Recently, a trusted political commentator, in the presence of another of possibly even greater credibility, opined that in the view of ‘many’, I was a ‘closet UNC’. I don’t know what he meant by ‘many’ or whether he too shared that view.
I am neither closet UNC nor PNM. On the contrary, I am an open supporter and severe critic of both parties which I think are still critical to this country. I badly want both to succeed. I cannot love one and not the other, for not only have I known both, but in this small country where is the space for inflexibility and entrenched animosity unless we want to obliterate one another?
This is not a new position for me. More than a year ago, in my column, ‘Both are ours’, I claimed ownership of both PNM and UNC when I said “each belongs to all of us, not to any particular group. You may not be a member, but both are inescapably yours, here since the start of self-government, the PNM unchanged in name, the UNC in its third incarnation since the DLP.
“They are imperfect but we should be thankful they survived the rocky road as we inhabited our sovereignty. A young nation needs things to take root. So many political outfits came and died. These two survived because they are critical to the people of this country. ”
As I said then “the PNM and UNC are more than political parties. They have been social forces, fundamental for stability. They originated as instruments of people searching for a place in the sun that appeared with the arrival of self determination. Politics was the path to the light, and these parties were the vehicles for the political aspiration of the masses, the formerly dispossessed in our country.”
Never underestimate the importance of this development. Imagine what would have happened in the vacuum had they not emerged.
The colonial legacy of a racial divide would have produced the frightening chaos which would have jeopardised the very birth of this nation; or worse. But the parties ensured passionate but peaceful competition between the two major races for political ascendancy.
As I observed in that article, “after half a century, both have held the reins, bringing immense satisfaction to supporters that power in this plural society is not the preserve of any one group. This has been pivotal to the peace. A major crisis in our history was averted. The parties spared us the bloody conflicts experienced elsewhere. We owe them more than cynicism and elitist condescension. We owe them ownership and gratitude. Whether inside or outside, we owe them the influence of our collective creative and regenerative powers.”
Most importantly, neither reigns supreme here. Both have already been sent packing by a maturing electorate. We have already had six changes since 1986. Increasingly the people are leading, setting the agenda, demanding change.
The parties know they must measure up or die. Indeed extinction now threatens both. But as I said earlier “we should all want them to succeed. They are part of the national heritage, and still needed for the nation’s stability. Therefore whatever our political position, let us temper any extremism that wishes for the destruction of either the PNM or the UNC. Both are ours.”
I have expressed these views in various ways over the almost two years of writing this column. And I have taken no sides. I have been one of the severest critics of this administration and of the Prime Minister in particular. I have been equally critical of the PNM and Dr Keith Rowley. A perusal of the Express archives of my articles will prove my non-partisan position. But a small sampling could help.
Last year, in ‘Ugly, Prime Minister’, during Divali celebrations, I wrote ‘Rawan’ rules here, pointing to “the spreading social swampland in Trinidad and Tobago”. Mere days after, the Prime Minister proved me right.
As I said then “at the Divali Nagar, she was raw and ‘rawanic’, pouring her darkness, blasting the nation’s Opposition Leader for attending the celebrations and wearing a kurta. Unbelievable, scandalous and completely without class!” Please note I was blasting Kamla for unfairly attacking Keith Rowley. Closet UNC or closet PNM?!
The PNM has also gotten its share. In ‘PNM still stale’ I opined that the party was largely responsible for the country’s political stagnation and that its modernisation must involve the entire nation, not just party members. But the new leadership of Keith Rowley, “with old arrogance, showed absolutely no appreciation of the historical context. They kept the discussion within the confines of an intellectually moribund party, preserving the staleness as though it was sacred. ‘Doctah politics’ had resurfaced in its deafness.
“No national discussion emerged and the PNM special convention was funereal, losing the opportunity to make the party more spiritually prepared for variety in ideas and talent”. I encouraged Rowley “ to travel throughout the land, and with rousing speeches to party and country, preach the new gospel.” Not a peep. The party remained stuck in the mud where it still stagnates and from where it will be drained of its support by Jack Warner’s ILP.
That’s the threat. As I have asked before, “ are we ready for a Prime Minister Jack Warner, this man who, as Minister of National Security, commandeered the army in the dead of night to break down the tents of protesters; this former minister who was allegedly establishing a new ‘flying squad’ without cabinet approval and who spent $6.2 million to pull a fire truck from a ditch and said he would do it again”. Be warned all closet or open supporters of the PNM or UNC.
Ralph Maraj is a
former government minister.