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Gypsy’s divided loyalties

November 30, 2000
By Trevor M Millett

Gypsy (n): one of a dark Caucasoid people coming originally from India to Europe in the 14th and 15th century and living and maintaining a migratory way of life chiefly in Europe and the US
- - (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary)

Gypsy, (adj): Informal. working independently or illegally: gypsy truckers, a gypsy cab
- - (The World Book Dictionary)

Gypsy moth: A kind of tussock moth of which the larvae are very destructive to foliage.
- - (The Concise Oxford Dictionary)

WHAT a reputation the gypsies have had. In times gone by they were persecuted because they had an unsavoury reputation as weavers of fantastic tales, practitioners of divination and pilferers (no mention having been made of elections in any of the texts). As a result, they suffered the penalties of flogging, mutilation and even execution in many parts of the world. Fortunately, more enlightened and civilised attitudes prevail today.

Yet, this is the sobriquet, with all of those connotations, that Winston Peters voluntarily assumed when he took to the stage as a calypsonian. He is better known as Gypsy. Now, in the light of recent events, one can begin to appreciate the appropriateness of that title.

Here is a man, the Gypsy, who, in response to the revelation that there appears to be voter padding taking place and that the constituency he proposes to represent in Parliament is involved, brushes aside the disclosure by talking in terms of proportion. What significance do 252 voters represent in an election involving some 900,000 voters? he asks.

That’s the sort of question, one feels certain, that would cause Al Gore or George Bush to blush in embarrassment. With many millions of voters supporting them to become the next President of the United States, they are nevertheless prepared to engage in serious legal battles to get a few hundreds more than their opponent in order to gain legitimate access to the corridors of the White House. So, Gypsy, remind us again of the insignificance of those 252 voters.

“This whole thing has been blown out of proportion,” he is quoted as saying. “I thought it was 2000 people. But 252 out of 900,000? That is like a multi-millionaire miscounting $2.52 and is a thief. His only regret would be that it wasn’t $252,000. But he remains immoral and a man without principle. It is the principle, silly. Nothing else.

But that’s not all that leaves you uncomfortable with this wanna-be MP. Either someone signed the Statutory Declaration of a Person Nominated as a Candidate for Election as a Member of the House of Representatives on his behalf or he is prepared to affix his name to documents without bothering to scrutinise them and appreciate their import (a worrying deficiency for a possible parliamentarian) or, incredibly, it could be we are staring a literacy problem in the face.

How is it possible to misconstrue the simple, explicit statement: “I am not, by virtue of my own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state,” a clear disqualifier for entry into parliament? There is no ambiguity here. That means a state other than T&T, not T&T and the US.

Recognising the awkwardness of his position, Gypsy has since renounced his American citizenship. As an American, he said the only right he did not enjoy was the right to run as President. Why not? He was, after all, an American. George W Bush and Al Gore are Americans and they have been able to run for president. So what was different about this particular ex-American called Winston Peters, the Gypsy?

There is even something pathetic about his deep concern and desperation to have American citizenship, should he contest the election and lose. “Suppose you want to get it back?” was his pitiful query, thus betraying the real location of his heart and the depth of his divided loyalties. “That is what I want to know about.” Really? Is that all he should want to know about? What about what his manoeuvrings to retain American citizenship were telling the average voter in Ortoire/Mayaro in relation to his priorities?

As a form of self-vindication he advised the Daily Express’s political reporter, to “ask all of them in the PNM if they don’t have a green card”. (That special brand of logic, again.) That suggestion begs the question, “Who is your leader?”

Assuming fortune smiles on Gypsy and he gains the seat, what will he really stand for and represent in parliament? It would seem he is not prepared to tie his destiny fully and entirely to that of the country he professes to love so much. Given his concern to retain American citizenship, are we to believe that he has doubts about or actually distrusts T&T’s future? What will he really represent in its Lower House? Fair weather economics and politics? What, for instance, would be his response in the event of another July 1990?

These are troubling questions about a man who wants to sit in T&T’s Lower House but is keen on being an American citizen. Can he provide adequate representation, given the untidiness of his campaign? Is it appropriate for an MP to put self and personal well-being so openly before country? To know what results from that kind of attitude, all we need do is consider Gordon Draper’s latter-day performance as the MP for Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West. Is that what Ortoire/Mayaro wants or should look forward to?

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