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Raffique Shah


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Leave this 'House of Clowns', Mr Speaker

By Raffique Shah
October 25, 2009

With the greatest deference to House Speaker Barry Sinanan, I think he should realise by now that he presides over a House of Clowns. If he values his integrity, he should run like hell, but not before he inflicts some choice words on the 41 jokers who sit in Parliament. In case the Speaker is short on gems from the "mooma-lexicon", he can feel free to summon my help, since I co-authored the Obscene Dictionary.

My reason for making this suggestion to Speaker Barry should be clear to every citizen who has witnessed, in horror I imagine, the collapse of Parliament. I'm not suggesting the Lower House has ever been an environment for gentility. It has always been stalked by scoundrels, harboured thieves and assorted criminals, been a refuge for refuse.

Still, the people have tolerated it if only because nothing better has presented itself as an alternative. We have accepted politicians as necessary evils without whom the country would grind to a halt. I query this logic. If tomorrow we the people decide to disband Parliament, would the country stop functioning? No way! Au contraire, as the French would say, we may well discover renewed energy among the populace, with everything from the wheels of justice to productivity among workers making a quantum leaps in a positive way.

Lest I be accused of fomenting revolution (Shah again!), let me not digress as I am wont to when I survey putrid politics and politicians. Let me focus on why I believe Barry should bid the House a not so pleasant bye-bye. We have grown accustomed, for far too many moons, with opposition members of the House waging internecine warfare in full view of the public. Hell, I was part of that bacchanal some 30 years ago when the Chamber was reduced to a cuss-house, and at times a cussed house.

Opposition fragmentation and open confrontation preceded that era: the Vernon Jamadar and Alloy Lequay factions of the DLP fought some bitter verbal battles in and out of Parliament. That inevitably led to the both of them being booted out of office by the electorate. Even before that, Bhadase Maharaj squared off with Rudranath "Rudy" Capildeo, the absentee Opposition Leader, with unmatched vitriol. What these gayelle-style cockfights did was leave in their wake a lot of dead cocks. Both Bhadase and Rudy died early, the former from drug abuse, the latter self-abuse.

But now, maybe because of the availability of resurrection medication, the implosion-affliction is ravaging the ranks of the ruling party. PNM Leader and Prime Minister Patrick Manning, a firm believer in life-after-death (methinks the man even showers with a bible in his back pocket!), has taken his decade-long cockfight with Keith Rowley into the Parliament-gayelle.

His uncharacteristic outburst last week signalled his innate belief that he can retain power whatever he does or does not do. Maybe he had a revelation that he no longer needs his once prize-Rott in order to win elections. Or that disarray in the ranks of the official opposition strengthens his hand. True, belated attempts to put Humpty-Dumpty together for yet another time are an exercise in gross stupidity. Unity will remain elusive for as long Mr "Mash-up-er" is in the gayelle, half-dead or barely alive.

What Manning and his parliamentary cheerleaders fail to understand is that people no longer hold the PNM as sacrosanct, whatever they may think of Panday or other party leaders. The PM knows, even if he won't admit it, that the crowds that attend his ego-boosting party meetings comprise mainly CEPEP workers on unpaid overtime. The PNM has lost ground in all its traditional strongholds because of its neglect of the poor and the PM's propensity for coddling dubious characters.

Rowley was right when he pointed out in his assault on Manning that the next elections could well turn into a referendum on corruption. Many people are fed up living in dire circumstances while the favoured few enjoy sheikh-like luxuries. Poor people sleep in waterlogged "shambas" at a time when untold wealth has passed through this country.

I don't know how Manning can sleep easily after viewing television images of people catching hell. Last week I saw a young man (with a small family) whose humble house had been burnt, and who now lived in corrugated discomfort. The HDC says it cannot help him, just as it could offer nothing to the poor mother and daughter in Debe who slept in a swamp.

Maybe Minister Dick Ford, who oversees the agency, also sleeps comfortably while paupers suffer. You can never tell what "visions" these people have that tell them paupers are agents of Satan!

Rowley thinks corruption will undo the PNM. I think heartlessness, not Hart, will do the trick. Callous disregard for the electorate comes back to haunt ruling parties. Eric Williams faced it in 1970. Robinson did in 1991. Manning faces it today. I don't know we would get to elections, what with a seething rage sweeping through the society. Portents of a political hurricane: get out of it, Speaker Barry. Leave Les MisÚrables to play themselves in the House of Clowns-until the curtain abruptly falls.

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