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Raffique Shah


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Hart-aches by the numbers

By Raffique Shah
March 14, 2010

If I were Prime Minister Patrick Manning, I would fire my 'spiritual adviser' forthwith. I would instead hire a futuristic, 2020 model 'secular consultant', someone like, say, Raffique Shah. Before the howling starts, with every Tom, Dick and Harrilal shouting, 'Shah looking for PNM wuk!' or 'We always knew Shah was PNM!', let me explain why I offer the PM this advice.

I once knew a lawyer, as attorneys were then referred to, named Masa Khan, now deceased, I believe (humble apologies if the man is still alive). 'Masa', as everyone who knew the genial soul called him, was no big-shot lawyer. But he was court-smart.

Lawyers like 'Masa' stalked the corridors of the Magistrates' Courts seeking out defendants who were charged with offences like stealing fowls or ducks or bicycles, or even riding the latter without licences or without lights at nights. Mostly, these petty offenders would appear before stern magistrates who would bark after them: 'You have a lawyer?' 'No, sah!' would be the usual reply. 'Well, go find one! This is a very serious charge. I stand down the matter for one hour!'

The hapless defendant would wander into the court's corridors...only to be accosted by someone like 'Masa'. 'Like yuh have a problem?' the lawyer would ask. Discussions on the serious charge would follow, after which the defendant would agree to pay the lawyer, say, 20 guineas (a sterling currency no longer in existence). The lawyer would collect his fee, then ask the defendant to give him full details of the matter.

Having listened carefully, the lawyer would invariably pronounce: 'I have carefully examined your matter. As your lawyer, I advise that you plead guilty and I shall beg for the magistrate's mercy.' The startled defendant, having parted with his or her 'guineas', would wonder why the hell he did not do the same in the first instance!

Should the Prime Minister agree on retaining me (my fee, by today's standard, will be modest-maybe $5 million tops: I'm not greedy), I shall give him good advice. Really, couldn't his current 'spiritual adviser' see the mess Manning would end up in? He is stricken with Hart-aches by the numbers-ten-digits-plus. Should a thorough enquiry, not to add forensic audit of the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT) follow, the result could be criminal charges and stressful trials.

Unlike his current adviser who could not see the collapse of the People's National Movement (PNM) under the weight of corruption and make-believe spiritualists who don't know their Matthew from John (I studied scripture, I'd have them know), I see the ruling party being wiped off the map should a general election be called tomorrow. Not that a winning combination of disparate elements who have no common purpose except removal of the PNM would last long in office. When man-rats and woman-mice start snarling and biting each other, when friends today become bitter enemies tomorrow, all will fall down. This process has already begun, and it will only get worse. In the end, the masses and the country would suffer.

So after he pays me my fee (I 'ent stupid, eh), I would have him plead guilty to God and beg for His mercy. I would then advise the PM as follows. First, he must resign immediately-do a Calder Hart, except better. His next move will be to disappear in the mountainous wilderness of Tibet. He has made enough Chinese friends who would find him a secluded retreat there, where he would also act as the eyes and ears of Beijing. They pay good yuans for that, I am assured. I should add that neither Bob Lindquist nor Interpol has access to Tibet. That's comforting.

'What happens to the Government?' he might ask. What government? I'd counsel him. Puppets are akin to puppies. Just as they wagged their tails, licked your toes over the past two years, they'd easily swallow their vomit and clutch Kamla's skirt tomorrow. So forget them, much the way they'd soon forget you. Run yuh run, Kaiser Manning, I'd croon, like Lord Executor (don't let the bard's sobriquet scare you, PM).

'What about my legacy?' the PM might ask. 'What legacy?' I'd respond. 'A Waterfront project that looks like a ghost town? A performing arts centre that is like a coloured sepulchre-impressive on the outside, empty in the inside? Get real, Mr PM!' I'd add: your real legacy is to have left Trinidad with a murder rate that was unimaginable ten years ago. There are more poor people today than there were 20 years ago. There are also more educated asses today than 40 years ago when most people attended only primary school.

I peer into my cannon-ball, grab him by the balloons, and scream: 'Let's run, for our lives! The masses have no bread to eat. And Hazel didn't bake cake....' 'Sh...!' he bellows, as the angry mob closes in. And so we both run, heading east, where wise men, we are told, live happily ever after. And I am $5 million richer. I hope he didn't pay me in two-dollar bills!

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