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Coup plot: Trying to convince the sceptics
No one genuinely discerning of the state of politics in T&T and the world should be surprised at the measure of disbelief, cynicism, blind support and equally blind opposition to the very serious allegation that a group of people has been planning to assassi- nate Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and three of her Cabinet ministers. Here is the Prime Minister not sending her Minister of National Security but coming to the population (this is after the so patent backroom, orchestrated leaks of the previous day) and putting her reputation and the credibility of the Government on the line, informing about and giving context to a plot to assassinate her and her ministers.
Moreover, she was supported in her effort by the Commissioner of Police who attested to the assassination plot, and in the background the head of the Defence Force who sought to lend the weight of his office to the allegations. But even before the statements are finished there are the cynics on radio talk shows and social media sending messages across the world, those so minded saying that the alleged plot is a hoax.
Indeed, inside the news conference studio, Commissioner Gibbs, who at the best of times seems incapable of exuding confidence and rigour, recognises a measure of disbelief among a few reporters, so much so that he finds it necessary to say to them they could choose to believe or not, to disbelieve would be their prerogative, but that the plot has been discovered and the police are investigating it. But to bolster the strength of the allegations, the CoP indicates that a dozen people have been arrested and among them members (or former members) of the police and army.
But notwithstanding the Prime Minister and the security forces going this far to convince the sceptics, the disbelief continues. Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar went one step further and consulted with the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Keith Rowley, and secured a confidential meeting for him and the commissioner. Out of such a decision, the Prime Minister must have hoped to get a buy-in from the Leader of the Opposition for the selling of the allegation to that section of the population supportive of Dr Rowley. In addition, the Prime Minister must have been hoping to influence those not aligned to either side.
But as we know, Dr Rowley, although so far keeping the confidence about the details of the plot, has deemed it to be overreaction by the Government and behind it a plan to extend the state of emergency. So here is what must be referred to as a very serious threat against the Prime Minister and three of her ministers, with the police and army as points of reference, and the Attorney General all there to give credibility and stiffening to the claims, and yet there are significant pockets of disbelief in the society.
How could such people, the analyst may want to ask, so believe that a Prime Minister could be seeking to deceive and toss the country into turmoil to achieve some sectarian, short-term objective? What is more, how could people, those online, the callers and others, think that a government, any government, would place itself in jeopardy simply to win public sympathy which would fizzle if the allegations turn into a hoax?
Understandably, the cynics and believers should be divided into groups: the tribal supporters of the ruling and opposition parties who can be easily led around by their noses, who will see no evil, hear no evil about their party and tribe but will easily agree that the claims and actions of the other are false. This phenomenon of blind loyalty has seriously blighted the politics; it has given us a mass from which there can be drawn no critical thinking, just driven by tribal instincts. What it does in times such as those we are in now is to make public discourse meaningless as the tribal, unthinking loyalty offers nothing constructive to infuse the discussion and inform the society.
Those who support the ruling party will have us believe without questioning that the drug dealers are out to get the Prime Minister for smashing their drug rings, and that the Leader of the Opposition is hopelessly out of touch. On the other side there are those telling the nation that Mrs Persad-Bissessar represents the quintessence of Machiavellian intrigue and so no one should believe anything she and her Gov- ernment say. Outside of those entrenched blocs, there are many whose scepticism is based on the reality of a political culture which has been developing over the decades. That culture is founded in Anancy politics, who could outsmart who, deception being the first line of communication and the belief that at their very core, those who would engage in politics are inherently corrupt and so incapable of truth.
This is the reality of the politics developed by the political parties; it offers little hope for rational thinking and meaningful political participation. There are those who would say that culture has been very deliberately developed in the post-independence period so that the parties can depend on tribal loyalties. What seems fair to conclude is that a Prime Minister, the CoP, the Defence Force commander, the Attorney General and the Minister of National Security and threatened ministers could not hold the population in such contempt that they believe they could so deceive. Therefore, it must be that there is substance to the alleged assassination plot.
But like others, this columnist has a healthy scepticism of politicians and their parties. What is more, politicians and their parties have earned the disbelief which people have of them. Therefore, the allegation is before the Government and the security forces to be proven, and neither one of the two entities could seek to lay blame on each other for some faux pas which blocks the way forward. Nothing short of an unqualified conviction in the courts would satisfy those with doubts and there can be no long drawn-out investigation and deliberation: the police must go out and find the evidence to convince the Director of Public Prosecutions there is a basis for the laying of charges.
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