April 05, 2002
By Raffique Shah
THERE will be no violent confrontation in Port of Spain at today's attempt to hold the first sitting of the new Parliament-and I'll tell you why. Or before I do that, let me explain how exasperated I became answering questions from just about every Joe-on-the-junction, meaning almost everyone I met everywhere over the past few weeks. It got particularly bad (for me, that is) over the past few days as I was besieged by those who felt I must have "inside information" about what will happen in the House today. In fact, when I couldn't deliver the required predictions a la Yesenia Gonzales, some people went so far as to accuse me of being part of some "lodge" that all politicians must join, while others simply cussed me upside down.
I tell you, it's tough being an ex-politician in this town. And when you combine this with being a no-holds-barred writer as well, one who fears no politician, living or dead (preferably the latter, now that I'm getting older), bacchanalian Trinis believe you must know everything that's happening. Truth is I have no idea what's going to happen in the House. Seems to me that unless one UNC MP is prepared to break ranks and vote for a Speaker, or one PNM member defects to the UNC to help Basdeo Panday decide which of his 5,000 candidates for the position is suitable, we shall witness the "jackass parade" of the new millennium.
Really, it's a pity ex-Speaker Rupert Griffith unilaterally decided to prevent live broadcast of the "show". How could he deny Trinis this treat, ban us from seeing our elected representatives behave like baboons? And to top it off, Police Commissioner Hilton Guy has prohibited people from gathering in parts of the city, going so far as to lock down Woodford Square for the first time since 1970. Griffith and Guy must know that we are not in Ramallah or Bethlehem, that most of our political "terrorists" are armed only with personal non-weapons that are largely non-functional.
Oh, they will shoot off their mouths, and if the sitting goes beyond two meals, the Chamber is sure to reek with the stench of another kind of fire-from the rear. But they will not go beyond that boundary, of that I am certain. The worst-case scenario might go like this. Panday: "I beg to nominate Mr Jack Warner for Speaker!" Adesh Nanan: "I begs to fecund that." Jack (if they could persuade him to be there): "Yuh see me, I interested in ch-ch-cheer, not c-ch-chair. And dese days Issa Hayatou have me thinking about the electric ch-ch-chair!" Clerk of the House: "All those in favour of Mr Warner, say 'aye'." Warner: "No-o-oo! Not me!"
Of course, if Manning were smart, he'd have the Parliament staff serve red-hot doubles for tea, dinner, and late-night snack (but warn his own members to walk with bake, buljol and a certain brand of mints). That way, before nightfall, a few UNC MPs will need to rush to the toilet-which is when the PNM could nominate Fuad Khan, the only politician who believes he has a conscience, and vote him in-without his own vote! Or, the Prime Minister could take the UNC sprinters on a marathon run, hoping that some malfunctioning "tickers" act up (or cease ticking) under the stress, and then have his say and his way.
But all of that is pure speculation. And jest. The Red House won't be on fire today, and if there is heat in the Chamber, it would emanate from the mouths of mimic men (and women) who are convinced that this overcrowded barracoon is their free state (apologies, Sir Vidia). As for the prospect of a band of wild Indians storming the city at the behest of Bas, forget it. While some of them may behave in a wild manner at times, Indians in this country are no fools. Like their Afro-counterparts from Laventille and Morvant, indeed, like most Trinis, they 'fraid police and guns and lock-up. Hey, I speak as one with more than 30 years experience in protest action in all forms, and I know how jittery my people get if they believe the police would intervene. If, in the midst of fighting for "the cause" they hear a "caps gun" go off, you'd see them take off so quickly, you'd know why this tiny country produced Hasely Crawford, Ato Boldon, Mike Agostini, darryl Brown and Marc Burns.
So, what's the prognosis for today's sitting of Parliament? Same sit, different day. Those who are looking forward to fireworks, and even live fire coming from the House, will be sorely disappointed. Our politicians may be thieves, but gunmen they are not. And while their supporters act like fanatics we see elsewhere in the world, try to find one potential suicide bomber among them. That's when some unknown Indian from Penal or nondescript African from Moruga will break the world records for the 100 metres, 200 metres, 800 metres and 1,500 metres, all within three minutes flat!
(Raffique Shah was last seen running 100 metres in one minute flat. He was also eating a bowl a chataigne beans.)
Copyright © Raffique Shah