By Raffique Shah
December 26, 2010
I WAS reluctant writing this column on the eve of Christmas, knowing it will appear in print on Boxing Day, that it would probably upset some people. Then it occurred to me that a significant number of adults would crawl out of their beds or wherever they may have slept last night, feeling like faecal matter of one kind or other. So, if anything, my thoughts would blend nicely with whatever brand of antacid they pour down their hatches in preparation for another day of overindulgence. Mewey Cwismas, people!
First, the bad news: I am alive, not quite kicking butts, but enjoying the spirit, if not the substances, of the holiday season. Let me rephrase that: I hope I am alive when you read this. Given the state of crime in the country, and the deadly swath the hurricane of lifestyle diseases is cutting through the world, I may not live to read my own column! If I have fallen victim to any of these Grim Reapers, make merry on my corpse.
Over the past few weeks, several people I know well, some of them much younger than me, have exited the departure lounge of life and gone to realms unknown. Since I don’t believe in heaven and hell (I swear these fantasy islands must be Tobago and Trinidad!), I can only hope that my friends who have passed on during the course of the year are frolicking on some secluded beach on the North Coast, far from the madding mob. Except for the “21 virgins” that are pledged only to suicide bombers, if we believe the CIA handbook on Islamic terrorists, what more can any mortal hope for in the afterlife?
But I stray from the focus of today’s main course—maybe it’s the sorrel I indulged in, damn potent stuff. Seriously, though, I got around to reflecting on the year that’s about to come to an end, on what good things we have enjoyed and the bad things we have endured. I wondered who or what had the biggest influence on our lives, on the state of the nation, negative or positive.
Politicians always come to mind first. Because their actions, or inaction, impact most on the population, we tend to turn in their direction as we seek to evaluate what kind of year we have been through. In this regard, ex-prime minister Patrick Manning is the runaway winner… or loser. Any incumbent PM who calls early elections, knowing he would lose, must be a special person.
If losing the elections by a landslide was good enough to earn him the title “Dumbo of the Year”, his insistence on remaining stubbornly seated in the political departure lounge underscores that dubious title. Flight after flight is called, some of his colleagues have boarded and left for destinations unknown, but not Manning. He sits there in silence, as if waiting for a special flight. With him, you never know. Given his flights of fancy, maybe he awaits the Jesus Jet that will take him straight to heaven… or wherever. Did I hear someone say purgatory?
Nipping at Manning’s heels, but not quite taking that title, is one Basdeo Panday. “Basdeo who?” many may ask. I’m actually doing Bas a favour by mentioning him in this column. Except for when my journalist colleagues are starved for stories or guests on their talk-shows, the man who sees himself as the reincarnation of Lord Rama is all but forgotten. Many of those who once prostrated themselves at his feet now brand him Rawan.
What a thing! Gone yesterday, forgotten today. And beaten like a “bobolee” by a woman! Still, much like Manning, he clings to whatever is on offer, hoping that someday the masses he once claimed as his serfs would relent and restore him to the limelight. To further this elusive goal, Bas has set up some foundation that purports to pursue justice for former sugar workers. When he was in power, he failed to act decisively on behalf of these wretched-of-the-fields. He chose instead to rub shoulders with the parasitic oligarchy.
Oh, how the mighty have crash-landed! Take win, Bas, in the “Mamapoule of the Year” stakes.
In the main contest, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar easily takes the title “Politician of the Year”. Sitting at the feet of Guru Bas for years, she has mastered the art of politicking. Her People’s Partnership rode to power on a plethora of promises to right all the wrongs the Manning government had inflicted on the population—and the electorate believed her.
She knew all along that politics and governance are different games. She played the former well. But the latter? Well, you judge. Her platform signalled it would curtail crime in short order. Has she delivered? She and Winston Dookeran vowed they would bring the economy back on track, instil investor and consumer confidence. Have they? They claimed there would be equitable distribution of jobs: the few make-work programmes are now People’s Partnership-laden, just as they were PNM-laden before the elections. They have reneged on the $3,000-a-month pensions for everyone over age 65, an unrealistic goal I had warned the People’s Partnership to avoid.
Kamla’s governance thus far can be best described as “hampers-driven, compensation-ridden”. Add a touch of glamour, lots of talk, hampers everywhere and continuing nepotism, and you have the People’s Partnership’s recipe for “looking good”.
For taking us all on a merry-go-round, Kamla wins “Politician of the Year” by a canter.