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No peace and goodwill here

By Raffique Shah

THERE was a time, maybe I should write "once upon a time" since this may sound so much like a fairy-tale, when nations at war suspended hostilities on Christmas Day, such was the pervasiveness of peace and goodwill associated with the birth of the Christ child.

The most memorable such occasion was on the night of Christmas Eve 1914, during the First World War, along the Western Front.

German and British forces faced each other in the fields of Flanders, entrenched, quite literally, a few hundred metres apart.

Up until that magical moment, for three months the enemies had savaged each other with machine guns, mortars, rifles, even bayonets. Thousands had died and many more wounded, some scarred or disabled for life. Mortal enemies they were, without doubt. Yet, in that still of that cold night, German soldiers, moved by some unseen spirit, shouted from their trenches to their British foes, "Merry Christmas!" With commanders on both sides in shock, not to add suspicious, the Germans then belted out "Silent Night". British soldiers responded with a lusty "First Noel". Before either side understood what was happening, soldiers laid down their weapons, jumped out of their trenches and rushed to embrace each other. They exchanged greetings, shared food and drinks and even posed for pictures. Not a shot was fired that night in that sector of the Front.

I recall this story that I first heard during a military history lecture at Sandhurst as I note with sadness the bitter political warfare raging in Trinidad and Tobago, non-stop, without regard for season or reason. I should add that in many other armed conflicts across the world, even the interminable Arab-Israeli war, Christmas and other sacred days have seen short truces observed by the combatants. Even Zionists and Jihadists take time out from the savagery of war.

Which leaves me wondering what political war is being waged in this country, so bitter that warrants a savagery of words spewed from platforms and online continuously? In all my years, I do not recall another period during which one party or other, and certainly not the ruling party, found it necessary to fulminate against enemies, more imagined than real, every day. The UNC fundamentalists in the People's Partnership Government seem not to understand that the coalition won elections more than thirty months ago, and that the people expect them to govern the country, not cuss and carry on with rum shop-like behaviour.

You would think that having captured government, the coalition would seek to strengthen its internal bonds and broaden its external appeal. In other words, it would consolidate its grip on power and reach out to win the hearts, minds and votes of those who may not have supported it in the last elections. After war, sometimes during war (as I noted earlier), comes peace.

That has not happened with this lot, and here I underscore that I refer to the dominant and vociferous UNC elements, not the COP members. For them, there can be no peace on earth, far less goodwill to man. It's war-never-ending conflict in which you must have identifiable enemies even if you have to manufacture them. A few weeks ago, when I referred to the rabble-rousing nature of the UNC's Monday night forums and likened them to the modus operandi of the Nazi party in Germany in the early 1930s, many readers felt I was unduly harsh. I insist I was not.

Adollf Hitler and his aides always needed enemies for their zealots to savage: the Jews, the communists, trade unionists, the Social Democrats, and eventually, when they started running out of foes, they turned on their own. Look at the trend here. First, they targeted the PNM, specifically Keith Rowley. When he took leadership of a battered PNM, Rowley and his party looked very unattractive. But because the UNC fingered him at every turn, blamed him for everything that went wrong under their watch, Rowley started to look good. Today he is a leader with some stature-thanks to the UNC.

Next, they went after PNMites: everyone who stood in their way, who stood up for what they believed was right, was deemed "ah PNM". Many of those who were crushed in that frontal assault on perceived enemies had been People's Partnership's supporters until they were fired from positions they held based on service or merit, or had some contractual or other arrangements unjustly terminated. The tears of many families who are victims of this ongoing witch-hunt are falling on the UNC.

Trade unionists who, before 2010, stood up staunchly against the excesses of Patrick Manning, and who were embraced by the People's Partnership in the euphoria of elections, found themselves branded "enemies" and "PNM" the moment they disagreed with the People's Partnership in government. Friend Wayne Kublalsingh is now foe number one. As the fundamentalists run out of "enemies", they are turning inward, devouring their own. Why else would the Prime Minister say publicly that some of her ministers wanted her to capitulate in the Kublalsingh affair? I thought what transpired at Cabinet level, especially differences of opinion, stayed within its confines.

Look, we all know (or ought to know) the biblical dictum about there being a time and season for everything, a time for war and a time for peace. In this season of peace, the fundamentalists, worse than the Jihadists, promote war, divisiveness, hatred. Only sick minds could continue with such boorish behaviour as the world around them smile, extend hands of friendship, pray for peace.

Behind the war paint and blood-curdling cries of battle lies a cult under siege. Their cacophony signals the spasms of death, not the signs of life. Soon they will depart, taking their area of darkness with them.

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