The British are coming
THE LAST BRITISH GOVERNOR of Trinidad and Tobago left as his legacy a dump and a highway. The dump symbolises British anxiety to get rid of some of the supposedly useless and troublesome bits of their empire like Trinidad. The highway represents the typical British attitude to negotiations: “My way or the highway.”
This is why the sun never set on the British Empire. God would never trust an Englishman in the dark but would He trust the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)?
The FCO exists to promote British interests overseas, supporting its citizens and businesses around the globe. One of its responsibilities is to build Britain’s prosperity by increasing exports and investment and opening markets. The FCO claims that its recent priorities were “organised around increasing security and prosperity and developing our consular presence”. Its priorities included reducing the risk to Britain and British interests overseas from international terrorism, contributing to the success of Britain’s effort in Afghanistan, helping to build a stable and increasingly prosperous Pakistan, playing a central role in international efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Iran and elsewhere, promoting the British economy and lobbying for British business overseas and inward investment into Britain.
But when I encountered an FCO online document entitled Global Conversations featuring an article or blog entitled Down In The Dumps by Arthur Snell, the British High Commissioner (BHC) to Trinidad and Tobago, I wondered what aspect of the FCO’s remit was being fulfilled by Mr Snell.
I could not understand what an article about the Beetham dump had to do with Britain’s national security and countering terrorism. Could it be that the FCO and the BHC to Trinidad are promoting the British economy and are lobbying for British business overseas? The Beetham dump has never been too young to smoke and all its smoking since I was a schoolboy travelling into the city of Port of Spain has not stunted its growth. It has grown much bigger over the years. The dump is on the left of the Beetham highway as you head into the town and on the right is what we called “Shanty Town”.
It is the “Beetham Gardens” now, notorious for its criminality instead of any form of botany. The High Commissioner starts the blog by talking about a fog in Britain in December 1952. He says that because of regulations to enforce clean fuels in urban areas combined with the widespread use of central heating, this kind of smog has now become a thing of the past in that country. Is he trying to sell us central heating? No, he is blowing smoke. This is not the first time that Britain has sold the equivalent of a fridge to an Eskimo or a snow plough to an Arab.
Mr Snell talks about the long-term effects of the fires in the Beetham dump and the toxic waste. What he does not mention is a report from Waste Management World, which claims that “landfill fires are a common problem for municipalities across the world, with estimates suggesting the United States suffers from around 8 300 a year and Britain between 280 and 300 a year. An investigation has been launched today into how 500 tonnes of waste caught fire at a landfill site in Hampshire, in Britain, according to local newspaper the Southern Daily Echo.
Reports cited how four fire engines and more than 30 firefighters were required to tackle the blaze and a high volume pump was being used to supply water. Traffic controls had to be brought in and part of a neighbouring road cordoned off. Then there is the BBC story about birth defects linked to toxic sites.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth said there were about 8 000 landfill sites in Britain, of which 2 000 were still having material dumped in them. What worried the High Commissioner is not the 300 or so fires a year or the many English children in danger from thousands of sites. He was worried that you cannot recycle anything in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T). What he is advocating is a recycling industry and virtually promising that T&T can be a world leader in the field.
In this the High Commissioner was supported by a bunch of Trinis who commended the man for his perspicacity, all behaving as if this topic of recycling never came up before and the man is a genius for thinking of it. But wait! Is there an FCO connection with all these boasts that Britain is a world leader in recycling technology? MBA Polymers, a British firm, has a plan for Britain to be a world leader in recycling plastics. There are a lot of British companies peddling recycling plants all over the world so for cynical people like me the poor visibility and pollution at the Beetham dump can be seen as a smokescreen designed to sell recycling technology to the natives.
Tony Deyal was last seen saying that a diplomat can be described as a man who says, “nice doggie” while reaching for a rock. This Brit is the only one who says, “bad doggie” while reaching for a bottle.