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Ting Fo’ Tark, but time and space Na’dey

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There is an old local saying which goes like this-“Ting dey fo’ tark, but time na dey”, meaning that there are many issues to be discussed but time is limited. Using this as a basis, and given the multiplicity of relevant issues this past week, both here at home and abroad, I can modify this local saying to read, “Ting dey to write about, but space na dey”. In other words, the space allocated to a columnist does not allow extensive comment on the range of issues in the news.

The COVID pandemic continues to rule the roost internationally and with the second spike in the number of cases, the search for a vaccine has been ringing panic buttons. Lo and behold, Russian President Vladimir Putin has surprised the world by announcing that it has given regulatory approval for mass production of a vaccine after less than two months testing on humans.

Then with the elections in Trinidad and Tobago over and presidential and congressional elections in the USA less than 90 days away, the results in T&T and speculation about the outcome of those in the USA are hot everyday topics. To these I wish to add the plight of local workers employed by LIAT, confusingly being liquidated or in a state of reorganisation.

Permit me a few words of condolence to the families and relatives of the late journalist Jerry George and Juan Abbott of Langley Park. Juan’s bereaved mother Nioka Abbott-Balcombe has long been a stalwart of the local farmers’ movement and the introduction of the fair-trade banana trading arrangements. Clearly the police version of the shooting of Ms. Abbott-Balcombe’s son is being disputed and as I express my condolences, I also join the call for a full impartial investigation.

Monday’s election in T&T turned out to be as close as predicted with a narrow two-seat majority for Prime Minister Keith Rowley’s PNM. It was also no surprise that race politics, long the bugbear of politics in Guyana and T&T, once more reared its ugly head. Significantly the pattern of the sidelining of parties and ideas outside the dominant two-party fold continued. This trend is effectively keeping out all alternative views and sending the message that the discredited Westminster system is the ‘only way’.

Another disturbing recurring trend is the refusal of the opposition UNC to accept the results. That seems to be the in-thing these days, if you win, fine, but if you lose there must be cheating. Not one country in our region has made serious attempts at electoral reform. Nothing is done about campaign financing, but both parties accuse each other of bribery and use all the minor irregularities to question the overall results. This pattern will continue.

It is a trend now being adopted in the USA where President Trump is not only calling “foul” as he sees the writing on the wall and more than openly hinting that he may not accept the results should he lose on November 3. What message is there for Jamaica, St. Lucia or even our own SVG, all with upcoming elections?

Incidentally, Trump has been insisting that his COVID-ridden country, a predicament for which he has to take full responsibility, will have a vaccine available in time for the presidential elections. What does the development of a vaccine have to do with elections unless there are sinister forces at work? Trump has been accused of turning a blind eye to Russian “interference” with the US elections. What can we read out of Putin’s sudden announcement of the Russian vaccine for COVID? Any coincidence to be read here?

VINCENTIAN LIAT WORKERS SUFFERING

Each time I hear or read of the plight of Vincentian workers employed by LIAT, I become more baffled. A couple of months ago, before the announcement of the liquidation of LIAT, PM Gonsalves had a meeting with the workers representatives. A lot has happened since then, but not where it concerns the workers and their plight. No work, no pay, no future, no assurance, what really is going on?

In the meantime we are all busy on the airwaves and social media expressing all kinds of views on the future of LIAT, calling for private sector involvement and all the other suggestions made about regional air transport. The grim situation facing the workers and their families does not seem to be getting the same level of attention.

Once again the workers representatives have made an impassioned public plea for a resolution of their situation. The silence of the government on this score is puzzling, since it prides itself on being a “labour” government, which is a pro-worker government. I have heard no word from the Labour department and the local trade union movement has not been vocal in support of the LIAT workers. What really is going on?

No doubt there are complications including legal ones relating to the company being placed in administration. The PM has pointed this out but surely the plight of the workers must be taken on board. It has been reported that steps are being taken in other LIAT shareholding countries to address the woes of LIAT workers. Let us have some firm action here too, the workers and their families are suffering.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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