Election fever – wear a mask!

Paolo Kernahan -
Paolo Kernahan -

"LADIES AND gentlemen, this is the UNC in your area? Come out and meet your kyandidate!" Where is the hot oil when you're looking for it? Music trucks festooned with UNC flags wend their way through the streets of my community. A voice ideally suited to silence crackles on the loudspeakers, inviting residents to look out for the party hopefuls.

These music trucks, the smaller, budget versions, are followed by jersey-clad supporters. Tassa drummers with their rrrrrrapaptappatap! and the vuvuzela section bringing up the rear. These mini-motorcades are more than political pageantry; they are legitimate community spectacles.

One of the observations of campaigning is that concerns about covid19 appear to have gone out the window. Candidates were pictured hugging voters in their videos. For the most part, Trinis put a huge distance between ourselves and physical distancing.

The PNM, on the face of it, tried to maintain a facade of pandemic precautions with masks on the campaign trail. The UNC, not so much. At least one of their frontline candidates complained about the discomfort of wearing a mask in the “hot sun.”

As campaigning built, attention to protection protocols started falling away on both sides. Masks are now a novelty. Supporters mass together in significant numbers. People are lining roadways, huddling in front of campaign offices like penguins on an ice floe.

Everywhere people can be seen walking up to each other as if to say, "Come, lemme tell yuh something in yuh mout!" It's tempting to conclude from citizens' behaviour that the coronavirus is something that happened in 1918.

I wrote several columns about it being impossible to do conventional campaigning safely with covid19 on the prowl. It seems many agree and have resigned themselves to doing it dangerously. This pattern isn't likely to change as the election date draws nearer. The only intervention that could influence this reckless behaviour is a surge of local infections.

Unfortunately, that now seems entirely conceivable.

Campaigning in this country is all showmanship and theatre. Part of that spectacle is rushing to complete or start projects not considered over the long, tortuous term in office. This is true of every party that ever attained power.

Politicians don't seem to think very much of the people they're courting if they're sending paving crews in the dead of night, as was evidenced by one video circulating online last week. The running commentary on this episode of night pavers was along the lines of, "Allyuh, I doh wah de road paaaaave!"

A newspaper editorial suggested in 2020 the population won't be so easily swayed by last-minute pave-a-thons. Don't be too sure about that. Many have already cast their ballots for the incumbents on the strength of the State's response to covid19 alone.

Based on some of the campaign rhetoric and sales pitches emanating from PNM candidates, the coronavirus was this Government's only major project between 2015 and today.

Still, the show must go on. Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith tangled with the UNC's candidate for Diego Martin West, Marsha Walker, over a motorcade in the Western Peninsula that had been approved but was shut down by the commish. Walker didn't appreciate the brusque manner in which Griffith spoke to her. Online, Griffith's constituents came and defended his decision and his Nair-smooth legs.

Walker felt the CoP was brushing aside her legitimate complaints of political victimisation given that a nearby PNM motorcade was proceeding unmolested. The commissioner decided to shut them both down and let the devil sort them out. The issue for him was a breach of the traffic law caused by the motorcade to the annoyance of ordinary, non-motorcade types.

The move seemed arbitrary given that motorcades are happening elsewhere in the country, with a police presence in some instances. Traffic is, unfortunately, a natural by-product of motorcades, as are carbon monoxide from vehicles and political effluent from politicians.

The same righteous indignation about the inconvenience caused by a political motorcade is missing for Carnival, which inconveniences the entire country for two days straight with music trucks that are loud enough to trigger an instant colon cleanse.

By the way, we wear the most uncomfortable, glitter-encrusted masks or smear ourselves with motor oil in the “hot sun” for Carnival but we won't strap on a diaphanous surgical mask for political campaigning. Trinis are masters of hypocrisy!

As Sparrow once sang, You must have bacchanal if you want a good Carnival. Well, you must have ruction if you want a good election.


"Election fever – wear a mask!"

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