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Yes, Bas, the bull full

July 28, 2002
By Raffique Shah

“Boy”, my late father used to say, teaching me how to cope with the realities of colonialism (although, being semi-literate, he probably never saw his advice in that context), “you must know how to deal with the White man.” He was referring to the bosses on the sugar estate where he worked all his life, and where, up until the 1950s, almost every middle-to-top-level manager was British, many of whom will have landed their cushy jobs through family connections and not qualifications in tropical agriculture. “When he tell yuh ‘De bull full (meaning pregnant)’, ask him ‘When it go drop, sah?’ (when will it give birth?).”

Like most of his contemporaries who were illiterate or semi-literate but street-smart, he saw through the hollowness of his bosses. But he had to earn a livelihood, and that meant massaging their egos, if necessary. So whatever nonsense they said or did, one always made them feel they were latter-day Aristotle’s, fountainheads of knowledge. Even if it was a case of the “bull being full”! Fifty years later, the children and grandchildren of those plantation workers have advanced beyond the wildest imaginations of their forebears, gaining education at the highest levels, controlling businesses big and small, and, in instances, effectively replacing the “White man” at the controls of the commanding heights of the economy.

But sadly, they are not street-smart as those “bound coolies” were. Because while people like my father could never be fooled by “chupidness” even as they allowed the purveyors to believe they were, today, many educated and advanced Indo-Trinidadians are easily misled by their leaders who feed them the same “bull full” in the form of raw “gobar”. Take Basdeo Panday's “tell all” meeting, which he summoned last Tuesday, vowing to let the country know the truth about his (or his wife’s, as he insists) London bank account. Knowing Panday as I do, I told everyone who cared to listen that he would do no such thing; that he would use the “tell all” as a drawing card for party supporters and detractors alike, so that he could boast of having a large crowd.

So what Panday did not say did not surprise me. He changed his story of the history of the account for the umpteenth time: remember when he said that it was an account opened by Oma to handle his children’s education? On Tuesday night he remembered that both of them had opened the account since 1989 when he had gone to England for open-heart surgery. He added that before they both departed England in January 1990, they had left a small sum in it, and thereafter he left everything pertaining to the account to Oma. Oma, who, if we believe her husband, would be the envy of Wall Street wheeler-dealers, having astutely managed those few pennies and turning them into TT$5 million or whatever in a matter of 10 years.

He never said where or how she invested the “pennies”, nor did he bother to explain her source(s) of revenue. Instead, he railed against the media for exposing details of the account—without denying that the numbers were correct—and called for the police to lay criminal charges against certain journalists. And then he went off on a tangent about the alleged planting of cocaine and ammunition at Sadiq Baksh’s house. He said nothing more about the account that is now the subject of police investigations. But, as I said earlier, I expected as much from Panday, and I’ll tell you why.

Questioned after Panday’s speech, several of his MPs and ex-ministers said they were satisfied with the Chief's “explanation” of the account. Imagine big men like Carlos John and Gerald Yetming, having stripped themselves of their balloons and walking around like political eunuchs, all but chanting, “Yes, Bas, de bull really full!” How else must one interpret their grovelling to this excuse-for-a-man, one who would see his wife earnings grow like Jack’s mythical beanstalk, and not even question the woman about it?

If an ordinary man sees his wife walk into his humble “shamba” wearing a pair of shoes he knew she did not have the money to buy, he would, at the very least, question her, or, at worst, beat an answer out of her. But here we have “macho Bas” not in the least bothered about how Oma managed to accumulate a sizeable sum in London. And Carlos and Gerald, among other supposedly intelligent men, buying that bull. Any wonder that Bas has been able, through the years, to treat such eunuchs as so much toilet paper? Or that there are many more “manicous” queuing up behind Bas to do the needful?

Look, I fully understand the plight of human miseries like Roodal Moonilal, Harry Partap, Kelvin Ramnath, Kamla Persad Bissessar, Hamza Rafeeq, Manohar Ramsaran, Subhas Panday and other MPs. They owe their very existence, and most important, their public profiles, to Panday. Without him, they would be nonentities consigned to the political La Basse, so they need to massage his every nook and cranny to keep themselves in the limelight. They are all aware of Ramnath’s fate when he decided, a few years ago, to challenge Panday’s supremacy in the UNC. They watched him lick his vomit as he returned to the fold on bended knees, so they are not exactly eager to endure similar fates.

Really, when I heard Ramnath liken Oma to Sita (Lord Rama’s wife) last Tuesday night, I had to ask if that was the same Ramnath who, when he grabbed for the crown, lambasted the lady and her husband in the vilest manner. And there was Yetming relating how Bas sacrificed his blood brother Subhas in order to give Jennifer Johnson the Princes Town seat in the 1986 elections. How noble a man, who, for the sake of “national unity”, would sacrifice his brother.

Well, Breds, Yetming would not want to know who next will face Bas’ sacrificial knife as he pursues his gaol (oops....goal) of everlasting power. If he has doubts, especially with talk about the return of Ramesh Maharaj, he’d better bare his neck and stand by. Nobody wields a hatchet better than Bas.

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