Yes, Paula-Mae can!

BC Pires

Disclosure: former President Carmona and I have been friends since our LLB days at UWI, Cave Hill, in 1979.

LISTENING TO President Paula-Mae Weekes’ inauguration speech, you had to feel a little sorry for Prime Minister Keith Rowley, who must have felt the brand-new president was a bit like the same old-same old.

Now the old Keithos, poor fella, was so keen to be rid of Paula-Mae’s predecessor that, asked a near-throwaway question by a TV reporter, he could find nothing to say about Anthony Carmona’s five-year presidency than, “Well, we survived it.”

Like cancer, one imagines.

We survived President Carcinoma.

But if Prime Minister Rowley thought that President Carmona was something between the greatest threat to our nation since the Muslimeen took up the gun and a pain in the arse, what, you wonder, would have entered his mind when President Weekes said she “well understood that [the nation’s] reservoir of patience with high office holders has all but run dry?”

Was there anyone in that Savannah crowd (outside of the Cabinet) who didn’t chuckle a bit at the thought that, with the substitution of Paula-Mae for Anthony Thomas Aquinas, the old Keithos may yet discover that he has leapt from the frying pan into the fire?

Not that he doesn’t deserve some singeing.

No one aware of the friction between the PM and the President over the last five years would expect either of them to be the guest of honour at the other’s birthday party. They both called one another liars as openly as anyone can without actually using the word. Caught on the back foot by the reporter, few would have pilloried the PM for being ungracious; particularly since Dr Rowley has not made restraint the hallmark of a prime ministership that might be remembered longest for his threat to don [faecal matter]-kicking boots for another parliamentarian.

Not even the Opposition might have given the old Keithos much official grief over what was plainly his ungracious, if not uncouth, reflex response to a question about the former president.

But Dr Rowley, like so many in positions of power in Trinidad, wasn’t content to get away with a niggardly negative statement; he wanted to look good doing it: at the next available opportunity, he expressed surprise that anyone could have thought he was saying something negative about President Cancer. He was merely etc etc.

How could a prime minister not know that he lost more points by trying to appear virtuous than he had by actually being vindictive?

What Paula-Mae Weekes may have cottoned on to – which the other high office holders don’t seem to have – is that, in this pappyshow land, where nearly everything is a pappyshow, we know a firetrucking pappyshow when we see one.

President Weekes’ inaugural speech on Monday has given many a fresh new hope. Some called her speech inspirational, others electrifying, all have agreed that it was heavy with positive potential.

But didn’t President Carmona’s do the same thing?

Five years ago, or so, were we not all talking about powers we thought he did not have that he did have?

President Carmona – my pardner, TC, if you like – clearly kicked up a fuss, and a great deal of dust, probably more than any of his predecessors; perhaps more than all of them combined. And some stuff – the warning letter to Pricey about “first lady” midriffs, eg – was as close to indefensible as it gets.

But wasn’t most of the Carmon-ian dust kicked up on our behalf? The national security plan that got him in so much trouble, eg, sprang from a laudable notion – to do something, anything – that might help us all?

The new President has hit the ground running, to be sure. She has infected a lot of us – yes, me too – with her Pollyanna optimism. But her presidency is only five days old. And the pappyshow, the cast of which she joined on Monday, has been running uninterrupted since Trinidad itself began.

Five years from now, the ones who might be judged most perspicacious might be those who said, with all the energy and positivity she has asked of us, “Yes, Paula-Mae may!”

BC Pires is an optimistic pessimist or vice versa. Read more of his writing at


"Yes, Paula-Mae can!"

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