I welcome the struggles of people in Todd’s Street, San Fernando to resist the encroachment of the HDC in their neighborhood without any prior consultation. This struggle must not be viewed as a setback but also as an opportunity for the brave hearts to step forward and provide leadership.
When Patrick Manning’s rapid rail was proposed, it threatened to destroy communities in central Trinidad and the people rallied together and ensured that the project was stopped. I remember attending a meeting that put the final nail on the project. It was held at the Mall on Ramsarran Street, Chaguanas and hundreds of concerned citizens turned out and expressed vehemently their opposition to the project.
Sitting in that meeting I listened to our young mothers and fathers and was amazed at how articulate they were in expressing their opposition to the project. It confirmed in my mind that people are going to fight when their backs are against the wall. The current struggles in Todd’s Street, San Fernando is no different.
When the Hindu community was swamped with illiteracy, a Bhadase Sagan Maharaj rose to the challenge! A self-made millionaire at age 30, Bhadase founded the Maha Sabha in 1952 with a focus on bringing literacy to the children of the sugar belt. Our pandits rallied the people and more that 34 schools were constructed in less that two years and their doors opened to welcome the children of the sugar cane belt.
The arrival of Sat Maharaj as head of the Maha Sabha was met with doubts by many. Nevertheless, Sat Maharaj’s success as leader of the Maha Sabha is worthy of a study. His challengers or more rightly his early critics were a few academics who felt that their papers were enough to have them elected leaders. Their efforts were simply to scare Sat Maharaj to abandon the leadership. Sat Maharaj understood that only hard work would build the Maha Sabha and cement him as leader.
Sat Maharal’s alliance with the members of the former Jawaan Sangh and the Indian Arrival Day Committee resulted in the expansion of Phagwa venues across the country and the introduction of Indian Arrival Day commemoration activities respectively. Baal Vikass was introduced into the mix and the seeds of unity were sown among Ramleela groups which resulted in the formation of the National Ramleela Council.
Sat Maharaj always spoke out on national issues affecting the Hindu community, never afraid to disagree with the policies of the government especially in its promotion of carnival which was destroying the moral fabric of the nations. He fearlessly called upon the government for increased funding for Indian culture and defended the right of denominational schools to exist.
Sat Maharaj understood the value of outsourcing when he hired the services of attorney Anand Ramlogan to challenge the right of the State to have a Christian symbol as the highest national award. Again, with the abled Anand Ramlogan, Sat Maharaj took the government to court for denying the Maha Sabha a license to operate a media house. Both cases went as far as the Privy Council in London and the results went in favor of the Maha Sabha.
Leadership is thinking grand, that is, accepting larger than life challenges that the average individual and family cannot get done on their own. It means therefore, that only those individuals who accept the challenge to resolve pressing issues affecting the people who are going to be taken seriously.
Having a doctorate, writing a blog, or publishing a book does not qualify one in be a leader. The current issue of flooding that plagues not only south Trinidad but the entire country is a perfect opportunity to deliver a leader.
Leaders have fallen trap to a culture of sycophancy. This culture must give way to a style that allows brainstorming activities, thus encouraging all to be franker and more open with one another. If this is encouraged more worthy leaders are going to step forward,
Nevertheless, for many opposed to the current Leader of the Opposition, their objective is simply replacing the leader with another leader with the hope that they would tag along. It would be nice for those aspirants to outline to the public their achievements-the battles they have fought and won. For example, those individuals who fought Patrick Manning’s proposed rail are leaders. The current group of individuals who are standing up against the proposed plans of the HDC in San Fernando must he hailed.