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Apocalyptic Warnings

March 10, 2006
By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe

Of late, Dr. Bhoe Tewarie has had many things to say about the politics of our society and, as per usual, has rendered his apocalyptic warnings. Sometime ago he talked about ours being a failing state or was it failed state? Reggie Dumas put that bit of non-sense to rest. More recently, he has averred that there is little hope for the country in conventional politics because "thinking does not matter here." He asked, "Where are the people in this country who believe in something?" ("Fire More than Water, TG, February 26). I suspect that he places himself in the category of those persons who think; is among the non-corrupt; and believes in a few sacred principles.

For purposes of this article, I will forget the role the university--over which he has reigned for five years--needs to play in the society and the Port of Spain fire and deal with the "sorry state of the politics" in the country as he has termed it, and the recent UNC rally at Mid-City Mall. I will zero in on the first point by talking about the second. However, truth demands that Dr. Tewarie declared his culpability and non-neutrality. He was a colleague of Winston Dookeran during NAR's reign and, as Mr. Panday noted at the rally, he stuck with Dookeran when they [he, Dookeran and others] betrayed Panday. Also, Newad Tewarie, Beau's son, is Dookeram's PR man. Dr. Tewarie is not as neutral or as independent as he pretends to be. He is an interested party in this debate.

Precisely because I like the politics of the country I journeyed to Mid Centre Mall on Sunday, February 19 to hear what UNC had to offer. I remained from the beginning to the end. The presentations had little to do with the truth. It was political theatre at its best. If one likes political drama, this was the place to be. Would Dookeran appear; what would Ramesh say; and how would Panday handle it all? Incidentally, Panday played his part like the master politician and dramatist he is.

So that when Kamla shouted that Professor Selwyn Cudjoe had not filled out his Integrity Form and the crowd shouted "Look he dey!" and a few persons held up my hand in the air, it did not matter that it was a lie. It was all in good fun. It did not even matter that Sadiq Basch only cited the part of Vernon Paul story that fitted his ends. He could not be bothered that Paul's prior statement contradicted everything he has said previously or that US Embassy noted that Vernon never worked for the DEA.

But I did not go to Mid City Mall for the truth. I went there for political theatre and I got it.

So that when Dookeran came to the podium, things were going nice. As one would say in the theatre, "things were moving to a climax." UNC was on a roll. And then Winston started to go contrary. Members of the UNC were wearing blue shirts, as agreed by the Executive Committee, Dookeran had on a mauve shirt. Despite his difference with Dookeran, when Ramesh delivered his speech, he duly recognized Dookeran as the chairman of the party. When Dookeran took the podium, he did not even mention Ramesh's name; an insult that was palpably. Unity and discipline were the themes of the rally, Dookeran launched into a talk about "one leader and one party." He wanted the party to reconsider Robin Montano and Roy Augustus's dismissal as senators. His was not only a discordant note; he was clearly out of tune and out of time.

The point is not whether Dookeran was right or wrong; whether his speech was brilliant or not; or, whether as Tewarie proclaims: "there is a divide between the leaders who divide our people and the people who support divisive leaders." The question was really one of timing and judgment. It was the wrong speech given on the wrong occasion and the listeners (his followers!!) showed their disapproval by booing their "leader." What a calamity! Have you ever heard, in any circumstance, party followers booing their leaders?

The leader of a party never speaks second to last. There is no way in world that Patrick Solomon could have spoken after Eric Williams or Keith Rowley after Patrick Manning. So that when the members of the audience began to boo Dookeran, they knew he was off-key and literally out of place. Had he known his politics or controlled his party, he would have demanded that he had the last word. Panday saw to it that he did not. More importantly, for a leader to go in a contrary direction when all of the other speakers were playing to the crowd, reading from their scripts-not one speaker was without a script-and bent on making a case for integrity and transparency, Dookeran's behavior was tantamount to political betrayal. Dookeran fell too easily into Panday's trap.

Dookeran knows very little about politics, interaction with an audience, and the appropriate things to say and/or do on any given political occasion. No one expects the PM or the President to jump up in Poison's band on carnival day in a jacket and tie, no matter how expense his suit might be, when every woman in the band is wearing a thong and painted breasts. President Max Richards could tell Dookeran a few things about these matters.

And this brings us to what real politics is about, something that Panday understands better than Tewarie, Dookeran and all of his adversaries. In Party Politics in the West Indies, C. L. R. James makes a subtle observation. He says that in politics, "You always have to watch what the people do, and not what you think they ought to do." You do not look only at what the leaders say; you look at how the people respond to what they say. In Thoughts on the Cause of Present Discontents, Edmund Burke puts it best when he said: "The temper of the people amongst whom he presides ought therefore to be the first study of a Statesman. And the knowledge of this temper is by no means impossible for him to attain, if he has not an interest in being ignorant of what it is his duty to learn."

Burke also made another important observation about the relationship between leaders and their people. He said "the people have no interest in disorder. When they do wrong, it is their error, and not their crime." It is quite different with the State which may act ill "by design as well as by mistake." However, whenever there is a conflict between the people and their leaders "it is more easy to change an administration than to reform a people." In other words, Leaders are dispensable; people are not. This is the lesson that Dookeran and Tewarie need to ponder.

Now, if Dr. Tewarie is a thinking man as he says he is, he would realize that one can preach from Peter to Paul, the only way for our politics to change is to understand how our politics works, how our people behave, and how one gets them to act in their own best interest. Fidel Castro once announced: "Inside the party everything; outside nothing." Both Ramesh and Wendell Mottley realized this to their dismay and political downfall. That is why Ramesh, tendered his apologies, re-submitted his application to the UNC, and jumped back onto the bandwagon.

There are many conclusions that any thinking person can draw from what took place at Mid City Mall. I drew the following conclusions:

Winston Dookeran committed political suicide. The only question is when will he be laid to rest;

Ramesh was resurrected from the political dead. The only question is when would he ascend to the political throne.

In the not-too-distant future, Ramesh shall ascend to the political throne. Not because he is the necessarily the smartest politician in the UNC but because he has a determination to win; the stick-to-itness to persevere; the ruthlessness to assail his enemies; and the intelligence/cunning to determine and follow how the wind is blowing.

It is easy to pontificate from on high and offer doomsday scenarios. Whether one likes Manning or Panday, as trustees of power, they are out there everyday trying to change Trinidad and Tobago according to their visions of the world.

Burke said: "Men are wise with but little reflection, and good with little self-denial, in the business of all times except their own." Might it not be wise for Dr. Tewarie to ponder the inability of his university to point "the way through commentary, analysis and perspective…and provide guidance in the national debate" rather than seeking to condemn conventional politics and its failing. Perhaps he knows a better way to achieve these goals which he has not transmitted to his university or the national community.

We await his words of wisdom and perspicacity.

Professor Cudjoe's email address is

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