TESTIMONY: WE FIGHT!

Got an urgent call from a friend after his board meeting. My name came up on their agenda. Before they got to that matter the chairman stated as fact, “Well we already know that Rubadiri received $2 million from the PP government as payback for NAPA…” Then the board discussed the new matter. So my friend on the phone- who’s supposed to know me- then said, “Diri. Yuh mean to say, so long we know each other- yuh couldn’t call yuh pardnah fuh a piece ah dat money boy?!”  This is how gossip works in T&T. Hearing this I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Why? Because at that moment I was scrounging for 10 cent pieces to make enough money to buy $2. bus tickets. So broken was I in the wake of the victimization that followed my activism.

The sacrifices and victimisation that follow activism are real. Not the least of which is the destruction of your name by carefully planted gossip. I’ve heard myself called con-man, thief, spy, upstart, and a paid member of at least 3 opposing political parties. My imaginary gossip self lives a much more exciting life than I do!… The real me lived on $100 a week for a year and a half after a wave of victimization- which came after my activism made certain politician’s and their friends lives difficult. Hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to me were withheld, gunmen showed up at my office, laptops were stolen after Commission of Enquiry hearings… I had to close down my business, send employees home. I survived on the charity of friends, settled back home on my mother’s miraculous cooking. You ever try to live on $100? A week? As an adult? In Trinidad in the 21st century? So when people want to talk about me ‘profiting from activism’- or from some imaginary payback from the PP government, I have to laugh…

Being an activist has meant postponing my artistic career. There’re no material gains. Only losses. Most times you wonder what you’re risking it all for! For the last 7 years all I have to show for my battles with government are 2 National Budget documents read out in Parliament full of promises worth $100 M to transform the Cultural Sector. If those words were implemented they’d convert the Sector from a $1.9 billion to a $6 billion earner in 3 short years- transforming the lives of thousands of citizens… Not one programme has been implemented. It’s all paper. Just words…

So I’ve given 7 years, for 30 pages full of words, approved by Cabinet, sanctioned by Parliament, with promises from the Ministry of Finance to pay… Is it worth it? How do I reconcile to myself that all I have to show for 7 years is 30 pages of paper promises? In 7 years if I’d selfishly followed my career I could’ve published 6 magazines, 3 other books, shot 2 films, recorded 2 albums, painted 100 paintings… I woulda eat a food! Instead I committed to activism, made myself a target, and have almost zero material possessions that any bank will respect. Why do I continue? Faith. It is an act of faith. Faith that getting ‘the words’ is the first part of getting ‘action’. I also know it took the Cultural Sector 49 years to get those words into Parliament!…

Another friend recently overheard someone say they have ‘problems with me’ because my group has ‘the ear of government’ and ‘access’- and are over-riding institutions. Again I had to laugh. Let’s get this straight, “Me eh have no ear of no government.” What my group and I do is we fight! We fight to get the sector to organize. We fight for access to government- for meetings, for sector agendas. We fight to get politicians to understand, to formulate policy. We fight for inclusion of all relevant stakeholders. We fight to get stakeholders to fight for their positions. We fight for the integrity of the drafted policy, to get it passed by Cabinet. We fight to get budgets for it and it into Implementation Units. We fight to get executive teams formed- with non-corrupted people. We fight to get schedules of deliverables. We fight it into the system and implemented. We fight!!! That’s how we get things done. That’s how we get change to happen. We fight! There’s no magic. No bohbol. No secret handshake. We fight!

What do you think Pat Bishop sacrificed her life for? The meeting where Pat died was a battleground. Ideals were being fought for. The fate of the nation was being fought for! Pat sacrificed her life in the name of those ideals. In so doing she may have won national transformations not possible before. I will not let that sacrifice be in vain!!! I recorded the meetings leading up to Pat’s death. Those recordings will damn many. At some time- not now- it may become necessary to release them so that the nation can understand the battles being fought in corridors of power for their soul…

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Posted on May 31, 2012, in President's Blog and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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