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Raffique Shah


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Destroying democracy

By Raffique Shah
August 17, 2020

One of these not-so-good days, some fool will vent his or her racial spleen on the anti-social media or in some public place once too often in a rant that has gone too far; another fool will feel sufficiently aggrieved to react with more than mere racial epithets, possibly summoning idle but willing hands to take up cutlasses and defend the domain of the tribe; and the tribal leaders, coming from a manure-fed lineage that nurtured the fires of hatred for generations, would, by word or deed, ignite an eruption that will wreck what passes for civilisation in Trinidad, not necessarily Tobago, sending this island back into a future filled with hatred, bile, sewage and all things negative. A potential paradise will never be allowed to bloom. It will instead be strangled by the patricidal savages who inhabit the wasteland.

If this painting of a canvas of our country comes across as confusing as a Leroi Clarke abstract of doom and gloom, then I, Raffique Van Cough, who knows not how to hold a brush, far less paint a picture, will have achieved my aim. You see, when one is condemned to dealing with Philistines who can neither think nor reason, one must communicate with them through a cacophony of grunts and expelled air, meaningless phrases and discordant notes.

How else can one explain to such morons that the exercise in democracy they participated in last week Monday was as free and fair as could be found anywhere in the world, and its few weaknesses in no way render it unfit to conduct the election? To the contrary, it may well be the envy of scores of countries where similar elections are held, but where voters’ rights are violated with dictatorial impunity. In neighbouring Guyana, a disgruntled party in defeat, albeit by a narrow margin, used provisions in the regulations to frustrate final results for several months before they finally succumbed to the ruling of the courts and the outrage expressed by CARICOM leaders as well as the power of a very vocal electorate.

Sensible people would think that the drama in Guyana might have dissuaded any right-thinking politician from going down a similar road here. Not so. The United National Congress, which knew from as early as 10 p.m. Monday night that it had lost the election, ignored the maxim that calls on the losing party to be gracious in defeat, and instead lowered the behavioural bar to basement level, much to the dismay of the population. The party’s public relations officer, Anita Haynes, was being disingenuous, or maybe downright ignorant, when she told the media that she had no idea “how Rowley could claim victory” (no Mr. or Dr Rowley, just natural disrespect).

Her leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, having used the race card liberally during the campaign, and having primed her supporters into believing that the UNC would sweep the polls, had to keep up pretences, hence the call for recounts in six constituencies which she knew the party had lost convincingly. To detract the fools from focusing on her poor leadership, her sixth or tenth or whatever successive loss in elections, she had them counting ballots that she knew would not change the grim picture of yet another five years in opposition.

Mrs Persad-Bissessar will no doubt argue that her party has gained one seat more in this election, which must mean something. It does not. And it certainly does not mandate her to frustrate the democratic process by dragging out the period in which the country is left without an effective government. In fact, she is doing herself a disservice, as her supporters, like the wider citizenry, see the resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the absence of a government to formulate and implement policies that might stem the tide that’s threatening to overwhelm us.

This brings me to another point that paints our politicians as vandals at a time when responsible leadership is urgently required. When the Prime Minister spoke to the nation before he stepped aside to make way for a new government, he, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, and Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, pleaded with politicians and their parties to observe all Covid-19 protocols during the campaign so that the country may be spared the worst of the pandemic.

What happened instead was a disgraceful indictment against all politicians and most of their supporters who engaged in an orgy of abandon that all but dared Covid-19 to “infect we nah!” People ignored social distancing and maximum gatherings, put their face masks in their pockets, and proceeded to jump and wine as if every day was J’ouvay. The results of that lapse are hitting us now. It’s not a pretty picture. In fact, it’s frightening, and will cost taxpayers substantial sums.

Irresponsible politicians and their supporters play the ox, responsible citizens pay. And you thought life was fair?

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