March 17, 2002
By Raffique Shah
"From millions of men...one man must step forward, who with apodictic force will form granite principles from the wavering idea-world of the broad masses and take up the struggle for their sole correctness, until from the shifting waves of a free thought-world will arise a brazen cliff of solid unity in faith and will." (from Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler)
ALL it takes for evil to triumph over good in any country is for decent people to remain silent as wicked men (or women) are allowed free rein. The danger is compounded when a few seemingly good men join forces with the evil, wittingly or unwittingly, to enable latter to enhance their stature, to give legitimacy to dubious causes. The most glaring example of what could happen in such instance was witnessed in pre-World War II Germany, when industrialists and priests, soldiers and sufferers, backed the little-known Nazi party and its leader Adolf Hitler.
Before the dust settled in 1945 in the greatest conflagration in history, more than 15 million soldiers had lost their lives, and almost as many non-combatants also died. Ironically, among those who first felt Hitler's death-dealing hands were the few good men and women who had chosen to lend him their support in his hour of need. When he no longer needed them, having secured absolute power in a few short years, they were all disposed of, except for a few industrialists (like the Krupp family) whose factories he needed to fuel his war. And to think they all had clutched copies of Mein Kampf to their breasts the way Christians hold the Bible, and presumably read the rantings of this madman!
Why am I throwing my mind back to a period well before I was born, to a piece of history that is probably seen as being far removed from our "black speck of dust" in the Caribbean Sea? It's because I feel saddened when I see men and women who are presumed to be sensible, enlightened, to have the country's interest at heart, support the dubious causes of another dictator. Fortunately for us, Basdeo Panday is a pale imitation of Hitler. He does not have the means to spread his poison beyond the confines of this small country. But he does have the capacity to wreak havoc in a multi-ethnic society that has teetered on the brink of racial strife for many years, but has been spared such strife because of a relatively sensible populace.
Panday's most recent act of defiance, his application to hold a party meeting at the controversial Biche secondary school, is a case in point. He knows very well that he could mass most Biche residents there since they are almost 100 per cent Indian, hence supporters of his party. It matters not that the building may collapse in the melee, or that an explosion of disastrous proportions could occur. What matters to him most is that he keeps his followers and supporters in a permanent state of turmoil, that he could trigger events that will put him back in Whitehall.
How men of the stature of Gerald Yet Ming and Joe Pires, to name just two of those I see attending Panday's meetings, could support the half-truths being peddled by the tabanca-hit ex-PM, defies logic. This is not to suggest that Panday, having won 18 of the 36 seats contested in the last general elections, does have cause to promote himself and his party. Indeed, he is free to attempt to regain power, and even to justify his harassment of the Patrick Manning government by reason of the tie. But there are other ways of pursuing that goal that will not endanger the stability of the country, or further divide its two main ethnic groups.
In the case of the Biche school, do these seemingly blind supporters of Panday not see that the man is trying to capitalise on a disaster for which he and certain members of his last Cabinet must be held culpable? Ex-minister Dr Reeza Mohammed has openly said that when queries were raised about the haste with which the programme was being implemented, the response from the head was: "I want these schools built, and I want it done quickly!" Ramesh Maharaj, Ralph Maraj and Trevor Sudama, who left the party in the aftermath of the 2000 general elections, tell similar stories about how decisions at Cabinet were made.
Yet Ming knows about these matters since he sat in Panday's Cabinet for close to two years. More than that, he said he knew of the IDB report on uncertainties surrounding the siting of the school-something that ex-Education Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar denied knowing. Now we hear that vital documents pertaining to warnings about building the school there are missing. How do Yet Ming and Pires reconcile openly supporting this Mafia-style (or Nazi-style) leadership?
Worse, there are official inquiries into the operations of the EBC and the Biche school underway, and several more by the Auditor-General into a number of other projects executed by the last government are scheduled to start soon. One does not want to prejudice these inquiries, but superficial evidence unearthed thus far point to a very rotten state of affairs under the UNC government. Aren't all these negative vibes sufficient for a few good men who have supported Panday in his hour of need (or theirs) to "take ah side"? Will they wait until raw sewage hits the fan before they attempt to distance themselves from the stench in the stateroom? Or are they prepared to submerge their integrity in the cesspool of faecal waste?
These questions, and the stance taken by these supposedly intelligent men and women, bother me the same way I was appalled in the 1970s/80s, when the PNM was at its most corrupt point, and intelligent men blindly supported the balisier. I expect no better from the people of Biche or other UNC strongholds, since most of these people cannot read or write, hence understand anything but tribal loyalty. The same holds-or held-true for the PNM base during the tenure of Dr Eric Williams. It's impossible to engage in informed debate or discussions with such people.
But I thought the enlightened in the society would rise above primal or survival instincts, that they would be the ones to steer us into nirvana, what with our abundance of human and natural resources. Sadly, it seems, I was mistaken. Man, whatever his public image, is privately a self-seeking sonofabitch. Hitler understood that. So does Panday. Need I say more?
Copyright © Raffique Shah