Karen and Keith and Kamla and Who Cares?

BC Pires -
BC Pires -



FORMER finance minister Karen Tesheira-Nunez is challenging Prime Minister Keith Rowley for the leadership of the governing People’s National Movement and it’s downright impossible to think of a less momentous event. The only thing that might tear me away from the next several weeks of this non-gripping contest is if someone paints a wall and I get the chance to watch it dry.

The only other political event this year that offered the onlooker as much ennui was former Something or the Other Fuad Khan challenging Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar for the United National Congress top post. Now there was a contest that would have gone down in the annals of tedium, if only someone had stayed awake long enough to chronicle it.

If it does happen, the only people for whom the prospective PNM leadership contest will matter at all are Keith Rowley and Karen Tesheira-Nunez; and I might be counting one too many people there.

It’s as difficult to imagine Keith losing his hair over the non-confrontation as it is to imagine Karen gaining anything from it. Unless Keith Rowley loses a general election, he will remain PNM bossman until he’s too bored to continue; and Keith’s immediate predecessor, Patrick Manning, proved that you could even lose a general election (or two or three) and still keep the bossman-work. The great Patos had a way of resting on his laurels before actually achieving any.

Of course we in the newspaper trade are glad for all the dullness the non-face-off will dissipate, to be lost in the netherworld forever, like a f--t in a sewer. At the daily end of the press spectrum, what we might properly call fake news editors are spared looking for real stories for a couple of days and, at the far end of the weekend, the most gifted at self-deception amongst the Sunday columnists will shake this barren tree for the next fortnight.

But it’s just one more illustration that, in this pappyshow land, nearly everything is a pappyshow. The one thing we can be sure of is that our political circus never throws up anything but clowns.

Let your imagination run riot (as if it could even pick up its stroll over this non-story) and tell yourself that Karen can, somehow, unseat Keith. Go the whole firetrucking hog and imagine the PNM party faithful taking to the streets in joyous celebration, because the man Karen calls vulgar (ie, for the party faithful, funny) and crude (ie, rootsy) was replaced by the paragon of propriety and virtue, Ms KT-N.

What difference would it make?


Apart from the first pre- and post-independence general election, the PNM, like the relevant year’s incarnation of the UNC, has been elected to office not because of, but despite itself. The political leader of either party is as irrelevant as their sno-cone or bara-men; indeed, on hot days, the sno-cone man would have the distinct edge over a PM in office.

As far back as I can remember, both parties have made much the same promises at the same elections and have gone back on them without anyone really minding, because they have not been elected because of their policies but because of their physical appearance. It doesn’t matter how sincerely you appear to pretend to elect someone because of his integrity if everyone knows you're really voting for him because of his melanin level or hair texture.

Because our political parties “like it so.”

Since the sweeping 33-3 National Alliance for Reconstruction victory, there has been nothing remotely resembling a mandate for any political party to form a government. (I’d argue we have never had any government at all, only a series of Lloyd Best’s inept administrations that either collapsed in office or arrived in office “pre-collapsed.”)

Neither the PNM nor the UNC should ever have accepted our ruinous first-past-the-post system of voting because it condemns half the country at a time to rule without representation. But we have had minority governments hold power for full electoral terms. And the other party has sat patiently waiting for its chance to loot the Treasury.

In that context, it doesn’t matter to anyone at all how lacklustre a challenge Karen mounts. Keith will ride it out. And we will have made a lot of noise about nothing and it will matter to no one. Except Karen. Perhaps.

BC Pires is the president for life of the Cynics Association of TT


"Karen and Keith and Kamla and Who Cares?"

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