I from Central....Couva North. Basdeo Panday Country. I from a constituency where if Panday sneeze, 15, 000 does show up to hand him a handkerchief and ask, "Yuh alright, Boss?" Is so Couva North stop. We did real like Panday. So when after 3pm on a Saturday evening in the heart of Chaguanas I could breeze down the highway and find a park and stroll into Mid Centre Mall Carpark for a Budget Maticor know is water more than flour and like they aint put enough dhal in the loya!
Crowd and Venue
Crowd size I know is important to a lot of people who currently observing the political situation because it will help to tell us where the electorate's head is at...so let me begin by describing yesterday's lay out. The UNC used the part of the Mid Centre Carpark that is at the back of the mall and Hi Lo. The main stage for the MPs was at the eastern exit, the stage for performers was behind Marios. It was two massive dome stages, the kind HD normally uses for Machel Monday. Two of those in the Mid-Center Car Park takes up a lot of room. Couple those two stages with another smaller stage for their control crew and media cameras; and two more small stages for camera men and equipment and you are beginning to get an idea of how contained the space was for the event. Then along the fence area were food stalls and then on the end that is normally the main entrance to that car park where the security booth is were the portable toilets. My point is, that you can't think of the entire eastern car-park as free and open because there were a lot of things crammed into the space.....the only thing not crammed in was people. Even with all of those stages, stalls and booths in there the space could have held a crowd of 20,000 and that would have made it difficult to move. Movement yesterday was never difficult. Only in front of the actually stage was the crowd thick...but not so thick that you couldn't walk through and make your way to the front and take pictures. There were TOP supporters, brown band maxi taxis from the south heartland, Collin Partap had a flag crew there, as did the AG, and Ramona Ramdial. The bussed in CEPEP crews were pretty obvious.
When you consider the size of the mandate this government holds; when you consider the size of its support base; the resources it put out yesterday and all week long you get confused. Kamla announced since last Sunday that she holding a Pre-Budget Rally. There were countless radio ads for an entire week. Across FB you had Ministers using their walls to rally people, Surujrattan Rambachan and Anand Ramlogan's walls were the ones I noted. Even COP councillors got in on the action promoting Budget Matikor. I expected to see the crowds Warner boasted about. 30-40,000. At a generous guess I'd say the crowd was about 13,000 at its peak. And in all likelihood it was less than that. Later on that evening when i went to Price Plaza just a stone's throw away from Mid Centre, that mall's carpark and business places had more people going about their month-end business than Budget Matikor. Not even the neighbours on my street, who can easily be described as UNC Die Hards bothered to attend the rally.
Now this can be interpreted in multiple ways: the have complete faith in their government, or they have become disenchanted.....make of that what you will.
Where for me things got exciting is as usual the dynamics on the stage and the content of the speeches.
IT was pure UNC attack mode with Kamla warning about a gathering storm, saying the lines are drawn and telling the crowd they know who the enemy is. She reminded me of Capildeo asking the DLP to attack the PNM in the 1961 elections. We going good in this place!
You had Suruj Rambachan further extending the dependency syndrome that the UNC deplored 2 years ago by announcing 6000 jobs in short term programmes coming up. This seems to be their way of shoring up votes for THA and Local Government Elections. So if you thought the 10 Days Mania was something specific to PNM or Afro-creole people....think again. UNC pushing the 10-Days mentality hard....change? No, EXCHANGE!
Marlene Coudray got dragged up onto the stage too. And it was a painful thing to see. Coudray's speech delivery was heart rending. There was no pep, no heart, no belief in her hype even. She seemed to be a woman still deep in mourning. And to have dragged a woman who has recently lost a child in such a way out this weekend to simply say to the crowd that Gender will be bringing new programmes onstream shows you just how insensitive and manic this government has become. The PM could have made that announcement herself and left Coudray to mourn in dignity. But this is a Government that will send 5 men to sit on television and gossip like vicious, bitter women about Rowley's parking habits, and to attack Asha Javeed.
The AG was brought on to bark and growl....and Anand has effectively become the UNC's version of a rottweiller. He yelled at the crowd that he not moving, not leaving. Said again and again that Rowley was a liar....but never once did he actually touch Section 34, the time line and his role in piloting the Bill. He went on to list all of the people he will be taking out lawsuits against....and I am still waiting to find out if we have benefitted from any of his lawsuits to date? Any? Has anyone been charged? Made to serve jail time?
Moonilal, announced as a man with more degrees as Rowley, then came on stage to prove just how dunce he really is. Within mere minutes of coming onstage Moonilal went on to state that Rowley got no signatures on his petition and handed the ag President a bag of paper. I was willing to forgive that lie on the basis og politicking....then Moonilal decided to play the ass with national history....a feature with this government. A people so insecure about their position and heritage here that they have to lie and re-invent history. Moonilal told the audience that Adrian Cola Rienzi founded the OWTU....not quite Mooni. Cola was its first sitting president when Butler had to go into hiding to avoid arrest. Butler still is and will always be the founder of that Union. But you see, when you don't know, and you drunk in a fete, you will listen and applaud anything without questioning it. And that's the kind of voter base this party is encouraging. Change? EXCHANGE!
After Moonilal we had speeches from Ramadhar, who spent time talking about Section 34 and its fallout in code and then exhaling with relief and sitting down after warning us to not repeat 1990. Too late Prakash...and your speeches at these rallies don't actually constitute new politics. You have failed. Go to the back of the class.
In the wake of Ramadhar we had three asses follow: Ahsworth, NJAC and Warner. Their specific purpose was to recite Psalms 23, remind the audience that no murders had taken place in Morvant/Laventille for 20 days (until last night) and that better days are coming. Tedium and boredom.
Then came DJ Larry Howai, the person I had shown up to hear.....not the conch shells and the free vuvuzelas that were handed out. And Howai's comments were mundane at best: improved healthcare, education, lower food prices, make groceries more affordable and help people have more money to spend in groceries. No details on how these things are going to be improved or whether money spent on these areas last year were well spent. After Howai's speech I am convinced that the thrust of Monday's Budget will be to distract the population with focussing on decreased food prices by November 15th, and there may well be a couple stings in its tail. So look out for what may happen to gas subsidies, utility rates and the property tax.
The highlight of the evening was the PMs announcement of No Vat on food items....and my brain went fuzzy for a minute because under the PNM between 2002 - 2007 VAT was removed from many food items. The list goes:
CONSUMER ITEMS THAT CARRY NO VAT • unprocessed food of a kind used for human consumption; • rice; • flour; • milk in any form, including processed and tinned milk; • margarine; • bread; • baby formulas and baby milk substitutes. • cheese and curd; • corned beef; • curry; • fresh butter; • peanut butter; • table salt; • salted butter; • tinned sardines; • smoked herring; • toilet paper; • yeast; • baking powder; • pasta, whether or not cooked or stuffed (with meat or other substances) or otherwise prepared, such as spaghetti, macaroni, noodles, lasagna, gnocchi, ravioli and cannelloni; • cane sugar; • cocoa powder, whether or not containing added sugar or other sweetening matter; • coffee; • mauby; • orange juice; • Herring; • Tuna; • Mackerel; • Ghee; • soya-bean oil; •) maize (corn) oil and its fractions; • sesame oil and its fractions; • chicken sausage, canned; • salami sausages; • icing sugar; • preparations of malt extract; • corn flakes; • biscuits, unsweetened; • grapefruit juice; • vanilla essence; • soy sauce; • tomato ketchup; • prepared mustard; • mineral water; • ordinary natural water; • aerated beverages; • orange drink; • grapefruit drink; and • vinegar
So then on what items is Persad-Bissessar's government removing VAT on?
Her most desperate attempt at attacking Rowley last night was in the form of a cheque that was signed by Duprey to the PNM for party financing. The link that our Silkened PM fails to make with her cheque revelation is this....Rowley links the cheque on May 18th from Steve Ferguson to Section 34....can the PM show how the PNM when in Government colluded to free criminals? Change? This Section 34 issue is even worse than Exchange!
In summation Budget Matikor was a real let down. The familiar refrain of Blame the PNM, and anything but the PNM, and Make Sure and Don't Vote Back the PNM was the message of the day. This wasn't about the Budget...it's not about food prices. It was entirely about attacking the PNM, pandering to their voter base and trying to distract from the crime of Section 34, the declining economy and the sting that is coming in this Budget's tail. Oh, and it was about attacking the PNM, just in case you missed it in all the previous speeches!
At the end of the day what the PM and her Cabinet assured us of yesterday is that she is no longer listening to the people, she's too busy drinking her Kool Aid mixed with Vodka!
De Vice Cyah Done