Copyright © 2002 Terry Joseph
Making up a letter
By Terry Joseph
Apr 05, 2000
Dear Editor: I have been hearing recently
(and from no lesser person than Prime Minister Basdeo Panday), that you often
fabricate those letters published on your opinion pages, presumably for the
sole purpose of political mischief.
Since we no longer see letters from the likes of Harry PT Charlie and Martin
Kavanagh and with the advent of e-mail, Mr Panday might well be thinking that
all of these new-found correspondents are simply contrived names, particularly
where the authors forget to hail him as the new Messiah.
But if he is in any way correct, let me suggest that, before seeking
absolution for so grave a social sin, you make up one last letter, because
there are so many outstanding things that one can say about this government;
it would be unfair to stop abruptly.
And even so, you should not become peevish and suppress that sprinkling of
letters which are high in praise for Mr Panday and his United National
Congress (UNC), since their inclusion will continue to give the opinion pages
a semblance of fairness (you clever editor, you).
Not that I am endorsing irresponsible behaviour, you understand, but I feel
that any Prime Minister who seriously makes such a comment must sincerely
believe it. Indeed, the alternative theories are far too ponderous.
This last letter will therefore have to do with something else that the Prime
Minister evidently believes and has been equally brave about saying in public.
It should ideally examine a topic on which none of our commentators or regular
correspondents has so far touched, but one genuinely worth at least a second
Forget the new airport, InnCogen, the desalination plant, the cultural
institute and complex for the arts, or his endorsement of the savannah paving.
Leave severely alone the frequent flyer comments, NBN, water for all by the
year 2000, who acts as Prime Minister in his absence, Cherokee jeeps, Dhanraj
Singh, multiple hangings, Sumairsingh's unsolved killing, Jones P Madeira and
promises aplenty. These are things that politicians say.
Nor should you stoop to writing about anything as basic as Mr Panday referring
to one of his subjects as "a jackass". After all, we have grown
accustomed to reckless insults coming from senior officials on either side of
the political divide. Once the hitherto nice guys are properly installed in
high office, no one expects them to be kind and pleasant forever. The late Dr
Eric Williams made a similar inference about calypsonian Chalkdust and had
earlier described the Guardian as "The Jamette of St Vincent
Apparently, that's one of the perks of being jefe in a Third World country.
You may remember that the Prime Minister of another country uttered an even
more derisive remark across the table, about the quality of a contribution
being made by a local Cabinet Minister, during last October's Heads of
Government conference. Not the kind of thing you would reprint in your
newspaper, of course, but (if we are to believe Mr Panday) you could always
make up a word to equal that description.
Nor is it a facility available only at that level.
Your records will also show that former House Speaker Nizam Mohammed referred
to Cabinet Minister Dr Carson Charles, as a "Johnny-come-lately"
which was nowhere near as awful as Kelvin Ramnath calling Dr Gloria Henry a
"slut", while they both members of that same august body.
Why, just last week, MP for Arouca North Jarrette Narine, made some pretty
strange comments about Education Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, even as she
lay in a hospital bed. And with crucial general elections looming, there is a
good chance that those with access to the media will make even more robust
comments, as desperation sets in.
But if, as Mr Panday says, it is he and only his political party these
contrived letters seek to denigrate, then you must carefully contemplate the
final missive, eschewing the lure of picong, to deal exclusively with the hard
Everyone in the Express must, by now, be well aware that if the content
falters however slightly from proven truths, the Prime Minister, a stout
public defender of constitutional freedoms, is likely to attack your
publication. The attack may take the form of a call to the party faithful for
another boycott of your newspaper.
I am sure that after years of practice, you will be able to come up with both
a suitable topic and the space to fully exercise it. Such things I leave to
But, by the way, whatever happened to the last boycott call?
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