Racism—last refuge of a scoundrel

By Raffique Shah
September 09, 2019

Raffique ShahWhat possessed United National Congress leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to unleash a loose cannon in the form of ex-soldier Carlton Dennie on an unsuspecting audience of party faithful a few Monday nights ago, we may never know.

Surely she could not have known beforehand that the corporal, who had somehow been elevated to head the intelligence arm of the Strategic Services Agency, was about to cast a giant-but-crooked shadow over her beleaguered UNC that seems to be locked in battle with the incumbent People’s National Movement to lose the next general election.

If she did know that his intention was to tell tall and damaging lies that would boomerang and hurt her party more severely than Vermella Alleyne-Toppin’s sordid sex-and-lies tales back in 2015 on the eve of election, then the lady must be a masochist of Marquis de Sade proportions.

In fact, if it turns out she had prior knowledge of Dennie’s devilish plot to paint Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley as a rabid racist, and further, that it would backfire against the UNC, then party members and supporters should consider charging her with high treason, to wit, plotting to sabotage her own party.

Anyone with a modicum of common sense, not to add legal training and self-draped silk, will have told Dennie, on hearing his tall tale about Rowley ordering him “to fire all Indians in the SSA”, that he was spewing untreated sewage. Unless the seemingly unintelligent ex-intelligence chief had recorded evidence to support his outrageous allegations, he would embarrass the UNC if not himself when the PM sought to clear his name, as was to be expected.

In other words, Kamla should have chased Dennie from the UNC meeting rather than embrace him and give him platform space and prime time to talk “tatah”.

But groping for anything that could give her an edge to win another term of office as prime minister, she swallowed the lie, unmindful of my amendment to celebrated English man of letters Samuel Johnson’s dictum of 1775, “race is the last refuge of a scoundrel”.

Within hours of making his highly seditious statements, the targets he had sprayed with rubber bullets returned fire with heavy artillery, branding the corporal a “pathological liar”. The Express banner headline the following day, “Liar, Liar”, summed up what most people will have felt about the spurious allegations. Just when Dennie thought he had sealed a safe UNC seat for himself in the next general election, he was instead skating on his backside.

He hurriedly distanced himself from his own statements, saying that he had never received the “fire all Indians” directives from PM Rowley or one-time national security minister General Edmund Dillon. Having thumped his chest in front of a cheering partisan crowd, and crowed about standing up to the powerful duo, he changed his tune and beat, tucked his tail between his legs, and fired a few pellets from his rear at his ex-boss, Matthew Andrews, who also denied the race-charges, and has threatened to sue him for defamation.

Indeed, all three accused pointed out that the ex-corporal never had the authority to hire or fire any SSA personnel. Further, they accused Dennie of having committed breaches of his terms of employment, hence his termination from the job.

Now, most people who followed Dennie’s 48-hour saga, his obvious craving for the limelight that backfired almost before he squeezed the trigger, will have dismissed the episode as a Kamla misadventure, yet another attempt by her to inject race into the elections campaigns that will intensify over the next 18 months of campaigning.

Having lost traction in a war in which she made a strategic error of subjecting her troops to battle fatigue from Monday night meetings that have grown stale, she is clutching at straws in a bid to remain relevant. Meanwhile, for all its trumpeting of having stabilised the economy and managed the country’s affairs prudently, the PNM remains very vulnerable since such achievements are intangibles.

What citizens see are miles of pot-holed roads, thousands of dry taps (matters not that there is little rain to replenish the reservoirs), an expanding army of unemployed workers, and most of all a feeling of stagnation. Nothing seems to be happening by way of governance.

In such a bleak political landscape, neither the PNM nor the UNC is seen as a first choice. They are both hanging in there hoping that no mass movement materialises to sweep them aside the way the National Alliance for Reconstruction did in the 1986 general election. Thus far, both main parties have held on to their core supporters and hope the swing voters in the marginal constituencies will take them into office.

But a few more Dennies on Kamla’s platforms will damage the UNC’s already sullied image beyond repair. In fact, as unintelligent as corporal Carlton may appear to be, what is to say he might not be an agent provocateur planted in the opposition party to play the race card in such manner that it erodes some of the party’s existing base ?

The swing voters, who are seen as intelligent persons, not blind party fanatics, are turned off by “race” more than any other factor.

If I were in the shoes of UNC strategists, I would put Dennie under the microscope. I would invoke the wisdom of another fabled man of letters, Aesop, using Agouti’s famous line (before he lost his tail): “There is a traitor on board! Examine the horns!”

10 Responses to “Racism—last refuge of a scoundrel”


  • My understanding is 22 Indian officers out of a contingent of 75 SSA officers were fired. The then minister of national security said he did not trust them.

    Is it racism to speak the truth and to expose racist acts? It is a fact that this is the modus operandi of the PNM. When Eric died Kamal or Errol found out the truth about that party. They were well established ministers with a proven track record of hard work and vision. Yet they could not assume the role of Prime Minister. Chambers a virtual unknown was chosen.

    The PNM as a party operates under a cultish demeanour. Development today is only in PNM areas. The drains, rivers, roads are not cleared or fixed in the Opposition areas. Flooding and the Prime Minister shows up after a long while looks and drive off. Money due to those people denied.

    As for SSA, Dennie is speaking the truth, just some people can’t handle it!

    • Shah you joking right. Every single human being in Trinidad and Tobago knows that race is in everything we say or do. Who you are fooling or is it you believe you can win over the white collar liars that influence your salary? I am extremely muxed despite my name and I know Basie who knows you so dont try that. And I caution you your sins follow you to yoye grave unless you turn and atone for them and yes I cannot judge you for we all fall short before the good and peaceful Lord. But Mr Shah that said we have in Trinidad to atone for our sins of discrimination and victimization as in both the PNM and UNC where string pulling and race and loyality play off in rhe highest order by the masons or otherwise. Thats where the fight should be. They are the real government of Trinidad and Tobago, we are just plain pawns that are dispensible at will even like Marlene. So we need to understand this very carefully and be on rhe same page to progress not otherwise or we all lose like un our cricket or soccer youths. Canada by contrasts has won the NBA and the USA tennis super tournament. This is not a feat win by guess.

  • Mamoo, what was the real reason for the alleged dismissals, trust or race? Could a certain Governor of the Central Bank be trusted?

    Do you really think that most people do not see the UNC as a racist party also? Where have all the negroes gone? Jack, Gypsy, George, Marlene, Mc Leod, St. Rose, Toppin, Roberts to name a few, and that is just after five years.

    It is as wide as it is long, my brother.

  • The mission of the PNM is to further the interests of the African population. The controlling establishment of the PNM operates under the philosophy that T&T is primarily an Afro-Caribbean country which must have as an urgent priority the domination of Afro culture, music, arts, religion, language and most of all PNM governmental control.
    Similarly,the UNC is continuously competing for a space in the nation to express and perpetuate their narrow interest.
    The result is the obvious friction between the two.It has become a struggle for superiority and control. As long as this competition continues, no progress will be made in a nation riddled with corruption at every level.

    • “The mission of the PNM is to further the interests of the African population.”

      We have UNC spokespeople, including Anil Roberts, campaigning to the African community claiming that the PNM has done, and is doing, nothing for them. Then, we have the likes of you claiming that the mission of the PNM is to further the interest of Africans. Politics makes a rather confusing bunch of activists.

  • Although it is unclear who suggested the purge of Indians from the SSA does not mean that this action was not ordered, recommended or whispered through the organization
    To conclude that Dennie is a liar based on denials from the PM and others in authority is premature.
    Rowley has demonstrated by his actions that he is not a racist, but others within government organizations and institutions feel emboldened by a sense of Afro dominance whenever there is a PNM victory. Indians have been flushed out before from government organizations. No one should be surprised by this course of action. No one within the SSA or the government will admit to this travesty, but one cannot argue against the evidence-over 22 Indian officers fired,30% of the workforce.

  • As someone who is away from T&T for so many years, I always enjoy reading your article. Cause you tell it as it is Mr Shah

    • Mr.Raffique Shah won the seat of Siparia in the House of Representatives in 1976. Siparia is considered an Indian safe seat,DLP,ULF,UNC.It was good for Shah then.Mr Raffique Shah undermined Basdeo Panday and tried to take over leadership of the ULF,and failed..just like Lt. Raffique Shah did in the 1970 Army mutiny.

  • Trinidad would have been better without the PNM.
    (1) 3 massive oil booms with over 40 years out of 57 years since independence they stole, squandered the national patrimony.
    (2) They promote racism which was not necessary on such a small island at one time 80% of government housing, jobs, and monetary funding went to their supporters.
    (3) The PNM does not have a national vision. Their only vision is to pillage the treasury, whilst increasing taxes, and pressuring the citizenry. We were all horrified when 7 fishermen lost their lives on the seas. The coast guard was asleep and the PM office did not sought in anyway to address their concern. A typical PNM response to anything that happens in Opposition areas.
    (4) This PNM has done everything to destroy the nation, over 30,000 job loss in 4 years, increased taxes on everything, mismanaged the economy by destroying the energy sector, increased the price of gas 3x, done nothing meaningful to stop crime, murders have increased and continue to increase, they have drawn down the massive savings left in the heritage fund, if you are traveling abroad not much foreign exchange….

    Yes folks TnT would have been better without the blights in charge. Who will be out in their numbers seeking your vote to empty the heritage fund.

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