So once again, the old authoritarian culture has risen to its own protection and self-preservation with all the smugness of an established order.
For, which democratic society would accept that a Cabinet under suspicion of negligence and misbehaviour in public office should be allowed to investigate itself?
Surely, public interest would suggest that the last person to conduct an enquiry into the Section 34 Cabinet outrage is the Prime Minister who, as head of the Cabinet, is accountable, primus inter pares, for all actions of the Cabinet. Herself to herself, as the Mighty Spoiler might say.
At least Spoiler's magistrate was willing to charge himself, even if he too, was ultimately playing for a five-year deal. (Magistrate Try Himself, Mighty Spoiler).
But such is the culture that supports maximum power, that just when healthy skepticism is most needed, we are tempted to settle for benefit of the doubt since de boss say so.
If ever a matter cries out for a Presidential commission of enquiry, it is this hijacking and subversion of the entire apparatus of the State. And what about the Parliament?
On behalf of the 1.3 million people which it represents, will it not demand justice for the crime to which it has been made a party?
With our complacency shattered by the shock and horror of learning that there is no place safe and uninfiltrated by the cancer of corruption and incompetence, we find ourselves adrift, cut loose from the moorings of our comfortable assumptions about life in sweet T&T.
For the sheer magnitude of its brass-facedness, the nearest comparison for Section 34 is that Friday evening in July 27, 1990 when 114 men took the country hostage.As we survey the shards of broken trust, where, we wonder, is there a haven for our hopes?
Certainly not within the cabinet where, for eternity, all are bound by this single act of collective irresponsibility.
Finally, in a single stroke, the UNC and COP have buried their differences beneath the common interest of political survival.Now sheltering under the fig leaf provided in the Prime Minister's speech, the party that rose to office on a promise of new politics, now faces a future of division along the lines of the old politics: party name and symbol in one place; party people in another. With possibility approaching probability, opportunity is in the air for new players and alliances by the next general election. For the COP, too, the challenge will be survival.
Predictably, under pressure on Thursday night, the leader of the UNC, so reluctant to embrace her partner-leaders in governance, reached out to fashion a set designed to suggest unity and strength. For the occasion, Makandal Daaga, Ashworth Jack and Prakash Ramadhar were suitably elevated to the status of props for the leader.
She may be a novice at governance, but this Prime Minister has no equal in the art of survival, honed as her talents have been on the sharp whetstone of the politics of Basdeo Panday.
Raffique Shah, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, Winston Dookeran and Hulsie Bhaggan are only a few who would know precisely what it might have taken to have outlasted Panday. In a land where politics is purely the art of the possible, the strategy of "by any means necessary" has spawned an ideology in which rank opportunism is exalted as the highest form of politics under the twin peaks of the PM and her alter ego, Jack Warner. Neither should take this as a personal slight; not when the ideology is so widely worshipped across the national landscape.
Ultimately, however, it is We, The People, who have been the architect of the permissive conditions in which this ideology has flourished to the point where it now threatens to overrun this garden republic of ours.
Our unwillingness to assume responsibility for what goes on in our own land, and to place our lives into the hands of those we have not even bothered to scrutinise, has now brought us sharply up against the unflinching, unyielding law of consequences.
Who among us would dare deny that the comprehensive failure demonstrated by the fiasco of Section 34 is the inevitable consequence of the culture of Crapaud Politics? Programme and policy be damned when the main course is rum and roti accompanied by regular snacking on wine and jam.
Our willingness to be summoned by the ethnic call, to line up behind bandwagons without reference to driver, route and destination, to surrender responsibility to somebody- anybody- else, over these five decades of independence have now, ineluctably, brought us to this point. The multiple orgies of outrage, masquerading as general elections in T&T, are producing a politics of increasingly diminishing returns. As self-delusion gives way to disappointment, cynicism and apathy just need one lit match to transform anger into rage in search of blood. On Thursday night, in response to the demand for blood, the PM offered up Volney's head, confident in the knowledge that, having licked our chops, we will then lick our wounds and, appeased, slink away.
It was a gamble based on her own reading of the political culture of a people for whom a bloody head is often more satisfying than the truth. Except when water more than flour.
The survival gene may be most powerful in the political class, but only because it is etched into the DNA of a whole people for whom survival was the biggest triumph of life in the West Indies.
And, from time to time, as happened last week, the survival instinct kicks in to stir the people out of their apathy to rescue their country from the brink. Call it brinksmanship, or the wisdom of the collective. Already, we are demonstrating this could be one such time.
In the case of Section 34, enough experts have tracked the timeline to show that the story, as presented, simply does not add up.
But ultimately, whether Volney slipped one by them or not, who could believe that the words "Section 34", written in black and white before men and women who had championed the legislation for months and would know it like the back of their hands, could have failed to recognize it as it passed under noses.
Over the past week, when it most counted, the power of public opinion demonstrated its omnipotence over the power of office.The requirement now is for eternal vigilance.
Because, to invoke the Mighty Spoiler, the old order may be decomposing till it stinks, but it composing still.
• Sunity Maharaj is the editor of the
T&T Review and director of the
Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies