After an excellent update and pointing the way forward on the gradual re-opening of the country on Saturday, the Prime Minister concluded with the rather unfortunate affirmation, “It is not voodoo; it is science.” I gasped. I couldn’t imagine that after the shameless display of Trini xenophobia against Haitian survivors of the destructive earthquake of 2010 that our leaders would remain in such a state of cultural backwardness.

Why not, “It is not Catholicism; it is science” or “It is not Hinduism; it is science;” or “It is not Islam; it is science”? Of course, I would have been equally alarmed if he had similarly assailed any other religion. I am certain, too that the population at large would have flooded the media with objections and calls for apology. But voodoo? No big thing!

In his presentation, the Minister of Health reiterated, “It is science we are working with;” yet, he affirmed, “We’re playing around with the numbers,” whether 75 per cent or 85 per cent of occupancy at Caura hospital would constitute “capacity”. Is “playing around” science or vodoo? To give another example, the BBC announced that UK’s prime minister is pushing ahead with reopening the country, contrary to scientific advice. So, is he operating on voodoo? Why the dichotomy? Is it only science or voodoo that informs the reopening of countries during Covid-19?

Couldn’t the PM simply say, “It is not faith [or religion]; it is science”? But even that might have irked many religionists. So, what about, “It’s not hope; it is science”? What about, “It’s not a crystal ball; it is science”? Why target voodoo?

In Togo, vudu (voodoo) is a sacred word; it’s the name of a deity of the Ewe and Fon ethnic groups. In Haiti, nodou [voodoo] is a national religion. Although certainly unintended, the PM’s pitting of voodoo against science is tantamount to a demonisation of voodoo and an insult to the people of Haiti.

African peoples of the Caribbean owe their freedom to voodoo. The success of the Haitian Revolution was the primary reason for Britain abolishing her transatlantic slave trade. According to WEB DuBois, it was also the Haitian Revolution that “rendered more certain the final abolition of the slave trade by the United States in 180”.

The revolution was launched in 1791 by a Papaloi voodoo high priest), Boukman Dutty. CLR James, author of The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, acknowledges, “Voodoo was the medium of the conspiracy.” San Domingo (also San Domingue) was the colonial name of Haiti.

Voodoo underscored the entire revolution from the 1791 “conspiracy” to the defeat of the British in 1797, the defeat of the French in 1803 and the declaration of the Republic of Haiti in 1804.

The Catholic Church forcefully baptised every African sold into slavery in Haiti, but every leader of the revolution was immersed in voodoo. Historian Patrick Taylor tells us about General Jean Jacques Dessalines, who led Haiti to its final victory against France in 1803: “Sometimes Ogun-Sango possessed him and thus himself directed the combat.” General Toussaint L’Ouverture often manifested as Ogun-Ferraile when he was the commander-in-chief of the revolution.

The Yoruba deities, Ogun and Sango, became two of the most powerful deities or lwas of Haitian vodou. In Haiti, Ogun-Ferraille is another name for Ogun, God of War.

The Haitian Revolution inspired every major emancipation war of the 19th century in North America, Brazil and Cuba.

The Latin American Revolutions that overthrew Spanish colonialism owed a huge debt to Haitian president Henri Petion who was a general in the Haitian Revolution. Petion provided a safe haven to Simon Bolivar in 1815 and gave him over 4,000 guns, several kegs of gunpowder, provisions and a printing press in exchange for a promise to abolish slavery should he succeed in expelling Spain.

When Britain passed the Emancipation Act in 1833, it was because she feared that the Jamaica Baptist War of 1831-1832 could escalate one day into another Haitian revolution, where she had suffered the most humiliating military defeat in modern history, worse than the war of American independence.

According to Karl Marx, one of the greatest European intellectuals of the 19th century, the Haitian Revolution was the most significant victory in the advancement of universal freedom.

Hats off to voodoo! Let’s stop the demonology of African cosmology. More respect from our leaders!

Dr Claudius Fergus

via e-mail


Newly-released video of the police involvement in the Beetham protest in which the pregnant Ornella Greaves was killed calls for a serious review of the statement by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith that no officers were around when she was shot.

While the public is yet to see the video on which the Commissioner has based his claim, new video clips being shared on social media show a large number of police officers, with guns drawn, descending on protesters and shooting in the midst of the protesters with their hands up chanting “Don’t shoot”.

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines “unreality” as “the quality of not being or seeming to be real”.

Will what awaits us after August 10 subdue the unreality that normally pervades a general election campaign in Trinidad and Tobago? Will we be real?

My principal but probably vain hope for the general election, to be held on August 10, is that it will not polarise the country further.

Realistically, one cannot hope for more, and it is mamaguy to feed us dreams of unity and overcoming, while our leaders are likely to engage in verbal warfare, way beyond the so-called cut and thrust of political debate.

I met Sophia Chote only once, but was enchanted by the intellectual sophistication and emotional maturity of her columns. Her writing reminded me of the quali­ties that one found in the thinkers of the romantic movement of the 19th century: a belief in democracy and republicanism, an appreciation for the sublime and transcendence and, most of all, a belief in the power of imagination.

I don’t know why Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar thought it necessary to appeal to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to invite a team of observers from The British Commonwealth and/or Caricom to witness the conduct of the general election that will take place on August 10.

This letter is addressed to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. Sir, following the recent protests staged by the people of severely challenged communities over the killing of three residents, you have made a masterful response and appointed a committee to undertake an analysis of the situation and make recommendations on the way forward.