Silk magenta for Kamla


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Category: Trinidad Politics 25 Apr 10

When one of our foremost fashion designers asked me to get Kamla’s measurements so she could make her a dress, and with a smug smile said silk magenta would suit the new Prime Minister exceedingly well, I began believing this election was not going to be the predictable tired demographic racial split manifested with surgical accuracy in our 18/18 tie. Now that an Obama-related team is here to advise Mrs Persad-Bissessar, to manage her image, replete hand holding to Celene Dion’s (tip to Obama’s and now Kamla’s men: Drop Celene. Most men hate her and you don’t want to alienate half the population) allowing her to (initially) take off gently with the high road of one love, leaving the advertising to send the tough messages.

Hype is one thing. The tipping point, another.

Around the time Barack Obama was campaigning, and when he became President I spoke to the COP leader Winston Dookeran who believed the global celebration at Obama’s victory signalled that the wind of change was sweeping not just across America, but worldwide, and here, beginning with the COP. He showed an early prescience. The enthusiasm of Dookeran’s supporters who felt disenfranchised, desperate for an alternative and unable to support the then warring and tarnished UNC opposition, was at a fever pitch. But it wasn’t enough. The 2007 elections yielded no seats but sufficient votes to demonstrate that COP could split the marginals.

Dookeran’s dogged refusal to form an alliance with the UNC, along with Kamla’s victory and signs that he would be prepared to join forces with her, precipitated this early election. What was then perceived as a refusal to share power with Mr Panday was actually a show of political acumen. By showing that Basdeo Panday was unelectable, it shook up the UNC and may have been a factor in Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s victory in the UNC’s election. This week I spoke to Dookeran who spoke with an edge I hadn’t seen before. “I had said if there was a snap election we would have a snap response. I am now saying we will have a snap victory.”

Why call an election midterm?

“The government had collapsed, lost the trust of the people, and unable to govern. The Prime Minister was facing internal party dissent, and a threat to his leadership which he wants to reassert. This election is an attempt to cover up, divert attention from the allegations in the Uff commission of enquiry.” Dookeran candidly admits he had “erred” in thinking that parties can be “announced and unannounced” simply because they had a vision. “Parties” he says “are anchored in the real politics of society, as national movements.” But what of his own future. Had he subsumed his own political future or was he going to be king maker. Neither. “This is a partnership of equals.” He is flattered by the reports of the deal between him and Persad-Bissessar that she will be prime minister, and he, president, should the party come into power but insists there is no truth to it.

“No such conversation took place.” He insists that the alliance is “developing a people’s partnership, common mind, from labour, from civil society, with the NJAC political leader Makandal Daaga and chairman of the Movement for Social Justice, Errol McLeod both of whom I had asked to be part of COP. Together we have forged a People’s Partnership Accord and signed a Declaration of Political Unity as a first step for a new discovery for a truly national party. Instead of the snap election catching us off guard, its getting us to unite faster.” I asked him what made it any different from the NAR which disintegrated after one term. “Each moment in history is different. In both cases disparate opposition groupings had to emerge in a unitary structure and that was an expression on part of people to bring about that. Our challenge is to convince the population that we can have a genuinely united party that is sustainable.”

The issues are not of “past” or “new” votes. The crisis in the country is a crisis of values, which is manifested in corruption and other problems. This alliance subscribes to a common vision and solution, a governance agenda that is people based.” To emphasise his point the COP leader quotes the highly respected late economist, academic and intellectual Lloyd Best saying that the division of seats was the “arithmetic” of politics, but the real “geometry” of politics was a question of “how we come together to create a new society”. The UNC/COP alliance Dookeran is convinced “is the first step to creating a national society.” Still, what would he say to the cynics, who think this is just another quick fix, an expediently put together grouping hankering after power?


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur