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The women's lobby and the cabal

By Selwyn Ryan

Several significant political controversies took place in the year 2012, some of which rattled the gravestones of our political system.

For the People's Partnership, it was yet another Annus horibilis.

Undoubtedly, the most dramatic event was that relating to Section 34. It smelled badly and will continue to do so for some time to come. We can't just move on assuming that it would be nought but a nine-day wonder which we will forget. We should not forget it. If we do not get to the bottom of it, we might just as well abandon the pursuit of good governance and give it up as a cause lost by this generation.

We need to determine "who" done it before we can think of closure.

The other iconic crisis came over the Prime Minister's performance as seen by the Women's Movement speaking through Verna St Rose Greaves. The third is the epic "fast to the death" dare by Dr Wayne Kublalsingh. We revisit the Verna St Rose matter today and next week as part of our End of Year Review.

In respect of the controversy prompted by the Prime Minister's performance, much was said about the existence of a cabal within the court of "The Queen" as I have heard the PM being called.

This cabal was said to be undermining and subverting the positive things that the Queen would like to do for her subjects, but that she was not now in charge of the governance of her realm.

It would perhaps be helpful to indicate just what is meant by the word "cabal".

The word is of Jewish provenance, and derives from the word "cabala", an institution wherein rabbis meet to expound and interpret the mysterious and occult doctrines of the cabala.

Cabals are by nature secret, subversive and mysterious groupings of males who gather together to do things that are normally opposed to the public or the ruler's interest.

In British political history, the word was used to identify a group of parliamentarians who met in secret to promote the interests of a church group during the reign of Charles II.

From time to time in the life of this coalition Government, it was said that a secret group of mainly Hindu males meet and make the critical decisions which inform "public policy and determine who is appointed to what offices".

The group, it is said, meets at certain watering holes and at times even at her private home which substitutes for the cabinet.

I am advised that only one official cabinet meeting was actually held there, (despite Mr Panday's claim that many cabinet meetings were actually held there).

Who is in and who is out of this cabal is a matter of curiosity.

Jack (Warner) was once very much "out" of the inner circle, and moaned loudly about his exclusion. Now he is very much in, and is said to be the Prime Minister's ubiquitous "Body Guard" and the virtual head of the cabal who speaks authoritatively on almost every issue.

The existence of this shadowy group was dramatically put on record by Verna St Rose Graves who was a member of the cabinet for some 11 months, and who was then fired for reasons which were never publicly given. St Rose Graves comments about the cabal's operation were also made publicly by former minister of justice, Herbert Volney, who too was fired by the PM for allegedly lying to the cabinet.

The burden of St Rose Greaves' claim is that the country was being misgoverned by a cabal which had virtually kidnapped the PM, and that latter was in fact virtually a political "prisoner" in her throne room. She was "not in charge" of her realm, it was said.

St Rose Graves complains further that the PM seems to have handed over power to this subversive group of which she seems to be mortally afraid.

"I sense a lot of fear. She has pulled back. At any time, there is a group of people who are in charge."

According to St Rose Graves, the PM's captors were using her health issues to blackmail her into giving way to them.

It was however time for her to fight back for her to assert her authority.

"She has to step up to the plate and take back her power. She must be rescued by the many who love and value her from the clutches of the cabal. She must not only speak at big impersonal partisan rallies with a lot of lakuray and drama: she must speak from deep within her soul to all the people of Trinidad & Tobago."

St Rose Graves argues that a major asset which the PM has is her people skills.

She must now "go brave" and not speak with the voice of a ventriloquist who utters words which she then lip-syncs as if they were her own.

According to the ex-minister, she uses words spoken by Jack Warner or Dr Moonilal and takes her lead from what they say rather than assert herself as the authority figure.

She and many others voted for Kamla and change. "People voted for certain things and continue to hope for something better. But they no longer trust and they are getting no real assurance from her."

St Rose Greaves goes further and accuses the cabal of being drunk with power.

"Power is an aphrodisiac to many of these men," she complains.

She too must use womanpower to change what was taking place.

She and many others voted for Kamla because they wanted change and thought she was the chosen game changer.

The coalition, she claims, has not delivered, concerned as their members are with demonising the PNM. When you campaign with hate, you become like the object of hate and possibly worse.

St Rose Graves believes Kamla has become a prisoner not only of the cabal but also of the PNM spirit.

"The very things the people were complaining about in the PNM, the arrogance, lack of empathy, neglect of certain communities are what we are now seeing."

What then must Kamla do to rehabilitate herself?

What is true about the analysis and what was vile and vindictive?

Did all of this mask a deeper power struggle that was also reflected in Dr Kublalsingh's struggle?

We note the recommendation, nay, the demand is that Kamla must change course and appeal to her sisters in the Women's Movement for help.

Kamla was also advised to be open about her health and told to destigmatise her illness. Being ill was not a crime. "There are people in leadership all over the world who are bipolar, who suffer depression, all kinds of things, and if that interferes with how they perform in public office, I think we have a responsibility to ensure that they take their medicine and that they perform at an optimum level."

There were also demands that she must change her style of governance and that she had a transformative and historic role to play, and that failure to do what is required of her as history's "beast of burden" would inevitably lead to a failure of mission, not only for herself, but also for the Women's Movement, the governance project, and indeed for the entire country.

To be continued

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