September 30, 2001
By Selwyn R. Cudjoe
AMAZING scenes were witnessed in T&T over the last two weeks: Panday apologises for his behaviour; Ramesh advances a new political programme; the President calls in the PM and the Leader of the Opposition to speak about the state of the nation and Ken Valley predicts PNM shall be the Government by December.
If this was not enough, the Gang of Four, reduced to Three Musketeers, escaped unscathed from Panday's clutches; Raoul John pushes the Elections and Boundaries Commission into new lows of partisanship; Roodal Moonilal, an upstart from nowhere, challenges Ramesh; and poor old Trevor continues to find his tongue. Suddenly, the PM seems vulnerable. His inability to account for $50,000 (US) could land him in jail. Unanan Persad, UNC treasurer, says "If the UNC were to conduct an investigation into this matter and it found out that there has been misconduct or wrongdoing by someone, then it could decide if it wanted to prosecute the individual". All these things suggest it is not always nice to call others out of their homes and to body search a man's wife. It is not the best way to win friends and influence people. Those who handle your money know where the dirty financial linen is strewn and that could prove to be an embarrassing situation.
When the Concerned Citizens marched to the President's House in January to present our petitions to the President many thought we were insane. Panday considered our reception improper, described our walk as illegal, and saw my Express article ("PNM's Big Failure," January 21) as setting the seeds for insurrection. Yet, we persisted. We followed through the initial action with three Red Days of Resistance to highlight our concerns about an errant government.
On that bleak January day when the entire police force camped on the Queen's Park Savannah to prevent us from expressing our views, we highlighted the following concerns: the EBC must go; corruption had blighted our land; and the Gypsy-Chaitan matter ought to be resolved expeditiously. Also, we needed to support the President for his courageous stand. Only he was taking a stand against the Uncivilised National Crooks. On Red Day of Resistance, Part II, we demanded that the Gypsy-Chaitan matter be concluded by December 11, 2001. Now, we are told the delay resides in our own courts, that the matter ought to be resolved in the here and the now which is one reason why the President summoned Messrs Panday and Manning to his residence.
Ten months after the last election, our claims have been vindicated. In his arrogance and stupidity, John demonstrated why he should not be a member of the EBC. He does not know that the EBC and its members must always be above suspicion. Any time a segment of the population loses confidence in any member of that body, then s/he has no alternative but to step aside. Concerned Citizens, representing a substantial part of the population, signalled that we had no faith in the EBC more than eight months ago. We believed then, as we believe now, the election of 2000 was stolen; the election was not carried out freely and fairly; and EBC's advice to citizens (anyone on the voters list can vote) was misleading. As such, it delegitimised the results of the elections and compromised our democracy.
In spite of his misgivings, the President swore in Panday. He cautioned: "although the elective process is not yet complete, I appoint you Prime Minister." Necessarily, the obverse of that condition obtained: when the process was/is completed the President would act as Section 76 (1) of the Constitution directed. The President's interpretation of this section of the Constitution must be rattling to Panday; energising to Manning; and emboldening to Ramesh. Ramesh, it seems, holds the legendary sword of Damocles over Panday's head. He can drop it at any moment.
In this sense, the Express's editorial position that "a government installed by court ruling would be a hard pill for many to swallow" (September 28) needs to be tempered. When the US Supreme Court stopped the vote count in Florida it merely asserted that the law should be followed. When the Florida Secretary of State decided that Bush had won the state of Florida, few persons presumed that the court had elected Bush. They understood the distinction between a court ruling and the voting process.
In our case, the UNC is a victim of its own undemocratic processes. As such, there is no reason why the PNM should indulge the UNC and opt for an election when it could benefit from UNC's disarray. Manning committed an egregious political mistake when he called an unscheduled election and lost. Under the present circumstances, he will not be forgiven if he calls for a vote of no confidence and wins. By now, he should have learned to leave bad enough alone.
All of a sudden, Ramesh, Ralph and Trevor realise that corruption is rampant and the parasitical oligarchy is stealing the people blind. The biggest financial contributors to their party are the biggest rip-off artists of the national wealth. What is worse, they invest our hard-earned cash abroad. Although I am one of Ramesh's most persistent critics, I am pleased that he has come to see corruption as a serious indictment against his party and his government. A formidable opponent, it is better that he is with us than against us. It is good to know that they have caught up with us as we protest the uncivilised nature of the crooks.
Concerned Citizens have been vindicated by the events of the past two weeks. Even if it were not so, citizens must always insist on the right to be wrong if it means taking a chance to stand up for what is right. It is even better to make a stand when victory is uncertain and only inner conviction girds one for battle. Sooner or later the power of that truth catches up with the politicians. Although they may not realise it, it is always the concerns of conscientious citizens that set the nation's political agenda.
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