By Raffique Shah
August 10, 2013
I sense a wave of panic among leaders and frontline members of both the PNM and the UNC/COP Partnership. With Jack Warner on a roll following his by-election victory, and the UNC losing senior members like Lyndira Oudit to the newly formed ILP, a meeting of what can be best described as the ruling party’s general council pleaded with the Prime Minister to postpone local government elections for fear of another routing at the polls.
Which is quite a thing: it might be acceptable to postpone elections pending electoral or constitutional reform. But citing imminent defeat as a reason is akin to echoing Forbes Burnham’s battle cry that I often cite, “Back to back, belly to belly, we don’t give a damn, we done dead already!”
The COP seems to have resigned itself to being a footnote in the country’s political history. Wracked by leadership challenges, defections to the UNC and desertion by supporters who had once seen it as the embodiment of ethical politics, really an oxymoron, the COP is neither coming nor going. To quote one of this country’s foremost intellectuals ever, CLR James, the COP is neither revolutionary nor reactionary. It is stationary.
And the PNM, which has thrived on its enduring history, its pedigree and resilience, is in some measure of turmoil. During the era of Dr Eric Williams, not a damn dog dared to bark when the leader spoke, or more chillingly, when he maintained a stony silence. Today, every Louis, Penny and Harry challenges the leader at a time when the party should be closing ranks, fortifying the ramparts, and preparing itself to launch an assault to regain power.
In all of the above disarray, the Jack factor looms large. They are all crying, almost in unison: Beware! The Barbarian is at the gate!
Last week, I wrote that Jack has a potential shelf life of two years—unless he maintains the momentum he gained in Chaguanas West, riding the crest of a wave of success into the local elections, and possibly the general elections. But Jack can only go the distance if, by default, the others cede victory to him before the real war begins.
In two skirmishes thus far, Tobago and Chaguanas West, he has lost one and won the other. People seem to forget that on the eve of the THA elections last January, in which Warner played a key role promoting the TOP, he lost disastrously to the PNM, and more importantly, to the people of Tobago. On the eve of those elections, with the People’s Partnership heavy artillery pounding the PNM, Jack confidently said that the TOP would take 11 of the 12 districts.
Have people forgotten that? Admittedly, he was part of the charge of the People’s Partnership brigade that chose to launch a full frontal attack, employing little strategy and no tactics in the process. General Jack—well, he was a senior officer in the command structure—lost that crucial battle. In defeat, he and the People’s Partnership also lost two national constituencies.
He bounced back in the Chaguanas West battle, in which, as I argued last week, he all but wrote the script. Since the UNC had learnt nothing from its string of missteps and mistakes, from its vindictiveness that alienated hordes of people who would otherwise support the Partnership (“dem is a setta PNM dogs!”), Jack’s victory was predictable.
Now, basking in that glow, he is driving fear into the hearts of his opponents, which sends them in the panic mode. Whatever they may say to the contrary, one can almost feel their fear. I shall not be surprised if they cede the whole damn country to him before elections are constitutionally due.
As I wrote last week, Warner the politician was hand crafted by the UNC. More accurately, Basdeo Panday breathed political life into the FIFA overlord, lured by baubles, trinkets and junkets. And even as Warner planted the kiss of death on Panday, he was embraced by those who wrested the UNC from the old Bas. In fact, many of them who now hold high offices and who are mouthing off on Warner are beholden to him because in so many ways he, in turn, created them.
As the political climate heats up and fear runs rife in all parties, the spectre of Jack as Prime Minister looms large. And while I find that prospect unpalatable, really, I cannot be bothered, not at this stage of my life. People get the government they deserve. If the majority of citizens feel that Jack Warner is the answer to the country’s many problems, then go ahead and give him power.
I never depended on any politician, none, for my personal well-being or that of my family. I have seen relatives and friends dribble, swaying with the winds of what they thought was political change. All they got was exchange. They regretted their choices, but they repeated their mistakes.
Me? I cry for my country. But my country will never cry for me.