January 4, 2001 By Keith Smith

On second thought

I CAN'T tell you how taken aback I was when I heard that Mr Panday was really going to appoint seven of his losing candidates as ministers. Yes, he had telegraphed the move when he said that he would make ministers those losing candidates who had made safe seats marginal but his definition of that was different from mine, I not even now defining Arouca North as a safe seat whatever the merits of my friend Roy Augustus and whatever the insistence of his friend, Jack Warner, that the old Roy was a blessing not only for the party but for the country.

When the news broke I found myself thinking what Roy must be thinking about his sudden elevation and then it occurred to me that I was probably being naive in that it may well have been that the carrot that made Roy run was the prior assurance from Mr Panday that, win or lose, his ministership was assured and if that was the case with Roy then it stood to reason that it would be the case for Daphne and the others none of whom, I have noticed, have raised the “will of the people” as a reason for standing down now that that bromide is no longer convenient.

Frankly, I find the extent, if not the excess of Mr Panday’s departure disturbing. I think it can be said that he rocked town as distinct, I suppose, from country, his supporters insisting that he could do it because he could do it the boss, after all, merely going the full hog when Williams and his other predecessors had been content with a little pig or two.

Such, indeed, has been this prime minister’s style, jumping in head first where before they had been content to toe-test the water temperature and while he may drown himself and (who knows?) us in the swirling tide the truth is we have elected him prime minister and not having invented the instruments to corral the bosses who went before him I don’t see how we can corral him unless now that his rampant recklessness is forcing some (many?) of us to begin to discern the danger we take the steps to make sure that not only “Bas” but all the future bosses will not be able to do whatever they want at any God-given time.

What we certainly cannot do is to leave it up to presidential fiat. Even if we could be certain that Mr Robinson was being motivated by the very highest of ideals, even if skulking in the back of our minds was not the thought that this Arthur NR Robinson must still have the mind and, perhaps more pertinently, the memory of ANR Robinson, we cannot be comfortable with his having changed the rules in mid-stream as it were, whatever the town instinct that this is a man we have to rein in lest he, if he and we are not careful, carry us sliding down the slope of a slippery political precipice.

It is this fear, I think, that has many wise and eminent men applauding the presidential pause or to put it in the graphic gut-phrase of a guy who is neither wise nor eminent “if Robbie close he eye we dead” but to proceed in this way is to invite the Prime Minister, citing the legality that is on his side, to pull out every single one of the stops and, God or the Devil knows, where that is going to lead us, the performing Mr Panday neither himself knowing nor caring for that matter, such is his predilection for playing perilously with what he perceives to be the personal peril of the moment leaving the future to take care of itself, certain he’ll always find leverage from levers placed there to be pulled and pulled and pulled. Listen, I don’t know whether it is fate or our own folly that has brought us to this pregnant phase where at election’s end there are more questions than there are answers but I do know that we have to negotiate ourselves out of not only this pass but those other passes that are bound to press upon the population given the fluidity of the time and the flow of the forces.

Such is our responsibility as citizens engaged, I hope, in building a free, fair and prosperous democracy. Such a state cannot be built on a foundation of arbitrary action even if finessed under presidential cover. Indeed to go for so apparently easy an option, easy because it requires no intervention for us, is the one sure way to push the place into the sorriest of states.

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