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Political joker awards

By Raoul Pantin

I think it’s more than high time the powers-that-be (temporary as they currently are) introduce a new national award, ie. the Political Joker of the Year, to be handed out  annually.
I’m serious. For far too long all kinds of comic antics have been going on in the corridors of power and just outside it and none of it is being properly recognised. Well, as with everything else, there comes a time...
I’ll admit that this idea was originally inspired by the antics of Ian Alleyne, the UNC “clown’’ candidate for the St Joseph by-election a few weeks ago.
As you know, you haven’t  heard the last of Mr Alleyne and his bizarre sense of humour. His return to that Crime Watch television programme may really be just a rehearsal for his next venture into the political arena.
For he’s already threatened to fight the St Joseph seat in the next general election and has voiced absolute confidence that he will be successful the second time around.
You see what I mean? A laugh a minute!
Lord alone knows what level of clownishness he will bring to bear in his next political campaign but I have no doubt it will be in the running for the Political Joker of the Year award.
Not that he won’t have some fierce competition.
Take, for example, Jack Warner’s recent threat or promise of a “grand alliance” between his fledgling Independent Liberal Party (ILP) and the seasoned National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), whose political leader, Dr Carson Charles, has warmly welcomed the move.
Mr Warner, it should also be noted, has also threatened to travel to South Africa on his own steam to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral, his credentials being that he had a lot to do with Mr Mandela’s original visit to Trinidad.
Everybody knows that Mr Warner can more than afford to pay his own way to South Africa. In truth, if we’re not careful Mr Warner may well  pay his own way to being the next prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago...
After all, the ILP in itself is quite a joke. The party has no programme, no ideology, no nothing—except the effervescent Mr Warner as its chief cook and bottle washer. Even former ILP chairman Robin Montano resigned when he realised that he was not just window dressing, he was there only to prop up Jack—and speak only when spoken or shut up otherwise.
Mind you, unkind critics are quite likely to point out that these days the NAR’s Dr Charles would welcome any kind of company since he is probably the last standing member of the NAR.
In fact my always impeccable sources tell me that the NAR membership today amounts to about 2,000 persons—down from a height of some 60,000 in its heyday.
Even so, it is doubtful that Dr Charles could get more than 100 or so members to come out to any rally he summons today.
Still, it is clear that Mr Warner’s notion of a “grand alliance” with the NAR is inspired by the original NAR alliance which contested the 1986 general election and virtually wiped the floor with the People’s National Movement (PNM) with a 33-3 majority.
Unfortunately, that alliance didn’t last as long as the Red House fire because when key members like the irrepressible Basdeo Panday started making all kinds of post-electoral demands, then NAR political leader and prime minister ANR Robinson had to snub him—which led to Panday splitting away from the NAR, which was the beginning of its original demise.
It should be noted that the current People’s Partnership Government also undoubtedly took its cue from that original NAR coalition—and that history once again seems to be  repeating itself.

Already the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), an original member of the Partnership coalition, has gone its own way. And there are constant rumblings from and about the Congress of the People (COP), another Partnership member, doing the same.
Now, with just a few weeks left in this year, it seems that Mr Warner and his “grand alliance” are clearly in the lead for the Political Joker award for 2013—though, things being what they are, you can never tell if some late contender won’t appear on the political stage and just manage to snatch that first prize.
Let’s not discount PNM Political Leader Dr Keith Rowley’s recent change-up of his Senate members and the constant mauvais langue this has generated about and against Dr Rowley.
Another potential contender could be that controversy that has blown up around House Speaker Wade Mark being awarded an Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) university degree.
I personally find it hilarious that people should be accusing the Speaker of not fulfiling the requirements for the degree—never mind that we seem to have been deluged of late with all sorts of people claiming all kinds of fraudulent university degrees.
Quite frankly, I think the furore generated by Mr Mark’s EMBA is simply another manifestation of the fact that the public  trust in our State institutions and their leaders is very shaky.

But last week when I was travelling downtown a taxi driver—a taxi driver!—who appeared to be very upset about Mr Mark’s EMBA and who also seemed to have arrived at his own dire conclusion about it, said to me : “Tell me, Mr Pantin, does the President have the power to remove the Speaker of the House of Representatives?”
When I said I believed he did, the taxi driver responded: “Well, the President is not doing his job!”
I was about to crack up with laughter except that the look on that taxi driver’s face was deadly serious.
So stay tuned!

(PS: For those of my friends who have been asking and those others who are simply curious about it, today marks my 97th consecutive day without having smoked a single cigarette since my resolution to stop smoking, after some 50 years, just over three months ago. When I took that decision, as I wrote in my initial column on this subject, I was determined to prove that my personal willpower was stronger than any nicotine addiction. And that, mark my word, was not a joke!).
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