By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
November 28, 2022
“Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee,
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o’er the mead…”
—William Blake, “The Lamb”
Two weeks ago I spoke about the incivility in our political culture and the need to refrain from making savage attacks against one another. Many people responded favourably to my article. Richard de Lima, writing from Ontario, Canada, observed: “I have been reading your columns in the Express several years, which though always informative, sometimes stimulating, and often entertaining, have not prompted me to write you before. On this occasion, I feel obliged to extend my compliments to you on the penetrating remarks made about the conduct of PNM ministers and other senior party officials in regard to challengers for various positions in the forthcoming party elections.
“The behaviour today is no different from that of yesterday. This then, could be regarded as an intrinsic part of the Party’s ‘organisational culture’. If this be the case, what then are the prospects for improved governance of our country, wherein which healthy respectful competition for office, in electoral politics, is a requirement for preserving and enhancing our democracy?”
Mr de Lima caught my drift. I was not attacking anyone. I simply urged PNM members, as de Lima does, to guard against a malignant “part of the Party’s ‘organisational culture’.”
Imagine my dismay when I woke up on Sunday morning to Louis W Williams’s conclusion: “Dr Cudjoe obviously supports Mrs Karen Nunez-Tesheira in the leadership contest in the PNM. I have no problem with that, as it is his democratic right to do so… I am, personally, against mud-slinging in election campaigns, although it appears to be the norm globally, in such campaigns. However, Dr Cudjoe paints a one-sided picture with Mrs Nunez-Tesheira as the lowly victim.”
He continued: “There is a lot of talk about new vision by Mrs Nunez-Tesheira, but I have not yet seen anything from her which reflects that. A significant portion of current leadership of the PNM is aged. What needs to happen with some urgency is the establishment of a proper mentorship programme which would train/prepare the next generation so that they can hit the ground running.”
Was I not asking for a similar thing when I stated “how inept these young PNM leaders are in articulating the goals of the party and formulating a political philosophy that speaks to the needs of the 21st century”? Did I not warn the younger members of the party to refrain from following “the example of the older leaders who are stuck in repudiating and insulting their opponents, whether they are inside or outside the party”?
Williams could not have known that I did not give Nunez-Tesheira a pass nor, for that matter, was I inclined to support anyone who does not speak to the needs of the disenfranchised population. This is why I asked Nunez-Tesheira in last week’s article, “Where is the There?”
In August 12, 2020, on the dawn of the general election, I wrote: “Although PNM began as a movement that was cognisant of the needs of the underclass Indians and Africans alike, over the years it has come to take the support of black people for granted. One only has to look at the conditions under which many black people in depressed communities live to recognise that they have not been the recipients of PNM’s loving and tender care…
“In this day and time, no one should vote for policies that ensure one’s enslavement. One should support what’s in the best interests of one’s group and the society at large. Habit should not be the major criteria for supporting a party.” I would only amend this statement to say habit should not be the major criteria for supporting a leader, which is why I asked Nunez-Tesheira: which way should we take from here, and what is the vision of the society she wishes to create?
On Tuesday morning, Saudi Arabia defeated Argentina 2-1 in its opening World Cup football match. Some news outlets called it “the biggest World Cup upset in history”. The New York Times put it thus: “A team that had travelled to Qatar on the back of 35 games without defeat, the glow of its first international honour in a generation fresh in the memory, with arguably the greatest player in top form and surrounded by teammates of the highest calibre, opened its tournament with a 2-1 defeat to an opponent, Saudi Arabia, that was supposed to be little more than a sacrificial lamb”. (November 22, 2022.)
Although I admire Nunez-Tesheira’s courage in taking on PNM’s present leadership, she started her campaign too late, and her court defeat on Wednesday decreased her ability to attract support from party members. More importantly, it would have been better if she had offered the party members something of substance to vote for. Such an approach would have been a healthy alternative to what the party has at present.
However, I hope her candidacy gives the party members a chance to come out of their inertia and ask the present leadership of the party where it’s going and how will it speak to the needs of its poorer, more disenfranchised constituents.
I also hope those who aspire to lead us treat us as thinking people, rather than mindless objects who only absorb the party’s propaganda.
While I admire Nunez-Tesheira’s courage and her boldness, I do not support her candidacy. I only wish she had given us more political meat to chew upon, and engaged the party in more substantive debate on its future direction. Unfortunately, this time around, she may only be the party’s sacrificial lamb.