Outrage, not race
By Raffique Shah
January 27, 2013
The flogging that Tobagonians administered to the People's Partnership in last Monday's THA elections was no "wake up call", as many pundits and analysts suggest. Sensible people see it as an outright rejection of the crass, class-less, vulgar politics that has characterised the Partnership ever since the coalition came to power in 2010. The Partnership cannot and will not "wake up", since it never went to sleep. Its many missteps and misdeeds were committed with eyes wide open. And in its consuming arrogance it will continue along a destructive path that will tear this society apart as never before—unless decent citizens call halt to the madness.
The evidence is there for those who have eyes to see or common sense to understand what devious minds have in store. Having gambled heavily on bare Jack, as I wrote last week, the moment they sensed licks on Monday night, they erupted with cries of race and tribalism. Justice Minister Christlyn Moore, a panellist on CNMG, hinted as much when the results showed that the TOP would lose the elections.
In the next 48 hours, the race venom would come from the mouths of senior ministers Jack Warner and Anand Ramlogan. Both men proclaimed that Tobagonians had voted race, an outlandish allegation against a people who first rejected Eric Williams and the PNM in 1976, a people who played a decisive role in routing the PNM 33-3 in 1986, a people who helped bury Patrick Manning in 2010. When Tobagonians supported the TOP/People's Partnership's in 2010, based on the Warner-Ramlogan logic, they must have mysteriously cleansed themselves of racialism. When their two MPs gave the country its first Indian prime minister back in 1995 (how they conveniently forget 17-17-2!), I guess race had taken a holiday. But last Monday, when, by a margin of 60 per cent to 40 per cent, outraged Tobagonians punished the Partnership for its many misdeeds, they did it because of race.
You see "Cobo logic"? You see how low some politicians are prepared to go to have their ethnic-based core supporters "get in their sections", a People's Partnership rallying-cry during the coalition's second anniversary celebrations? They would sooner mash up the country than accept responsibility for their annihilation in Tobago. Warner had earlier shown rank stupidity when he argued that the TOP had lost nothing since it had nothing before the elections! This from a man who, days before, had forecast a 10-2 TOP victory.
Then the Prime Minister plunged, head first, into the fray: Tobagonians voted the way they did because of fear, she said. Fear of what, Prime Minister? Clearly, she too played the race card, sending subliminal messages to her party's core supporters.
By then, the party's paid bloggers were polluting cyberspace with rank racism. The sycophants vowed never to visit Tobago again, to starve the island of tourist dollars, and they called on their party to withhold State funds from the THA. On Wednesday night, CNC 3 News asked if the Partnership ministers should stop the race talk: 80 per cent of paid callers responded with a loud, "No!" (90 per cent of said callers in the previous week had said the TOP would win the elections.) In other words, the offending ministers should continue to stir the race pot. These people are not sick, they are ill, mentally deranged.
These are the very people who assailed Hilton Sandy after he made his stupid "Calcutta ship" remark, for which he later apologised. Will Warner and Ramlogan apologise for their descent into the race pit? Now way! They are tin gods in their partisan cocoons, heroes whose every action is applauded, whose every word is deemed a gem of wisdom. Yet, we wonder why our society is falling apart, why we are losing generations to a nihilism that is as pervasive as it is oppressive.
I do not know that we can take comfort in the Tobago vote. I concur with those who argue that Tobagonians voted against the vulgarity and excesses of the central government, much the way they voted against Manning's mania in 2010. The PNM benefitted from an island-wide outrage that expressed itself in a blanket blackout of the TOP/Partnership.
London comes across as a decent man whose political language is tempered and measured. I think the Government committed a cardinal sin when it mounted a vicious advertising campaign against "teacher London". Tobagonians still maintain healthy respect for their elders and professionals who served the community.
That said, London has a huge challenge on his hands if he is to leave a legacy that counts for something as he enters his final term as Chief Secretary. The Tobago economy, such as it is, is in near shambles. With tourism under stress and food production almost a distant memory, the new THA needs to focus on these fundamentals, resuscitate them so they are restored as pillars of the economy. A direct supply of natural gas to the Cove Estate opens up opportunities in manufacturing. Bottom line is the new Tobago, with greater self-governance, should be less dependent on Port of Spain for its sustenance.
In the broader politics of the twin-island Republic, the Tobago vote signalled to the ruling coalition that it cannot be business as usual. There is a large body of citizens, intelligent people, who will not sell their souls—and votes—for trinkets. Growing in numbers every year (currently around 150,000 in my estimation) and aligned to neither main party, they demand from government performance, good governance and social and economic justice...nothing more, nothing less.
Deliver unto the patriots these basics, you good to go. Cross them, take them for fools, insult their intelligence, treat them with contempt, you will face the vengeance of Moko. Party sycophants and "eat-ah-food-ers" account only for core constituencies; they cannot win a national election. Tobagonians proved that last Monday. Trinidadians waiting like mapepires.
Share your views here...