Mobilisation sometimes suggests military preparation, so in peace time it is a problem for leaders in the liberal democracies, as opposed to the governments of China, Cuba, North Korea and Russia. But faced as we are with the COVID-19 pandemic, peace is not peace. The COVID-19 situation is a state of war but with an invisible inanimate enemy.
Influenced by principles conceptualised within the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC), I have always had a unique understanding of mobilisation and how to mobilise.
I have used the expression about mobilising a few times recently. On one occasion I wrote, “It is imperative that we ease the tension, “the arm wrestling”, between Government and Opposition as Commander Garvin Heerah observed, and mobilise the country to face an impending crisis over food security”.
With all due respect, I recognise that the Government and the Opposition have met. Co-operation between the two has always been a problem. In the current circumstances, with an election forthcoming, it be even more difficult.
However, I looked at how our former coloniser, formed a war government with a coalition of three parties, between 1940-1945 during World War 2.
I am not suggesting any such arrangement for T&T but I looked at how, albeit after hard negotiation, Britain came up with workable formula for a war government.
Winston Churchill became prime minister, Labour leader Clement Attlee gave up his official role as leader of the opposition eventually becoming deputy prime minister. Consider how everyone praised Churchill for that time when he roused Britain with his statesmanship.
To paraphrase what the late Shadow once sang, “What wrong with we?”
My contention is that we have to go further than Britain’s example. The task before us is how can we formulate a national mobilisation plan so that our country can be guided from a dangerous situation to one which will see people doing even more to save their families, their neighbours and themselves.
How do we create the new paradigms of living for work, health, schooling, communications and the arts?
How can we structure life so that people do not go berserk with each other while in lockdown?
How can we formulate a national mobilisation plan to change our tastes and simultaneously grow more food to feed ourselves in the future?
I insist that it has to start with the Government and the Opposition because jointly they are nothing but the servants of the people. Hopefully they would turn their backs on past attitudes and mobilise their followers toward a different way of doing things.
Actually, they will have to allow the people to guide them. The citizenry does possess a useful collective wisdom. The population’s points of view will indeed contain ideas out of the box. One significant contribution would be to allow the ordinary folk to recall ways of living which they had practiced in the past.
For example, one caller asked me why have we ceased washing down the streets of our cities, towns, municipalities and even villages?
Are not clean streets a preventative against disease?
In Port of Spain we have salt water hydrants. Not so?
More of the population should establish kitchen gardens thus promoting the taste for local foods. Bartering or simply exchanging home grown foods should play an important part in changing consumption patterns.
During the National Alliance for Reconstruction administration, agriculture minister Dr Brinsley Samaroo, banned imports of apples, grapes and peaches, thereby stimulating local production of pommecythere, pomerac, pawpaw and citrus.
That government’s initiative worked then. Why cannot Government and Opposition together take action on behalf of the people overturning whatever free trade agreements may be in the way and press ahead?
The current Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat and his technocrats should be giving requisite advice.
Mobilisation will have to follow consultation and participation. At the heart of it all would be respect for the people’s opinions.