Out of the cane fields of Tacarigua
By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
October 10, 2022
The Tacarigua Village Council was inaugurated on May 23, 1946. Vernon Scott, the principal of Tacarigua EC School, was the first president of the council. Since then, a long line of villagers presided over the council and worked tirelessly, without pay, to keep the centre going until today. David King, a life-long member of the Village Council, defined the Village Council as "the eyes and ears of the community. It's designed to secure social and cultural amenities for the district".
On April 26, 1965, the Trinidad Sugar Estates (better known as the Orange Grove Sugar Estates) wrote to the secretary of the Tacarigua Welfare and Improvement Council, the official name of the Tacarigua Village Council, to inform them that the Estate had given it 96,610 square feet of land to construct a community centre.
On September 29, 1965, Dr Eric Williams, former prime minister of the country, formally opened the Tacarigua Community Centre that was built on that parcel of land that Joseph Waterman, grandfather of Ulric "Buggy" Haynes, had rented up until then. William Holder, the chairman of the council, welcomed the prime minister to the centre that was blessed by religious leaders from the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Muslim and Hindu faiths.
Dr Williams gave the feature address. Eutrice Huggins, chairman of St George County Council, AA Thompson, representative for Tunapuna and minister of the Better Village Programme, and a representative from the Trinidad Sugar Estate also offered remarks. Apart from giving their hard physical work to build the centre, members of the Tacarigua Garden Club (L Ventour, C Scott, D David, O George, L Paul, V Harding, C Haynes (Buggy's mother), B Skinner, V Howell and I Fields) contributed $16 toward the opening of the centre.
This is the site on which Shamfa Cudjoe, in her capacity as Minister of Sport and Community Development MS&CD), formally opened the newly built Tacarigua Community Centre. It is important to note that the Government (or the MS&CD) never owned the land, nor even had any jurisdiction over the activities of the Tacarigua Village Council or its constituent groups. The land is still owned by the Tacarigua Village Council.
In fact, the minutes of December 2, 1968, of the Tacarigua Garden Club, an affiliated member of the Tacarigua Village Council, read in part: "A special meeting of the above-named club took place on the above date with Mr Morris [Buggy's uncle-in-law who was married to Violet Waterman] in the chair. We had a distinguished visitor, Miss Muriel, from Community Development who made enquiries if we were affiliated with Community Development and promised that she will try to make it possible to attend our general meeting.
The people of Tacarigua have always run and controlled the affairs of their community. Without knowing it, they acted in accord with the tenets of the United Nations' (UN) definition of community development as "a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems".
Such an initiative is totally different from the obtuse definition that the MS&CD offers as its raison d'etre. It says it "subscribes to the combined efforts of people in local communities and the government... as a developmental method for improving the social, cultural and economic conditions of communities and for integrating communities in the national planning framework". It gets worse. It describes its mission as "building our nation's human capital through the development of athletic talent and community life."
The MS&CD says it follows the tenets of community development as defined by the UN. If this is so, how does the development of athletic talent conform to the UN notion of community development? How does one build community when one takes every vestige of control out of the hands of community members?
How does the MS&CD provide managers around $10,000 a month to run these centres when the president of the said council is not paid a cent? Should the latter continue to give their time freely?
Previously, the villagers used the centre whenever they wanted. Now, they must apply to a manager, who knows nothing about the community, to use the centre, hold a community meeting, or even have a function. I am not even sure if they are provided with a room to store their belongings or to keep their books. And while these commercial buildings generate enough income to sustain themselves, I wonder where the history and culture of the community is stored.
So that which is supposed to encourage and enhance community development is placed in the hands of people who know nothing about the community; where people were supposed to bond on a basis of their social and cultural knowledge, they would now be obliterated by a social arrangement that is furthest from the notion of community
The Ministry of Community Development was a natural outgrowth of Dr Williams's 1963 "Meet the People" tour. It was construed as an exercise in direct democracy. It was created to allow people to be in control of their lives at the smallest unit of their democratic life. The present arrangement prevents people from controlling community life.
would have been more respectful for Shamfa Cudjoe to talk about the history of the Village Council and the villagers who created an oasis of democracy for over 76 years. It would have also helped if she had spoken about the legality of constructing and controlling a community centre that does not belong to the Government. But then, talking about making sacrifices was much easier and thus we lost an opportunity to have a sustained discussion of community development and renewed faith in our Government.
Prof. Cudjoe's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be reached @ProfessorCudjoe.
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