It’s a clamorous item on the Independence Square newspaper stall, commanding entrance to the rum shop once infamously nicknamed “Vietnam”. For a second week, the stopping power of the Sunshine front page compels a sighful two-dollar spend.
But I folded Sunshine under the Guardian that I had taken to read over a greasy-spoon lunch on Charlotte Street south. Could the Jack Warner weekly be displayed in polite company?
Not seeing it around, in casual possession of Port of Spain newspaper readers, I’ve not been sure. I stuck the thin thing into my briefcase, promising myself to take a read in the privacy of home, or in some other low-rent dive.
At the Mas Camp Pub that evening, Kenny J, in advance of any heckler, called attention to his bright green jacket. I had last seen Kenny J, performing calypso and other songs at the after-party to the May launch of Sunshine. Full disclosure: I was myself an “invited guest” at the Arouca event.
“How The West Was Won”, the Sunshine headline bannered about the July 29 by-election, against a background so green that a buyer picking it up could fear for fingertip smudges. Green, the Jack Warner choice of colour, has suddenly asserted itself as a striking identifier in T&T politics.
Until now, green said hardly anything more resonant in the politics than the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen, or in any aspect of the popular culture. With a sad insecurity, Kermit The Frog lamented in song: “It’s not easy being green.” The Sesame Street TV character noted that “people tend to pass you over because you’ve not been standing out”.
After Chaguanas West, it’s the Warner politics that stands out, as other leadership appears stricken with insecurities and marked by uncertainties. Until now, nobody looked to Queen’s Park North for anything resembling “leadership”. The head of state installed up there, having been annually allowed his minutes of fame, life goes on.
But President Anthony Carmona seized the moment of the Parliament’s ceremonial opening to command a national bully pulpit subject to his own rules of order. He punched the air and gritted his teeth in a performance challenging prevailing leadership in the executive and the legislative branches.
The judiciary, dutifully in attendance, must be bracing for its own turn to be hoisted aloft the President’s rhetorical strappado.
Mr Warner, newly triumphant over the traumas of re-electioneering, voiced uncritical approval of everything the President said. Chaguanas West had marked the electoral ruin of the UNC and the People’s Partnership. Their losing game did not, however, imply benefit to anyone not liveried in green.
Least of all, the PNM, whose candidate yet again lost his deposit.
Soon, indeed, the leadership record of Opposition Leader Keith Rowley was being hauled up for unsparing scrutiny. Pennelope Beckles-Robinson and Louis Lee Sing voiced varying degrees of discomfort with the PNM’s readiness, under Dr Rowley, once again to reclaim the national kingdom.
Ms Beckles-Robinson appeared troubled by the PNM’s public self-projection as a party “opposing merely for the sake of opposing”. It’s time, she suggested, for PNM alternatives to current Government policy and practice to be made known and marketed.
Mr Lee Sing worried aloud about the operation of party exercises for planning and review, from which he, as Port of Spain Mayor, had somehow been excluded. He warned against complacent expectation that voters disgusted with the People’s Partnership, would have nowhere to turn but back to the PNM.
Rowley loyalists in the party rose in defence of the leader. They expressed disappointment that when the population should be “comforted” by evidence of a PNM united, fit and ready for the electoral opportunities in local government, leadership challengers were rocking the boat.
If office and power are the driving forces behind PNM leadership and activism today, a longer-term vision, identified with a venerable retainer in Roy Mitchell, is also bidding for recognition. In his Express op-ed, Mr Mitchell regretted the “systematic” removal from the PNM of “the once proud cadre of party intellectuals, professionals and technocrats”.
The party of Eric Williams, he concludes, has now been reduced to a state as mindlessly deficient as all the rest. He judges the PNM as lacking capacity to “resume the role of governance of the country in a visionary, meaningful, objective, analytical and purposeful way”.
By that high standard, what else is there? The promise of “comfort” to the people is not reliably available from any of the political formations.
Least of all from the ruling coalition. Mrs Persad-Bissessar, leader of the UNC and the Partnership, hopes aloud for time (and, while still in government, in vain, for patience), as useful “introspection” proceeds into what has gone wrong.
People aren’t waiting to find out. Starting maybe with Gary Griffith, and continuing, serial resignations, now also in Tobago, handed in without troubling to explain why, mark a pattern of response.
Sesame Street is still running. And lyrics of Kermit The Frog, delivered in that thin voice, are still available for inspiration, or review: “When green is all there is to be, I think it’s what I want to be.”