Wednesday 26th July, 2006

Clevon Raphael
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Watch your words, Bas

On the advice of reputable legal sources I am staying away, for the time being, from the ongoing controversy involving Chief Justice Sat Sharma and other senior public officials.

God knows I have very strong views on this regrettable imbroglio but I am letting wise counsel prevail. And you know what? I did not have to pay hefty legal fees.

Without going much further all I will say at this time is that T&T is surely undergoing a tough time in the process of evolving into a better society for all of our citizens.

New norms are being set and it is up to us to accept those we find palatable and reject outright those we find unacceptable.

I am looking aghast at all the moves, counter moves, who is lying, who isn’t lying, the venomous nature of some of the statements emanating therefrom.

Look, before I give in to this overwhelming desire to ignore that injunction, let me switch gear right now. But I promise to return to that rather potentially bloody punch-up at the appropriate time.

Let’s look at the political situation which is just as murky and depressing as that other issue.

What has gone wrong with Basdeo Panday?

Opposition politics is frustrating politics but was he misquoted or did he really speak about violence if this PNM administration is not brought down through island-wide protests, as he advocated over the weekend?

Speaking immediately upon his arrival at Piarco Airport, he told his loyal supporters to organise protest marches and demonstrations—open confrontation as he labelled it—against the Government until it stops its spiteful and malicious assault on society.

The Guardian report quoted him saying in response to a query over what he meant by open confrontation:

“If the protests do not work the only other answer is violence.”

Now I understand that Panday has denied making that statement (which I haven’t seen) but I hardly think any reporter would be that careless, mad or malicious to fabricate such a statement.

In any event, even if that is not what he actually said, it is exactly how people interpreted his statement.

What the hell was really going on in his mind when he made that potentially harmful statement?

Is this former Prime Minister and Opposition Leader unmindful of the serious and debilitating crime situation in T&T, particularly at this time?

Is he unmindful of the potentially volatile scenario that statement could trigger? But thank God Trinidadians/Tobagonians, because of our remarkable ability to stomach all kinds of injustices from the State and its organs, are not really a violent people as a whole.

So that Panday’s perceived “call to arms” would end up like a damp squid. Nobody would take him seriously.

Yet you cannot simply write off that intemperate statement as the ranting and raving of a politician wanting to stir up his supporters.

There are those people who, because of blind loyalty—across both parties—may very well see that as a coalition call to marshal the troops for whatever nefarious reasons that may enter their minds.

His stated goal of uniting his fractured United National Congress would be better served if he directs himself to that task instead of engendering the wrath of his detractors by making foolish statements.

Has he ever heard of any Trinidadian violently trying to overthrow a democratically elected government?

Except of course for that aberration in 1990 when some religious zealots made a failed attempt.

And what did the people do? Instead of throwing their support behind the insurgents, they looted the bloody place, leaving several businessmen up to today unable to recover from that disgraceful episode in our history.

The people are not going to blindly follow politicians who advocate violence and that is a hard cold fact.

Today the country is in a mess, Mr Panday, and spitting venomous statements would not endear you to the people who are desperately looking for a way out of this stinking mess we have found ourselves in, all because of the machinations of politicians on both sides of the political divide.

Instead of trying to stir up unnecessary “bad blood” among your own supporters, why not concentrate on rebuilding a party which has now lost a lot of credibility because of that still unseemly row among yourselves.

As I have said before, this place is in a mess and what is needed at this time especially are leaders who would give us some hope that there is help on the way.

Not one bent on divisiveness. God knows we have had too much of that, which is why we are in the situation we are today.

Please, Mr Panday, don’t add to the problems, be part of the solution—if you are so inclined.

Everywhere you turn the news is depressing, so we don’t need anymore bad news at this time. It is all well and good for you to pursue your political ambitions—even at this stage in your life—but please do so within acceptable and constitutional means.

One of these days you may get carried away with your own rhetoric and I don’t have to tell you about the possible consequences.

Just a mild refresher: a certain religious leader is in court for saying something almost similar. You want to go back again?







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