Maccoes, not spies

By Raffique Shah
April 02, 2024

Raffique ShahEvery time I watch or listen to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley deliver an address or a contribution to some pre-election forum, I sigh, shake my head, and think: what wasted words.

I have watched Dr Rowley develop over the past 25 years or so, from a bar-room brawler poli­tician to a formidable spokesperson who has earned his place as the leader of his party. He struck me as being bright when after joining Patrick Manning in opposition in the ’90s he went on to become a frontline speaker who helped resurrect the party.

His delivery style remains rough at the edges at times, but you need such people at the helm of politics in this country: if they weren’t there, we’d have to invent them and maybe it’s the scientist in him that guides him to keep his audience well informed on any subject he addresses.

Why am I sounding as though I’m campaigning for the PNM and a Rowley diehard? Truth be told, I am neither one nor the other. I have never joined the PNM nor any political party other than the ULF in 1975/76. When that party imploded, I chose to be an independent commentator and writer with a deep interest in the future of my country.

Now, I shall be disappointed if every UNC or other opposition supporter laughs out loudly, shouting, “Who he think he could fool? Shah is ah old PNM dawg.” I have grown accustomed to such misleading perceptions, and I am independent to the point where I can speak or write anything I wish and stand by it.

But I digress: I was getting into Rowley’s very informed addresses and discourses with the public. Most leaders and top politicians lecture to their audiences, few open themselves to questions that are not vetted by ­party officials.

Rowley has reached this latter point in his career where he feels confident in engaging the public in any type of discussion. Where the law curtails discussion on a subject that is sub judice, he skilfully puts the conversation back on legal track, mostly without offending the person who asked.

Last Tuesday, for example, he could not avoid issues pertaining to the SSA, which is under active investigation by several arms of the Government. The public has been given sufficient information that is inaccurate to blend with facts that are irrefutable to kick up an unholy storm.

I have tried to stay abreast of the issue and I find it unacceptable that any government could allow these so-called spy agencies to be fast and loose with matters pertaining to national security. It seems, though, people just love to hear the word “spy”, moreso when members or agents of these bodies talk nonsense about assassination squads and other such tripe.

The PM may not have had any hand in the formation and/or staffing of this SSA, or whatever letters of the alphabet it chooses to sound more mysterious than it is. I do not understand how such persons can reach that far or high in agencies like this one. Then again, I am an old hand at this spying business; from my youthful days as a revolutionary and activist, I grew accustomed to being “spied” upon by so-called agents of the Special Branch and several other agencies that existed in my time.

I don’t know that they ever unearthed where I hid bails of guns and tonnes of ammunition that they claimed I had brought into this country. They never found anything, of course, that was worthy even of comment, much less investigation.

Many people who are mere “informers” or “informants”, otherwise referred to as maccoes, see themselves as big-shot spies, especially when some stupid police officer posts them reading a newspaper behind dark glasses, standing partly hidden in some bar or roti shop.

If anyone in Rowley’s Cabinet or public office influenced the PM to, in any way, sanction an organisation like the SSA, and the PM “bought” it lock, stock and barrel, then Rowley deserves to be ridiculed by the public for calling for such crap. I shan’t be surprised if all of this is the work of some two-bit political wannabe who wants to parachute into the next election race that is due within a year.

None of the negatives I have referred to above takes away from where I started this column on the quality of speeches that the PM delivers. He speaks fluently on oil, gas and other business ventures that we must get ­involved in.

He handles our external affairs, especially relations with Caricom countries, with finesse. If citizens would just throw the politics aside and consider attending some of the public forums where they can ask questions, they would be better informed than they were under any previous regime.