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Deciphering The Electorate's Coded Message
Posted: Friday, May 31, 2002

by Stephen Kangal

It is compellingly critical for all Trinbagonians to achieve some consensus on the way forward having regard to the powerful verdict which this sagacious and enigmatic T&T electorate delivered on Dec.10. Those who subscribe to the conventional wisdom that the results merely reflect exclusively the post-1956 historical racial polarisation and the deep ethnic cleavages/divisions that continue to permeate rainbow T&T, are indulging in an outmoded over-simplification of the analysis. This December 10 grid-lock is qualitatively different and unique. In my Newsday letter of 31 October (pg.6) I alerted to the symptoms of these emerging qualitative changes which are progressively manifesting themselves in the various strands of our nascent political culture.

I am convinced that the T&T electorate, beginning with 1986, moves in mysterious ways its wonders to behold. To my mind this December 18-18 tie that is deliberately misunderstood and subjectively misrepresented by ethnic polarisation thesis arises from a synoptic view which focuses exclusively on the tip of the proverbial political iceberg. The more important underlying verdict of the electorate must be unscrambled.

If anything I believe that some political parties ensnared by their leaders continue to misinform their faithfuls by distorting the verdict of the electorate geared to promote and enhance their unfettered lust for power and the trappings of high office. They substitute and parade their personal and group agenda for the national good, constitutionality and political legitimacy. This trend can lead us down the road to anarchy and chaos if civil society does not evolve a collective interventionist response mechanism geared to insulate and safeguard the national patrimony from the bankruptcy of vision as well as from the clutches of the contemporary cadre of politicians.

Contrary to the prevailing view the electorate has delivered an unequivocal message- Do not return to me prematurely as you did in 1995 and 2001 or else I will continue to severely reprimand you. Where are all your vaunted claims to leadership, statesmanship, patriotism, inclusion, national unity, leaving no one behind, the big tent strategy?

When looked at holistically the December 10 results have had the effects of marginalising and neutralizing charismatic leaders politically. They are now an endangered species engaged in a turf war. The results have negatively reinforced authoritarianism, undemocratic one-manship, demagogic gyrations and the supremacy of money power over people?s power. We are now witnessing the inevitable marginalisation of the old political dynasty after having sheepishly become spontaneous victims of their own delusions of grandeur and indispensability. Since December 11, the chelas (devotees) have now achieved parity with the political gurus (pundits). The proverbial curtain at the political shrine has been rent asunder.

This is the age of a new, emerging political nirvana in T&T. The pseudo-racial polarisation has an enigmatic positive message: that recognition of the racial plurality of rainbow T&T must constitute the fundamental underpinnings of good and stable governance representative of all constituencies. That is to say, that all interests and sectors of this rainbow amalgam must be factored into the new janaam (paradigm shift) and transcend the historical urban-rural and ethnic dichotomies. One ignores this dictat to one?s peril.

What continues to confuse me is that irrespective of 55% of the electorate being opposed to power sharing arrangements it has signaled nevertheless that the PNM governance of the 60?s and 70?s premised on the penchant for the exploitation of the urban-rural and ethnic divides is to be dismantled and consigned to the La Basse. The electorate has by a process of continuous self-renewal now prescribed integrative, participatory governance on the basis of which all the stakeholders must be equitable beneficiaries of the rewards and resources of the state.

This 18-18 hung Parliament should not surprise anyone. It is the culmination of the new political dynamics spawned by the NAR in 1986. Political parties, of which there is sadly only one and a half constitutionally- organised and administered in T&T, have obviously not done their home-work. The present scenario is not a prescription for political disaster or constitutional Armageddon. This self-imposed political dilemma reflects our own individual political immaturity. In my view the tie represents the hand and will of the Divine who incidentally is a Trini since calling Him/Her is a local call. Bhagwan, Allah or refer to Him what you will, provided intonations of a hung Parliament since 1995. This Divine- dictat just upsets the agenda of those who are set on the path to perpetuate the political anachronisms of a twilight era (kalyoog) that is being discarded. The old political order is changing and yielding place to a new era (Satyoog or Janaam).

This electorate has telegraphed that it is disenchanted with political manipulators, rented crowds and other manifestations of cosmetic panderings and externalities. A December 10 election campaign fueled and driven by "a money is no problem", bottomless budget in excess of an alleged $200m excluding the $41m ETP subsidy suffered from the ineluctable laws of diminishing returns. In October 4 last, the cry was back to the polls when it was quite evident that the electorate had changed course via the actions of 3 elected ministers or musketeers.

From reading the opinions of Oxford Professor Bogdanor it was legally permissible in October to reject the advice for dissolution of Parliament issued by a minority Government and for The President to request the then Leader of the Opposition to form a Government. In 2002 the refrain is also back to the polls ad infinitum although the electorate spoke and spoke unambiguously and expectedly on December 10.The electorate will not change its verdict although some believe an obscene, bottomless election campaign budget can hijack the democratic machinery and tilt the equal scales their way.

This electorate displays an enigmatic dynamics of its own. More than 75% agreed that corruption was the biggest electoral issue but the entity tainted with the brush of alleged state corruption still received 279,000 of the popular vote. The contradictions never seem to end. A T&T society which is regimented on the rule of law looks the other way when the Crowne Plaza Accord which was forged in the public domain geared to safeguard the national interest in the face of the most compelling and unique political circumstances is unilaterally broken. It is declared null and void on very specious and tenuous grounds. This action results in a large-scale gravitation of previously sitting- on the- fence support to the reneging/delinquent party. This is double standards par excellence.

I conclude that those self- proclaimed mighty political colossi who strode the rolling, verdant plains of Caroni and the piedmont plains, hills and dales of the East- West Corridor inculcating images of Rama( if there is a Sita there must be ) and the Messiah( if there is a Judas there must be one according to the Gospel of Ralph Maraj) are in a quandary to decode the message delivered by the electorate, have become prematurely dwarfed and are in the throes of a dilemma the result of growing painful political obsolescence.

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