healers of T&T's sin-sick soul
stirred by the budget had hardly settled when a Jamaican filly
called Pride N Glory, ridden by a Venezuelan jockey,
gloriously kicked up her heels to win the Royal Oak Rum Derby
Santa Rosa Park in Arima was the setting for this Caribbean
celebration of horse-race-gambling and rum-drinking, which
counts as the only Republic Day tradition invented in Trinidad
Pride N Glorys owner won a $500,000
purse. Lesser stakeholders made Superfecta
and Trifecta gains of $727.60 and $187.60.
When the Derby duel in the sun looked like a close
finish, the massive...crowd went into a frenzy,
Newsdays Midas reported.
Cancelled by the Panday UNC, the public holiday was gratuitously
reinstated in 2002 by the Manning PNM. As before, Republic
Day remains without a significant agenda, official or other.
Trinis, however, need no invitation to embrace free-time opportunities
to free up. The PNMs Vision 2020recognises T&T
as a fun-loving society, while exhorting it also
to become disciplined and caring.
PNM scripture may thus be quoted for devilishly irreverent
purposes, such as taking a stand for an inalienable right
to drink rum in the sun, and bet money on horses racing in
the dust, or on Play Whe marks prompted by dreams.
Rum, and fun, and the thrill of a flutter on a horse or a
mark, or a spinning wheel, should be part of the official
recognition of what the T&T experience is all about.
The amiable face of Karen Nunez-Tesheira, reading a budget
for what she (inexplicably) called the new PNM administration,
turns out to be a mask for Patrick Manning.
The Prime Ministers born-again passion, infamously ministered
to by pastors and prophetesses, translates into a healing
mission for the sin-sick soul of T&T.
His passion and mission constitute a lively force armed with
the power of the state.
Ms Nunez-Tesheira was really advancing Mr Mannings iron-fisted
view of the supposed evils of gambling.
A little noted coda near the end of her budget pronounces
an unsupported assertion, like a curse, against the
negative societal impact that an unregulated casino gambling
industry is having on certain segments of the population.
Now, this is really an article of faith, lacking requirement
Nowhere, not in the 2007 PNM manifesto, nor in any public
admonition or consultation, have the alleged social evils
of gambling been identified and discussed.
The Manning anti-casino certainties, alarmingly given voice
in 2006, were downplayed for the purposes of the 2007 election.
Arising from those certainties, the fatal dispositions for
the gambling industry return now as revealed truth from a
Faith-based policy requires the National Lotteries Control
Board to pursue the specific aim of eliminating all
its games of chance within the short term.
High-end gamers cruising the Woodbrook casino strip, and the
little people lining up at NLCB kiosks across the country
are equally targeted as alleged victims and vectors of vice.
The NLCB has been ordered to convert itself into a ticket
agency for buses and ferries and water taxis.
Few people appear to be paying attention, and many of even
those refuse to believe what they hear.
Meanwhile, the Manning administration marches on with its
social (and cultural) engineering.
The sensational aim, the sleeper in the project, is to eliminate
gambling from the fun-loving T&T character
referred to by Vision 2020.
As yet, the Government has not taken aim at the horse-racing
sport of kings and presidents, which is supported by Royal
Oak, White Oak, Blu Vodka, 1824 and 1919 brands of Angostura
To that extent, suppression of gambling implies a crackdown
Sports Minister Gary Hunts terms and conditions this
year sought to forbid liquor advertising at Hasely Crawford
Stadium events. It was a shot across the bow for Carib and
Red Stripe, two beer brands that have sponsored regional cricket
and supported other sports.
The abolition of gambling never emerged as a plank of the
2007 campaign, which, as Ms Nunez-Tesheira claimed, delivered
the PNM a resounding mandate.
Personal piety is elevated to public policy. The Government
bids to steal a march on the rest of us.
We remain confounded by the obscurantist judgment that
seeks to criminalise the heretofore harmlessness of betting
on a dream, or wagering a dollar to win a million.
Unclued about unintended consequences, the Manning administration,
so far from eliminating peoples urge to gamble, will
only push the practice underground.
The old, long-criminalised, Whe Whe, never entirely displaced
by the legal Play Whe, is due for a flourishing revival.
Policy thus produces more work for the police, already over-extended
and under-resourced, as murder and other crime proliferate.
An elite reserve army already exists for deployment as expeditionary
force against vice.
It is Sautt, the Special Anti-Crime Unit. The well-resourced,
high-tech, secret service, created by the Manning administration,
has ominously figured in the front lines of raids on
alleged sexy hot spots such as Villa Capri in San Fernando
and Copa in Port-of-Spain.
Sautt, future gambling ban enforcers, were the only policing
operation praised in the Manning-Nunez-Tesheira budget.