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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 glance.

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 Street".

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 facts.

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 the experts.

But, by the way, whatever happened to the last boycott call?

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