Duke of democracy or demagoguery?

By Raffique Shah
December 19, 2022

Raffique ShahI shall not be at all surprised if elementary Watson, the Duke of Roxborough, Tobago, fulfils his ambition to become the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago by 2025, or maybe before the due year for the next general election, should he use unconventional means to pursue power.

Duke, who has made no secret of his medium-term objective, has established offices of his Progressive Democratic Patriots party in Trinidad, even as he moves to force yet another election for the Tobago House of Assembly, which he expects will result in him being proclaimed King of Tobago.

In a bid to advance his political ambition, having lost control of the THA that he had “in the bag”, in a manner of speaking, having fought and won two of three elections, the most recent resulting in the near-annihilation of the PNM in the THA and, by extension, the island of Tobago, Duke was planning to terminate the short-term lease of the PDP to Farley Augustine and company when they pre-empted him by dramatic mass resignations from the PDP, leaving the Duke scampering to salvage something out of this imbroglio.

That the “rebels” had dared to rewrite his PDP script—which he, and he alone, had the authority to do—was an insult to the Duke. He owned the copyright for the plot (normal parties would revert to policies, programmes, mission statements), but he owned the whole damn party, all of its constituent parts—name symbol, policy, programme, the whole shebang.

He is the only party-owner in T&T I can think of—unless I take the ridiculous to the sublime level and recall a fella named Something-Baboolal, who literally hounded me in 1975, armed with a big canvas bag that contained his life’s works and ideas, written in ink on reams of paper, a tedious process that must have consumed much of his adult life, insisting that I accept what God had ordained—yes, he invoked the Almighty, no less; he stopped stalking me only when I indicated the next time he did, I’d beat the crap out of him.

Few people will know or remember that in the build-up to the 1976 general election, the first that would see the return of the ballot box since introduction of the very controversial voting machines in 1961, scores of parties were formed, many of which were one-man affairs owned, financed and operated by, well, one man.

So when the eccentric Duke staged several political stunts to promote himself as a better option to the PNM and the Opposition United National Congress, both of which he dismissed as “dinosaurs”, I was among those who thought the elementary Watson was taking a joke too far.

But when his PDP took the PNM the full distance in the first of three THA elections in 2022, drew level with the long-standing ruling party in the second, then forced a third election in which the PDP wiped the floor with the PNM, no one was laughing then—not even Duke. This was serious business.

A party that did not exist until a few years ago, and which fielded mostly new faces, not recycled material, and which was led by… no one was sure—the Duke or Farley Augustine, the latter a man with the “lean and hungry look” that Shakespeare had warned about in the play, Julius Caesar.

When the inevitable implosion of the PDP came, it did not surprise old dogs of war and politics such as this columnist. In modern politics, the mere notion of a party owned and operated by one person is alien to the democracy we claim to be pursuing.

Interestingly, when Watson was whip-lashed by his own creation, he turned to Trinidadians, whom he had verbally abused in every which way, as he sought to “restore democracy” in Tobago.

What democracy? The Duke, who rules his realms with an iron fist, should have used the more applicable system of government he wants to install here and wherever else the gullible among the electorate will fall for his antics.

The word you are looking for, my dear Watson, is demagoguery, not democracy, although the latter is a virtual prerequisite, certainly an enabling environment that facilitates the emergence of the former. Readers should study its derivatives and their meanings and implications carefully.

This phenomenon poses the most ominous threat to civilisation as we know it today. It is global in its reach and comes packaged in coarse characteristics as well as the finest garments. Gender is no barrier to its insidious nature. It is unbelievably seductive. Beware.

Demagogue: “…a political leader in a democracy who gains popularity by arousing the common people against elites, especially through oratory that whips up passions of crowds against out-groups… exaggerating dangers to stoke fears… lying for emotional effect or other rhetoric that drowns out reasoned deliberation… arousing racial, religious and class prejudices…”

Who the cap fits…

2 thoughts on “Duke of democracy or demagoguery?”

  1. Duke never transitioned from union leader to politician. He figured he could use his unionized bullying tactic and remain an external enforcer and controller over THA. Farley is growing into his role and will be a strong leader over time. Duke realise he can’t bully Farley because Farley stood up to him. So like the cry baby he is, he runs to the media. In true PNM style destroy what you can’t control.

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