One sweet thing about this election (and
there are many) which ushered in Dr Keith Rowley, the leader of the
Peoples National Movement (PNM) as the seventh Prime Minister of T&T on
September 7, 2015, is that now people will have to learn to pronounce
the name of his attorney general, Faris ‘Al-Ra-wi,’ instead of Al Wari.
I saw a presenter do it on the news, very carefully as if she was
walking on eggshells.
Frivolity over, I must congratulate the
new Prime Minister, the Hon Dr Keith Rowley, on leading his party to
victory in the September 7 general election. I feel prevailed to do so
as probably does every civic citizen to make up for the fact that
outgoing PM, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar has been unable to bring herself
to utter the Prime Minister’s name, far less call him to congratulate
him as convention requires.
A creative writing tutor and author once
told me that if you want to find out the true mettle of any character in
fiction, put a gun to their head. In other words, put them under
pressure. I saw this in real life and like the rest of the nation, was
astonished to see that there was no ‘concession’ in the former PM’s
concession speech. We gathered that she would not have done anything
different in the past five years, or during the campaign, that she has
no regrets, that her party got the largest number of overall votes (Persad-Bissessar
is feeling the pinch of dragging her feet on constitutional
reform—specifically in proportional representation).
She delivered the formulaic words of a
defeated leader in a democratic country, woodenly, simultaneously
telling people to accept the results while saying her partnership got
more overall votes.
At best, it was an example of bad
manners to her supporters who, as she knows, make up more than half of
the electorate. She demonstrated a pugnacious pride. Perhaps she felt
that grace in defeat in public office would be equated with weakness?
When she touched the feet of the President of India, I lauded her for
her humility. After all, she pledged to serve the people of this
country. All the people. Supporters and non supporters.
What happened on the night of September
7? At worst, it did nothing to stem the online racist rants by her
following. The next day, again, the former PM put herself and her party
above the best interests of the people. Uncaring of further
destabilising and igniting a racially fired up country, she challenged
the Elections and Boundaries Commission to declare the September 7
general election results null and void.
We are not surprised because the
campaign, the party, the Government was all blurred into the face of the
leader, stamped on cups, T-shirts, walls, billboards, placards, and so
on. It’s dribbling out now. The ‘ideology’ and ‘policy’ of the People’s
according to the former national
security minister Gary Griffith was run like coke ad—‘coke is it, so
let’s go, Kamla is it’. This was the basis of ‘Kamlamania’ where
ministers were instructed to praise Persad-Bissessar in every public
appearance. The entire campaign was based not on issues affecting
people, not on the merit of various candidates, but on brainwashing,
propaganda, treating the people like sheep.
Remember Kamla donning a hard hat to
inspect flooded areas as her first act as PM five years back? She was
going to be the people’s prime minister, we all thought with joy. How
did it end? She didn’t think her supporters worthy of her presence at
Rienzi Complex after her election defeat.
Some years back, at the Bocus Literary
Festival, a visiting scientist gave us a fascinating lecture about
power. It appears that before people get into power their intentions are
pure. They want to serve the country. They want to improve the lives of
the vulnerable, the ill, elderly and jobless. They want to provide
education and health. They want to create strong institutions. They want
citizens to feel secure. They want to clamp down on crime.
What happens when they taste power? They
are flooded with chemicals of well-being, which fills them with a heady
hubris similar to people on cocaine. That explains the proud pumped out
chests a few months into power. It explains the mistakes. It explains
the inability to see their own flaws. It explains their intolerance of
people who try to correct them.
All eyes are on the new PM, Dr Rowley.
He has been hailed by President Carmona as a true statesman for his
victory address, and further complemented by the president for “an
address whose motif was one of genuine inclusivity to all, highlighting
service to the country and that we the people of T&T are one.”
On the whole, we have to be proud of
ourselves as a small island nation. All seven elections have been free
of violence. Words are thrown and we are riddled with inefficiencies
(such as the swearing-in fiasco,) but we remain a tolerant people. We
are also getting less stupid, less sheeplike with every election. No one
can pull the wool over our eyes with public relations. People now demand
Perhaps the Prime
Minister can take the example of Obama, who despite being one of the
most powerful men in the world, remains statesmanlike. He resisted the
cocaine-like rush of power and we hope Dr Rowley will too, and remain
statesman like for the next five years.