Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rebel in the House? - the Peter O'Connor commentary

Jack Warner campaigning in Chaguanas market
Well the gauntlet has been thrown, and picked up, the challenge thus accepted. We watch to see how the UNC, Jack Warner, and the people of Chaguanas West conduct themselves in the run up to the bye-election, and indeed how they, and the country deal with the result after July 29. 

And we should accept what it is that they will be dealing with is the fact that Jack Warner will win this bye-election —easily. And all this assumes that the UNC will not be nominating Jack.

The campaign is already on, and however it develops — the extent of fair play or not, the potential for hostility, the role of the PNM or others in the campaign rhetoric — it will set the tone for the coming Local Government Elections, and beyond. And this campaign can play out in many ways, but we hope that it retains a level of civility needed to prevent provocation from escalating into conflict. But given the players involved —the UNC and Jack, that may be a big task.

Actually, the party that could come out of the campaign the least bruised is the PNM. But for them to come through — losing but with heads held high because they did not join the bloodletting — would be a miracle for a Party led by “a raging bull”. 

For example, who will Rowley attack more: Kamla’s UNC or Jack? To suggest that the PNM might conduct a decorous election campaign is to coin an oxymoron. But I hold it out to the more intuitive, subtle and intelligent among the PNM (they exist?) that they should seek to build their own campaign, and not join the UNC and Jack Warner tearing each other apart.

Whether or not we have a reasonably decent campaign, or a wild and even violent one, can we expect the noise to subside after the election? The noise may subside, but the country will awaken on Tuesday July 30 to the reality of a rebel in the house of Parliament. 

This will be a throwback to the pre-PNM days of 1955 and earlier, where individuals, without party tags or allegiances sat and said what they wanted, and voted how they felt.

Not since 1955, when Bhadase Sagan Maraj resigned his seat and went to the people for validation, have we seen something like this. Oh, yes, people have crossed the floor, or changed their seating positions in Parliament as they left the Party which had put them there. But none, not since Bhadase, had the integrity or the stones to give up their seat and go to the people for validation. 

Those who left the Party which put them there claimed they were standing on their “integrity”. But not one had the courage or the integrity to return to the electorate to validate their egos. 

From Hector McClean who disavowed his “undated letter” demanded by Williams in the early 1970’s, through Lasse and Griffith who left the PNM to join the UNC, through Gillian Lucky, Winston Dookeran and others who departed the “politics has a morality of its own” UNC in 2006, but proved Panday’s statement correct by still sitting in UNC seats in the House; not one of these Honourable members had the honour, integrity or courage to return to the electorate.

Bhadase Sagan Maraj resigned from the then Legislative Council in 1955 when Albert Gomes, Roy Joseph and others, who were moving toward a West Indies Federation, voted to postpone the 1955 General Election.

You see, even then politicians thought they were gods and the only ones fit to negotiate for TT in the Federation discussion! Bhadase objected, and said he would resign his seat if the elections were postponed. One Member (I think it was Ranjit Kumar) said “And you know who will oppose you in the bye-election? The ghosts of two persons who had been murdered!). Bhadase responded, “Mr Speaker, does the Member know what he is saying?”

Bhadase resigned, and easily won his seat, forcing the General Election to be called without Gomes and Co arranging a Federation. The election was held a year late, in September 1956. But what was the real fallout of the Gomes plan and Bhadase’ unusual and courageous action?

In January 1956, during the “extension” of the Gomes parliament, one Dr Eric Williams “let down his bucket” and formed the PNM, which swept the September 1956 election. Had the elections been held in 1955, would there have been a PNM? It seems that Gomes’ ego, and Bhadase’ intervention, created the opening for the PNM to be formed, rally, and win the election.

Let us see what the Warner intervention of 2013 will bring to Party Politics in TT in the period leading to the 2015 General Elections? We live in interesting times!

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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