May 01, 2005
By Raffique Shah
THE nation and the UNC faithful in particular are looking closely to see just how this latest division in the ranks of the opposition party will play out. Will it destroy the UNC the way the DLP imploded back in the 1970s? Thus far, only Gillian Lucky and Fuad Khan have declared their hands, albeit in an untenable manner. They claim they are "independent UNC" MPs. Panday says there is no such position-and he is right. Given the structures of both the PNM and the UNC, there is no room for "independents" with them. Although he must be seething with a rage that he will give vent to at the appropriate time, Panday has already said: "Who wants to go, go!" He added (at a recent party meeting): "There are calls for new faces in the UNC. Well, God works in strange ways we didn't have to expel anyone to make way for new faces .they are leaving .so we shall replace them."
For some time now there were rumours circulating that several MPs and senators were looking for Panday to step down as leader. In fact, towards the latter part of 2004, a number of well-placed people whispered to me: Bas will be leaving at the end of the year .but doh write a word about it I promised him that it will remain a secret. When I told them that that and a "green jackass" they will never see, they doubted me. Well, December came and went, we are well into the second quarter of 2005, Panday remains leader, and for better or for worse, he said he's ready to lead the party into the 2007 general elections.
As for the hint that more senior members of the party will soon step down, take the "Gillian road", we shall also wait and see what happens. But I won't hold my breath. True, Gerald Yetming has signalled his "discomfort" with the state of the UNC. During a television interview a few weeks ago, he said that the UNC was not ready to take on the PNM in elections, and if changes were not instituted he would give serious consideration to taking whatever action he deemed necessary. As I recall it, he actually gave the interviewer a date by which he would "take action": March 31. That, too, has come and gone, and even as Lucky and Khan sit like lonesome doves in the rear ranks of the opposition, Yetming remains very much part of the UNC.
Indeed, many more names have been floated around as possible defectors from the UNC. I shall not mention them, since I know only too well of Panday's wrath, of just how he will vent his fury on anyone who disagrees with him, or worse, challenge his suitability to continue leading the party. But even if I don't mention people's names, Panday is a veritable female hawk, jealously and ruthlessly guarding his nest, watching for signs of discontent. He will have already trained his eyes on the "culprits", and if they don't take action before the next elections, they are sure to find themselves out in the cold before the bell rings and they won't know what hit them.
So what is likely to happen now? Firstly, the defecting duo will enjoy a brief respite before Panday and his underlings start dragging their names and characters in the mud. It has always been his style, his stance towards those who dare challenge him, so I don't see why he would change that now. Age, they say, brings with it reason. In Panday's case it has intensified the bitterness he harbours deep inside, which is patently visible to the discerning eye. Ever looked at him closely? He seems always to be "eating himself up" (as we Trinis say). That is not a sign of reason, of a man making peace with himself as he comes "closer to Thee my Lord". It's manifestation of ambitions unfulfilled, of a man who enjoyed the fullness of life but remains discontented.
Times have changed, though, and the "silver fox" could soon find himself outfoxed. There are those in the party who see themselves as successors to the leader, so they will not do anything to incur his wrath. Instead, they will heap praises on the "maximum leader" even as they position themselves to take over. Panday is wily, and he will identify many before he takes the count. He will spit them out like spent plums.
I expect that well before elections are called (if Prime Minister Manning decides to sit out the full five years and I see no reason for him to do otherwise), more "rats" will jump off the sinking UNC ship. They will use spurious reasons to so do, but they will encounter Panday's wrath nevertheless. For as long as he breathes, Panday will hold on to the UNC with an iron, even if frail, fist. He would sooner see the UNC disintegrate, go into oblivion, rather than hand over power. Ever since that personal experience I endured in 1974/77, I have referred to him as "de mash up man". If he can't control, he'd destroy whatever organisation he leads