Why there'll be no election violence

 

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Category: Trinidad Politics Date: 10 Dec 00


You have to be one of us to understand why we will have a peaceful election

 

 ďThere is nothing that enrages me more than allegations of racism. This is not, as far as the PNM is concerned, an election about race. I have full confidence the electorate will vote on issues, not on race: look at our list of candidates, which will tell you how much of an inclusive party we are. We have more East Indian than Afro Trinidadian candidates. We have White, and Syrian and Indian candidates chosen not for their race, but on merit.Ē  

- PNM candidate

Keith Rowley

 

ďRace has nothing to do with elections. Like Mr Panday says, you cannot take race to the supermarket for food, to the school for your child, get gas for your car, buy a car, build a house. The citizens of this country are right-thinking and will take these issues into consideration when they determine the new Government. Our team is performance-oriented, national in scope and reflects unity for our rainbow country.Ē

- UNC candidate

Kamla Persad-Bissessar

 

It doesnít matter if you believe them or not, the important thing is they are united in not wanting to divide the country.

 

Look, there may be paranoia, low and desperate election gamuts such as the padding of votersí lists (one to watch) by some, and a stupid and irresponsible incitement of civil unrest tomorrow by others. There have been the real and imagined raising of alarms and rumours such as WASA flooding UNC strongholds on election day, and death threats to PNM candidates.

 

There may be tasteless ads that trivialise violence towards women by one party and those that sling mud and invectives in a bid to scare voters into entrusting power into the othersí hands.

 

There may be thousands of people who feel cheated by the so-called democratic event of elections because their choices are limited; because they are being asked to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea; because they are being asked to be partisan and vengeful instead of watchful, analytical, questioning.

 

They are being asked to vote on peeled raw, savage, tribal emotion rather than on a candidateís integrity, ability or genuine intention to serve the people and country. There may be questions on the funding of the campaign of both parties, questions as to the agendas of the puppeteers.

 

There may be disappointment at the calibre of most of the candidates who, between them, cannot cobble together one grammatical sentence or articulate a single cohesive policy; who flail about waffling, substituting empty phrases for substance.

 

There may be the academic marauders posing as technocrats, sociologists, commentators, using droll academic pronouncements to incite division by insisting, ad nauseum, that people will vote along racial lines.

 

This election, there has been enough muck thrown about to sicken a million souls. But not ours.

 

It is difficult to say why, except to say we are Trinidadians and Tobagonians and you have to be one of us to understand why we will have a peaceful election. Our souls are soaring along with the soft quickly-darkening evening Christmas lights, and humming in kitchens smelling of fruit-soaked rum. Our laughter echoes in rooms where parang is played and women stand on chairs to put up strings of lights, and children squeal with excitement as the tree is assembled and the decorations catch the light.

 

Behind our momentary susceptibility to the alarmists, ours  (because we are a people who like our excitement) is a hard practicality that recognises that civil unrest, army, police involvement, wonít put bread or cake on our tables; that violence breeds a shaky economy which will make our lives harder.

 

Granted things may not be great - the gap between the poor and rich is undeniably yawning wider like a toothless monster - but life is not so bad that we canít use democratic means to push for more jobs, and better pay, good health care and a decent education for our children.

 

If our souls have remained intact all these past elections, it might have to do with the fact we are a small population sprung from four continents, cut off from our warring atavistic roots and knitted indelibly together with the new wool of our collective new world identity: cricket at the oval, carnival, play whe; cassava, roti, baklava; smatterings of French, Spanish, Hindi, Swahili; more religious holidays than anywhere in the world; ole talk: an equaliser that transcends class and race; non-stop music on more than a dozen stations.

 

We have a spirit and wisdom that stretches the length and breadth of four continents. But weíve left the bloodshed of the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe, behind. We donít want their brand of holocausts, of Bosnian slaughter, of Rwandan slaughter. We donít understand fatwas and intifadas, mass graves and civil wars. We donít even understand it when it happens in Jamaica, Haiti, Guyana or Cuba. We donít want any part of it.

 

Most of us have been content to watch the election drama played out by only a sliver of the population on the television. We have quietly decided, over our festive drinks, we will vote peacefully tomorrow, do our civic duty, watch the results with interest, hope it isnít a deadlock, heave a sigh of relief the tiresome ads have stopped and continue to plan our Christmas lunches.

 

We will have a peaceful election because, with mouths tasting of early ponche de creme, and late curry duck, we will vote, on a cool Christmassy Monday. And if we donít like the result, we may steups and quarrel; and if we do, we will shout with joy. Then we will turn our attention to more pressing matters of our cake and the ham.

 

But whoever the new prime minister is, we will stand up with him and sing the National Anthem with pride, because our New World foundation has been glued together with tolerance, and laughter, and we have confidence both leaders understand this, and thatís why, ladies and gentlemen, God is a Trinidadian.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur