This week I participated in an annual fund-raising event
organised by Living Water Community (LWC) via its Trinity
Communications Network (cable TV, Channel 10). The theme for
the week is: The beauty of Christ and the joy of communicating
LWC has been televising programmes since 1993. This technology
provides a wonderful opportunity for sharing Gods word,
for inspiring people, motivating and uplifting them, strengthening
and teaching them.
TCN plays a major role among Catholics in T&T by complementing
what goes on in parishes and in various groups.
TCN fosters authentic Christian values that lead to
the development of the whole person and the transformation
of our society. TCNs primary function is to strengthen
what is already present within our communities, challenging
them to broaden horizons, take innovative steps and thus deepen
their commitment to serve their wider communities.
Thank God our people in T&T are generally praying people
from different faith communities. If not, the devil would
have had his way in this land of ours. God knows he is trying
LWC is one of our largest NGOs whose members have been working
tirelessly in T&T for over 26 years. Yet when they applied
for a radio licence they were refused. I urge those in authority
to reconsider LWCs application.
Recently I travelled from London on the same flight as Anand
Ramlogan. We had an opportunity to talk about some of the
challenges that we face in T&T. He was returning after
representing the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) at the Judicial
Committee of the Privy Council on the issue of its application
for a radio licence.
As we know, the Law Lords in London ruled in favour of the
SDMS, finding that the Maha Sabha was discriminated against
by our Government. The Law Lords also directed that our Attorney
General does all that is necessary to procure and ensure
the issuance of a FM radio broadcasting licence to Central
Broadcasting Systems Ltd (CBSL), a company incorporated by
the SDMS in August 2000.
We have become a litigious society because we fail to dialogue
with each other and to trust each other. This brings to mind
some of the words used by Archbishop Edward Gilbert at the
community policing awards ceremony at St Martins Catholic
Church in Gonzales recently.
Archbishop Gilbert rightly said that the reason the Pride
in Gonzales initiative is going well is because the many leaders
involved in it had taken the decision to listen to each other,
to dialogue with each other, to collaborate with each other
and to begin to trust each other.
These four essential conditions are at the heart of
this work, he said.
As I drove along the streets of Gonzales on my way to the
award ceremony, my emotions were different from the first
time that I visited Gonzales in 2003 when I was chair of the
Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ).
High on CCSJs agenda was the issue of crime and violence
in T&T. His Grace had asked me to initiate a practical
project in the East Port-of-Spain area to demonstrate the
churchs concern and commitment to justice and peace.
Inter alia, CCSJ aims to promote, record and share good practice.
Fr Jason Gordon, a priest attached to LWC and a member of
CCSJ, had been appointed as parish priest in the Gonzales
area. He took on the challenge to initiate the kind of project
that Archbishop Gilbert had proposed.
Gonzales was an area that was ravaged by violence. At that
time there had been six murders recorded over a five-week
period. I must admit that having heard and read about the
violence in that area, I said my prayers as I drove to the
first community meeting which Fr Jason organised.
I prayed more earnestly when I discovered that a man who challenged
me at the meeting was a member of a certain organisation.
He has since been extradited to the US where he is imprisoned.
Fr Jason worked tirelessly to build the Community Intervention
Transforming Youth (City) project which, inter alia, aimed
to bring about social change in the area through assistance
in community development, renewing social programmes and creating
activities for residents.
Today, the City project manages three homework clinics, an
Internet cafe, gang intervention activities, programmes in
the arts, computer literacy and technology, counselling and
crisis intervention programmes.
The Pride in Gonzales initiative is a collaboration of City,
the community of Gonzales, the Ministry of National Security,
the city of Port-of-Spain, the Canadian Institute of Planners,
I recall how elated people in the area were when five standpipes
were finally installed in the area in 2005. Sadly, residents
were forced to come out on the streets to protest after their
hopes were dashed. For weeks no water flowed through the standpipes.
Through the Pride in Gonzales initiative, Fr Jason was successful
in forging a partnership with the Ministry of Public Utilities
to improve the pipe-borne water supply and street lighting
in Gonzales. He is also working with WASA to implement a comprehensive
plan to upgrade water delivery to the area.
It was with great joy and pride that I watched Fr Jason step
up to receive the first place award for the Pride in Gonzales
project. It was no mean feat to win the Association
of Caribbean Commissioners of Police 2006 competition, which
is sponsored by Motorola. The competition was created to encourage
police relations within communities and to improve the quality
of life in communities. As Fr Jason has stated:
This project is about participation and about the community
taking back its space and cultivating a peaceful community.
We offer participation as a path to social development and
a multisectoral approach to facing community challenges.
Our Minister of National Security said some time ago that
there are about 61 gangs in T&T. Fr Jasons experiences
of working with gangs in Gonzales to bring about a truce as
a step towards building a peaceful community is worth sharing.
I know that he is recording the process so that this can be
shared with others.
Congratulations also to ASP Earl Jackson on his award. He
and other members of the police service who are involved in
the project must be commended for their efforts in cultivating
sustainable and trusting relations with the Gonzales community.
Each community in T&T needs people like Fr Jason who are
prepared to go the extra mile to build the common good. But
since two hands have to clap, as the saying goes,
I call on the Ministry of Community Development to enter into
meaningful dialogue with residents in Gonzales about their
ideas for the rebuilding of their community centre that was
destroyed in 2002 and about the pan facility planned for the
area. This is an ongoing project and we need all hands on
Let us play our part in building peaceful communities and
shine a light in the darkness that threatens to engulf us.
Leela Ramdeen is a lawyer and education consultant