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Raffique Shah


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Showtime 2007: A medal for Garvin Nicholas

By Raffique Shah
October 07, 2007

As a veteran columnist who once ran for election (in 1976, before I joined the media) and enjoyed journalistic fun in seven other campaigns, I feel cheated by Prime Minister Patrick Manning. It was always his call-the elections date, that is. But at least he could have given us scribes (and the few "payola Pharisees" among us) more time to have fun at his expense and that of his opponents. This four-week sprint to the polls does not allow for the marathon of jokes our creatively comical politicians are capable of delivering, to be fully aired. It's just not fair to us and to our readers.

But with limited time for unlimited laughter, we have to make the best of it. Really, I don't think readers expect us to take any of these jokers seriously, to try to analyse their policies and programmes ("Huh? What's that?" most would ask with dumb expressions etched on their faces). The well-orchestrated rallies are due this weekend-I'm writing on Friday evening-so I won't be able to comment on those for another week. I am told that if you, regular Trini, happen to be looking for a bus or maxi-taxi this weekend, forget it. They have all been hired by the three main parties.

And papa, as John Agitation would say, if you see the quality and size of the stages at Mid Centre Mall and Woodford Square! With the best soca and rock bands in the country teaming up with a 100 drummers (90 per cent PNMites), some from as far away as Brazil, at Jack Warner's show-time, it's a treat no music lover, except those still stuck in the "tumree" and "ghazal" mode, would want to miss.

So I expect at least 50,000 youngsters to jam that 8,000 maximum-capacity car park, and I further expect Jack to swear that 100,000 people attended the UNC rally.

At Woodford Square, word on the ground is Patrick Manning has mandated all forty-one constituencies to come up with 1,000 red-jersey-clad persons each, or don't bother to come. I expect, too, that Manning would revise the square's capacity from 5,000 for COP a few weeks ago to 41,000-only on Saturday. The musical fare in the city will be more local but no less spectacular: in Trini-speak, what's a party without wine and jam?PNM-to-the-bone calypsonians, steelbands whose members' loyalties are divided, and chutney singers and dancers who will vote UNC or COP, will all be paid well to belt out praises to the balisier.

I imagine Sadiq Baksh, the COP's master stage-manager, will take time out from fasting to ensure that Winston Dookeran's Skinner Park shindig surpasses anything Jack and Patos can produce. Sadiq knows Allah will understand that while Ramadan is a holy month, political power is even holier. Even Hindus who protested the calling of the elections in their holiest week must know that Maha Lakshmi would be forgiving, given what's at stake here. As Rama-Jack, having devoured Sita-Kamla, advances to slay Rawan-Manning and neemakharam-Dookeran, the thin line between religion and politics will become blurred as never before.

While I lick my laughing chops at the expense of the three "biggies" in the race, I cannot help but recognise some of the more serious contenders for power. Take Garvin Nicholas and his Movement for National Development (MND) as an example. This guy has more guts than the proverbial Trini-boli. A former PNMite and Bas-worshipper, Garvin thought enough was not enough, so he decided to go it alone-literally. Initially, he posed with one Mandavi Tiwary as his deputy, and Rajendra Arjoon as chairman.

Both have since disappeared from his side, replaced by even less-known persons. Still, Nicholas insists on hogging television-time, thanks to my colleagues in that arm of the media who will settle for anyone willing to spend five minutes before the camera.

When I say Garvin has guts, you'd better believe it, eh. Long before the UNC began imploding, he tagged himself Nico-Solo, unlike babe-in-the-woods Kirk Meighoo, who stupidly thought there was a place for him in Panday's setting sun. I don't see Garvin's wife voting for him (of course, she won't dare tell him that!), far less his neighbours and friends. But the man persists on performing his one-man clown-concert before any audience. I'll tell you this from experience. It's much easier to address a crowd of 200 or 20,000 than to address two people outside a rumshop.

In the British army, an award called the Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest recognition of valour. Most soldiers never know they are so recognised, since it's invariably awarded posthumously... their teary-eyed widows or mothers accepting the coveted medals. Since we have no VC on offer, I hereby confer the DSM (think canine, think "poo") on Garvin for bravery mixed with lunacy. And the DSM, like the VC, is awarded posthumously. Will someone, anyone from the MND, step forward to receive it? No takers? Ye Gads, Garvin. As Forbes Burnham would have said: yuh done dead already!