August 18, 2002
By Raffique Shah
WHAT madman, even in a country like ours that is slowly being overwhelmed by political insanity, would want to terrorise, or worse, kill someone as harmless as Carlos John?
Really, if the Willie Balgobin escapade seemed like comedy intended to make Trinis “buss dey belly” laughing, then this latest case of what appears to be the UNC crying wolf will surely send sober people into stitches. For the sake of the pranksters (and “prankstees”) who clearly hope that the “victim syndrome” would reverse the findings of political pollsters, I hope when they cry wolf they do not find a sly and slimy fox lurking somewhere in the dark waiting to chew them up and spit them out.
When I saw the “crapaud-foot” piece of hate mail that Carlos was said to have received displayed on the front page of the Guardian, I almost urinated myself with laughter.
And you know why? If I were to make public every threatening telephone call I get, every piece of hate mail that TTPost delivers to me, every e-mail-lunatic, mainly Basdeo Panday fanatics, who threatens me, my mother, my wife and children, readers would either curse me for being a nuisance or laugh at my naivety.
When I was managing editor at the TnT Mirror, ignoramuses who believed that I wrote everything that appeared in the newspapers published by that group would frequently send me (and other journalists) obscene and threatening mail.
With advanced technology and the advent of e-mail, cyber-terrorists have proliferated. One “Big Jerry” threatens my 80 year-old mother, with expletives undeleted, every time I write something negative about Bas. (Hey, Jerry, long time no get a threat!) Another Bridgemohan lady delighted in addressing me in loose language-until I responded in kind and she virtually cried through the computer screen!
The point I’m making is that all of us who are in public life, and that includes journalists and columnists, are considered fair game for anonymous “badjohns” whose “baddest” features are often their body odours. We know that, so we don’t run crying to management, cease writing what the faceless cowards deem offensive, or worse, go public with that tripe.
That’s what such threats amount to—tonnes of uncured “gobar”. So for Carlos to cry long tears over the contents of a “crapaud foot” death threat means that either he knows it to be a hoax but sees it as political ammunition, or he’s not ready for public life.
What has Carlos done to warrant a genuine death threat? Spend $1 billion of taxpayers’ money without going through proper procedures? Hey, in Trinidad many people view that kind of contempt for authority or disregard for procedures as a heroic act. Remember how he was dubbed the “Action Man” after he paved part of the Savannah in a flash, when even the ministers in charge of the city’s lungs sat at their respective windows watching with awe?
Carlos’ headline grabber, coming as it did mere days after another UNC front-liner, Jack Warner, discovered some ammunition on his office compound, and a few weeks after cocaine and mortar rounds (not mess-iles, eh!) were found on Sadiq Baksh’s premises, reeks to high heavens! Those who have their olfactory senses intact will be able to smell this UNC dead rat from the proverbial mile away.
Without wanting to prejudice police investigations into any of the so-called “set ups”, I must say that people in St James are laughing at Jack’s spat. They know that there are umpteen petty crooks in the district, and that any one of them could have stored the ammunition in Jack’s outhouse. In fact, they often find spent ammo shells all over the place and simply throw them away. Sure, that’s against the law. But take those shells to the police and one would end up either answering endless questions or being ignored by cops who have more pressing matters to deal with.
The UNC seems intent on exploiting the “victim syndrome” to the fullest, not realising that such transparent foolishness irritates people, even many among the party’s core supporters. Never before in the history of our politics have we witnessed the kind of “gun talk” and threats, perceived or real, as we have since the UNC was edged out of power through its leader’s folly.
Look, I was among a handful of daring young people who opposed the PNM in the most radical manner one could when the party controlled all possible arms of terror, from the army and Police Service to all the “badjohns” in East Dry River and beyond. And none, not one of them, ever threatened or intimidated me, even when I was at their mercy in jail for 27 months. In fact, for those who wish to check the records, they would find out that the rebel soldiers turned the people’s jail upside down, and that seven months of solitary confinement did not break my spirit—or Rex Lassalle’s.
This is not to say that corrupt police officers don’t “frame” innocent people. Or that “political” cops (Randy Burroughs was a prime example—PNM to his jockey shorts!) did not attempt to intimidate anti-PNM citizens. In fact, more than a few “shoot outs” that claimed the lives of known anti-PNM activists were nothing but wanton murders.
For the most part, though, the PNM leadership was not behind these acts of savagery. And if the PNM did not resort to terror tactics when it was in full control of all the muscle in the country, why would it descend into this netherworld today?
Panday and his aides have, without a shred of evidence, cast blame at Patrick Manning and PNM after every such alleged “set up”. They probably don’t understand when you point a finger at someone, at least three other fingers are pointing towards you. And every such “set up” that seems to be stalking only UNC members serves to further damage the credibility of the opposition party. Really, people are asking: what next? Blood flowing through Kamla’s pipe? “Gobar” planted on Manohar’s head? A Chinese chopper under Yet Ming’s pillow?
It has gone past being ludicrous, this game of “dirty politics”. Indeed, it has reached the point where, in the absence of any evidence of a “set up”, the police should see who is crying wolf just for public mischief. Or, if they are just tailored to deflect the public’s attention from the sewage plant the UNC ran under the guise of a government, and to stave off some stiff jail for those who looted the public purse in the most rapacious manner.
Copyright © Raffique Shah