‘A Trini Reflection on Michael Manley’s Caribbean Vision’ Neil Parsanlal January 31, 2011 I wish to thank Anna most sincerely
for the opportunity to be part of this signature moment on her life’s journey, and to simultaneously offer her congratulations on behalf of myself and her extended family in Trinidad and Tobago. Indeed, my presence here today is testimony not merely to the deep affection I have for my friend and fellow theologian, but moreso to the regionalism to which we have both ascribed, as products of two great regional institutions – the University of the West Indies and St. Michael’s Theological Seminary. I am certain that Michael Manley is viewing today’s unfolding, sitting in that place where Prime Ministers reside after their earthly sojourn, with the wry smile that always played across his face, and looking over to his colleague Eric Williams, now devoid of hearing aid and dark glasses, and saying – at last, north and south have met, our dreams live on. And dreams they were – for a region – not simply a collection of islands thrown together by accidents of geological activity; for a people – not merely a disparate agglomeration of individuals divided moreso by class, creed, culture and currency strength, than by the insularity that is a natural derivative of geographical distancing; and for a future – where the twin streams of justice and equality would converge into equal opportunity, equitable access, and collective responsibility for all that ensued therefrom.
what Eric Williams was to Trinidad and Tobago. It is a debate. cringe in collective horror. Fortuitous for us. two of the original signatories to the 1973 Treaty of Chaguaramas. will be 42 years since Michael Manley was elected president of the political party his father once led. Their iconic leadership was often characterized by controversy. and maligned by the misinformed. as well as other regionalists. but those which portends of the future. Fortuitous therefore is the opportunity we embrace today to continue a discussion which. a short nine days away. as we begin another round of sterile discussions on our ability to determine our own fate through a Caribbean Court of Justice comprising eminent jurists who look and talk like us. but yet are sufficiently removed so that the blindfolds of lady justice remain intact. Prime Minister of Grenada. according to Anna. A debate which would make Michael Manley and Eric Williams.Michael Manley was to Jamaica. or remain impoverished by holding on to the last vestiges of colonial oversight that the Privy Council still represents. February 9. or very parochial by each having our own. perpetuated both in the north and south by leaders who have come to be known more for their vacillation on regional issues than their Caribbean rootedness. and 22 years since the PNP returned to power with him as Prime Minister for the third time. 2011.
. Manley himself started. A debate which has earned the condemnation of even the mild mannered Tilman Thomas. but yet found to be worthy of emulation by those who take the time to not only read the signs of the times.
found expression in his universal education mantra. as an embarrassed Trinbagonian. remains apropos today. I too. would like to join with others in apologizing to the Caribbean community and to Manley’s legacy. I am sure that many Jamaicans are quite happy that the incumbent administration is once again shining a light on another of Manley’s ideas with a proposed return to universal education. Anna’s family and mine. so that in three generations. rooted as it was in the social teachings of the Catholic Church. The current state of our societies. as our leaders continue to pursue policies and make utterances that are grounded in self preservation and partisan politics. and one which is under serious threat in Trinidad and Tobago today by our new administration.Manley’s admonition to the region then. could easily be attributed to those decisions taken by these two visionaries. for as insensitive a remark as any regional leader could make. Manley’s preoccupation with equality and equity. Both Manley and Williams threw open the doors of possibility to thousands of their citizens through the introduction of state funded education for all those who previously stood on the periphery of society.
. yours and mine. could move from functional illiteracy to PhD’s. to abandon the insularity that resulted in the demise of the West Indian Federation. Michael Manley’s intellectual reservoir remains the ATM from which many of us continue to withdraw and fund our own intellectual capital. For indeed. a decision which was overturned here many years ago by an incoming administration. Anna’s book is ample evidence of this. then.
Anna’s efforts in continuing this debate must therefore be warmly applauded and encouraged. faced with a growing sense of black nationalism. that we have found each other’s company to be enjoyable. ensured that there was universal health and education for all. far clearer than most of the leaders of his era. the mark of a man who saw the possibility of disclosure for his Caribbean brethren. Eric Williams. it will uncover. It’s called “Trini”. than our incumbents. that the government owned the commanding heights of the economy. and earned the region the dubious privilege of increased American interest. looked on with varying degrees of anxiety. While the kass kass embroiled and derailed his administration to some degree. Williams implemented. I am sure. There is a song currently lighting up the airwaves in Trinidad and Tobago as we prepare for Carnival. and created a plethora of state institutions designed to ensure there was greater equity and equality in the Trinidad and Tobago society. is the concluding line that says.
. wine and party. and among its lyrics are lines which speak to the nature of the Trini. I hope I have been able to do justice to that song this evening.Many of us to the south. talk. as Manley articulated his philosophy of democratic socialism in the Jamaican post independence era. cook. his colleague to the south. infinitely more so. the greatest show on earth. The cap to all of that though. and certainly. “we make good company”. What Manley articulated. As it continues. how we walk.
and wish Anna God’s abundant blessings on what I anticipate will be the first of her many full length publications.
.I thank you for the courtesy of your attention.