A Serious Review of Our Past

15 September 2022

By Winston H. E. Suite

Old Clock

Today, the United States of America will stage their remembrance ceremony of the 9:11 ( Eleventh of September ) events when four airplanes crashed into three buildings and an open field, killing all aboard. These acts were carried out by members of a terrorist group of Middle Eastern activists. This led to the subsequent American invasion of Afghanistan and a declaration of war against the group ALQUEDA. The rest is well known and history, as they say.

Since then, we have had to live in fear whenever we travel by air. But you can rest assured that no serious discussions will be carried out publicly in the many hours each year that the event will be covered in the various media, even if this discussion of "cause and effect" would have been painfully evaluated again and again with the passing of each of the 21 years that have passed within the various national security organizations.

I cannot help but note that we in Trinidad and Tobago have also not carried out any serious and public analysis of the events which led to the State of Emergency of April 21st, 1970. We too commemorate April 21st, 1970, known as the Black Power Revolution, in one form or the other, year after year, and there have been, of course, no serious reviews in the local media. No interviews, no series of panel discussions on radio and/or television. There have been no serious live discussions at the universities, UWI, or the UTT. Initially, one may have concluded that the absence of any review and the media silence was calculated because, no doubt, it may have been thought in error, too many of the nerves would have been still exposed and raw and too many of the principal actors were still alive, and this may have affected objectivity or even tranquillity and healing.

There has been the view expressed that we would be best served if we let the entire event rest in silence. Whatever, too much time has passed in silence and much of the factual context may have already been lost and permanently so. I am afraid that, as well, valuable documents would have been lost. Above all, society has not benefited from the events of 197O itself as an experience. What is, in fact, sad is that two generations (62 years) have grown up totally ignorant of what in fact preceded April 21st, 1970, and as well as what happened as a direct consequence in the two decades that were to follow in Trinidad and Tobago. As a direct result, a large cloud of political and historical ignorance is forming within society today. In many respects , we have lost historical, social, and political continuity. We have lost continuity between the colonial and pre-colonial periods from the post-Emancipation period (1834) and the independence struggle and what was to follow 1962/1976 and more so, what was to follow the Republican status. As a result, we are people with an interrupted or rather truncated history. This reflects, in part, what we have in fact lost. By refusing to discuss the past ,we have in fact lost critical elements of our own past . This is why we have had grave difficulty in forging that elusive nation, and I put this responsibility squarely at the feet of the academic community, mainly, and to a lesser extent, that of the media, electronic and print.   This negative experience was to be repeated in respect of the 1990 Muslimeen attempted coup. Here again, and for possibly the same reasons, we, as a society , have refused, in our wisdom or collective ignorance, or have simply failed to engage in any serious analysis of this latter event . I caution that, similarly, we have robbed ourselves and at least one generation of the invaluable lessons to have been learnt . We have put these two critical national experiences in a "locked box," possibly like the proverbial Pandora’s box , never to be opened for fear that we may have to confront ourselves with the lessons we should have learnt before,the gene in the proverbial bottle etc. I respectfully submits that these two critical experiences arose organically from our post-colonial history and are both products of who or what we are. They present invaluable lessons about our nature and who we really are for us and the generations to follow us to learn from. This self-investigation must be carried out and not in secret. The sooner, the better. There is much in our present predicament that not only has its organic and historical origin in the events that led to both events. This exposure and critical analysis is inevitable and unavoidable. It is my humble and respectful submission that the sooner we carry out this necessary exercise, the sooner we will not only learn from them and not be doomed to make them, or permutations of them, all over again.

Time is not on our side, ladies and gentlemen ,brothers and sisters ,comrades and friends.