The motivation of the Integrity Commission (IC) to adopt the cultural Tobago tradition Speech Band, became clear recently at the competition’s finals at the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort in Tobago. It was a novel way of confronting a grave societal problem that is endemic in this country.
With the theme Capture a Mind: Change a Life: Impact a Community, the Commission was using schoolchildren to get the message of integrity across to the population. We all know that corruption is present in almost every aspect of life in this country.
This is what prompted Dr Eastlyn McKenzie, co-emcee to send this message: “It nah yours. Leffum”. In true Tobago ‘twang’ she repeated the phrase several times during the competition.
The IC had sponsored the Speech Band finals, as it tries to change the nation’s culture of corruption. This was the underlying message delivered by all competing schools in the contest.
For those who don’t know, Speech Band is a mostly Tobago cultural phenomenon, similar to our own ‘robber talk’ fused with ‘extempo’, commenting in song on political and societal problems affecting our country.
When “Drag yuh bow Mr Fiddler” was sounded, teams either ‘captured minds’, ‘changed lives’ or ‘impacted communities’ as they did their costumed presentations; and what a fantastic job they did presenting their speeches in song with great aplomb, giving the judges a Speech Band headache.
The various school teams really showed what they had but the pick of the contestants was the three- and four-year-old children from two EECE schools. They ran into each other during the dance, a few forgot some of the movements, but they remembered their lines. To me they were the most outstanding.
The thoughts conjured up by the teams were just too many to be remembered. The IC could not have found a more impactful way to send the message to all those who may be involved or plan to become involved in corruption with its many long arms. I believe the IC has hit upon a unique and novel method of trying to change the society.
On a more serious note, IC Chairman Justice Melville Baird (Ret) said he knew “there were challenges, clear and present waiting in the wings. I refuse to allow myself to be seduced into error to think otherwise. It is incumbent on me therefore, to confront these challenges in whatever way I can get. Defeatism is not an option because when the day closes, I must give account to the nation in general but to the young people in particular.”
Chairman Baird, burdened with the onerous task of making this society understand the meaning of INTEGRITY, which according to my old, but trusty dictionary simply means “adherence to code of moral, artistic or other values”. He added, “I will continue therefore, undeterred and unchecked, championing the cause of integrity and at the same time opposing corruption.”
But what interested me a lot was Chairman Baird’s analogy with winning Soca Monarch song by Mr Killa which encourages people to “pick up something and run with it”. But Baird, showing that ‘picking up something and running with it was not honesty’. It was not integrity.
He pleaded with the children to adopt a new saying: “If it is not yours, do not take it.” This is the opposite to what Mr Killa was advocating. The chairman, in an effort to begin to change the mindset which exists today told them, “I want you to burn these words in your minds; from the youngest to the amongst you.”
Baird said, “The object of having the children of tender years recite this saying every morning and continuing as they gradually progress through the years, is not only to govern their conduct during their school years, but to create a subliminal impact so profound, that the principle would influence every area of their adult lives.”
Mr Chairman, I congratulate you on this initiative, but with corruption so engrained in our society, the challenges, as you mentioned, would be many and varied.