Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Signs on a Saturday at the end of July

Do you have days like these? When you can't see what's coming but you feel the apocalypse in the blood, the tentativeness in the bones. Today, a woman came to the Market, wearing the green t-shirt trademarked for the green party. The green leader - innocent until proven guilty, she declared. She continued, we will win the By-election on Monday. The green leader had instructed, she said, no maxis to his meeting - meaning no "imported" crowd - just people who living right in the area. And there were thousands. So you start to wonder, what if she's right?

Later that day, the illustrious yellow leader surrounded by a national cabinet is imploring the yellow people to question the motives of the green leader and vote for the yellow candidate. There's sense in her words, but the impact of the assembled onstage - backing a candidate, however worthy, from Tunapuna - rings like another Tobago campaign.

On Friday, the Muslimeen led by Abu Bakr paraded through Port of Spain in commemoration of the day 23 years ago (July 27, 1990) when they stormed the Parliament and the national television station. At that time, the Prime Minister and the members who were in the parliamentary chamber were terrorised and held hostage for five days. Employees of the television station were also shot at and held hostage for five days. The Abu Bakr terrorists killed or caused the deaths of about 24 persons during that period. They caused widespread destruction and loss of property in the capital city and urban areas. The curfew that followed lasted six months. All the insurrectionists were freed two years later; the courts allowing the validity of an amnesty that had been framed at the height of the hostage crisis.

Was theirs a just cause? Did they speak for a sector that was disenfranchised, disenchanted? Do they to this day command an army of hungry landless young men adrift? Who sanctioned a march of this man and his group, whose presence is a constant reminder of "Trini tolerance," a laziness that floats on the line of least resistance, in allowing "who shouts loudest", an unwillingness to look deep under the skin of "all ah we is one."

There was no uncertainty 23 years ago. My sister and her family were coming in from Italy. The son and I would be waiting to meet them at Piarco. I was sitting on the edge of the concrete pond facing the exit from customs at the airport, while the six-year-old son was shuttling between me and the doorway, wanting to be the first to see his two Italian cousins. A heightened scurrying among the porters. One came forward and addressed a man who was sitting on the edge of the pond next to me: they take over the parliament; the television station. We both asked at the same time, where? what country? Uncomprehending, unbelieving, that the event was taking place here in Trinidad and Tobago.

We returned home through some areas in pitch black. On national television, the Muslim leader held a gun. For the next five days, everything was rumour and extrapolation. Living in the country, we only heard of the explosions and sieges in town. Only heard of the destruction of Port of Spain; of the bodies piling up. But the country areas were under siege too - no electricity, no gas, no grocery supplies - even though it was difficult to feel besieged in the lush languid tropical torpor of Trinidad at the end of July.

In five uncertain days, we came of age, and have been treading water, barely unfloundering, since. We walk side by side with those who perpetrated murder, terror, who stole from us,. We are one people. Do we know what to do with this? Do we yet know what it will take, of communities, of individuals, to be the Trinidad and Tobago of our dreams?


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