In the land of the Mad Hatter


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Category: Trinidad Politics Date: 30 Dec 01

There is an old Chinese curse that says “may you live in interesting times.” It’s not a bad curse because it’s better than dying of boredom, but it could be worse than bad.


If I’m sounding like Alice it’s because, like most people, I feel like we are in a wonderland populated by Mad Hatters who say “off with his or her head” to one another.


Power is a heady thing because it goes to your head. You see it in the tilt of people’s faces when they put on a uniform, wear a crown, sit at the head of a table, are addressed as “Honourable.”


We the people feed those in power, bowing and scraping as we do around them, filling the powerful with intimations of immortality so they flash in and out of their chauffeur-driven cars, their smooth floors, their shining dinner tables with a false sense of invincibility.


But power, like love, is a whimsical and mysterious thing, with rules of its own. Chase after it for the wrong reasons and as it puffs, it disappears. Chase power for the bustling fame, money, a lavish lifestyle: It may humour you for some time, but only to set you up because it never prepares you for the sudden fall from a great height, leaving you bewildered, rubbing your bruises, looking up at your vanishing castle, watching your chauffeur-driven car gliding away with some other important-looking official holding open a briefcase while speaking into a cell phone.


Most of all, it leaves the fallen a bit foolish, like the king who was sure he was wearing his finest clothes visible to all but himself, but actually was parading the streets naked.


Go after power because you have noted the inequity around you, because you feel each citizen has the right to clean water, housing, roads, education, health care and a fighting chance to make the most they can of their own potential and, in turn, contribute to our still developing country.


Go after power because you genuinely wish to safeguard the people’s interest and put it before your own, or because your country has been good to you and you want to give back with your skills, and you will retain it knowing it is borrowed, on behalf of the people and your fall will be soft because everyone’s time comes to an end and you’ve done your bit.


Now, as we face another deadlock, the people must refuse to be puppets to the power-hungry and ask every individual politician: “Why do you want to be in power so badly?”


And politicians must ask themselves the same question. If they are honest, and find they want power for power’s sake, and not the people, then they must know eventually they will be found out, that power can be as illusory as Alice’s wonderland; that once tasted for the wrong reasons, and evicted for the right reasons, power can leave big men limp and deflated for life.


Those who follow power must be careful not to mindlessly revert to tribal hostilities to gain it, to be puppets to their leaders because, once that is ignited into a flame, there is no turning back.


When the talk of a government of national unity came up, even the staunchest party supporters in the UNC and PNM camps must have seen the sense in bringing together the leaders so their respective followers felt empowered in a country split in two.


But even as government Ministers are being sworn in, the Opposition is saying it’s illegal. What to do?

In this space, two weeks back, I suggested:

“The President should immediately appoint a Prime Minister whose government will fall within days because it will not have a majority in the Lower House. Parliament will be dissolved for a new election. The country will be run by a caretaker Prime Minister and Attorney General.

“The President should then use moral suasion to ensure the caretaker Prime Minister appoints a member of the Opposition as Attorney General to keep the balance.

“Before the new election is held, the President should ‘request’ the Prime Minister (again, using moral suasion) to set up two bipartisan commissions of inquiry to report within 30 days - one, into corruption, and the other into the Elections and Boundaries Commission.

“Both parties have their traditional voters who will support them come hell or high water. It is hoped by dealing with issues essential to the well-being of the country, the 30 per cent of the population that did not vote will come out to vote, giving one of the parties a majority. It is likely the majority will be small, but workable.”


A prayer that politicians put country before self is another option left to a small but worried population of 1.3 million people rolling in a giant washing machine into ever-deepening whirlpools where everything gets “curiouser and curiouser.”


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur