Tuesday, July 23, 2013


My father always used to tell me when I was a teenager, often with a wry grin when I confessed to missing an opportunity to getting a kiss from a girl, "opportunities lost never return". And he was so right (and not just about the girls either)!  A lost opportunity never does return. I suppose that's something similar to the ancient Romans' admonition 'carpe diem' ('sieze the day').

I have been thinking about my father's saying as the by-election date for the Chaguanas West (CW) seat looms (5 days and counting from the date of this post). For the very first time in our modern political history the country has an opportunity to turn away from the traditional racial voting and trying something "new" (and I put that word deliberately in inverted commas). The PNM has always been openly, if not blatantly, racial. If you aren't African do not expect to get very far in that Party... certainly, you will never be the leader. The best that you can hope for is that you can become very attractive "window dressing" to give the illusion of inclusiveness. And if you happen to be non-black but very, very bright, you can only become quite powerful if you allign yourself to the right African and never, ever be a threat to him. (Do you remember Lenny Saith?)

As for the UNC, well under Basdeo Panday it made a serious effort to move to the centre and be "all inclusive". It's predecessor, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) was a right wing Hindu party where only Hindus needed to apply. Panday, to his great credit, was much more secular and pragmatic in his thinking and was able to take the UNC into the corridors of power by being centrist and "all inclusive".

Which brings us down to today. The present leaders of the UNC certainly held themselves out to be "all inclusive" in the Panday mode, although long before the trouble with Jack Warner reared it's head we were hearing stories that the Party had veered to the right and was becoming quite "Hindu-centric". But since the by-election was announced, the gloves have come off and all pretence about being a national and a nationalist political organisation has been dropped. Just about every single person in the top brass of the UNC from Prime Minister Persad Bissessar on down has come out and preached a line that sounds dangerously close to saying to the people 'vote race'. The electorate in CW has been told in so many words that if they were to vote for Jack Warner that will be a vote for the PNM. To which any reasonable observer can only say "huh?" How that could be is not explained. Then you have people like Minister Roodal Moonilal saying things like "they" don't want Indians to drive Range Rovers, BMW's and other fancy cars, but "they" want the Indians to go back to riding in a cart pulled by a bison! Again, the reasonable observer has to ask "what?" Who the heck are "they" that do not want to see Indians getting ahead and driving fancy cars? The innuendo that I got was that "they" were anybody who was not a Hindu Indian. I will freely admit that I could be wrong, but that is what it sounded like to me!

And here is where the opportunity for the country is rearing it's head. If Jack Warner was to win in next Monday's by-election it will send a very loud signal ... an almost earth shattering one ... that the old way of thinking is well and truly dead. No longer can politicians come to us and say 'vote for me because I am African/Indian'. Now they are going to have to come and say 'vote for me because I can and will perform!'

Jack Warner has miles to go before he can sleep soundly. His new born Independent Liberal Party (ILP) still has to be put on a proper footing and be properly organised ... and no doubt the indefatigable Warner will turn his considerable energies and talents to doing just that in the weeks ahead after the election ... but he has to win his seat first. I am on record in this blog as predicting that he will do just that. Having listened carefully to all of the candidates (including those like Ishmael Samad who will lose his deposit) it is clear that only Mr. Warner has approached the electorate with a modern 21st century mindset. Mr. Warner has basically said "look, I am a performer. When I was your MP I performed and delivered those services that you required. Further, when serious allegations were made against me (all of which I deny) I resigned my seat to give you the opportunity to decide whether or not you still wanted me to represent you in the Parliament of our country'. (It is noteworthy that nobody else in our short history has ever done this!) The PNM candidate has been a total waste of time. If he has any ideas on how to make things better for his proposed constituents they haven't been reported and he has done nothing to get those ideas out into the public domain. Certainly, when he went on breakfast television about a week ago all he did was mouth meaningless platitudes. Ms. Khadija Ameen has also been a disappointment. There has been no meaningful debate on the issues facing the constituency, nor has she articulated clearly why she would be a better representative than Mr. Warner other than the fact that she wears the yellow jersey of the UNC. Again, when she has appeared on television her pronouncements have been vacuous and full of meaningless platitudes.

Mr. Warner is changing the politics of this country for what can only be the better. If the electors of CW do not re-elect him and vote tribe instead the message that the whole country will get will be obvious and most detrimental to our long term political good health. It will be an opportunity lost!

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