UWI Speaks...but what is it saying?

Today there was a march to show solidarity for Wayne Kublalsingh at the UWI, St. Augustine Campus.

To be more accurate: "A Solidarity Gathering in recognition of Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh" was what the notice about the event said. It came a solid two weeks after the hunger strike began and 3 days after the UWI Prinipal's statement on the Hunger Strike.

A statement that can be described as embarrasing at best. In it the Principal sypathises with Kublalsingh, but is in favour of the Highway, in fact, he wants a Highway that extends to Cedros.

It is a statement that comes across as both callous and misinformed. Why? In it the Principal seeks to distance the University from Kublalsingh by stating he only works for the University on a 2-month contract. Which is intriguing to say the least. Kublalsingh has been on contract at the UWI for years. His is not just a 2-month contract. Kublalsingh taught me...and that was back in the mid-90s.

Further, you're in favour of a highway for which we can't even get the EIA report? Interesting.

Last week when news of the Hunger Strike hit the campus you could hear pins drop in the department that Kublalsingh works. People were only whispering on corridors. Sending an e-mail around to see who wanted to go visit the camp and show solidarity was frowned upon. Indeed, the only action UWI was definite about was that Kublalsingh's classes had to be looked after.

As per a proper position on the issue....mehh! Not even the Guild President....and he was being prompted by peers to issue a statement....but his political affiliation is widely known and probably played a role in his prolonged silence .

Then over the weekend came the announcement of this show of solidarity. And I had to wonder what led to the show of conscience today.

It's no secret that this institution suffers from incredible amounts of government interference. It's in bed with the government...and scarily so.

So much so that writing against the government in newspapers columns like I do gets you the attention of management in less than positive ways.

It is also no secret that many key members of the Institute of Gender openly rallied for Kamla Persad-Bissesar in 2010. Some were even awarded by Persad-Bissessar's government.

So the March took place and the usual suspects were there. the crowd wasn't large. This is a University whose days of militant activist students are firmly behind it. These days the things that rile UWI students up are the same things that riled them up 10 and 15 and 20 years ago....shuttles to go clubbing and increased tuition fees or removal of GATE. Social awareness and UWI student in the same sentence is an oxymoron. And often times, social awareness and UWI lecturer too.

At this "Solidarity" today I watched a number of people pat themselves on the back for a job well done  - about 100 people had shown up.  They affirmed to each other that this was necessary! It had to be done! 13 days into a hunger strike. I surveyed the crowd and tried to pick out how many members of staff, who had managed to leave their offices and march around the campus had made it to the Re-Route Movement's Camp in the last 10 days. I recognised only one. Im sure the others meant to get there....they just didn't.

I looked around too at the many intellectuals and specialists in social science areas and wondered why weren't more people speaking out publicly about the crucial issues?

To date not an expert from the UWI's engineering or environmental sciences departments has weighed in on the Highway Protests. the Centre for Economic Studies, SALISES, will hold a forum on it Dec 4th....this protest has been on more than a year and it took a man 13 days of starving himself for the institution to sit up and take note.

But let's back up a little. There are many more crucial issues that have occurrred before we got to this point in our socio-political history. There have been abuse of process, abuse of state funds, abuse of women, children, the constitution, the environment....and UWI has not been in the vanguard leading any discussions on any of the crucial issues.

So, I had to wonder why today? This show of solidarity was arranged by Gender Studies,...where were their comments during the State of Emergency (its chief organiser was openly in support of last year's SoE.)? When Cheryl Miller was arrested? When Sita Gajardharsingh-Nanga was openly attacked and vilified? Section 34? Kamla's attack on Rowley at Divali Nagar? Kamla's constant use of the National Mother motif?

Maybe I should be heartened that they have finally responded. Maybe this is where it starts.

For now though I am sceptical. Sceptical because many of the key players are people that have openly compromised themselves in the past, so I don't know that I can trust them to do the right thing about my future. Many of the key players for quite a long time kept silent because the government screwing up was made up of the parties they supported. And for many Trinidadians, loyalty is hushing up and supporting shit. The minute you criticise, it means you anti-everything. God forbid that any of them should come out and openly critique the government they supported.

But I imagine the attack on Kublalsingh has hit home. Wayne is a lecturer like them. Wayne supported the COP, or at least his family does. Wayne was eventually vilified and mistreated. Not that this government now start to mistreat people....but the stones finally start to fall in people yard. So they find a voice.


But I am not yet convinced about the reliability of this "solidarity. So, for now,  I watch and wait.


De Vice Cyah Done!