IF WE did not know former prime minister Basdeo Panday as well as we do, we would have expected him to insist on Team Unity’s democratic right to hold any legal meeting wherever it wished and to reprimand the members of the union he used to lead who sought to prevent it from doing so.
Instead, true to form, he turned his guns on his Team Unity “enemies” accusing them of “provoking the workers” when all they had been guilty of was going to speak to sugar workers in the wake of the Manning administration’s claim that, in the absence of Parliament being convened, it would not have been possible to pay Caroni’s 10,000 employees after this month.
The leader of the union, Rudranath Indarsingh, and his executive took affront at the meeting charging Team Unity with “only using sugar workers as tools. Having failed at national politics, he is intent on championing the cause of sugar workers. They have been rejected and today we don’t want to hear them.”
The “he” referred to was Team Unity leader, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, and it may well have been he and his political comrades were, indeed, seeking to win support from disgruntled sugar workers with their charge that the rural-based UNC had not done all it could to secure the future of the sugar workers who, for so long, had been key to the UNC’s political fortunes.
That charge has been made by other commentators but its validity is not the issue here.
Instead, the national community should be alarmed by the thuggery to which the union’s executive and some of its members resorted to in their effort to prevent Team Unity spokesmen from getting a hearing.
Having been jostled out of the building, the union demonstrators, who outnumbered Team Unity supporters by three to one, set up a parallel public meeting outside the Balmain Community Centre and, not content with that, pounded at the locked doors, their voices drowning out the speakers meeting inside.
Police called for back up three times and it is, perhaps, only their presence that prevented a descent into actual physical violence. Days before the meeting there had been reports that exactly this kind of reaction was being signalled. It is clear, therefore, that this was a calculated attempt to silence Team Unity by the use of force.
In the present unsettled political climate, that was a dangerous road on which to embark. We are sadly mindful that, during the election campaign, Mr Panday wondered aloud whether his Team Unity detractors planned to “live in the sky”.
We warned then that the then prime minister was guilty of sending a dangerous signal if only because among his supporters, there might be those who would take literally, his rhetorical flight, into metaphor. We can only hope that, even at this stage, Mr Panday will use his considerable influence to ensure his hysterical supporters in the sugar union draw back from the precipice from which they seem so eager to plunge.
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