riddum of de Imbert road
the many were wining up in a band or otherwise movin
to de riddum of de road, the brave few who downstaged
the Carnival proved to be nervous souls alternately biting
their lips and praying.
In the end, the open mikes picked up deep sighs of relief,
even as officials rushed to clap themselves on the back and
fill the air with claims for the best ever.
A good time was had by all, or so the authorised version said.
Having played mas with Tribe, Finance Minister Conrad Enill
gave a rave review of new Port-of-Spain arrangements.
were no delays, no waiting; just a smooth flow...It was a
great Carnival, indeed.
Machel Montano is a party man in the Carnival sense of that
term, and his dazzling successes made it for him an unqualifiedly
But in his seventh year as a mas player, he reported a different
experience with Island People:
still had to wait on Charlotte Street to cross the judging
point...and in general being on the road, there was just not
enough room to party.
So there was an instant PNM party line being pushed about
the Carnival. From radio talkers to ministers, PNM people
showed desperate eagerness to find and proclaim some success.
Other people, with choices about following such opinion leadership,
could take it or leave it.
For the Government and its people, it had been a Carnival
of greater or lesser political risk. The greater political
risk, they judged, was to return to the Savannah and crystallise
a pre-election image of failure to leave any mark on the Carnival.
The lesser risk was to pretend the Grand Stand had fallen
down, that the age of the Big Yard was over, that
Carnival needed a new hook-line; and to try something else,
The something else needed a new name, eventually spun out
in the copywriters soca lyric of Movin to
de riddum of de road. Thus was created and marketed
a new Carnival myth: that de riddum of de road
was somehow an advance over the rhythm of the Savannah stage.
More lyrics and more renaming emerged in NCC chairman Keston
Nancoos message. Monday and Tuesday, he
wrote, remain dedicated to street dancing.
Here was a new name (street dancing) for what
was always called playing mas or jumping up in the streets!
Its politics that would rule this Carnival; forget the
merry monarch. As PNM ranks closed, a disciplined sentiment
took hold: whats not to love about the new arrangements?
Though crime fear had all but befouled the atmosphere, the
biggest anxiety in ruling circles was the danger of a grievous
political demerit accruing in an election year.
Raw nerves showed when published reports claimed more than
50,000 were flying out to escape Carnival mayhem.
Such an unhappy reflection on the administrations credibility
on security provision stung a prompt response from the touchiest
minister of all.
Colm Imbert at once protested that the airports falling under
his portfolio simply couldnt handle that level of traffic.
In the now familiar pattern of state officials echoing
the political office-holders, Police Commissioner Trevor Paul
said on Thursday the people leaving town might be sorry they
had done so.
Eager to defend his governments image, the Transport
Minister, however, exposed a vulnerable flank of his own.
A Guardian cartoonist obligingly took aim in a panel depicting
bumper-to-bumper T&T traffic.
In the punch-line balloon, one occupant of a vehicle said
to another about the 50,000-plus Carnival refugees:
sense would tell yuh dey couldnt even get to de airport
in dis kinda traffic.
That kinda traffic is the dread fate to which those of us
still here are condemned.
As a successful entrepreneur told me last weekend, crime fear
would not impel him to migrate; more likely, it would be the
The special-event, Carnival police show of force had its effect.
The police reported low-intensity crime.
Slightly more arrests were made in Central than in the capital-city
got a few knives, but nothing to talk about, said Senior
Supt Walrond, Port-of-Spain Division commander.
Still, to Mr Imberts chagrin, theres traffic to
talk about. Foreigners, who will have heard reports of two
days trouble-free street dancing, may be
reading, too, about the constant gridlock on the roads.
has turned what was a 30-minute drive to the airport into
a two-hour slog during rush hour, the international
news agency, Reuters, reported last week.
Its no doubt regularly worse than what the Reuters correspondent
experienced. The Government has itself called congestion an
ongoing and ever-increasing problem.
But Mr Imberts highest-profile solution is a rapid rail
system connecting Sangre Grande to Westmoorings and San Fernando
to Grand Bazaar.
A hotly controversial $7 billion project, it has been damned
by local engineers and contractors, blasted by the T&T
Transparency Institutebut fiercely defended by the minister.
He even called the organisations opposing the project fast
and out of place to make unsolicited recommendations to the
Transparency has sounded alarms about both corruption and
workability: The project seems destined to be a waste
of taxpayers money...without any reasonable assurance
that it will solve our traffic problems.
worst, it has the potential to become another Piarco projectto
be a milch cow, and feeding frenzy.
As traffic jams worsen, the rapid rail project, should it
take off, will not help matters till about 2013.
The Transport Minister, who jumped into the Carnival bacchanal,
remains the true owner of a traffic problem with no end in
sight, and with elections looming.
Until another year, the Carnival is over. Meanwhile, as well
keep seeing on Mr Imberts choked and polluted roads,
theres no movin to any riddum, and
less and less movement at all.