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A life unfulfilled

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Two events that occurred last week Monday had an austere effect on the nation’s psyche. We were first sent into a state of shock by the violent death of 15-year-old Laventille resident Joshua Andrews, followed a few hours later by a sense of bereavement at the sudden passing of former president George Maxwell Richards. Taken together, they present two contrasting narratives: one life that came to an end after a career spent in professional and public service, while the other was extinguished before ever knowing what promise and opportunities lay in their future.

Death is going to pay us all a visit one day. We can only hope that our appointed time finds us old and accomplished rather than in the midst of our prime with unfulfilled talents. But even though the natural cycle of life ensures that this dreaded spectre is never out of work, Trinidad and Tobago has provided ample overtime in the last ten years, with close to five thousand of our citizens having met their end by malicious hands.

Regardless of “how” and “when” it happens, the reality is that few of us will be remembered beyond the circle of our loved ones. Yet sometimes even the timing of a person’s death can work in mysterious ways, giving an otherwise indifferent nation reason to sit up and take notice.

For young Master Andrews, whether he was just a student who was in the wrong place at the wrong time or a gang affiliate targeted by his rivals, his murder took place less than 24 hours after a televised address by the prime minister. His comments pertaining to crime were brief and uninspiring (the entire speech felt that way), but he did ask that we, “…spare a thought or prayer for individuals and families who have become victims of crime.” Perhaps he should have amended his statement to include “those who will become victims”, for there will undoubtedly be more of them – Master Andrews won’t be the last.

Meanwhile, the passing of the former president was somewhat ominous as it happened on the eve of our choosing another. It was only a few days before that the government created a bit of excitement by nominating Justice Paula Mae-Weekes, who would be the first woman to hold the office. So there’s going to be a state funeral and a meeting of the Electoral College in the same week; paying our respects to one public servant before welcoming another.

And while our presidents are individuals that are usually seen and seldom heard, this intersection served as a reminder of the significance the office is to our democracy.
Sympathetic citizens might say that both of these untimely deaths are tragic. But the real tragedy here is that between the two persons mentioned in this column, one will be remembered and the other, sadly, will not.
Don’t get me wrong, Maxwell Richards deserves to be the honoured; as the fourth president of our republic his place in history is assured. However, young Master Andrews is nowhere near that level of renown and will thus soon be forgotten. Not even the gruesome circumstances of his death will leave a lasting impression; after all, no one remembers De-Neil Smith and Mark Richards, the two Laventille students who were callously murdered back in January 2016. We long stopped caring about them and the other thousands who shared similar fates; the memory of Joshua Andrews will be no different.

How can we compare the life of a former president to that of a teenage “nobody”? As harsh and insensitive as that sounds, it is nonetheless true. But that truth isn’t how one of them was able to achieve so much… but that the chance of becoming a credit to one’s family, community, and country was denied to the other. So, as the life of Maxwell Richards should be celebrated, it is the death of Joshua Andrews that should be mourned.

Ryan Hadeed


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