Friday, 23 September 2016 13:46

MSJ: The First Republic Has Collapsed - Time To Re-Imagine The Future: Towards The Second Republic!

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Trinidad and Tobago commemorates the Fortieth Anniversary of our Republican status on September 24, Republic Day. For some this will be just another public holiday, a time for some social and other family activities. For others it will be a day of prayer and thanksgiving. To the MSJ, this 40th anniversary ought to be a catalyst for Trinidad and Tobago, like many individuals when they get to age 40, to take a serious look at itself in the mirror and ask ourselves “At 40, Republic of T&T, how you feel?”.

The recent poll by Solutions by Simulations gave us evidence of how we feel: almost 100% were very concerned or somewhat concerned about crime; almost 90% were very concerned or somewhat concerned about the economy and unemployment. Confidence in the institutions of national life was low and declining. As we stated in our Independence Message:
“There is no doubt that in virtually every sphere of national life there are major problems, crises even. The manifestations are:
• in the economy that has not been transformed from its colonial, plantation structure;
• in the institutions of state which are not fundamentally different from the old, colonial state;
• in social relations of power which are still defined by the traditional age, gender and class divisions;
• in a society that is fragmented by race, religion, geography begun through the colonial strategy of divide and rule.”

The reason why is because the institutions established by the First Republic of September 1976 have collapsed. They have collapsed because they are in essence, the old colonial institutions. We have changed the faces of those who run and manage these institutions but the institutions remain the same. This is why, exactly two years ago, on the occasion of Republic Day 2014, the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) offered a new Vision for Trinidad and Tobago with the statement – “The First Republic is Finished: Time for the Second Republic!” We therefore have held out for the people of Trinidad and Tobago the idea, the goal, the objective of reconstructing our society on a new basis, on the principles of social justice and equity; where there is fairness to all and where there is no discrimination whether by race, religion, gender, age or the geographical location of citizens.

It all begins with our re-imagining the future! Let us re-imagine what Trinidad and Tobago could be.

• Imagine an education system that is fair and equitable instead of today’s two tier system where a minority does very well and 50% fail Maths and English at CSEC. Imagine an education system that ensures that all children learn about our history and appreciate values and understand how our economy and political system work and what their responsibilities are as citizens. Imagine a system where children are excited to go to school not to get into mischief or to have sex in an abandoned classroom but to learn, to be involved in sport, music, drama and the arts and to express their cultural creativity. Imagine schools that are zones of peace and where young people begin to engage in service to community and nation and develop a commitment to work and live in Trinidad and Tobago. That is the Second Republic!
• Imagine a health care system where medical professionals visit every home, every workplace to educate all about how to eat right and take care of one’s health so we minimize the need to go to the hospital for sugar, pressure and heart problems. Imagine a health care system where going to the hospital either as patient or visitor is not a distressing experience because there is a shortage of beds, or no linen, or no medicine. Where there is no shortage of medical professionals and where they enjoy their work not only because it is a job but because it is a vocation and their conditions of work are conducive to first class service. Where there are no more horror stories of babies dying with faeces in their mouth and nostrils or with their skull sliced open; no more horror stories of mothers dying in pain. That is the Second Republic!
• Imagine a Trinidad and Tobago where there is peace in every community, where we are our brother and sister’s keeper; where neighbours look out for all the children and where the village raises the child. Imagine a society where young men and women have a sense of hope in the future, where they know that there are opportunities for them to have permanent, decent work and earn enough to be comfortable and raise a family and own a home so that there is no incentive or need to ‘put down a wuk” in order to put food on the table. Imagine where the sense of belonging and identity which the gang now provides them with they can get in the steelband or in progressive politics – channeling their energy and talents into mobilizing social justice struggles like we see with the Black Lives Matter campaign and the We are the 99%/Occupy Wall street movements earlier in the US. Imagine a society where every young person can feel proud of who he or she is, feel that they are treated with respect and dignity regardless of where they were born or the colour of their skin or the texture of their hair or their religious beliefs. That is the Second Republic!
• Imagine a Trinidad and Tobago where there are progressive labour laws, where workers can easily join a trade union of their choice, where there are proper standards of health and safety at all workplaces; where 90% or more of the workers are covered by a collective agreement. That is the Second Republic!
• Imagine an economic system where agriculture is central to development; where farmers are the most respected of occupations; where local food is the only fare of the school feeding programme. Imagine an economic system where cultural creativity is the mainstay of our national income – providing decent jobs, earning foreign exchange and establishing an aesthetic and ethic that underpins the building of a free and independent nation. Imagine an economic system where the resources of the country serve the common good, where we don’t have a few obscenely rich people at the same time that tens of thousands are struggling every day just to survive and take care of their children. That is the Second Republic!
• Imagine a justice system that is not stacked against the poor and powerless; where those who are corrupt go to jail no matter how wealthy and powerful they may be. Imagine a system where those who commit violent crimes face the courts and are punished for their deeds; where the system is not set up so that a few powerful lawyers can manipulate matters so that their clients never face justice and the victims never feel a sense of closure. That is the Second Republic!
• Imagine a political system where we no longer have to wait till the next election to give the finger to the politicians who have betrayed our trust; where we the citizens have power in our village and community councils to organize for better communities; where we have a direct say in every law that goes before parliament; where there are checks and balances to prevent the abuse of office by any politician or government bureaucrat. That is the Second Republic!

As we pointed out in our Republic Day 2015 Message: “the celebrated West Indian historian Elsa Goveia wrote in 1965 in her book “Slave Society in the British Leeward Islands” – “Ever since the time of emancipation… we have been trying to combine opposite principles in our social system, but sooner or later we shall have to face the fact that we are courting defeat when we attempt to build a new heritage of freedom upon a structure of society which binds us all too closely to the old heritage of slavery” (and we can add in Trinidad and Tobago’s case – indenture).

That is what the First Republic is – the attempt to build a new heritage of freedom on the structure of society which is colonial and organized to make us “unresponsible” and denies justice and equity for all. This is why the MSJ says “The First Republic is finished: It is time for the Second Republic! The Second Republic which will be built on a new structure of society, one where all can participate in the process of national development and where, as our Constitution promises, “the economic system will be organized so that the resources will subserve the common good”.

It’s time, Trinidad and Tobago, to re-imagine the future: Towards The Second Republic!

Movement for Social Justice

David Abdulah
Political Leader

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