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MEDIA MONITOR: Cuffie’s confusing crucifixion communication and Rowley as bobolee

“Faith,” the King James version of the Holy Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:1, “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

But Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie was careful not to mention that very relevant Bible verse in his Easter message to the troubled citizenry of the Republic on the weekend. Trinis simply aren’t seeing any evidence of the things the government says are happening, (well, to be fair, will be happening; Rowley and co’s clear preference is for the Future Tense) many of which the citizens had hoped for when they stained their fingers for the red and ready party just about a year and a half ago.

Photo: Minister of Communications and Public Administration Maxie Cuffie. (Courtesy Ministry of Communications)
Photo: Minister of Communications and Public Administration Maxie Cuffie.
(Courtesy Ministry of Communications)

To the true-true Trini tongue and ear, there is no difference between ‘faith’ and ‘fate.’ And for the ordinary Trini under this bungling Rowley PNM, ‘bad’ nowadays precedes both words.

But drawing all kinds of parallels between Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection and reappearance, Cuffie tried to suggest that Trinidad and Tobago too will come back from the dead—and bungled it, writing about the “[…] the triumph of good over evil and death over life.”

Seemingly moved by the spirits, he conveniently found symbolism in the occasion which, he implied, boded well for every Thomas, Dick and Harrypaul in this soon-to-be-55-year-old Republic. Unfortunately for him, however, he failed to realise that there were far fewer dicks and Harrypauls in T&T than there were Doubting Thomases.

And so his sermon boomeranged. A day or two late, social media made him more than a Good Friday bobolee, “crucifying” him, according to the Sunday Express, and issuing “a howl of outrage and demands for an apology.”

Hear the Nation’s Number One Newspaper, editorialising on the issue of the mixed-up Minister’s messy message:

“What is not normal, however, is for public officials, particularly those holding political office, to use the opportunity [provided by a special day observed with a public holiday] for partisan politics.

“While one may argue, as he did, that ‘all scripture is beneficial for teaching and learning, and is applicable to all our lives,’ it is unclear what part of his message was aimed at leaching and which part demonstrated learning.

“In the aftermath of the experience, however, we hope Minister Cuffie has learnt a lesson or two.”

Photo: Presentation College (San Fernando) supporters pick on a dummy during their SSFL Premier Division clash with rivals Naparima College at Lewis Street, San Fernando on 28 September 2016. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Presentation College (San Fernando) supporters pick on a dummy during their SSFL Premier Division clash with rivals Naparima College at Lewis Street, San Fernando on 28 September 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

It was licks galore in that particular issue of the Express. Two pages on, Selwyn Cudjoe’s column, Part II of what I am reliably informed is a four-part series, is headlined “The great betrayal.” In it, the PNM disciple arguably does a Judas on the PNM Leader, demonstrating why Cuffie felt the need to take issue with “those who once cried ‘Hosanna’ [and] ‘are now shouting ‘Crucify Him.’”

“I am not sure,” Cudjoe signs off, “the present PNM has any interest in living up to this fundamental value which is implicit in our social contract. It is a cruel betrayal of what the early political movement stood for.”

“I expected such a betrayal from the UNC,” he concludes trenchantly, “not from the PNM.”

Two more pages further on, the Letter of the Day is signed by Terrence W Farrell, chairman, EDAB. For the uninitiated, those initials stand for the Farrell-headed Economic Development Advisory Board which, in his Sunday Express column of April 9 headlined “Gasping for gas,” Ralph Maraj accused of “slackness.”

“I tried to reach you by e-mail,” Dr Farrell begins, “and then indirectly through i95.5FM, without a response.”

“Certainly,” he adds somewhere in the middle of his open letter to the former PNM and UNC minister, “you did not take the time to call me or any member of the EADB for information.”

“I await your apology,” he ends, “but I will not be holding my breath.”

Who will dispute that these are but two examples of hostilities being played out under a veneer of civility?

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures on the election campaign platform. Is he saying that he did nothing wrong? (Courtesy Caribbean News Service)
Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures on the election campaign platform. Is he saying that he did nothing wrong?
(Courtesy Caribbean News Service)

The civil violence continued the next day. “Unfair criticism from PM Rowley” was the headline on the Express’ Easter Monday editorial.

“One hopes that it was not at that very late stage,” it said as it wound down, “on the day that the Galicia was due to be withdrawn from service, that the Prime Minister was making himself au fait with the issue.”

“The priority now can only be a restoration of cargo service and the pursuit of justice,” is the editorial’s final warning. “Politicking should take a back seat.”

Michael Harris’ “As you make your bed” is on the op-ed page.

“So it is not Mr Roget’s conduct which alarms me,” Harris eventually declares, having summarized the public reactions to the OWTU leader’s ‘incendiary and inflammatory’ take-your-rig-and-go statement to BP. “What irks and alarms me is the Prime Minister’s hypocrisy.”

Recalling that he had described the PNM’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Joint Trade Union Movement led by Mr Roget on the eve of the last general election in September 2015 as “a lack of judgment,” Harris quotes pointedly from the document and declares:

“So when Mr Roget pronounces on national strategic policy by telling BP to ‘take your platform and go’, the very last person who should complain is Dr Rowley.”

Photo: Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget. (Copyright Industriall-Union.org)
Photo: Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget.
(Copyright Industriall-Union.org)

He then adds a throwaway line that, one cannot but feel, is carefully calibrated to put emphasis on the final two words.

“As you make your bed so shall you lie…”

If Maraj is to be believed, Rowley has been lying and doing nothing for not just 40 days and 40 nights but, when we include the more than five hundred and forty plus days and nights since he came to office in September of 2015, for more than six and a half years. (That’s obviously not fair. After all, there was that one night when, he said, he sent a communication to Minister Hinds at some unearthly hour…)

The Express columnist has repeatedly insisted that the current prime minister and his band of merry men and women wasted the five years they spent as the Opposition and came to office completely unprepared to do the hard work of dealing with a situation they knew not to be rosy.

It’s hard not to agree. As I watch the eternal bunglers consistently rehearsing under the spotlights, consistently getting it wrong, I find myself wondering again, as I asked in an earlier column, what my late brother would have thought of the men currently running the country.

The difference is that this time, thanks in a general kind of way to the media and to BC Pires in particular, I have an answer.

In a special tribute edition of the Trinidad and Tobago Review edited by him shortly after Lloyd’s death in April ten years ago, Pires collected in one place the failed politician’s thoughts on several different issues and people.

Photo: The late Lloyd Best, an intellectual, professor, columnist and economist.
Photo: The late Lloyd Best, an intellectual, professor, columnist and economist.

He had this to say about Patrick Manning:

“I haven’t given him any thought at all; he doesn’t command any attention.”

And this immediately thereafter about Manning’s successor:

“Manning is superior to him.”

Five sentences follow, all about the now late prime minister.

I have faith that, faithful to the last, Communications is fated to find some fatal flaw in that unflattering message from beyond the tomb.

AboutEarl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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13 comments

  1. On spiritual Baptist Day in 2015, Kamla went in the Baptist people church dressed up like a big fake, give out communion and this hindu woman who knows nothing about the christian religion, proceeded to talk all kinda shit just to get baptist people to vote for her.
    Remember people?

    • Earl Best

      Don’t stop there, Melina. Tell us, did it work?

      And while you’re at it, consider whether “a big fake” is accurate; if you really believe in nothing, if you pretend to belong to everything, are you faking? I’m not sure that the dictionary would support that view.

  2. Wait…that was real?? Omg!! ?

  3. Max played for turn but the ball straightened and …..
    Not his best innings….

  4. I think he needs to go to seminary. Might enjoy more success with his ruminations there.

  5. I suspect either Maxie or his esteemed Theologian had too much wine with their Passover meal!

  6. Was wondering when the “saber rattling” talk would enter our lingo
    And there it is

  7. Maxie Cuffie responded on social media, he indicated that the release was written by a theologian who attended and accredited institution. I subsequently found out the name of X-Minister whose sermon was endorsed by the Communication Minister and circulated to all media houses, as his Easter message to the citizens. My thinking is, if I were in Minister Cuffie’s position, I would of rather put my signature on Selwyn Cudjoe’s article, as that was a more appropriate Easter message.

    • Hello. Hello. Hello.
      You saw the word “theologian” in what you read?
      Cause what I and others read was “a pastor”

      Very drastically different animals.

      As an almost theologian myself, please don’t sully the kind. Interestingly enough, now that you mention the identity, I don’t know of one theologian in the country.

      Smh. Wow.

  8. The late Eugenia Charles would have called Cuffy et al, yard fowl.

    • It was LFS Burnham that called Eugenia with the Grenada invasion a yard fowl. Get yah facts when you want to quote. Take your time Maxie,…Persevere Sir. Fight the good fight.

    • The first person I ever heard using the term yard fowl was Eugenia Charles. Yes Forbes Burnham referred to her as a yard fowl during the upheavals in Grenada after the attempted coup but he was not the only one. Tom Adams the prime minister of Barbados was referred to as yard fowl, Uncle Tom and a political crapaud. I remember those days and the charges made because the Grenada experiment was noteworthy to me.