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Category: Trinidad Politics 11 Nov 07

LAST WEEK, when I predicted that the elections would end in tears for one courageous man, it was no big deal. Most people predicted it.

It is likely that Mr Dookeran saw it coming himself, but allowed himself to hope against hope that the rules had changed.

They hadn’t. The tried and tested equation for his victory was lacking. Race is the only factor. There is no variable. The two-party Westminster system in an electorate that is racially-split down the middle was the death knell.

We can only imagine what Mr Dookeran and more than 148,000 of his supporters must be feeling. Disappointment that despite the fact that the COP won 22 per cent of the votes, snapping at on the heels of the UNC’s 29, they have no representation in parliament.

In the run-up to the election, I blamed our leaders for our backward tribal voting patterns: they divide, they unite, they lead.

Political analysts laughed in my face at my naiveté on the night of the election, when I asked what I thought were leading questions: “Why are the poorest areas the least represented and yet the safest seats? Why are there children in Couva who are so poor they have never seen a toothbrush?

“Why are women in Laventille repeatedly robbed and raped without comment, their sons taunted into joining gangs? How could these people vote along racial lines and for questionable characters to represent them?

“How could these people be content with political patronage and handouts, knowing that while they rot, billions of oil dollars are being wasted?”

The analysts informed me that people don’t care if their representatives are corrupt, be it over construction material, building contracts, football tickets, debts, multinational energy paybacks, London or Paris homes, rice, oil, hair extensions, whatever.

One said that both PNM and UNC supporters didn’t quarrel about the how much their representatives reportedly stole, but want to know why some wasn’t shared with them.

Share wealth

It has finally dawned on me that the answer was never with the politicians. It was always with the people. And the people like it so.

It was then that I saw the true poverty of our people. We live hand-to-mouth. Our aspirations are tiny and tribal. After basic needs are met, if we are content we party and while away our time or drift into crime.

Philosophers have asked: “Is it better to be a discontented Socrates or a contented pig?”

Clearly, we have chosen the latter. Even the educated find it difficult to get beyond tribalism. Mr Basdeo Panday’s vitriolic attack on Mr Dookeran after the election revealed a politics of loathing, based on thwarted ambition.

Economist Dr Mahabir called for Mr Dookeran’s resignation for not negotiating with the UNC for six of their pre-election crowd with no acknowledgement that Mr Dookeran was separating his party’s values from that of the UNC’s. The middle class values to which we pay lip service, of sustainable development through education, of productivity, upholding people’s basic human rights through access to health, housing, and justice, of attempting to bridge the widening gap between the rich and the poor, Vision 20/20 was just that, lip service, and it would stay that way.

That was why we could afford to work along racial lines.

In fact, Mr Dookeran has made astonishing inroads with 148,000 votes for a party that’s barely a year old. He has brought hope to many people who were fed up with the politics of race.

He made a difference in the marginals for the right reason. The people who voted for him wanted something more than race.

Like him or not, support him or not, Mr Dookeran has had the courage to fly in the face of nasty divisive tribal politics and take a chance on people wanting to vote on issues.

His campaign was clean. His speech acknowledging defeat was that of a statesman.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur