Pave. This word, “pave,” grew intensely familiar days before the recent local government election (LGE). It means “to cover a street, floor with asphalt, stone, etc.”
Streets, especially in politically marginal areas, suddenly witnessed tractors, pavers, asphalt, costumed workers briskly paving years-old potholes.
And mainly so under the masterly hands of Rohan Sinanan, Minister of Works and Transport. Sensing public scepticism, this master paver asked his Sangre Grande PNM crowd what they preferred: pave it now or leave it so? But why now?
This column stands for a safer, progressive society, efficient and accountable government. For the next generation, this multi-ethnic population must decide, not only about who wins or loses elections, but for honest, effective government and according to its oath of office. For several years, citizens of all kinds – from letter-writers to talk shows – have been complaining about the dangerous potholes, absent or eroded white lines, no road signs, etc.
Suddenly the political magic happened: paving, obviously designed to manipulate voters. Not the first time, though. From previous governments, this “days before elections” paving has become a habit, a very bad habit. Dangerous not in its occurrence but in its intention and assumption. It is a naive, foolish mind that would think such last-minute paving would change voters’ choice. Poor psychology, poor advisers.
Instead, the very obvious, manipulative objective of the master paver loses sincerity and credibility. Also likely would be the boomerang effect, that is, having the opposite effect for suspicious motives.
Ask Sangre Grande. Regarding PNM’s loss of the marginal Sangre Grande Northwest seat, former chairman of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation Terry Rondon explained: “Burgesses in this electoral district benefited from paving several streets, but it was not enough to woo voters.”
In fact, the master paver’s psychological strategy became a joke. Six big potholes in the very busy Eastern Main Road at Champs Fleurs for some four years, vehicles dangerously swerving in and around. Suddenly, in days before the LGE, with the road blocked by police, tractors took over, etc. People laughed. Until next elections, I suppose.
Arrive Alive Brent Batson and Sharon Inglefield must understand road safety is not only about speeding. Look, given my early political respect for him, I expected PM Dr Keith Rowley to stop all this political foolishness. Kamla’s UNC too. Plantation days are over.
Stop it. Pave the roads when required, not do it last-minute to manipulate votes as if to “bribe” them. The practice can even be seen as an abuse of political power, not for a fair and free elections.
For me, Sinanan started as a rather sober-minded, “stick to his oath” politician since as a councillor. He has since degenerated, seemingly absorbed in “old-time” politics.
The country needs a new brand of politics and politicians who though politically astute carry a demeanour and civic-minded attitudes that show promise for the future. We do have some “new”ones, but they will be well-served by good example.
If I am to risk choosing 12 for encouragement purposes, they would be Robert Le Hunte, Anita Haynes, Allyson West, Saddam Hosein, Esmond Ford, David Lee, Rushton Paray, Lackram Bodoe, Randall Mitchell, Francis Lovell, Foster Cummings and Adrian Leonce.
Congress of the People (COP) leader Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan claimed that eight of her 18 candidates dropped out because they were “bribed” with $200 and $300. Now, suppose these eight became ministers, what would happen to their integrity?
There were also allegations of threats, alcohol-driven bribery to vote, crossing-the-floor candidates; most intriguing of all was UNC-to-PNM Rajkumar Bhagaloo, who, with amusing stage wining, pelted some stinging criticisms against his former leader. He lost Cumuto/Tamana.
One of the biggest political blowouts happened in Sangre Grande between UNC Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Minister Sinanan, the master paver. At a pre-election UNC meeting in Sangre Grande, waving a land ownership deed, she referred to the construction of the Cunapo Bridge Project, for which Sinanan’s ministry diverted the river into such land. The war between Kamla and the master paver was on.
She asked Sinanan whether he received any money from government, and how much, for this land. Loud applause.
Apparently quite vexed, at the next PNM meeting in Sangre Grande, Sinanan not only denied the allegations, but challenged Persad-Bissessar to declare the cost for her own “big house.” Loud applause.
He went on to let go some firecracker statements. He said Kamla must understand that “not all East Indians in politics are thieves,” and that there are honest East Indians who could serve as PNM ministers. Loud applause.
Social media went wild. Attorney Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj asked Sinanan to apologise. Media-savvy UNC MP Dr Roodal Moonilal psychoanalysed Sinanan’s mental state of “self-hate” and offered an “intellectual response.” He likened Sinanan’s comment to Vidia Naipaul and Franz Fanon’s view of how oppressed people seek to escape from their own ethnicity through “colonised self-contempt” and “bending backwards to do their master’s bidding.” Wow!
Sinanan, however, claimed he has received “tremendous support” for his “East Indian” comments. Hmmm.
Those Kamla-Rohan-Roodal exchanges remained paved with noisy controversy up to December 2 and after. Hope Rohan Sinanan is the last of such “midnight” master pavers.
As to who won or lost the elections, well, that is another story for now.