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Karma, Bas, not Kamla

By Raffique Shah
February 07, 2010

Most readers would interpret my headline as suggesting that UNC "founding father", Basdeo Panday, is enjoying sweet chutney/soca music in keeping with the spirit of the Carnival season. For them, "Karma" is a music band whose lead singer, Ravi B, won the recent Chutney-Soca Monarch title. Ironically, Ravi's winning song was titled "Ah Drinker". Ravi was not referring to orange juice or WASA's now-scarce potable water, but to the wanton abuse of alcohol.

Karma is a Sanskrit word that is broadly interpreted as one's deeds in life the good and the bad. My understanding is it's the sum total of what one does, and at the end of one's life or coming close to it one ends up with either a "plus" or a "minus". I am no expert in Sanskrit or in Hindu beliefs (and those of other religions), although I have a general knowledge of most faiths. My understanding of Karma is that if, toward the closing chapter of one's life, one ends up with goodness-deficiency you pay the penalty right here on earth, not in any after-life.

During his 36 years of active political life which began in earnest with the founding of the ULF in 1975/76, Panday has managed to fool far too many people. But this must be taken in the context of Trinidadians and Tobagonians being more foolish than most. Take the people of the depressed communities in and around Port of Spain. For generations they have blindly voted PNM. They deified Dr. Williams and accepted without question his successors George Chambers and Patrick Manning.

Yet some of the most depressing manifestations of poverty can be found in these very communities. In contrast, most of those in upscale enclaves who prosper, who can chase WASA policemen from their gated mansions and continue to waste water as they wish, support the PNM only as it suits their prospects to make more money. Mostly, they support the "PIP" - party-in-power.

Similarly, the mostly Indian communities south of the Caroni River supported Bas since he installed himself as the Indian leader in 1977/78. I shall not dwell on how the ULF came into being. Suffice it to say that Panday was not the father of that party. Had it not been for the presence of George Weekes, Joe Young, Shah, and hundreds of others who emerged from the 1970 Black Power revolution with the idealistic notion of building a multi-ethnic machine to bulldoze the PNM aside, the ULF might never have been born.

Bas used "victimhood" and played the race card in 1977 to seal his position as the new Indian leader, Bhadase Maharaj having died in 1971, and the shell-of-the DLP being no match for the ULF road-roller in the 1976 general elections. Having used the left-wing idealists to help cement his race-place, he proceeded to ditch us, consign us to the "political graveyard" as he boasted, and move on and up. It took him 20 years to trample over the "corpses" of too many hard-working unionists to name, and a number of well-intentioned politicians, before he tasted power.

That aphrodisiac, the perfect potion for those with a "weakness for sweetness", revived his flagging fortunes. He went on a rampage. He wooded and won those who wanted to share in the honey-pot or power, only to ditch them as easily he discarded used toilet paper. More than that, he boasted of his omnipotence and heaped scorn on those who dared disagree with him. His imaginary "graveyard" was growing to Hitlerite proportions.

Forgetting his roots (except when it was convenient to stir the emotions of the stupid), ignoring the old people's adage "every hog has his Saturday", he snarled, bit, lashed out, cursed, abused and committed the gravest of sins against those who ran afoul of him.

Well, karma, or maybe that should read Kamla, finally caught up with him. And it was not on a Saturday, so maybe he is not a hog. I expected Persad-Bissessar to win the leadership race based on what I felt on the ground (Mr. Manning, take note!). But the margin of victory was so overwhelming, I didn't realize the man who claimed political omnipotence would fall into the grave he had dug for others.

Had Kamla and Jack Warner lost those elections, they would not have seen another dawn from the house of the rising sun. He would have cast them into the latrine pit that very night. I wonder what he did with the bruising "victory speech" he must have written? Now that he has outlived his usefulness - if he ever had that - pipsqueaks like Harry Partap are peeing on him. What a fate for someone who is said to have made an "immense contribution to the country", as his one remaining friend, Patrick Manning, said of him.

In what is still considered a most famous speech from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, I trumpet like Mark Anthony: "I have come to bury Bas, not to praise him; the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones..."

I don't know there is much to bury, what with his graveyard overflowing with the bones of others. Still, I respect the dead. Rest in peace, Bas.

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