Thursday, December 14, 2017

The UNC and Them...

From the beginning, it was clear that the People’s Partnership Government was really ‘The UNC and Them’. The United National Congress (UNC) had won the most seats in the 2010 elections, they were in control of most of the ministries and State boards, and their political leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, was the Prime Minister (which is to say, the new ‘governor’). Partly on advice, partly (probably mostly) on her own discretion, she appointed her ministers, and when the time came, she dis-appointed some of them.

The UNC and Them rode into office on a shared manifesto, the Fyzabad Accord, and a few months of collaboration and socialisation. But, once ensconced, the UNC pulled out its hidden agenda, pushed some of the loftier manifesto proposals aside, and abandoned the Accord. The other partners (and them) saw the play and soon their voices were raised in dissent, mostly over departures from pre-office agreements and understandings (read essentially the Accord, but also gentlemen’s agreements) and distribution of state chairmanships and directorships. And, in quick time, the UNC and Them began to crack and flounder.

Apart from complaining about the appointment of Jack Warner to the Cabinet, Ramadhar and Them (read ‘the COP’) began to quarrel with the UNC over the installation of Marlene Coudray (a COP member, but not the COP’s choice) as mayor of San Fernando, against a gentlemen’s agreement. Coudray would go on to join the UNC and become one of its deputy political leaders.

David and Them (read ‘the MSJ’) pulled out in 2012, citing mere exchange, nepotism, discrimination, patronage, corruption, and prosecution of the philosophy of ‘we-time-now’.

Jack Warner would follow in 2013, citing the formation of a (Hindu) cabal in the Government, their subornation and corruption of the love of his political life, Kamla, and, remarkably, ministerial financial corruption. Warner would quickly morph into Jack and Them (read ‘the IPL’) and mount an offensive against the UNC and Them that would cost the latter Chaguanas West and St Joseph and drive them to exult in defeat that they had kept their base and so had not lost.

Ashworth Jack and Them (read ‘the TOP’) would not win a single seat in the 12-seat Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections, partly because the Tobagonian electorate did not want a UNC puppet in the chairman’s seat, especially given the prospects of greater Tobagonian autonomy and assignment to the island of its rightful share of the country’s marine resources of oil and gas.

And some time between this column and May 2015, perhaps in May 2015 itself, given their unrelieved cluelessness, Ramadhar and Them will leave the Partnership (read ‘The UNC and (the rest of) Them’) to contest the elections independently. They will take the independent route to recoup their credibility among their supporters and the wider Trinidadian electorate—a credibility irretrievably damaged by an unresolved tension between holding on to the perks and privileges of office and prosecuting the politics of morality and ethics in governance, as advertised.

‘and Them’. Useful little phrase, isn’t it? It is also produced as simply ‘Them’.

It is clearly a mixture of English and Creole—English in its sound (and spelling), and Creole in its attachment to a name. Its ability to attach to a name is syntactic (in the sense of ‘combinable with another part of speech’), and this ability is what distinguishes it as Creole. Standard Englishes do not have this ability.

‘The UNC’, ‘Ramadhar’, ‘David’, ‘Jack Warner’, and ‘Ashworth Jack’ are names or proper nouns, and when we attach ‘(and) Them’ to them, we get something like the meaning ‘and associates’. These associates are not defined or specified for meaning, but, as we know, the names are. Speakers/writers use the structure to pluralise the names, but without specifying who the other people are. The ‘and Them’ therefore pluralises the names by association; because of this function, it is called an ‘associative plural’. The nouns so pluralised have to be countable; that is, we must be able to count their referents.

We can use the associative plural to pluralise common countable nouns as well. For example, we can say, ‘The thief and them’, ‘the minister and them’, and ‘the contract and them’. (What would we do without it, eh?) We can also at the same time pluralise these common nouns in the English way, so, e.g., ‘The thieves and them’.

You think this double pluralisation is to make sure more than one thief is being referred in the noun itself, given that the ‘and them’ may not necessarily be referring to thieves?