Of porous boarders and Venezuelan babies …

Our history records Trinidad and Tobago’s fisherfolk dodging bullets from or being arrested by Venezuela’s Guardia Nacional for supposedly being in Venezuelan waters. Today we continue to metaphorically dodge different kinds of bullets from our Venezuelan neighbours.

For years, the back-and-forth confrontational posturing was a trickle—the fisherfolk dispute, or the occasional Venezuelan found illegally in T&T. Then came the sustained deluge of illegal Venezuelans seeking a better life.

Photo: Venezuelans continue to stream out of their country in search of better lives.

The most recent ‘bullets’ include the jitters caused some weeks ago by the potential environmental hazard posed by the tilting oil tanker, the Nabarima.

This week, it is the mistreatment of Venezuelan children, both on land and sea.  Unless specific action is taken to manage our open borders, it is only a matter of time before Trinidad and Tobago is featured globally in some emblematic photograph of a cross-border disaster involving our Venezuelan neighbours.

Remember the pictures of Kim Phuc the naked 9-year old fleeing the Napalm attack in Vietnam on 8 June 1972? Or the little Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, drowned on a beach in Turkey on 2 September of 2015 while trying to reach shore?  

These are not alarmist notions but warnings of possibilities, even as the Minister of National Security claims that the law says they are ‘undesirables’.

There is no question about our inability to absorb unchecked Venezuelan migration but it will continue to happen until our borders are policed and managed, and infrastructure and regulations for humane treatment of refugees and migrants are implemented.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) and Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro shake hands during a joint press conference in Port of Spain on 23 May 2016.
(Copyright Alva Viarruel/AFP 2016/Wired868)

We did well to regularise 15,000 Venezuelan neighbours and it is almost time for their revalidation. But we are not doing well with the treatment of the estimated 16 Venezuelan children whom we have shunted from prison cells to pirogue onto the ocean and then back again. 

Even in times of war, there is a commitment to protect the children unless you have ‘Trumpian’ tendencies and feel no empathy for caged children. In the midst of this, the minister of national security was allegedly unaware of the decision to escort a pirogue filled with children (one of whom was just 4 months old)—in the absence of their parents or guardians—into the open sea.

In a completely different aspect of law and order, the population is yet to receive a reasonable explanation of what happened with the DSS (Drug Sou Sou) money which was shunted from the home of the owner to the police station and back again. The common pattern in these two very different incidents is that either there is no rule book or the rules are not being followed.

Either way, it is time for action to be taken. But first we must admit that we are presiding over deep systemic failure of our institutions. It is from this recognition that things are falling apart that we may find the window of opportunity to redesign our systems and re-imagine a different future.

Photo: National Security Minister Stuart Young (left) gets Police Commissioner Gary Griffith (centre) and half the force to help him find his section in Tribe.
(Copyright TTPS)

The anecdotal evidence is that we are generally welcoming the Venezuelans and trying to accommodate them as fellow human beings.  Many are being absorbed because their work ethic is superior to ours, although others have become collateral damage and players in our fast expanding underworld.

The country is at crisis level with the influx of Venezuelans, drugs and guns through our porous borders. 

If a solution is not implemented soon it will be a matter of time before a humanitarian disaster catapults us onto the world stage in unfortunate ways.

My April 07, 2020 letter to P.M. Rowley

This is one of the letters which I have written to
Prime Minister Rowley over the past 5 years.

Congratulations on your 55th month as Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Mr. Prime Minister, despite your stridency on the campaign trail in 2015, public transportation continues to be chaotic and unreliable.  I am taking this opportunity to suggest for the 3rd time that you make Chaguaramas into our first “Bus only” city.  This thought was stimulated by the “FluTag” disaster, St. Peter’s Day Celebrations, every Carnival Fete in Chaguaramas and the visual of 2 massive car parks which routinely house the private vehicles owned by members of the Regiment and Coast Guard.  The stadium can be used as a car park and regular bus shuttles could operate on time from there.  It would require the registration of resident’s vehicles and the issuance of passes.

I sincerely hope that you will at least establish a committee to identify the feasibility of this idea or some other idea which can positively impact transportation in Chaguaramas.

Yours for our country!

Dennise Demming (Mrs.)
MBA, BSc., Cert-Mass Comm
Citizen

My February 07, 2020 letter to P.M. Rowley

This is one of the letters which I have written to
Prime Minister Rowley over the past 5 years.

Dear Dr. Rowley

Congratulations on your 53rd month as Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

It is almost 10 years since Despers was chased from the “Hill” by their children and the band continues to move from property to property in search of a home.

May I suggest that the property on which they now practice be converted into a National Pan Theatre and a home for Despers.  For many years the Government Printery was housed there which makes its allocation a simple exercise. Such a move by your government will not go un-noticed by the people of the “Hill” and the “Pan Fraternity”.

Yours in the interest of development.

Dennise Demming (Mrs.)
MBA, BSc., Cert-Mass Communications
Concerned Citizen

My October 7th, 2019 letter to P.M. Rowley

This is one of the letters which I have written to
Prime Minister Rowley over the past 5 years.

Dear Dr. Rowley
Congratulations on your 49th month as Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

This is my 4th letter to you requesting that your government make good on its campaign promise to treat with Public Transportation as a quality of life issue.  

May I once again suggest that you appoint an interdisciplinary team of locals to publicly report on possible solutions within 90 days.  You are very aware of Dr. Trevor Townsend and Dr. Ray Furlonge who have both written and spoken publicly on the issue and whom I am sure would respond to any call for public service.

Yours Respectfully

Dennise Demming (Mrs.)
MBA, BSc., Cert-Mass Communications
Concerned Citizen

My Sept 7, 2019 letter to P.M. Rowley

This is one of the letters which I have written to
Prime Minister Rowley over the past 5 years.

Dear Dr. Rowley

Congratulations on your 48th month as Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. 

More than one year ago you indicated that in 2019 there will be a comprehensive ban on the use of styrofoam products and I wrote asking that single use plastics be included in that initiative.

I am requesting an update on the action plan associated with the implementation of this ban including the status of the legislative agenda.

Yours in the interest of development.

Dennise Demming (Mrs.)
MBA, BSc., Cert-Mass Communications 
Concerned Citizen

My August 7th, 2019 letter to P.M. Rowley.

This is one of the letters which I have written to
Prime Minister Rowley over the past 5 years.

Dear Dr. Rowley

Congratulations on your 47th month as Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. 

Sir, the focus on guns and drugs is commendable however we continue to allow traffic violations and indiscipline on the roads.  Some of the indiscipline comes from the fact that people who “bought” their driver’s permit are unlikely to be able to read and write.

May I suggest a Public Awareness campaign of 15 second radio and television advertisements done in standard English and focussing on the rules contained in the regulations handbook.  

 Yours in the interest of development.

Dennise Demming (Mrs.)

MBA, BSc., Cert-Mass Communications 

Concerned Citizen

My March 7th, 2019 letter to P.M. Rowley

This is one of the letters which I have written to
Prime Minister Rowley over the past 5 years.

Dear Dr. Rowley

Congratulations on your 42nd month as Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

For 10 years I worked alongside the late Dr. Pat Bishop as she arranged music for Despers and I held the position of Corporate Communications Manager at WITCO.  One memory I have is of her lamenting the absence of a Carnival Museum dedicated to telling our stories of Carnival.  She even mused that the Treasury Building on Independence Square would be a suitable space because of its thick walls, high ceilings and proximity to the Port.

This is brought to your attention in the hope that you will decide to use the Treasury Building to house our nation’s Carnival Museum.  Such a decision will require relatively small injection of capital and will bring an immediate solution to a historical problem.

I also recall spending a lazy afternoon into evening visiting the Panama Canal and understanding the tremendous income generator that it is for Panama City.  May I suggest that Carnival is to Trinidad and Tobago what the Panama Canal is to Panama.  A Carnival Museum in close proximity to the port of Port of Spain will be an income generator for the passengers on the Cruise ships as well as a place where our children can learn of our past Carnivals and be inspired to dream of a future filled with possibilities.

Yours in the interest of development,

Dennise Demming (Mrs.)
MBA, BSc., Cert-Mass Communications
Citizen

My January 7th 2019 letter to P.M. Rowley

This is one of the letters which I have written to
Prime Minister Rowley over the past 5 years.

Dear Dr. Rowley

Congratulations on your 40th month as Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. 

Here are 12 suggestions for your government for 2018 and I am simply repeating them for 2019 in the hope that you will give this list the positive action it deserves:

  1. Rationalize our public holidays in order to positively impact productivity.
  2. Publicize the performance appraisal system for the public service so that citizens know how public servants are judged with regard to performance delivery.
  3. Appoint a Minister of Communication to ensure that your government’s performance is positively highlighted and brought to the attention of the citizenry.
  4. Have the Regional Corporations develop and implement a 6 month plan for creating “walkable cities” in their Boroughs starting simultaneously in April 2019.
  5. Appoint a “Social Innovation Think Tank” to report within 9 months on key social innovations projects which can be implemented across the country.
  6. Ensure electronic transactions become the norm at Government and State institutions.
  7. Begin the obesity reduction programme with our protective services especially those in leadership.
  8. Place a moratorium on the approval of new franchises.
  9. Mandate Rituals and Starbucks to use 10% local coffee and increase that usage to 60% within 5 years.
  10. Place a moratorium on the importation of cars. (Effective February 2018, Singapore banned the addition of cars on its roads to reduce the permitted vehicle growth rate to 0%.)
  11. Implement a programme to ban the use of disposable plastic cups and plates.  (In September 2016 France became the first country in the world to ban disposable plastic cups and plates. A new French law will require all disposable tableware to be made from 50% biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home by January of 2020.)
  12. Mandate that garbage be separated in homes for collection by specially assigned trucks on specific days.

The country and indeed your government is suffering from inertia and you are in an ideal position to fix this.  As your election tag line implored: Let’s do this!”

Yours Respectfully

Dennise Demming (Mrs.)
MBA, BSc., Cert-Mass Communications
Citizen