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Raffique Shah


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Those whom the gods wish to destroy...

By Raffique Shah
July 22, 2007

I need to get in touch with the person who coined the adage, "Those whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad." I think he or she should add "or clowns" at the end of it. How else does one explain Basdeo Panday's puerile behaviour, his donning of a beret that would otherwise look chic on fashionable women or neat on a soldier's head, but more like a clown cap on his? Can anyone in the UNC explain this eccentric side of a man who was once prime minister of this country, and whom some political analysts insist remains the "only genuine politician in the country"? I think Bas, his platform colleagues, and those pseudo-analysts need to have their heads examined.

When I first saw the circus clown on television wearing the symbol of soldiering more like and upside-down plate on his head, I laughed uncontrollably, believing it was intended to be a one-off joke. But it seems now that in a bid to win some Hugo Chavez-like adulation, he is taking both the beret and himself seriously. Unless senility has stepped in early in his life, he must understand that Chavez is a former army officer, and not only is he entitled to wear his beret, but it looks natural atop his crown. On Panday's head, it looks more like that defunct comic strip character, Sad Sack, playing toy soldier.

There may be more to that beret than meets the eye, though. Politicians like Panday and Patrick Manning and many others do nothing so stupid unless they consult with their spiritual advisors. I suspect Bas' pundits advised him that if he is to stand a snowball-in-hell chance of regaining political power, he must wear this "mounted" silly hat. For the uninitiated, obeah practitioners and some self-ordained spiritualists believe that weapons of mass destruction can only be effective if they are buried in cemeteries with the dead.

So stick-fighters of yesteryear used to bury their "bois" on top of graves, in the dead of night, and leave them there for a while. Upon retrieving the now "mounted" sticks, they would go into "battle" in various "gayelles", and if they got a lucky shot that split their opponents' skulls, they'd swear the dark forces of the cemetery were instrumental in their victories.

I shan't be surprised if, for the rest of the general election campaign, Bas insists on wearing his clown cap. Some pundit or Baptist preacher must have come up with a "jingo" attached to the inside of the beret, and convinced the cornered UNC leader that it will work magic for him. Because magic he will need merely to stay alive in the upcoming elections fray. Already he has seen his support base halved with Winston Dookeran taking his jahajee bundle and leaving the party. This has left Panday in the unenviable position of having to work some weird political mathematics to come up with an "alliance" that is an even bigger joke than his red beret.

With much fanfare, the UNC leader proudly announced his winning formula of UNC+NAR+DPTT+YESTT+SIMS.

Now, you try to unravel that, to see what it really translates into. If I am to go back to my college days, I can well see mathematics teachers like the late Mr. Chan Chow or professor Harold Ramkissoon putting it this way: .5+0+(-1)+0+(-1.5)=.....what, Shah? Clout behind my head! Minus two, Sir! Ah, he finally got something correct! Laughter in the classroom. On the ground, that's the position Panday has found himself in with this contrived alliance.

Really, what do people like Carson Charles, Steve Alvarez, Stephen Cadiz and Whatever Sims bring by way of votes? Nothing. And I am not the person pronouncing on their lack of support. Panday, mere months ago, dismissed all of the above, and Dookeran, as amounting to nothing. In fact, some of these fellas remind me of obscure politicians who would run for county council seats (as they were then known), and at the end of the day find their tallies being less than their household votes. Do you know how many such characters beat the stuffing out of their wives and children for not voting for them?

But Bas' beret seems to have brought him even more bad luck. If I were in his position, I'd rest at least two "bullpistles" on the jingo-men who had me wear this clown-cap. Imagine Panday admitted last week that he made numerous attempts to reach Dookeran to beg him to join the alliance. He all but crawled on his belly in a bid to woo back Winston, a man he cussed yesterday, and who he will continue cussing for as long as he breathes. No one who has the cojones to walk out on Bas and never look back is ever forgiven.

What a sorry sight Panday has become in his twilight years. And with elections another three months or so away, I fear it can only get worse for him. Those whom the Gods would destroy....