Sunday, November 4, 2012

Size is good for bragging but does not matter when substance is lacking

How many? Does it really matter?
So how many people really went out to Port of Spain to join the People's National Movement's (PNM) Democracy March on Friday?

The PNM leader Keith Rowley was there, big time PNM supporter (although he always denies it) Ancel Roget, and the man who made a deal with the PNM to depose his own government when Basdeo Panday was prime minister, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj. Another R seemed to be absent - Ralph Maraj, another PNM ally who helped topple the Panday administration, but that's understandble because he belongs to the Manning PNM, not the Rowley side.

And of course thousands of others, including union bosses who never asked their membership if they wanted them to be there, and there was also a man named David Addullah, who was declared the country's next prime minister by his fans in the labour movement and the Movement for Social Justice. When he left the PP government he also said his MSJ would be an independent group.

If you ask the PNM they will tell you there were 40,000 people there; ask the supporters of the PP they will do the math and show that at best between four thousand and seventy-five hundred. Some reporters spoke of a "massive crowd" but didn't want to guess, for fear of offending someone. Reporters are like that sometimes.

And it seems that everybody was forgetting that normally on a Friday in Port of Spain you can find a couple thousand people doing whatever people do on a Friday afternoon. Well the PNM included them as well in doing their inflated head count.

Folks it doesn't matter how many were there. What matters is what this demonstration has achieved, other than create talking points and misinformation for talk show hosts and senseless rum shop chatter.

We are a curious, bacchanal society and we like we comesse. So lots of people were there to mako what was going down. And a lot more - many wearing red shirts and waving the PNM and T&T flag - did not have a clue why they were there except that they were told to be present.

For most of them 34 was just a number (representing sheep) - and like sheep, the people followed because someone was pointing the way. 
If you have a strong, credible message, people will pay attention and act. So size does not matter, except for bragging rights, unless you have the right message to go with your event.

I remember being present at the biggest politcal rally this country has ever seen ... almost the whole of Aranguez Savannah jammed with people for the UNC-A rally ahead of the 2007 general election.

Over at the Eddie Hart ground a little higher up the Eastern Main Road Manning and his PNM could not even get half the crowd. And what happened? Two days later Manning and his PNM won 26 seats and the UNC-A had to be content with the other 15.

Here's another example. In 1980 I was in Sam Sharpe Square in Montego Bay, Jamaica for a rally of the governing People's National Party (PNP) led by the charismatic Michael Manley. The energy in the place was so powerful, everyone was saying "we done win". There were 100,000 people there that night when Manley announced the election date, "the third term day" never came.

Over in Kingston Edward Seaga had about 20,000 at best. But when the votes were counted on election day it was Seaga's Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) that won 51 of the 60 seats in Parliament leaving Manley with the other nine.

That's the nature of the game. The people wanted Seaga; they went to MoBay for a fete. In 2007 PNM people stuck with Manning because the UNC-A was too wishy-washy but they went to Aranguez because Salman Khan, the big Bollywood star, was there. 

Tens of thousands marched during the Black Power period in 1970 but the Williams PNM did not resign. What legitimacy does the PNM have today to demand an elected government resign? 

All that happened on Friday was that a few thousand persons took part in a march, not to the polling stations, but to hear the same old same old from a man desperate for power before his past chickens come home to roost. He is clearly looking for a distraction.

We are in an election mode in Trinidad & Tobago. It's not the one Rowley and the PNM want; that's coming in 2015. For now the PNM has to face off with the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) in January for control of the Tobago House Assembly (THA). And in 2013 the Local Government Election would see the first battle between the PNM and the PP since 2010.

So there will be more marches and demonstrations. Go ahead and march. Bring as many people as you can, but don't break the law and threaten public safety.

It won't change anything unless the movement that is stirring up unrest has a clear, honest message that benefits all the people. We are not going to let ourselves be drawn into another senseless mess like the one some politicians encouraged in 1990. 

And we have grown up way beyond 1970... so grown up in fact that the man who led that 1970 uprising is now one of the leaders in the coalition of interests that governs Trinidad & Tobago. The PP, unlike the opposition, represents the diversity of T&T.

Having grown up, the people of Trinidad & Tobago know their power lies in the ballot box. And they would gladly give Kamla and the PP their marching papers and put the PNM in charge if they think that's what the country needs.

SO the message for the PP is this: people need to know what you are doing, that the you not betrayed them. You have to strip down the arguments from the opposition and show the people that you have been working and building from the ruins left by the PNM.

Remember that famous line from Shakespeare ...
"There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries".

Rowley and the PNM believe that have the advantage and are creating the propaganda to seduce the population and make them believe the lies and misinformation. They see themselves afloat on "such a full sea" and are determined to "take the current when it serves," or lose their ventures.

The tide is there for the People's partnership just the same. For the sake of Trinidad & Tobago, let's hope Captain Kamla can ride the tide and guide her ship through, leading  us forward with the transparency, accountability and equality she promised in 2010.

Time is short; the High Tide will soon be upon us and stormy seas lie ahead.

Jai Parasram
(with a file from Richard Wm Thomas)

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai