You are here
Anil & Prakash & Mary & Sasha
The poll question on my own Web site for the last week has been, “Who will be elected political leader of the Congress of the People?” Voting options are: 1. [Minister of Sport] Anil [Roberts], and it will unify the party; 2. [Minister of Legal Affairs] Prakash [Ramadhar], and it will unify the party; 3. No ’Lini Dial; and 4. Don’t Cry for Vernon De Lima. Now media poll questions are like headlines: they must summarise the content they represent as snappily as possible without distorting it—which makes me remember the great headline fable my colleague Raoul Pantin used to give cub reporters: A newspaper sub-editor, waiting for his taxi to work one morning, studies the sign of a fish stand on the Eastern Main Road: “Fresh fish sold here daily.” “You don’t need the ‘fresh,’” he tells the vendor, “because you’re obviously not selling stale fish.” The next day, the sign reads, “Fish sold here daily.” “People see you here every day,” advises the sub-editor, “take out that ‘daily.’”
Next day, the sign reads, “Fish sold here” and the sub points out that the vendor is not giving the fish away, so the “sold” can go. The day after, since the fish is not being sold at a remote location, the sub points out the “here” is superfluous. The last day, with the sign reading just “Fish,” the sub-editor tells the vendor, “Hear, nuh, you could throw ’way that sign. People smelling that stinking fish a mile away!”
So I mean no insult to either the vivacious Nalini Dial or the venerable Vernon De Lima in rendering their options that way @ www.BCRaw.com. There’s a bit of an attempt to get away from “Fresh fish sold here daily” in the language of the question; and I clearly don’t assess either Ms Dial or Mr De Lima as front-runners. For a woman to be taken seriously in Trinidad politics, she must defeat Mr Panday; and Mr De Lima is not a Member of Parliament and, I am told, has said he does not think it necessary for a party’s political leader to be one. He is entitled to argue the merits of the point but I’m not aware of any electorate anywhere in the world having been persuaded by it; not counting “governments in exile” or “governments” of those partly-tamed areas in Africa or the Middle or Far East that call themselves countries on the same basis that beauticians call themselves “aestheticians.”
But the supporters of Vernon and Nalini will probably be cross with me for putting a slightly comic spin on them. It’s almost amusing how much stress the party’s membership seems to be giving itself over Anil & Prakash & Nalini & Vernon; and it’s a reflection of how fixed attitudes to leadership in Trinidad are, because one of the foursome will be elected, but some COP members seem convinced the party will be doomed if their own horse doesn’t nose the finishing line first. It’s as if they don’t understand that, if they don’t like who they elect, they can vote him or her out in a year. Consider the plight of the wider national electorate, which had to wait five years to disabuse itself (a most apt verb) of Messrs Panday & Manning.
The odd (if not quite “strange”) bedfellows of Anil & Prakash & Nalini & Vernon led me to remember an unusual Hollywood film, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, which encouraged freedom of thought and expression via a very funny analysis of sexual attitudes in the USA in 1969. Because we treat with matters in a particular way, that does not mean it is the only way they can be. The principle applies to political as evenly as to literal bedmates; and leads me to think of several other foursomes, including Keith & Patrick & Basdeo & Ramesh and Vernon & Winston & Kamla & Jack—but, of all the permutations or combinations that could have made my own headline today, Sasha & Mary supply the last couple of the quartet; and don’t think that Sasha [Mohammed, perhaps soon-to-be-former special adviser to the PM] & Mary [King, former Minister of Planning] are not a couple.
Last week, en passant (which, for the benefit of extinguished gentlemen of suspicious quotation is not a reference to a Pasea Road lime), I called Mary King the cleverest person I know in public life; as she may well be; but a friend, who will remain nameless, in case anyone figures out he is the chairman of a large listed public company, phoned me to point out Mary had indeed been contrary to an earlier incarnation of herself. He reminded me she had been an Independent senator and had then accepted a Cabinet post in the new government, proving that she could not have been truly independent before, or could not have understood the requirements of the post. I am grateful for the correction; and surprised that no one has, to my observation, addressed the issue before. But it’s not surprising, really, given that “journalism”—which only works for us all if it is working for no one in particular, if it is impartial—seems to be the new path to a cushy, high-paying and even more highly partisan state job in which there appears to be no accountability whatever. Journalists, like everyone else, are entitled to hold political opinions; but these are private matters. I happen to like and think highly of several of the media people who have accepted glorified ten-days positions from the powers of the purse that be; but that does not change the simple fact that, by accepting the patronage, they have removed themselves from the group that watches and have deliberately placed themselves in the group that is to be watched; like a month in jail.
BC Pires was an Independent and is now a Guardian. Read more of his writing at www.BCraw.com
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.