After inflicting an enormous, gaping wound on the country's psyche, our Section 34 sinners, Partnership and PNM, rubbed salt in the hurt with political rallies that discharged grossness and brutish insensitivity in a nation bleeding. They had shattered our Parliament, producing the pervasive bewilderment hanging in the air and hearts, and then exacerbated the deep injury by feeding mindless partisanship in our bifurcated polity. When the nation needed wholeness and sobriety to salvage something, they gave us that orgy of noise and hot hypocrisy in Arouca and Chaguanas last week, with the Prime Minister sprinkling budget baubles like her teddy bears at Christmas. These callous politicians! They are all the same.
Led by Kamla and Keith, "Bim and Bam", speakers paraded as paragons of virtue, with fulsome fulminations, declamations and righteous indignations; holier than several swamis and popes combined. Monumental, despicable charade! Already stripped bare, our politicians were hiding in public glare; naked under silly fig leaves; looking congenitally addicted to duplicity. They were utterly contemptuous of their supporters, extolling and exonerating themselves, though fully aware that Section 34, even repealed, will still free corrupt individuals. This was our pathetic political class on full display last week on stages in Arouca and Chaguanas; PNM and Partnership, same khaki pants.
But they didn't convince. Questions pulled at their masks. How could the Prime Minister not have approved the hidden intentions of Section 34, its early proclamation and repeal? Why was the Opposition Leader unforgivably derelict in his sacred duty to protect the nation, supporting the legislation three times?! The Acting President has now said it was "wrong" to pass such "bad legislation" which exempted corruption offences in schedule 6. Hear that Kamla, Keith, and others, including David Abdulah?
But audiences in Arouca and Chaguanas, lustily applauded our political miscreants, confirming that whilst at the superficial level, it was two meetings, in a profound sense, it was one rally, really; in two instalments, staged by the nation's political elite, PNM and Partnership, with one goal: to hoodwink the country. This oneness was emphatically revealed with the passage of Section 34 when all parliamentarians sang like a children's choir under the baton of a calculating conductor; puppets of a master puppeteer.
And at the rallies, the sameness persisted, one audience in two parts, differentiated only by location, colour of jersey and dominant texture of hair. These are people from whom over a billion dollars were stolen in the Piarco scandal, and for which no thief will be jailed, notwithstanding repealed Section 34. And what did the victims do at the meetings? Man, they "hooted and shrieked", danced and waved flags in Arouca and particularly in Chaguanas, to the rhythms of chutney and soca, cheering on the very leaders, Kamla and Keith, who hurt them and their children's future. Amazing! "If Caesar had stabbed their mothers, they would have done no less," said the Bard, centuries ago.
Earlier, in "Fire them all", I said every man jack must go, that this dishonoured Parliament should be dissolved and that no parliamentarians who supported Section 34 should ever sit as MPs again. This would happen in any enlightened democracy. No political party would dare place any such discredited candidate before the people. But in our 'crapaud politics', these will win resoundingly in heartland constituencies, keeping us with the same smelly khaki pants.
The UNC and PNM offer no change. Both remain tribal outfits unable to escape their narrow entrapment. But they are dying slowly as the society evolves. Neither can now win an election on its own. The UNC, forever expedient, recognised this early, and always cobbled a coalition. They must be quaking in their high heels with no new courtiers calling, increasingly stale with disposables like Ramadhar, Mc Leod, Roberts and others. The PNM long remained ideological and inflexible, but after the 80s, won only when facing divided forces. It seems full realisation has now dawned. There is clear anxiety for a coalition. There is obvious acceptance in the party that the PNM is damaged goods and can no longer "win alone, lose alone".
So into the breach step the new knights in shining armour, the labour movement with its appendage, the MSJ, and civil society groups to save the day. But what do these do when the country is crying out for new direction? They are having foreplay before getting into bed with Rowley's guilty edition of the PNM! Looking for another short drop to Parliament! My God! Don't they understand this historic moment in Trinidad and Tobago?
The nation is completely fed-up with fraudulence. Don't Ancel Roget and the others see the need for aspiring prime ministers, Rowley and Abdulah, to account for supporting Section 34? Have these two yet condescended to apologise to the people? Shouldn't they be subjected to rigorous scrutiny, never applied to Kamla, and with dire consequences for the nation? Why are the trade unions and others focusing only on the early proclamation, when passage of Section 34 is the bigger sin, since though repealed, the corrupt will still walk free based on legitimate expectations? And when that happens, wouldn't Rowley and Abdulah also be responsible? Therefore, should Anand Ramlogan alone suffer political decapitation? Shouldn't the entire Government fall and the PNM jettison all its present parliamentarians?
We have the opportunity for a sea-change for our society. We must not squander it. Section 34 is as revolting as July 27, 1990. Our parliamentarians maimed our Parliament. No more amnesty for anybody! Friend and foe must go. Away with political expediency! Bring the new dawn. If the trade union movement and civil society do not understand the moment, they can lead us nowhere. They are also the same khaki pants.
• Ralph Maraj, former