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Bas, Ram and Jack

By Raffique Shah

 Among the three of them, Basdeo Panday, Jack Warner and Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj have accumulated 220 years on earth. You would think that these three geezers, having experienced a spread of political permutations, from the crown colony system and colonialism to independence and republicanism, would have also accumulated the wisdom to discern that they have long passed their political-expiry dates.

But no, not them. The aphrodisiac that accompanies power is so potent it deludes geriatrics into believing that they can return from the dead if they make enough noise. So last Sunday, amidst media-hype that would normally be generated by new, exciting prospects on the political landscape, the three summoned an assembly of geezers—probably 40,000 cumulative years among the 300 or so dinosaurs in the hall—to declare war on Kamla and launch a bid to recapture leadership of the UNC.

Mark you, this should be none of my business, or, indeed yours. If old people want to play the ox, if they wish to rattle their dentures, shake their pillboxes, they should be encouraged to so do since such exercise might well lift their spirits. As a geezer myself, I sometimes feel like shaking a leg, hoping in the process I don’t break a leg or damage a joint.

It is good for old people to have fun. But there is a limit to the mischief they should be allowed, and I verily believe that Bas, Ram and Jack crossed the boundary last week. Ostensibly, the meeting was supposed to a gathering of ex-sugar workers and cane farmers seeking to have the Kamla-led Government honour its promise on the 2010 campaign trail to give them land, house, money, toute bagai.

Except for accusing Kamla of not distributing plots of land promised to the ex-sugar workers (the Government has distributed around 2,000 plots, I believe), feature speaker Bas flayed the current leadership of the UNC for sins aplenty and called on the gathering of geezers to “take back your party”.

Take back what party? Didn’t Panday say that a party is not like a cow, it cannot be bought or sold or transferred? I suppose that was yesterday, or yesteryear in his case, and today is today.

Bottom line is Bas has suffered with acute political constipation ever since 2010 when Kamla and a bunch of relatively young activists won control of the UNC by a ten-to-one landslide, which, in Sparrow’s lingo, was unholy murder. In fact, Jack was part of that “sampat” in which Ramesh, too, was over-mauled.

What the membership signalled to Bas in those elections was that while they thanked him for what he had done for them, it was time to move on. He had managed to manipulate the UNC into office in 1995 by courting his sworn enemy, Ray Robinson, and his two Tobago seats. Bas would later lead the party to its sole electoral victory under his leadership in 2000. After that, it was a case of “wetting after wetting” until they cast Bas aside. 

Coming to think of it, as leader of the ULF/UNC, Bas led his people to six general elections defeats, with one clear victory and two draws. That is an unenviable record that, in most cases, would have seen the leader resign, or the people boot him out for having failed them so miserably.

Last Sunday, he was boldfaced enough to claim that the party’s internal elections had been rigged in 2010 (by whom, pray?), and to dub the gathering of geezers “stupid” for being lured by promises that politicians never fulfil. 

In a speech in which he stuttered and stumbled and often missed his cue, the ageing worrier sought to rally his geriatric forces in a battle that is lost before the first spittle gets past the lips. And wicked Ram and Jack, knowing the futility of the exercise, this charge of the blight brigade that is doomed to fail before it starts, applaud, egging the man onward when even the blind can see this is a case of backward ever, forward never.

Look, I have no interest in the internal affairs of the UNC or any other party. I belong to none and I am beholden to no one—which is why I can say what I think without fear, and most definitely without seeking any favours.

It does bother me, though, when I see and hear politicians make oxen of themselves. Bas, Ram and Jack should thank their gods for having granted them long lives and good health. They should be thankful, too, for having enjoyed offices they might never have attained in sane and sober societies. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

To engage in mischief in their political after-lives is to invite karma worse than purgatory. Leave Kamla and the cabal to the membership of the UNC and ultimately to the electorate. 

In any event, who created these people politically? Bas did. Kamla is his handiwork, he her Guru. He manufactured Moonilal from dirt, Suruj from scratch. Why complain now?

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