When I worked at Whitehall during the days of Dr Williams it was easy to believe that the building was haunted. I worked in the basement and later in the stables. There was a hitching post for tying horses and a cellar where they said that slaves were beaten, even killed. One of the older Whitehall employees told me that at about four one morning a policeman on duty at the guard booth heard the drumming of hooves in the Savannah opposite the building. Then, to his horror, two horses pulling a dark carriage flew towards him, sailed easily over the huge gates and landed in the courtyard. A cloaked figure with a tall hat and a whip tied the horses to the hitching post. The policeman scared out of his wits fled to the nearby St Clair police station gibbering and, throwing off his uniform, abandoned the job.
If Port of Spain Mayor Louis Lee Sing has his way, the carriage would have to be made by businessman Ian Wiltshire, carry appropriate advertising messages, have a cooler (something that could put a freeze on ghostly activities) and the owners or occupants will have to pay $700 a month. In fact, given his position on the Lapeyrouse Cemetery wall, the people who painted Whitehall white and covered up all the old bricks would have to remove the paint and plastering or Louis armed with chisel would chip away. Next would be Stollmeyer's Castle, the Archbishop's palace and all the other buildings on the block.
For many of us, the question is if Louis gets away with taxing the coconut vendors who are a fixture, an institution really, in the Savannah what would he do for an encore? Not that anybody is applauding but what next? Given the trend, and knowing that he doesn't have a ghost of a chance with the Whitehall crowd, my friends and I have predicted that Louis will go after the doubles vendors and after them the roti sellers. Is it ethnic (food) cleansing? One group insists that Louis is right. Cleaning up after the coconut vendors is costly and they must pay and Louis is justifiably concerned about financial and regulatory matters. They cite his attempt to enforce his own law in the matter of parking and his eagerness to rid the streets of Port of Spain of illegally parked cars. "He have the wrecker out on Ariapita Avenue up to midnight," they said, "even when the street is almost empty."
Others differ. They point out that the city makes less money than the wreckers and ask if the service was ever sent out for tenders. They point to the alliance with Jack Warner on the failed traffic plan for St James and the final fallout with Jack as examples of political expediency if not desperation. They see the showdown between Louis and a senior elected member of his own party as consistent with his obsession to be in the political limelight through what he described as "stunting" or "limelighting". My buddies and I have a different view. As one of them said, if Louis was a food, he would not be a pelau or a peas-and-rice. He would be a "pay-me".