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An Open Letter to Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar

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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.{{more}} 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 your ‘regional experience’ I forgave you for your “ATM card” comments. But now, with all due respect Madam Prime Minister, you have gone too far.

I read about your comments concerning assistance to St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados, your neighbours, and felt deeply disappointed and disheartened. It has been reported that you stated that, “there must be some way in which Trinidad and Tobago would also benefit.” 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 the TS Tomas are not beggars at the steps of the temple, they are your neighbours, 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 have all failed (including Trinidad and Tobago) 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 have 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 PMs towards the CCJ have taught me not to expect any 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 our politicians must address.

I look forward to a time when comments like this will draw calls for 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,

Marc F Ramsay