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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00072147/00007
 Material Information
Title: Tapia
Physical Description: no. : illus. ; 43 cm.
Language: English
Publisher: Tapia House Pub. Co.
Place of Publication: Tunapuna
Creation Date: May 9, 1970
Frequency: completely irregular
 Subjects
Subjects / Keywords: Politics and government -- Periodicals -- Trinidad and Tobago   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
serial   ( sobekcm )
 Notes
Dates or Sequential Designation: no. 1- Sept. 28, 1969-
General Note: Includes supplements.
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 000329131
oclc - 03123637
notis - ABV8695
System ID: UF00072147:00007

Full Text


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JN 22 SPECIAL N02



THE NATIONAL CRISIS


AFTER THE FALL





Reconstructing the Nation:



A CALL FOR A CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY


TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO has undergone a great shame. Our pride in
our sophistication, our intelligence, our easy-going tolerance, has been
humbled. The hollowness of our glossy political institutions has been
exposed for all to see.
After eight year. of superficial independence we have seen American and,
shame to end all shames, Venezuelan armed forces standing by to intervene in our
internal affairs--and at the request of our elected government. A Venezuelan politician
has cited the Trinid:id experience as an
example of what could happen to
Venezuela if people should become
exasperated at the uninterrupted rule of
an oligarchy.
Machine-guns and riot-helmets, PRIME MINISTER'S SPEECH
roadblocks and sirens have become part
of our children's experience. The The solutions offered by the Prime
economic effects of the disruption will Minister in his broadcast speech of May
not be obliterated for a long time; the 2nd are as futile as those he handed out
spiritual effects, perhaps never, in his broadcast earlier in the crisis. The
The near-collapse of our society about measures he outlined for dealing with the
our ears has not only made it obvious to problems of the Black Power groups were
anyone with the smallest degree of at best palliatives and bore very little
judgement that we were not as advanced-- relation-to black power-or black-dignity.
as we appeared, but has also had the He blamed the army on Britain, and
effect of suppressing our urge to continue government inefficiency on his Cabinet
the task of advancement, of blurring the colleagues and on Parliament (in that he
already inconsiderable clarity of our claimed that there was not enough talent
self-understanding, in the executive as now constituted to
govern the country) and on the civil
EMERGENCY service His one constitutional proposal


The state of emergency and the
measures taken to restore 'law and order'
have had the effect of clamping a lid on
all the means of expression of the
dispossessed classes, and forcing their
state of dispossession once more out of
open view. The well-to-do, on the other
hand, have breathed a sigh of relief at
what they choose to consider a narrow
escape, and have undoubtedly lowered
the standards they will henceforth apply
to the government which represents
them; that is to say, they will be more
satisfied than ever to evaluate
governmental performance in terms of a
successful holding operation, a state of
vigilance against possible disturbances of
the status quo, rather than in terms of the
formulation arid achievement of
developmental goals and the building of a
just society. Having been saved, as we are
repeatedly told, by the police from the
consequences of failing to think about
the role of the army, we will not be
disposed to be critical about the role of
the police; and these latter, extolled for
their 'loyalty' and exalted for the
moment above their traditional rivals for
governmental favour, will be faced with
an inhuman temptation to capitalise on
the situation. For they, too, are
dispossessed in ways that have nothing to
do with their conditions of services; their
acceptance as human beings by the
better-off groups in society, including the
Government, is not going to be increased
by their staunchness in the present crisis.
Kipling has a line about 'making mock of
uniforms that guard you while you sleep'.
In respect of their status as individuals in
this colonial society, the colonial
efficiency of the police is going to do
them very little good.
The withholding of information from
the public about events in their own
country, already routine, has been
elevated by the crisis to the status of a
necessity, and, what is worse, widely
accepted as such


was that he should have power to select
members of the executive from outside
Parliament. The solution to problems of
under-representation, over-centralised
executive power and unrestrained
patronage is, it appears, to increase the
power of patronage and widen the
already broad gap between the executive
and the institutions of popular
representation.
It is precisely this kind of ill-considered
and partisan 'solution' we must be on
guard against now. The emergency has
eased but its causes are still with us, and
our hope of avoiding the recurrence of
the trouble in worse and worse forms lies
in resisting the apathy that follows
danger, and in applying ourselves as never
before to the task of examining ourselves.
We must attempt to lift the moral plane
of discussion and consider not the
superficial details of the crisis but the
faults in our society that constitute its
root causes. TAPIA contends that what
such an examination will reveal is the
degree to which violence is inherent in a
structure where the majority of people
have no real participation in political and
economic decisions. The problem is
therefore not one of finding more
executive talent within the present
system but one of widening the system to
ensure a degree of participation, at all
levels, that will, among other things,
provide a constant supply of executive
talent.

AUTHORITY

Authority is a two-way phenomenon.
It must be accepted as well as
imposed-accepted on the basis of serious,
informed judgement of people's strengths
and weaknesses. That is, it must be moral
authority. These qualities of judgement,
and the men and women to whom they
are applied, can only grow out of a
system where as many people as possible
can have experience at first hand of the


governmental process as it affects their
own lives. Without this experience their
judgement will be useless, and without
this influence their only outlet for their
frustrations will be violence.
The present political and economic
structure of Trinidad and Tobago offers
the very opposite of these conditions.
Community organisation and local
government are minimal. The
constitution is an imposition from
outside, in the direct tradition of crown
colony government. All the authority it
embodies derives from above, not from
below; and its provisions concentrate
power in the central government; within
the central government, in the executive;
and within the executive, in the Prime
Minister.

EXORBITANT POWER


That is to say, independence has not
-brought any real curtailment-of the
exorbitant power which the Chief
Executive has always had here. The Prime
Minister controls the Lower House. There
is no check on him there unless his-
collegues in the majority party have an
independent base in the constituencies or
in business. There is no outside check on
him unless dissenting opinion in the
country is free to express itself.
But free opinion is almost not-existent.
The local business class is small and too
much of it either does not see the danger
of repression or is happy with it. The
foreign corporations are bound to play
ball with whoever is in power. And the
Central Government is both the largest
employer and the largest source of new
hobs. The Prime Minister therefore has a
great deal of influence over other men's
jobs.
Besides, he has an extraordinary
amount of direct control over
appointments under the Constitution. As
Her Majesty he appoints the Governor
General and as the Governor General he
appoints the Chief Justice. He appoints
the Public Service Commission and the
Police Service Commission; the Elections
Commission and the Boundaries
Commission; the Auditor General; and
three out of five members of the Judicial
and Legal Service Commission not
counting the Chier Justice. Finally, he
appoints the principal overseas
representatives of the country (the
Ambassadors), and by meahs of what is
probably a wrong interpretation of the
Constitution, he is responsible for the
posting of everyone who is sent to an
overseas mission, down to the lowest
typist. He also has control over the
appointment of all officers of diplomatic
rank to the Foreign Service, since they
are selected in the first instance by a
Cabinet committee over whom the Prime
Minister has control, and the Public
Service Commission then ratifies the
appointments. This is also probably
.unconstitutional.
On top of all this the Prime Minister's
consent is required when the Electoral
and Boundaries Commissions confer
powers on public officers for the purpose
of discharging their functions. He also has
the power of consent over appointments,
acting or permanent, to the posts of


SUNDAY, MAY 9, 1970


5 CENTS


Permanent Secretary, lead of'
department, Director of Personncl
Administration, chief professional adviser
and all the respective Deputies. His
agreement is required for transfers and
promotions as well. And still more, he
must assent to the appointment of the
Deputy Commissioner of Police.

TOTALITARIAN

In our conctxt, these arrangements are
ready-made for a totalitarian state: They
require an angel as Prime Minister if abuse
(II power is to be avoided. Williams is not
.in angell and there is little hope of divine
intervention in .the appointment of his
successors.
Nor is that all. The Prime Minister even
controls the Upper House of the
Legislature-the Senate;. He appoints 13
of the 24 members directly and, through
the Governor-General, a further 7 after
consultation.
Since 1956 Williams has in fact tried to
develop an organ of national
consensus-his own party. Questions of
national policy such as birth control or
membership in the OAS have been
solemnly submitted to the General
Council of the PNM, which has then
solemnly waited to be told what the
Prime Minister wanted it to say. For the
PNM is not only not a national forum, it
is not even a political party, in that
between elections it does not concern
itself with the politics of day-to-day
government, but rather confines itself to
the task of maintaining its electoral
strength and the political welfare of its
adherents. And since the Prime Minister
has the PNM in ,the palm of his hand, it
lso represents another co-iextffor the
operation of patronage.

PRICE OF OPPOSITION

Besides, to the extent that the PNM is a
forum it is a forum of only one of the two
large racial groups in the population.
The Prime Minister's use of it as a forum
has been tantamount to an exclusion
from political representation of the other
racial group; an exclusion made complete
by the imbecility of the DLP and the
ineffectiveness of Parliament, which time
and again has been treated with
contumely by the Prime Minister; and
above all by the de facto coalition
between the most powerful Indian leaders
and the PNM, so that from a state of
unhealthy polarisation in terms of race
the society has moved to an unhealthy
polarisation in terms of the haves versus
the have-nots, with the have-nots
deprived of a parliamentary alternative at
election time and of participation in
political and economic decisions all the
time.
Thus independence, instead of curing,
confirmed the impression in the minds of
the majority of citizens that their
political views and desires counted for
nothing.
In a situation where over-centralisation
prevented the rise of executive talent or
the effective development or
implementation of governmental
programmes, the moral authority of the
Government, especially among the urban
young, who did not share the
commitment to the PNM their elders have
developed fourteen years ago, declined.
The Government, incapable of satisfying
the desires of the bulk of the population
or commanding their patience, granted
specific favours to one group after
another-the steelbands, the police, the
army. But even where the recipients are
politically naive enough to share the view
that favours from above are the way in
which political desires are best fulfilled
(and in our society there are still many
such) it is impossible to bribe away
everyone's discontent, and, as we have
seen, discontent plus disillusionment plus

Cont'd. Overleaf







Page 2 TAPIA


* From Front Page
Lamptence equals violence-violence
without plan, destruction without
reconstruction.
Another result of centralisation of
power is that, even among those who are
able to think constructively about
change, the price of opposition is too
high. This is a society where to be in
opposition is almost to have a suicidal
complex-not in relation to one's life, but
in relation to one's employment,
advancement or security. This is another
reason for the dissident to try not for
organic change but for a quick surgical
operation to remove the establishment
before it has time to make its disapproval
felt.

TAPIA PROPOSALS
TAPIA's suggested programme of poli-
tical and economic reform has been an-
nounced in public meetings, published
piecemeal in earlier issues of TAPIA and
set out comprehensively in Lloyd Best's
pamphlet 'Black Power and National Re-
S--.struction'. It involves comprehensive
.-.posals for local participation in poli-
:hii decision through effective com-
munity councils, for nationalisation of
sugar and a mare vigorous policy toward
the oil industry; for a rational system of
industrial, commercial and mortgage
banking to mobilise l .cal savings; for the
d-vieopment of tr~:y local enterprise in
industry, commerce and tourism; an
effective system of participation by
groups of all kinds. toT.h political bodies
and others, in t":e ownership and
direction of these enterprises; in short,
for a complex of integrated measures
designed to involve all groups in the tasks
of government while encouraging at the
same time the development of leadership
potential in all fields. :
Our proposals in relation to the central
governmental structure centre upon a
Senate of perhaps as many as 250
members, selected and paid by all
organised interests-local councils, trade
unions, business, sporting and cultural
organizations. The, Senate will be an
-assembly designed -hlp people to think-
seriously about all aspects of national life,
and to inform the State of people's needs
and the attitudes of group interests even
as they change between elections. It must
have the power to select the Governor
General from among its own members,
appoint the Auditor General, the
Electoral Commission and the Boundaries
Commission. It must also have the power
to initiate legislation. A joint Committee,
or congress, of Senate and House of
Representatives (what we have called a
'National Panchaiyat') would be able to
debate legislation but not defeat it. In
this way the Government would retain its
power but would have to command great
moral authority to exercise the power
contrary to the wishes of Congress. The
Congress would also have power to veto
the Prime Minister's nominations to the
post of Chief Justice and to the Service
Commissions.
There would be a periodic review of
the composition of the Senate, to ensure


constant representation of all national
interests in spite of changes of alignment
in the structure of society. :.
The question of where the executive is
selected from will then be of minor
importance, since, firstly, executive
functions will then be decentralised
because of the strengthening of local
government bodies; second, because
potential ministers,-wheiever they come
from, will have their own power base and
will not be entirely the creatures of the
Prime Minister; and third, because the
participatory nature of the entire system
will result in the emergence of talent and
the opportunity for gaining experience at
all levels and in many areas.
WILLIAMS' FEUDAL PROPOSALS
Thus the Prime Minister, in his
proposals for altering the basis of
selection to Cabinet without
reconstructing the entire' political
machinery of the country, is putting the
cart before the horse, and merely seeking
to increase his own power of patronage
within the old centralised system or one
practically identical with it. An article by
Denis Solomon as long ago as November
1969 pointed out that this was what
Williams was bent on doing, and claimed
that the only thing deterring him was
what to do with the ministers when he
had to fire them, since he hoped (as his
recent proposals indicate that he still
hopes) to draw on the Civil Service for his
material.
What is also significant about this
feudal proposal is the feudal way Williams
intends to introduce it-'I hope shortly to
be able to tell you what my decisions
are'. The physician insists on healing
himself. There is to be no popular
participation in the discussion of the
change to popular participation.
NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION

TAPIA, on the other hand, considers it
essential that all interests should have an
immediate say in the planning of national
reconstruction. A Constituent Assembly
should immediately be convened, made
up of representatives of all parties and
interests, charged with the task of
appointing an interim Government and
draftiing a hewv Constitution to reflect
national interests and needs.
The Interim Government must run the
country and keep order until the provi-
sions of the new constitution come into
effect.
This Constituent Assembly, in its
deliberations, will foreshadow the more
effective, participatory organisation it
must develop, in that it will bring into the
open and debate frankly all the hitherto
covert difficulties from which our society
has suffered-race, poverty, the role of the
trade unions, the role of the army, the
police and the civil service, inequalities
and inefficiencies in the administration of
justice, health services, education and
welfare, and many more.
Proposals concerningthe conveningof a
Constituent Assembly are contained in a
leaflet recently published by the
Non-Violent Committee for Democratic
Freedoms. The leaflet is reproduced on
this page. TAPIA endorses the proposals
to the full.


THE EMERGENCY


The future maintenance of our
democratic freedoms requires
that the Government immedi-
ately:

(1) Give assurances of the
right of all detainees to legal
assistance, humane treatment,
and communication with rela-
tives.

(2) Prefer precise charges
against all detainees or release
them.

(3) Request magistrates to
deal expeditiously with curfew
breakers. There should be no
remand without bail or other


devices for unreasonable de-
tention.

(4) Repeal the EMER-
GENCY POWERS ACT 1970,
thus removing the temptation
use it as a political manoeuvre
against lawful opposition .

These are demands with which
all persons of good will regard-
less of political affiliations can
align themselves. Furthermore
they are only minimum de-
mands within the constraints
imposed by the EMERGENCY
POWERS ACT 1970.
They do not form a complete
statement by Tapia on the
matter.


NON-VIOLENT COMMITTEE FOR

DEMOCRATIC FREEDOMS

The country is calmer but still uncertain because the causes of th
recent breakdown still exist. It is therefore the duty of all citizens to
maintain vigilance. We must all work against violence and fear and
towards the formation of a national community.

The Causes of the breakdown are
.Lack of confidence in the Government
Lack of confidence in the Official Opposition
Lack of confidence in the Unofficial Opposition

The existing constitution breeds this lack of confidence. By placing too
much power; in the hands of the central Government, of the Cabinet
and of the PrimeMinister.
The Constitution

SRenders reasonable opposition ineffective
Encourages violent opposition

The nation therefore does not know where to turn. Part of the solution
is for the.community to rely less on government and more on private
initiative.' We st now establish COMMUNITY, COUNCILS -to .take
care of more local needs and to establish bases of independent political
action. .
The other part of the solution is to change the constitution
To reduce the power of the Central Government, of the
Cabinet and of the Prime Minister.
To strengthen local government
To recognize the opinion of unofficial opposition

The new Constitution must reflect national aspirations and national
needs. It must be framed by the people.
We therefore need a CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY representing a
wide cross-section of national opinion and interests.
We must now clear the way to the convocation of such an assembly
by demanding:
Lifting of the State of Emergency.
Release of all political prisoners.
Resignation of the government.
The Constituent Assembly must
Appoint an interim government
Sketch plans for social and economic as well as constitutional reforms,


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