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Righting Ourselves

Martin Daly

London has been struck by terrorism. I left there a mere two days before the attack. During the last week of June I was back in the Privy Council. June in London is good for those who enjoy great sporting events, laced with the titillation of a quality social event. The month begins with the Epsom Derby run on the first Saturday of June and ends with the Henley Regatta (rowing) on the first weekend in July. Between the Derby and the rowing races there is Royal Ascot (horse racing), Wimbledon (tennis) and a cricket Test Match at Lords.

In addition to all of the above, the first Saturday of July this year was the occasion of the mammoth Live 8 concert organised to raise awareness of the desperate condition of continent Africa and to pressure the leaders of some of the richest countries in the world "to make poverty history". The lead concert for Live 8 took place in Hyde Park, London, and was attended by 250,000 people. Throughout the same day, there were similar concerts in other cities as far apart as Tokyo, Johannesburg, Berlin, Rome and Philadelphia. Last Sunday's Express covered Live 8 well, but what we may have missed in Trinidad and Tobago was the robust debate whether Africa or poverty could be fixed without first fixing the corruption of political leadership. The question is which comes first-aid or jail-that is, aid for the people or jail for the thieving leaders?

Highlighting the question was the fact that, in equally high profile with the Live 8 concerts, there was another overt expression of the brutality of Mugabe in Zimbabwe, which was taking place at the same time. This latest brutality was the wholesale demolition of homes and then businesses on the dubious grounds that human trash was being cleared away. Can you imagine a bulldozer or backhoe mashing down Beetham Gardens, Ravine Sable or Kernahan Village because Bim or Bam decided that the people there were trash?

Never happen, you say. Well consider the analysis by Matthew Parris, a top columnist in the London Times, of how most of Africa has fallen into arbitrary dictatorship: "Swaggering tyrants staying in power because the small people in Africa passively tolerate, even in some cases sneakingly admire, their leaders' greed and rascality. The cult of the Big Man is the tap-root of Africa's suffering."

Another strong comment that pointed out the limitations of aid came from Moleletsi Mbeki, brother of the Prime Minister of South Africa, a Prime Minister who has refused to utter one word of admonition to Mugabe in Zimbabwe, perhaps because other Prime Ministers in expensive suits and gold-plated Mercedes may also wish to treat their lowly citizens as trash. I fear that, after we lose the restraining influence of Mandela, the people of Soweto may be treated as bad or worse than when the white man ruled nasty apartheid South Africa.

Mbeki's views were carried in full in The Mail on Sunday and he cogently argued the need to correct the imbalance of power between the political elite (the "Big Men" mentioned above), and the rest of us. He specifically identified the impotence of "key private sector producers" in saying that the imbalance must be corrected. Personally, I have no doubt that we have to right ourselves.

It is up to us to return Trinidad and Tobago to civilisation. Mr Cadiz and his Keith Noel group are right to raise awareness and, by obtaining our signatures to their anti-crime petition, to bring us victim citizens together so that we will not continue to sit back and "like it so".

Calling home from abroad, I now always feel compelled to ask about new murders and kidnappings. During the last week of June, the list of answers was long. Six slain in a weekend. The feet of a Unit Trust employee cut off. Two Naths kidnapped. I am happy that the Naths were rescued but it is once again clear that the police are on both sides of the kidnapping deal.

It is hardly surprising then that the police can find kidnap victims if other policemen are the kidnappers. Big shot praise for the police for rescuing big shots does not sit well with me, given our passive tolerance of all the preceding gross police failures, including the Akiel Chambers case. It is typical of the straw clutching complacency that is suffocating us. I hope that my readers have read and absorbed Christine Hosein's account of the ordeal of her son, Imran Hosein, and their family, who were not as lucky as the Naths.

The bottom line is that neither foreign aid nor foreign investment can right the heavy wrongs of any society. We have to right ourselves and we will never do it if we bow or kow tow or sneakingly admire the swagger and show off of the Big Men.