When he visited this country for the Emancipation celebrations under the aegis of the Emancipation Support Committee sometime in 2005, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo made a commitment to go back home and implement a plan to do two things.

He was blown away by the fact that this was a national holiday, originating here in Trinidad and Tobago, and there was no such recognition anywhere on the continent. He would make it happen in his country, and then he would enrol in the efforts to internationalise it.

On that visit also, the then Nigerian president signed a bi-lateral agreement air-services agreement with the government of Trinidad and Tobago. A senior officer at the then Ministry of Foreign Affairs had told an inquiring reporter then, that it was the second such agreement being signed between both our countries. Nothing had come of the first one. Well, more than a decade later, nothing has come of the second one.

Earlier this week, the Barbados Ambassador to Caricom, the tireless regionalist and anti-imperialist, attorney David Commissiong, posted a list on his WhatsApp account announcing what he described as “the good news.” It came after a three-day visit to Barbados by the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. It listed all the agreements and undertakings initialled during the discussions which took place. The sweep of their promise is breathtakingly comprehensive:

1. Efforts will be made to stage a Caricom/Africa Union (AU) Heads of Government summit over the next 12 months.

2. Caricom and the AU will shortly sign a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a framework for engagement and co-operation.

3. Barbados and Suriname will partner in establishing an Embassy in Ghana.

4. Barbados and St Lucia will partner in establishing an embassy in Kenya-and an invitation has been sent out to all other Caricom countries to join in the venture.

5. The University of the West Indies will be undertaking student and faculty exchanges and joint education initiatives with the University of the Nairobi and Kenyatta universities.

6. A high level Kenyan delegation will be returning to Barbados in September to conclude a number of agreements, inclusive of a Multilateral Air Services Agreement, a Double Taxation Agreement, and Revenue and Digital Currency agreements.

7. The Barbados and Kenya Chambers of Commerce and Industry will commence engagement and collaboration with each other.

8.There is a commitment to resist any dividing of the African-Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of Nations, as well as a commitment to use the grouping to undertake much closer South/South relations.

9. Caricom and Kenya have started work on a MoU for engagement and co-operation.

10. The African and Caribbean governments have committed to establishing direct air travel links between Africa and the Caribbean.

11. The time has come for Africa and the Caribbean to reconnect and unite and engage with each other as members of a family in every positive and constructive way.

Present at the table over those busy three days were the host Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, along with St Lucia prime minister Allen Chastanet. Ministers representing Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname, and Caricom Secretary General Irwin La Rocque.

Tremendous preparatory work would have taken place for the conduct of this meeting, such that there were statements in principle on the points agreed above.

Much more must be done in the first instance, for the completion of the arrangements for a summit between leaders of the African Union and Caricom. The venue for that summit was not among the agreements reached in Bridgetown last week.

With the two still-born attempts at bi-lateral air services agreements between T&T and Nigeria, there ought to be discussions surrounding why they remained on the ground, so to speak, and what must be voice in the circumstances, if there is to be lift-off in any reasonably respectable time frame. But it is known that a group of T&T private citizens have been working to establish a direct air service between us and Ghana. Whether or not this will be taken into account, when the details of this proposed new set of ambitions get to be discussed across the region, is a matter for consideration. There may exist good reason why T&T was not at the table at these potentially far-reaching discussions. They represent a new thrust in the struggling efforts at building on the aspirations among countries of “the global south” as projected in the scholarship of Trinidadian professor Jacqueline Braveboy-Wagner.

In a 2009 publication entitled “Institutions of the Global South”, she examining the efforts at multilateral co-operation among former colonies in the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific regions: “The very impetus to co-operate in the south has in large measure from outside.” Former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, who had paid a visit to this country in the late 1980s, gave up his presidency to head what was then known as the South Corporation.

Success and achievement have been spotty at best. The Barbados declaration of August 2019 appears to be a fresh start.


Public confidence in any government is not helped when the family of a senior government minister is the beneficiary of State contacts. In the case of Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, contracts to his relatives run to over $20 million a year for the rental of property, according to an exclusive Sunday Express report. Put in context, this works out to 8.5 per cent of the State’s annual bill for the rental of private property.

I wish to thank the endorsers of the statement on the “Education of Children of African Origin” articles that appeared in this paper recently. The statement rightly raised several issues of inequality in access to quality education in T&T, by black children (among others).

Every employee in Trinidad and Tobago, regardless of if they work in the public or private sector, is entitled by law to certain rights.

I have been working with the United Nations on Violence against the Women/Gender-Based Violence for the past ten years in Africa, the Arab world, and Eastern Europe. And in Trinidad and Tobago we have had one of those recent uproars over the killing of women and the search for causes. And the primary cause stares us in the face.

The state of existence as a tribalist is when one is living with a distinctive characteristic so as to be identified with a particular identifiable distinctive group. This status quo surfaces to facilitate the tribal member who is excessively loyal to his own group. 

LISTENING to President Paula-Mae Weekes’s address on the reopening of the Red House, even the most sceptical among us could not help but be impressed, indeed be moved, by her departure on the role she was expected to play and the sentiments she was expected to express as head of officialdom, to be a spokesperson for the people on the ground pointing to their “hurt” and the inability of the leadership to address this hurt.