April 17, 2005
By Raffique Shah
THE surprise over Gillian Lucky and Fuad Khan's resignations from the UNC "whip" is that they were surprised at Basdeo Panday's edict issued to Lucky, and also that many more party supporters and others were surprised that Panday would have his own definition of morality in politics. Morality in politics never existed for Panday, from the moment he entered the arena in 1975, and integrity in public affairs was alien to him, as evidenced by his personal conduct when he was Prime Minister of the country.
To ward off some of the blows he knew he would get for his statement about "politics having a morality of its own", Panday used an old Mao Tse Tung quote from the revolutionary Chinese leader's famous Little Red Book, but which many of his diehards believe he "invented". Mao wrote: politics is war without bloodshed, war is politics with bloodshed. Panday extended that definition to suggest that in war anything goes. He suggests that the soldier is vested with the authority to kill, to rape, to plunder, which he would not ordinarily have in peacetime.
Like American troops in the several wars of recent vintage, and the Milosovics worldwide whose conduct was/is little different from the Americans', those who want to win "by any means necessary" conveniently disregard the various Geneva Conventions that govern war. War is not a free-for-all, a clash of savages in which the troops "kill all the women and rape all the men" (a peculiar British twist to the ancient rules that governed combat). There are in fact rules that the professional soldier tries to abide by, and they certainly do not include the "ethnic cleansing" we saw in Bosnia and Rwanda. Nor do they condone man's inhumanity to man as evidenced by the conduct of American troops at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, which is little different to Hitler's infamous labour camps.
Panday was always given to breaking the rules in order to achieve his nefarious ends. In fact, he set about making his own rules, Machiavellian-style as some scribe noted, firmly believing that because he commanded the blind support of the "tribe", he could determine the rules of the game. And he did, from the very start, which is why it befuddles me that people, especially those who would eventually fall from His Master's grace (and into the political grave, if you believe Bas), would express surprise.
If we were to start at the beginning of his foray into politics in 1975/76, the "tribe" as well as the media were convinced that when yours truly and others broke with Panday, the issue was one of leadership. It mattered not that we put out a comprehensive statement outlining the many issues that led to the breakdown, and eventual breakup of the ULF. Prime among them was Panday's dictatorial attitude that ran counter to everything we young idealists stood for, and his many other sins that he refused to budge on. The difference between then and now is that in that era he faced men (and women) who were not eunuchs, who were prepared to walk the path of new politics, and who were not afraid to confront him, to face political extinction rather than bow to the morality of political prostitution.
Later, as he went forth to achieve his goal of becoming Prime Minister by any means necessary, many more would fall victim to his whims. Of the ten MPs and six senators who formed the original ULF, only Nizam Mohammed and Kelvin Ramnath stuck with Bas. We know just what priority they apportioned to morality: ah want mih seat, even if I have to suck plums to remain an MP.
Next came Winston Dookeran, Sahadeo Basdeo, and several other Indians who had remained with the NAR after Panday walked in 1988. Then it was the turn of Hulsie Bhaggan, who had castigated me for standing up against Panday, and who savaged Dookeran (against whom she ran) from the platform. When it was her turn to taste Panday's wrath, she tried to fight back, but soon realised the "tribe" followed its leader blindly, that integrity and morality were of no importance in Panday-style politics.
Ramnath would himself try to seize leadership of the party when he thought Panday had been dealt a death blow in the 1991 elections. Having spewed venom again "de Bas", he found himself banished from politics, from the limelight that he craved, and so he would later crawl back to "de Bas" on his belly. Panday then used ANR Robinson to finally reach inside Whitehall, only to claim betrayal a few years later when Robbie named Patrick Manning as PM following the 18-18 tie in 2001. He savaged Robinson in the vilest way... and Gillian, Fuad and others sat next to him applauding.
Now Gillian, darling of "the tribe" yesterday, has suddenly found herself a "neemakharam"... wait for it... it's coming. The very people who hugged her yesterday will stab her today. The question that must be asked is this: were all these people, over a period of 30 years, wrong, and Panday right? I shall attempt to answer this in my next column.