Monday, March 28, 2011

KILLING THE MESSENGER? The famous English playwright, George Bernard Shaw, once said "The reasonable man adapts hinself to the world: the unreasonable one persists intrying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man". Like most people, I was surprised by the comments of the Chairman of the Police Service Commission made before a Parlaimentary Committee on Friday to the effect that there was a dearth of East Indians in the hierarchy of the Police Service. Mr. Mohammed quoted facts and figures to support his statements. The problem was that the way he presented his case clearly suggested that the fact that there was a dearth of East Indians at the top of the police service was because of latent racism in the Service and in past Governments, not to mention past Police Service Commissions. Because of this Mr. Mohammed has been pillioried in the local media. Indeed, many (black) politicians have been howling for his resignation and all three black members of the Police Service Commission (PSC) chose not only to distance themselves from their chairman's remarks but to disagree publicly with him. The Minister of Health (who is herself of mixed ancestory), sitting on the Committee at that time also chose to disagree with the embattled chairman who has found himself out on a limb almost completely on his own and looking very much like an unreasonable man. Indeed, it was this fact (i.e., the fact that he sounded so unreasonable) that caused me to pause and look again. Because, let's face it: either what Mr. Mohammed said was (a) true, or (b) partly true,or (c) completely false. Well, we ought to have no trouble in dealing with the erstwhile Chairman if the statements were completely false. He ought to be fired! Immediately, if not sooner! If the statements were completely false then they are dangerous, subversive and bordering on the seditious. There can be no argument about that. End of discussion! But, what if there was some truth in the statements? Certainly, the facts seem to suggest that there is a racial problem in the hierarchy of the police. The fact that there is almost a complete lack of Indians in the top ranks of the police service seems to suggest that Mr. Mohammed might have a point. Of course, there may be explanations other than racial discrimination that could throw light on this matter. But what they are, I, for one, certainly do not know. I can say, though, that what Mr. Mohammed has uttered so loudly and so passionately has been muttered about for at least the last thirty years in bars and private places by many East Indian policemen who have believed (rightly or wrongly) that they were being discriminated against. While this is the first time that I have heard these complaints aired in public it is not the first time that I have heard them. And by saying that I have heard them before does not necessarily mean that they are true ... it simply means that the complaints are not new. So, where there is smoke is there fire or simply a smoke making machine? As a society we should not be so ready to shoot the messenger, even when he comes with a point of view that on the face of it might seem to be unreasonable. (Remember Shaw's edict about the unreasonable man.) We should be prepared to listen carefully to the message and deal with it ... one way or the other. Mr. Mohammed has let this particular Genie out of the bottle. It cannot be stuffed back in so easily by simply firing him. If he is to be fired it can only be because what he has said is completely, but completely untrue. However, if, as unpalatable as it might be to contemplate, there is some truth in what he has said then we should be bold enough, and brave enough, and smart enough to deal with the problem head on. Or, we could go back to simply doing what we do best .... and that is shoot the messenger!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


We all know the expression "B.S!" And we all know what it means ... "Baloney for Sure". (What? You thought it meant something else? Well, it doesn't! Not in this blog!)

Now that we have that little explanation out of the way for the benefit of those who might not have understood, I must say that I have never heard such absolute "B.S." as came out last week from certain doctors and other persons from the Southwest Regional Health Authority ('SWRHA') who were objecting to the suspension of certain persons following the death of an apparently healthy 29 year old young woman in the San Fernando General Hospital. The essence of the objections as expressed in the newspapers is that "proper procedures" for the suspending of the entire shift on duty at the time of the operation from which the unfortunate young lady died were not followed.

Talk about a Phd ('Piled higher and deeper') in unadulterated B.S.! Let's look at the facts:
1) There was an operation in which a 'C'-section was performed on the young lady;
2) She was apparently healthy at the time;
3) She died while on the operating table.

Now, it is fairly safe to assume (though certainly not to accept) that somebody may have made a mistake which resulted in the young woman's death. Who is responsible? That is the sixty-four million dollar question! It is also fairly safe to assume also that if anybody screwed up it would be one or more of the persons on the shift, i.e., the people who were on duty and took part in the operation. So, that being the case (i.e., that there is a distinct possibility that somebody messed up badly and as a result the young woman died) then quite clearly the thing to do is to have an immediate investigation into what happened. But, you don't want to mount an investigation into any matter, much less a matter as serious as this, and leave a possible guilty party in a position where he (or she, or they) could tamper with the evidence. You would want to remove any and everybody from the scene so that you could find out exactly what happened.

That is why the behaviour of everybody from the dismissed SWRHA Chief Executive Officer on down is so inexplicable and nonsensical. Yes! The whole shift should have been suspended. And, quite frankly, the dismissed CEO should have done that immediately! A young woman is dead, for crying out loud! And you want to quibble about procedures!?!? So, if the proper procedure is that the suspension notices should have been on pink paper but were written instead on blue paper (being ridiculous to make the point) then they should not have been suspended?!? Pull the other one! It's got bells on it!

No! Some, if not all of those suspended may be quite innocent of any negligence whatsoever, but we will not know unless and until an investigation and enquiry takes place. They have been suspended with full pay and they will be given an opportunity to answer any allegations that may be made against them as well as to produce evidence to show that they were not to blame. But keep your eye on the ball: A young woman is dead! And it is more than likely that somebody (or "bodies") is to blame. The Minister of Health in this case is absolutely right!

Monday, March 14, 2011


As readers will be aware, for the last three and a half months I have been doing an afternoon radio program on Talk City 91.1FM every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The CEO of CNMG, Ken Ali (who is a friend of mine), had approached me to do the show back in November of last year. They really couldn't afford to pay me so I agreed not to charge the station anything for my services but told them that they were to pay whatever they could afford and whatever they thought fair to the Cancer Society in my name, an arrangement to which they happily agreed. I called my program "Counterpoint" and began to broadcast around the 25th November. My idea was to have a program in which I would air my views on any given subject, but that persons would be free to call in and give their own opinions. The only provisos were that all opinions had to be reasoned and not be defamatory. I couldn't (and don't) care less whether or not a caller agreed with me, but I insisted that every caller would have to answer quetsions that were put to him/her and not be allowed to waffle when the questioning got tough. I apllied the same rules to myself.

Well, although no survey was done, I believe that we had become quite popular. When we first started the program we had hardly any calls. By Carnival Wednesday (2nd March) when I quit, as soon as we would open the lines the switch board would light up. Many persons would call me in my office the next day to say that they had tried for the two hours that the show was on, but couldn't get through. Many, many other people would approach me just about everywhere that I went (from the beach to the supermarket and everywhere in between) to tell me how much they were enjoying the show. Clearly, it was becoming quite popular.

On Carnival Wednesday my producer suggested that we discuss the calypso that the Calypsonian Crocro sang at the Calypso Monarch semi-finals. I hadn't up till then heard the calypso, but agreed that we could discuss it. I had heard that it was terribly racist and very offensive. In any case, we played a large section of the calypso on the show and then began to discuss it. I was absolutely horrified by the calypso. It was offensive and racist in the extreme. In essence, its theme was that any black person who did not vote for Patrick Manning and the PNM was a traitor to his race!! Indeed, the Calypsonian called out the names of several prominent African-Trinidadians in the calypso calling them traitors to their race!

In my view this was awful. It was promoting racial division and strife in a society that does not need this, and was racist in the extreme. If you changed a few words and had a white person or an Indian sing that calypso he would be called (quite rightly) a racist. I see no reason why what is sauce for the goose should not be sauce, as well, for the gander. Racism is racism no matter from where it originates, and I said so quite clearly. I condemned Crocro for the song, and I condemned the judges who put him into the Calypso Monarch finals.

I am pleased to say that every single caller to the program that afternoon agreed with me. However, my co-host, Justin Dookie, who has the advantage over me in that he controls the switch board (even though it was my show), took the view that it was a calypso, and that offensive as it might be, the calypsonian had the right to sing it. I couldn't disagree with him more! Indeed, one lady caller quite intelligently pointed out that claypsonians couldn't sing anything they liked. A child molester, for example, should not be allowed to sing a calypso about how much he liked to molest little children! According to my co-host child molestation and racism were two completely different things and therefore her comparison was invalid.

When the show had about half an hour to go somebody came in and said that Crocro had been trying to call in but couldn't get through ... the lines were jammed. My co-host decided that we should call Crocro and give him a chance to defend himself. I disagreed completely. My attitude is and was that I will not share any platform with a child molester, a drug dealer, a murderer or a racist. And my definition of a racist includes a person who will sing a racist calypso. I don't care to be associated with anybody who espouses views that ought to be condemned by right thinking members of society, and I refuse to debate with such a person.

Well, my co-host called my producer who said that she saw nothing wrong with having Crocro on the show. I then left the station. It's their station, but it's my good name. Several persons from the station did call me the next day, but the bottom line was that they refused to agree to my demand that this was my show and as a result I had the ultimate right to refuse to have on it any person that I considered undesirable. Their argument was that as a State owned radio station they had to include all views. My view is that this is fine ... just not on my show. They could give that person any time they wanted on any of their other shows ... just not one with which my name is associated. I will debate with anyone whose views are different to or from mine ... whether it's about politics, religion, or the weather! And I genuinely respect persons who hold different views from me on any given subject. But I will not now or ever descend into debating (whether publicly or privately) with one who espouses racial views! I quit!