“Ka… darling, sugar dumpling
Don’t get so mad
Please let me explain
Doo doo darling, sugar dumpling
Don’t get so mad
Please let me explain”
Reflecting on the current political scene, I am reminded of the words of the French political philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778): “Those people who treat politics and morality separately will never understand either of them.” We are lucky in that calypsonians generally poke fun at the inconsistencies between what people say and do when in political office, so much so, that they can become objects of laughter and ridicule. Deceased prime minister of Barbados David Thompson, once said to me that he did not understand how politicians in Trinidad and Tobago survived the “picong” delivered by calypsonians. He thought that the lyrics were so sharp and cutting that few would survive the public relations damage that would ensue from the fallout. But Bajans are very different from Trinbagonians.
Distance lends perspective and when I talk to nationals living abroad, their view of Trinidad and Tobago is not good. In a trenchant comment, one said to me that every time she reads the newspaper all she sees is CSI: crime, scandal and inquiry. The advent of the ILP has simply added to the confusion with its revelations and misinformation with which we are regaled daily. We cannot anticipate the calypsos for the next season, but there is plenty of fertile material with which to work. And the local government campaign will provide additional contradictions for the more traditional calypsonian.
It is clear that Jack Warner has more than a little talent. He was able to unseat Basdeo Panday from the party that he created and elevated Kamla Persad-Bissessar to a position of leadership, in the party first and the country next. Acting prime minister, party chairman, minister of works and transport, and then minister of national security, he was clearly an insider seated at the table, if not at the right hand of the leader. Next came the axiom of his new claim to fame—the defeat of the UNC in its heartland, Chaguanas West.
But it is also clear that this is a flawed genius, trying, clawing and fighting to win enough seats so that he can negotiate his way back into the UNC. This is his last stand. He has nowhere else to go, literally, and the ravages of age and time have already begun to make themselves evident. As Warner has always said, the ILP more than many, qualifies for acceptance into the “Partnership”. The true symbol of his party should be an avocado—green on the outside, yellow on the inside.
Indeed, he cannot disassociate himself from the excesses and debacles of the UNC-led Government. He was not merely present, when they occurred; he was part of it and outspoken in defence of the most egregious errors. To compensate, he has sought to placate any objections to his role and participation in any or all of the mistakes and missteps, by offering a confession of sorts and an apology to indicate that he has had his epiphany and is now a changed man. So much so that he has detailed knowledge of who bought how many houses, where they are located and in whose names. What this looks like is nothing more than a man who collected information to be used as bargaining chips, to embarrass where necessary, to negotiate where possible. FIFA was not merely an experience; it was a way of life. When requested by the Integrity Commission, he seems either to have had a loss of heart or memory, or both. Indeed, he has been careful not to attack the members of the cabal as they would be critical to any negotiated re-entry, Suruj Rambachan excepted.
Through it all he has argued that he had the best interests of the people and the country at heart. The clear demonstration of his concern has been the amount of money spent on those who have suffered misfortune and the civil engineering works effected in his constituency. But it is clear that work elsewhere was abandoned. The man with energy and action to get things done has no real accomplishments during his tenure either as minister of works or as minister of national security. Instead, we have a wall at Country Club as a monument to the flooding that would have been a “thing of the past”. His promises to Matelot, Sea Lots and Laventille have gone a-begging. Lest we forget, we also had a police commissioner and his deputy sent packaging, the job undone and no one, including the Police Service Commission, knowing how the “severance” was paid or why. And what of the botched State of Emergency?
Of course all the accusations and recriminations about monies that were misappropriated or siphoned from FIFA related activities are of course merely malicious slander and gossip. I know it will never happen, but I would enjoy greatly the spectacle of Jack Warner taking on Sir David Simmons in court. I have no doubt in my mind that Mr Warner’s reputation, spirit and pocket would all be very much poorer in that undertaking.
But the real measure of the depth to which the country has sunk is that some of us are prepared, not merely to overlook the past indiscretions and infelicities, but to expect that by voting for the worse they are likely to get the best!
“Just because I, am such a nice guy
Somewhere, somehow it always leave me
Helping people, seem to be my trouble
Ah seeing it now
No more will it be allowed
After all meh go help mehself
Give meh problems to someone else
Is too much conquer and confusion
And ah know to mehself I am an
(Excerpts from Sparrow’s “Lying Excuses”)
• Mariano Browne is a
former government minister