It doesn’t make much sense now – seven days before election – to point out “the truth.” Truth has already been an early casualty in several places. It seems that truth depends on perspective, on what you already believed, that is, prejudice. Maybe that’s what our elections are really about. Public scepticism now ranges from Commonwealth election observers to postponing elections. Then there are these “death threats”– rumour or real we will never know. How sent? Can’t telephone calls be traced?
Population hears about “imminent arrests,” “no evidence yet,” “corruption allegations,” “Dutch government investigations,” “The Hacksaw files,” “confidential leaks,” grand-charge threats, etc, all leaving an already sceptical population further confused. Wonder if PM Dr Rowley knows what’s really going on inside. Should he? Both AG Faris al-Rawi and Minister of National Security Stuart Young do not seem to know. Should they? So much so that a circulating joke is that the DPP's office now needs plumbers. Like many others, Facebook’s Michael Gonzales calls these “nancy stories,” but more importantly it’s the gradual loss of public trust in government and its institutions.
The opinion poll-driven perceptions do not really help especially the one or two appearing as in-office “fake polls.” Propaganda? A small sample for a national poll is far from what a constituency-by-constituency result provides in a first-past-the post system. Which party seems willing to change this into making every every count?
Anyhow, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram continues to attract admiration for his patient, well-focussed advice and professional independence. While the sartorial sparkle of Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, Social Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis and Communication Minister Donna Cox is noted, covid19 seems more likely to increase than decrease. “Over $23 billion spent to help the needy between 2015 to 2020,” said Minister Robinson-Regis, then sounding like a fairy godmother, with “$284 million spent on covid19 relief.” The ground-level voting appeal for this generosity cannot be discounted.
As part of the electoral vocals, I heard a video by Lima McCleod voicing displeasure with her MP Stuart Young. Very passionately, she pointed to the big potholes, the lines of broken-down vehicles parked untidily along the roadside, the lack of water supply, and quite a few other troubling things. It wasn’t nice to hear all this from a young lady. She added, “Yuh just passing and waving, seeing allyuh only at election time, passing and waving like the Queen waving to her subjects.” It was a soulful cry from a citizen, conveying the pleas of so many other citizens for more than 20 years now. The cries have become more intense now. While the two major parties have a lot of work to do, it does take some courage for citizens like Phillip Edward Alexander and Steve Alvarez to confront the heavyweights. All this helps keep the democracy alive.
Now a word about the “rags to riches” UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC. Win, lose or draw, she must so far be noted for her political endurance, party popularity and gender dominance in this macho world of Caribbean politics. She crashed the glass ceiling with Bob Marley’s “no woman no cry”. Having lost the 2015 general election, then picking up Barataria (local government by-election) and a few more in Sangre Grande, her uphill reputation is now on test in a severe battle. Given the PNM’s heated allegations, she also well knows the risk she took in her candidate line-up. If she wins, her fame will rise but allegations will continue. If she loses, her leadership faces questioning.
Her political integrity would be bruised if she abuses backroom democracy, if, with whatever excuse, she brings into parliament or high office those whose own reputations loiter in the shadows of corruption. In all this, historians will find her an attractive subject, moving from the stereotyped, rural-bred, rice-land rooted “Indian woman” to become her country’s PM.
Being romantic as she confessed, Frank Sinatra’s words will resonate: “Yes, there were times/ I’m sure you knew/When I bit off more than I could chew/I faced it all and I stood tall/And did I my way.” Behind her smiles, there is also the “real politician.” As I said, win, lose or draw, she does have a remarkable story.