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Ruined In The House Of The Rising Sun

Sunday Express - May 27, 2001
By Raffique Shah

IN response to many queries from readers as to why I have steered clear of commenting on the campaign for the UNC's executive elections, let me say that I can smell "gobar" from a mile! Sure, I often inject humour into my writings. But the fact that all candidates in the party's internal elections have skillfully combined their own master-mixes of tongue-massaging Basdeo Panday's "XXL" ego with copious dosages of deadly poison intended for their opponents, I find it nauseating, even disgusting.

Because at the end of the day, whoever wins the seemingly coveted title of Deputy Leader will be the biggest loser in the party. He (or she, if Kamla Persad-Bissessar does run through the centre) will be marked for political death since Panday, much like the late Dr Eric Williams did, sees in every potential successor a deadly enemy who must be eliminated by any means necessary. So really, I do not know what Ramesh Maharaj and Carlos John and Kamla are battering and stabbing each other over.

I must confess, though, that I find their utterences at their meetings most amusing. Every one of them was in "the trenches" with "our great political leader" from the time he began his crusade for the country's first "all inclusive" party. Sure, Trevor Sudama was with Panday in 1966 when they experimented with a toy party, the WFP. But he was nowhere around in 1976 when the "real McCoy", the ULF, was formed: indeed, up until 1981, days before he was made the party's candidate for Oropouche, he was writing some rather vitriolic pamphlets that were...let's say uncharitable to Panday. Ramesh, another "trench" man, did not leave the PNM "when Robinson and dem did" in 1970. He was in the frontline of the PNM in San Fernando as late as in 1976, and may have stayed in that party until 1980.

The other "trench" lady, Kamla, was hurling serious charges against Panday and the UNC as late as in 1991! I shan't quote some of her choice descriptions of Panday, but again, what "trench" was she in 1976 or 1981 or 1986? To be fair to Carlos, he lays no such claim, since he was a card-carrying PNM member until 1995. He says he is the "future of the UNC". And he may well be right, since, other than the fact that the party's base is among Indo-Trinidadians, its philosophy, corruption et al, is little different to that of the "old PNM". Which is probably why people like Ivan Williams, Kamal Mohammed, Arnim Smith, Roy Augustus and Errol Mahabir find such comfort in the House of the Rising Sun!

When Wade Mark says he, too, was in the "trenches" with "our dear political leader", he must clarify that statement. He must tell his audiences where he was in 1986 when the masses finally booted the PNM from power after 30 years. If he doesn't, I will: Mark was in the communist PPM, running for election in Laventille, mustering 72 votes to Muriel Donawa's 6,925! When he, Michael Als and Vincent Cabrera saw that Trinis weren't buying anything made in Moscow, they ditched their communist clothes and wormed their way into the UNC, shamelessly looking for greener, more lucrative pastures.

And you will tell me we are not dealing with 52 jokers in one pack? Unanan Persad, who says he was the best treasurer the UNC has had, was cussing Panday upside down in the 1991 election when he ran for the NAR in Couva South. I watch, too, with even more amusement, neophytes like Harry Partap, Manohar Ramsaran, Hamza Rafeeq, Winston Peters and Adesh Nanan lining up behind Carlos. Whatever they may say on the platform about Carlos being the best thing to happen to the UNC since Kuei Tung jumped the PNM's ship, the truth is they are only supporting Carlos because he appears to be Panday's choice. If Ramesh were Panday's pick, you'd be sure to see them in his camp. Theirs is a case of rank opportunism.

As for Kelvin Ramnath, a self-proclaimed foundation member of the ULF (who just happened to be a "scab" at the time when the ULF called strikes in oil and sugar in 1975), his is as tragic a case as you will find in politics. He, and Nizam Mohammed (who has turned up on somebody's platform), cannot cope with life outside the political limelight. In the course of their stormy relations with Panday, they have been spat on and shat on, but they just keep coming back for more! The things both men have said about Panday, and worse, his vulgar descriptions of them following, voluntary separations, they must have stomachs of steel to even attempt to worm their way back into the UNC fold.

In all of this, Panday is the winner by many miles. Because here, in the twilight of his career, he has these sycophants kissing his feet (not to add other parts of his anatomy) and inflating his ego! Oh, how he must be wallowing looking at these "fools who will never lead the UNC", knowing all along that the exercise is merely to flush out anyone who remotely represents a threat to his leadership. He knows that when he goes, so does the UNC. As the "mash-up-master-general" of Trinidad and Tobago (well, look back at the ULF, the NAR, and all the casualties of Club 88 and the UNC), Panday will sooner see the sun set on the Rising Sun than anoint any of these jokers as his successor.

Which is why I have not written before on the "donkey parade" that's passing for a party's internal elections. I did not want to pronounce the last "writes" on these aspirants to power who, except for Sudama, know nothing of what they speak, and even less about what power is all about. If they have learnt from the "Bas", as they all proclaim nightly, then they have learnt how to abuse power, how to insult people, how not to govern, and how best to serve one's filthy-rich friends.

They could all take a page from Jennifer Kernahan's Little Yellow Book and anoint him "(Step)Father of the Nation". But they should also study the lyrics of The Animals hit song, "House of the Rising Sun": "There's a house in New Orleans (substitute Trinidad), they call the Rising Sun; it's been the ruin of many a man, Lord I know 'cause I'm one." Yes, many a life has been ruined by the glitzy lure of the Rising Sun. And come June 4, many more will be ruined.

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