All now so the action hot in Mid-Centre Mall Car park as they put the finishing touches on the tents, chairs and trestle tables. Sohari leaf washing by the hundreds and is real plenty Sani-cup, garbage bag and chubby buy from one of the party financiers who does supply them kind of thing. The annual Eat Ah Food Fete is underway.
The Prime Minister is saying this is not a fete in here....(cue David Rudder). She maintains that this is actually the Government (sans the MSJ, but with a heavy dose of Prakash to make up for it) coming to account to the people....This is the same Government that won't answer our questions in the Parliament, or when the media interrogates them in post-cabinet meetings or over the phone. But tonight, yet another year later, in a line-up that features Rikki Jai, KI and Machel Montano (three artists that either sing about or sell rum) the PM plans to account to the country for her government's achievements in the past year.
You will no doubt hear about the numerous mini-projects that they put on fast track in the last month to allow them to have things to report. You will hear about the new anti-Gang Unit set up within the Police service....what you won't hear about is how dismantling SAUTT and the OPVS, and deploying the Air Guard helicopters to function as her private taxi service have fucked our national security measures up. What you also won't hear is a proper comparison of crime statistics between last year and this year (minus the lull period of the SoE) and a breakdown of how the removal of certain National Security infrastructure has led to murders and gang activity once again being on the upsurge. You also won't hear a word on that breach of breaches, the Robbery at the SIA office in Arima that would have remained covered up but for the TnT Mirror Story! One week after the robbery the police are finally visiting the crime scene. I'm sure forensics will find something, aren't you?
You will hear about the Oncology Centre for Penal, what you won't hear about is the medical scandal about the over radiated patients at the BC Lara Cancer Centre, you also won't hear any explanations for all the instances of medical malpractice that leave citizens bereft of loved ones and an explanation. You also won't hear them explain why after two years in government they only now know that certain facilities are understaffed.
You will hear about all the sweeping changes being planned for SEA. You won't hear why the indecent haste to change this exam in this way and the impact it's likely to have on our failing education system. You won't hear about all the questionable tendering going on in with Min of Ed contracts. You won't hear about teachers having to leave their classes unattended for three weeks to attend Min of Ed crash courses that defy all pedagogical rules of learning.
You will hear talk of how the trip to India and all the other numerous trips have yielded trade and investment possibilities. You will never get details on what those possibilities are or what the trips really cost us....you also will not hear that they met a stable economy, and a treasury that was not in debt and they have now managed to screw the entire economy up. You won't hear any explanations about why Dookeran's constant promises of blue skies ahead never materialised. You will not hear that Devant Maharaj is actually an incompetent Minister of Transport, and he has taken an airline that was at least managing and has now turned it into one of the biggest drains on the economy. You won't hear that the New CAL chairman, at his first meeting as chairman of the cash strapped CAL Board put up for discussion the purchase of a brand new Audi SUV for his use even though the chairpersons of state boards are not entitled to state vehicles. You won't hear the PM or the Minister of Finance discuss the economic impact of the SoE and explain why months later the country still cannot recover from that 107-day interruption that was supposed to be part of the PM's crime plan...no wait, it was to avert the non-assassination plot...no it was to find diesel bunkers in Beetham....no, wait, it was to avoid war with Columbia...no wait, it was to...
I wish I could think of all the other areas they are going to list as achievements, but their numerous and glaring failures are far too apparent to me.
In yesterday's Guardian, a columnist wrote a letter to the PM advising her on what her goals should be for the next year in office. If it isn't sad enough that this government didn't have a 5-year strategic plan, now we have columnists offering 1-year plans for governance...ah well. The columnist compared Kamla's term in office thus far to Barack Obama's; made his customary attack on the PNM and Afro-creole culture and then gave the PM a tip that's useful, but in opinion impossible for this regime. He advised the Prime Minister to "takes possession of the Trini imaginary". I read this and smiled. Partly because of what he was exhorting the PM to do and partly because all the things he constantly ascribes as being features of PNM people and PNM followers: inherent laziness, begging for handouts, playing the victim, incessant partying and falling prone to a culture of bacchanal is also very true of the UNC and People's PArtnership Government. If not more so. This government has, in less than two years, made the entire public sector and ALL state enterprises, into CEPEP/Make Work Programmes for their friends and family members. Now if that isn't out-PNMing the PNM I don't know what is!
What the columnist is alluding to, with this business of capturing the "imaginary" is a major concept in nationalism and identity making. Crucial concepts for any politician to master if you are going to run a country, and the ultimate concept to master when you have decided you are going to create a nation. Historians understand how to manipulate the "imaginary". Traditionally, in fact, historians or certainly afficionados of history, have been some of the greatest architects of nationalism and national identity. But before I start to get all abstract and convoluted let me break it down.
The idea of building a nation...or NAAY Shun, as Kamla's fake accent pronounces it, is a fairly recent concept. Mid 1800's is the oldest it goes back really, according to thinkers like Hobsbawm and Michel Foucault.
The architect of this nation will always be recognised as Eric Williams.....and Williams was a historian...in fact, he was a revisionist historian. As his PhD thesis, that eventually became published as Capitalism and Slavery will attest. And Williams, a man of singular intelligence, insight and foresight, figured out that to take this colony into Independence he also had to create an identity for it. Savvy as ever, Williams even re-wrote the colony's history, and then from 1956 - 1981 set about developing the nation as we know it today. It is Williams' ideas, programmes and implementation that built and developed the idea of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago: for better or for worse. And this is where every other political party will always stumble!
Every political party that has come since the PNM has two battles to wage....coming to terms with their own concepts of nationalism and national identity in the face of Williams' construction of it, and then coming up with another brand of nationalism that is acceptable and palatable to an electorate that has already unconsciously absorbed and accepted these concepts of nationalism and national identity. In short, we done know what being Trini is.....so any new ideas of "Trini" has to pass muster with us.
The PPG, the UNC, the COP will fail simply because none of their leaders or any member of leadership is the calibre of historian that Williams was. In this year of our 50th anniversary the PPG have tried to avoid all mention of Eric Williams, because it will mean having to mention the PNM and therefore having to acknowledge that much of the infrastructure they have come and met, and regularly use and abuse was developed under Eric Williams, and then maintained under Chambers and then Manning. Indeed every government since 1981, whether it was PNM-led or not, has been coming to terms with the Williams legacy. Every regime we have had lives under his shadow....both in terms of his achievement and his failures.
Any Indian-led government in this country has to come to terms with the stigma of its "Indianness" and "foreignness", this is something that Basdeo Panday understood far better than Kamla, Suruj, Roodal, Sat, Devant or Tim. When the Bas won the 1995 elections he set about expanding the UNC voter base because he realised that while an Indian electorate brought him into power, it wasn't an Indian electorate that would keep him there. The Bas understood only too well that even after being here 150 plus years Indian culture wasn't understood or entirely embraced outside of its enclaves. And that's both the fault of Indians as well as other groups in the society. The Bas understood too that in a space that had been shaped for more than 30 years (more than a century actually) by a hybrid form of Afro/Euro culture (what we like to call creole), the general population wouldn't accept national culture being forcefully "Indianised". They would embrace the bits they liked (food, music, holidays), and continue much as they had in the past. In his travel book "The Middle PAssage" VS Naipaul also pointed out the insularity of the Indian population (prior to Independence) and pointed out that the Indian in Trinidad still looked to India as its source. As a result, the wider perception of the population is that Indians don't have a national identity, they have an "East Indian" (as in continental) identity. The fascination with all things Bollywood doesn't help dispel this stigma. And unfortunately, many Indians who do embrace a concept of Trinidadian identity are ignored, or worse yet ridiculed and shunned as not being national enough.
Kamla's Partnership has a lot of work to do if it is to ever capture the national imaginary. Kamla has relied on putting on fake accents and donning the mixed-up persona of "Bollywood Princess", with a dash of "Hillary Clinton"...but she gets it wrong. The PM is constantly this elusive, feeble, female persona who relies heavily on the men around her. Mrs Tulsi in suits, make up and up-dos. The Old She-Fox. Confront Kamla on any uncomfortable issue and the answer she recites gives you get the impression she has slipped through your fingers and run behind a tree Bollywood style.
Her Partnership would have to employ real thinkers, not the hangers on and parasites she has around her....and they would have to have a vision about Trinidad and Tobago that is rooted here and resonates here. And that will be difficult particularly because Indian identity in Trinidad is still a very slippery thing. Many Indians here look to Bollywood and North America for their social and cultural norms....Kamla's idea of national culture unfortunately is soca, chutney, rum and roti. She cannot see beyond the pappy show mentality that she grew up in and has now come to espouse.
In the end, there is no re-writing of the "Trini-imaginary" by the People's Partnership, because when Williams wrote it he wrote it well. Williams understood the potency of what he was doing. Whereas Kamla and her cohorts only understand greed and have a limited ambition. In their minds the way to stay in power is to buy votes and rig elections. Before a national election was ever called Williams realised that the way to build empires is to capture the people's imagination and hold it.
This Partnership doesn't have that power or understand it. Tonight they will continue to lie to a disgusted population in front of an audience that has been bussed in and paid to party hard. That's why their fete tonight will seem grasping, vulgar and desperate to many.
An important part of any nation's imagination is its Independence story. Last year the SoE denied us a celebration. The people remember and hold it in mind. This year's celebration will be a disappointment. Mark my words. The country is frustrated, disillusioned, broke and bitter. Come August the people's minds will turn to Eric Williams, which invariably means they will turn to the PNM and their thoughts will force comparisons. Many will still recoil at the thought of Manning, but many more will continue to think of Williams and what he stood for....no country forgets the architect of their Independence. And it is in these quiet ways that the PPG will lose it's battle for the nation's imaginary and quietly fuck itself into irrelevance.
Kamla will be remembered....no doubt about it. As the worst leader the country ever had...until the next worst leader....
De Vice Cyah Done.