MSJ warned that protests will re-occur
We need to “change the change”
“Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader David Abdulah is warning of many more incidents like last Thursday’s Beetham protest because of inequality and unfairness in society. Commenting on the Beetham Gardens violent protest last Thursday during a press conference at MSJ’s San Fernando headquarters yesterday Abdulah said the MSJ does not condone acts of violence against citizens “so we certainly don’t condone people throwing stones at person’s vehicles.”
Abdulah added, “At the same time, however, that we do not condone that activity, we also do not condone the kind of disparaging statements made about the residents of the Beetham by persons in society who themselves are not exemplars.” So that there are politicians who attack persons on the Beetham who over the years have used and abused those residents as vote banks rather than developing the community and developing those citizens of those communities.
“There are also person in the national community who, as business people, refuse to employ people from the Beetham because on their application letter they put as the location of their home as a resident of the Beetham and therefore they get discriminated against and they get exploited on that basis.” He said unless and until economic policies that generate fair and equitable opportunities for every single citizen of this country are implemented there will be many more incidents like last Thursday’s protest. “Unless and until we get a fair, just and equitable society we are going to get these explosions of anger and pain and frustration. We don’t condone violence but we can see the factors that generate this kind of behaviour,” Abdulah said. He added that those who controlled economic and political power from Independence to now have failed this country.”
Monday’s protests in East Port of Spain are another demonstration that there are too many of our nation’s citizens who feel marginalised; discriminated against by the system; disrespected and treated unfairly and unjustly. We need to understand that there is a lot of anger and pain being experienced by many of our citizens and that this can explode in circumstances when a certain flashpoint happens.
It is significant that the majority of those who took part in the protest were young people – both men and women. We must ask – do these youth have decent jobs? Did the education system enable them to develop their full human potential or did it fail them? Why is there such resentment to the Police Service? Why are those engaged in criminal activity protected by the community? How many of them have grown up
traumatized by violence? These are some of the critical questions that must be answered and solutions found if we are to prevent such explosions happening in the future. Heavy policing and more boots on the ground are only temporary band-aids.
Other questions are: Do our social policies address the circumstances of the families in our urban communities? Why is the gap between rich and poor getting wider and wider? Why do many in our communities feel there is no hope for a better life? Are the current policies working to minimize the possibility of young men becoming members of gangs or engaging in criminal activity? Does our Police Service have the capability to undertake serious intelligence based policing that can dismantle the gangs as well as money laundering; the trafficking in drugs, guns and humans? Do we have an effective strategy of community policing? Why is there an absence of trust by citizens in getting “justice”; how does the broken criminal justice system contribute to this?
For the MSJ, there is also the issue of politics: the system of who has political power and who are used as voters, but have no power except by protesting to highlight their issues and express their anger and pain. The absence of citizen and community empowerment is made worse by those who hold political and economic power not listening to the people; understanding their concerns; and offering them a vision and hope for “a better life for all now and in the future”
The 2018 Calypso Monarch Helon Francis implored us to “Change the Change”. The MSJ couldn’t agree more. We need to change the relations of economic power and move towards the social economy where wealth and income is generated in communities and does not flow to a few. We need to change the system of governance so that people have the power and resources to develop their communities. We need to change our social relations to bring about a culture of peace and a culture where every citizen recognizes his or her responsibility to contribute to building the nation.
If we don’t bring about this real change, if we don’t “change the change” then Monday’s protests or last November’s protests will become the norm rather than the exception. We need to listen to the wise words of the young spoken word poet who preceded Helon Francis as part of his Dimanche Gras presentation:
“We need the kind of change that is affordable to the rich man
or the man who is too broke
T&T we need a new hope”