obfuscate the real issues behind the proposed re-routing of the highway. And no right thinking person can look at somebody starving himself to death and not want to find a way to stop him from dying regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the cause that he has undertaken.

But, in all of the arguments, both pro and con, that I have read there has been one matter that has bothered me no end and which has never been discussed. It is this: forget the re-routing of the highway for a moment. Serious question: should a government (any government) be pressured into doing something that a majority of the population does not want, by an action such as a hunger strike? Does this amount to emotional blackmail?

Consider this: let's say that X sincerely believes that the death penalty is wrong and ought to be abolished. Let's say that the government of the day passes appropriate legislation that effectively allows the death penalty to be carried out again and manages to withdraw from all of the various international treaties that make it so difficult to carry it out now. Let's then say that X brings a case in the High Court to stop the death penalty from being carried out, which he loses twice and now is on its way to the Privy Council, and that the government proposes to hang, say, twelve convicted murderers a la Dole Chadee in one day before the Privy Council can adjudicate on the matter. (And just for the record, I am aware that the Privy Council has stepped into cases like this before, but let's pretend that it won't in this case.) X now goes on a hunger strike and refuses to come off of it unless and until the government of the day postpones the hangings and at the very least agrees to mediation on the whole question of the death penalty.

And finally, let's assume (though not accept) that X is as sincere in his belief as to the rightness of his cause as Dr. Kublalsingh is. So, should the government of the day give in to X and go to mediation? Should it postpone the hangings even though if it does the legal tangles that such a postponement will create would be such that we would be right back to square one with the problem of executing convicted murderers? But if it doesn't postpone the hangings the murderers will be hanged!

Except for the names and a few other changes, the story is the same one. The question is should a government ... any government ... allow itself to be pressured in the manner that Dr. Kublalsingh is doing now? What are the consequences to the country of this government ... any government giving in to this kind of pressure? Should we be concerned with the possible precedent that this will set?

For me, the answer is yes, we ought to be very concerned. As much as I do not want Dr. Kublalsingh to die, I see the issue as being bigger than just his life. And that's really, really sad!! With the greatest of respect for Dr. Kublalsingh I am of the view that he has gone down a wrong route here.

And for the record, I am one of those in the minority who believes that the death penalty ought to be abolished!! I think that it is wrong.  But this post is not about that nor is it about the rightness or otherwise of the HRM's cause. Hopefully, you will understand my point and at the very least think seriously about it. What conclusions you come to is, of course, entirely up to you!!

Monday, October 6, 2014


I can hear you say "what? are you crazy?" No. I'm not crazy and I am deadly serious. I am totally aware of how important Carnival is for our national psyche, business, tourism and just about everything else that defines us a country. But Carnival is (more or less) a short four months away and there is a huge potential problem looming on the horizon. Let me spell it out for you:

Ebola is a virus that is communicated by bodily fluids such as blood or saliva. But those aren't the only types of fluids in our body. There are fluids that come when (ahem) there is a certain 'intimacy' between people. There is also a bodily fluid commonly known as sweat!! Now, at Carnival there is a heck of a lot of sweat both at the many fetes around the country as well as a certain amount of sharing of drinks (saliva), not to mention the 'intimacy' that traditionally causes our birth rate to balloon nine months later.

Let me say at the outset that I do not have an answer to the question as to whether or not Carnival 2015 should be banned or postponed. All I know about Ebola is as follows: it cannot be transmitted in the air and will not mutate into an airborne form; the most people at risk are the healthcare providers and family and friends of the Ebola patient, and finally, the good news (and the bad news) is that in order to get Ebola you must have direct contact with an infectious bodily fluid!

The question arose in my mind when I heard about the person who arrived in the United States some two weeks ago and then after arrival succumbed to the virus. Apparently, there are potentially about 114 people that he had been in contact with since he arrived. To make matters worse, the victim went to the hospital, was misdiagnosed and sent home before being admitted a crucial two days later. And this was in the great United States of America whose health care services are reportedly better than ours! That there are only 114 potential victims is instructive for us. How many people does a reveler bump into on the streets at Carnival time or at a Carnival fete? How prepared are our hospitals for dealing with a potential Ebola victim?

Social media in Venezuela was reporting about two weeks ago nine mysterious deaths in a city just south of Caracas. The reports suggested an Ebola type illness. But there has been nothing in the major news reporting agencies so no one can say that the reports are accurate. The problem is that Maduro's Government ain't exactly open in all things and may or may not have ordered a cover up. It is nothing short of a tragedy that we cannot trust their denials (if it ever comes to that). But Venezuela is just next door. Has Ebola arrived in our next door neighbour's yard? Again, I really don't know, but I am of the view that we should all be on high alert, and unfortunately, as I said,  Maduro and his cronies simply can't be trusted to tell us the truth. And to make matters worse, they (Maduro and company) are not in the habit of allowing unrestricted news reporting in that unfortunate country. So, the bottom line is that we just don't know if Ebola is in fact in Venezuela or not. And a heck of a lot of Venezuelans come over for Carnival ... as well as a heck of a lot of other people!

Heathrow airport is a major world hub for airlines. People from Europe use it as a departure point for the Caribbean (Trinidad Carnival) and it is a departure and arrival point for practically the whole of Africa. You've only got to look at it to see that there are huge potential problems facing us. Somebody on the London Underground could easily come into contact with somebody who has the virus. The mortality rate of Ebola is staggeringly high.

What all of this means is that the Health Authorities in T&T need now to step up to the plate and tell us exactly what they do know about Ebola, what steps they have already taken to control, isolate and counteract the virus if it rears its ugly head on our shores, what additional steps they are planning to take should there be an Ebola victim in Trinidad, where will the victim be taken, that there are plans afoot to be able to contain the virus, that training is taking place now (and "now" must mean "now") of health care providers, what steps that are being taken to prevent any one with Ebola from even getting on a plane bound for T&T. Putting it shortly, what are the control measures that are being taken and implemented  to protect the country now from this epidemic?

The danger is real. It is much more real than, say,  the dangers highlighted by Dr. Rowley's rather pathetic bleatings about supporting UN resolutions on ISIS or  Wayne Kublalsingh killing himself slowly, or even the out of control murder rate. Unfortunately, this is a non-political issue and therefore there is no profit in saying "hold it Sherriff, she's headin' for the strawberry patch!"  But it is a very, very hard question that ought to be faced and discussed now. As a society we need to look at this very hard question and answer it. As I said, I don't know the answer as to whether or not we should ban or postpone Carnival 2015. I simply haven't got enough information to make a proper decision. But I do know enough to be able to say that this potentially could be the most serious crisis that we have ever as a country had to face!! And it is better that we take the hard decisions now than suffer a disaster because we just wouldn't discuss it and take appropriate steps before it hits us squarely in the face!!