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Raffique Shah


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Lies that Panday peddles

August 10, 2006
By Raffique Shah

However much one may try, it's near impossible to escape the tragi-comedy that passes for politics in the crumbling UNC. The flurry of meetings the combatants hold as they flay each other are broadcast on several radio stations simultaneously. Unless one resorts to the soothing sounds of a good CD, the cacophony, the lies, the assault on one's ears come from just about every frequency. As someone who was there at the beginning of a dream that might have materialised into the ultimate movement of the masses, I can smell the death throes of the dregs left behind that are both repulsive and laughable.

Today Winston Dookeran and his team seek to claim their place in the political sun. I do not have to tell "Dooks" that the road ahead is near impenetrable for the sober and the good. I don't even know if he can be dubbed a good man, since I have grown to regard all politicians with suspicion. But I am prepared to give him the benefit of my doubts, to assume that he means well. That does not help one fig, though, not when the masses of this country remain mired in blind tribalism, when the maximum leader continues to fool them with lies that numb their senses, blind them to the truth. What Dookeran and others like him face is the "crapaud-in-a-tie" syndrome that Dr Eric Williams invented many moons ago, an abyss of mental stagnation that has us moving backward ever, forward never.

Basdeo Panday is supposedly on "sick leave" from his jail cell, granted bail by a court that was convinced by his doctors that he would die under prison conditions given the complexities of his ailments. He seems to have made a remarkable recovery, though, so much so that he could travel to witness the World Cup hype in Germany even as some fans died of heart attacks as they watched the games on television.

After a long sojourn abroad he returned to mount the political platform, full of fire and vitriol that belie his supposed health problems. I think his doctors may have discovered the magic bullet for persons stricken with whatever "conditions" he has, something they should share with the wider population in the name of the hypocritical er, sorry, Hippocratic oath.

With the UNC executive incapable of dealing a death blow to Dookeran, they have summoned the re-Viagra-ed Bas to administer the last rites. Or so they believe. What gets my goat is how the man peddles so many lies, distorts history to keep the jackasses where they belong, in the stinking stables of a dying opposition. He brings tears to their eyes as he re-invents his "days of struggle" with the sugar workers, when, in the strikes of 1974/75, he "lived and ate in the trenches" with them. He never once speaks of being catapulted into presidency of the union by Dr Williams, Errol Mahabir and Rampartap Singh, all PNMites, whose sole mission was to install a "PNM-acceptable" leader in sugar. Not once does he credit the food crop farmers of Aranjuez and surrounding districts with providing much of the food the striking sugar workers and cane farmers ate. Or John Humphrey, bare-backed, driving a "jitney" to truck the food from north to the strike camps in the south.

He waxes warm as he claims fame for bringing an ordinary sugar worker, Dora Bridgemohan, into the Senate when the ULF formed the opposition in 1976. What he fails to say is when the then executive of the party asked him-and other trade unionists in the party-to bring forth candidates from the bosom of the movement to run for election, he came up with Nizam Mohammed, Kelvin Ramnath, Winston Nanan and Hafeeza Khan. In my case, I presented cane farmer Boodram Jattan and later Mohammed Haniff. The OWTU ran with Errol McLeod, John Abraham, Winston Edwards, Winston Dass.

TIWU sacrificed Joe George and Albert Aberdeen in PNM strongholds. ACAWU offered Paul Harrison and Ramesh Lutchmedial. It was after the elections, when the executive named five senators, and refused to name a sixth until Panday presented a sugar worker, that Dora was brought to the fore.

The "man from the trenches" will not tell the people how he sold out to a PNM offer in 1974, which merely recognised him as leader of the sugar union, in order to send the sugar workers back to work. In so doing, he left thousands of striking cane farmers in the lurch, and said to me: every tub must sit on its own bottom. Nor will he say that after the 1976 elections he consorted with the PNM by refusing to attend ULF executive meetings to address his misdemeanours, thus scuttling the party. Or that he not-so-secretly visited Williams at the PM's residence where the demise of the radical ULF was planned and executed.

Talk about damn lies! Wait until ah dead, nah Bas.