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
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.
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
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
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