Salaah: Portrait of Watson Solomon Duke, commoner with eyes on the crown

‘Send in the clowns’ is the title of a classic song written for a play launched on Broadway all the way back in 1973. I think it should have been dusted off and polished up and used as the signature tune for the play Watson Duke is making to take national politics by storm.

After talking our ears off for long years, the former PSA president and current Deputy Chief Secretary of the THA finally took action and made his first move on the weekend.

Photo: PDP political leader Watson Duke.
(via PDP)

“The way to get started,” Walt Disney once said, “is to quit talking and begin doing.”

Some people make Duke out to be a buffoon or a dunderhead. Everything I know about him comes from the public domain but I have the distinct impression that he is not the type to ‘quit talking’. Certainly no more than Bugs Bunny or any of Disney’s looney toons characters.

I also have the distinct impression that, smarter than the former American president who was said to be unable to walk and chew gum at the same time, Duke does not have to quit talking to begin doing.

Call him a dreamer, an idealist or a sceptic. But there is no doubt that the PDP political leader is ambitious and serious about making waves in national politics. So all those who expected him to be content with the successes on his 120 square mile island, where he annihilated the Red Party with a landslide victory in the THA elections, were merely fooling themselves.

That kind of ambition is dangerous and Duke’s willingness to hide his light under a Farley Augustine bushel in Tobago should have signalled to his foes and political adversaries that he is serious about entering Trinidad politics.

Photo: PDP deputy political leader and THA chief secretary-in-waiting Farley Augustine (front, centre) poses with his team.
At far right is PDP political leader Watson Duke .
(via PDP)

So it was no surprise to see the Progressive Democratic Patriots’ campaign machinery in full gear again last weekend and the THA Deputy Chief Secretary putting down his marker in the geographic area of Laventille. Politics is about community, defined as “an association of individuals who share a common identity. This identity is usually defined by geography, a sense of common purpose and a single political allegiance”.

So, yes, Laventille. That makes perfect sense, given the ethnic make-up of that community. It’s easy for ‘ah we boy’ to gel with and identify with the downtrodden people in those parts and for them to gel and identify with him.

People who are fed up and feel disenfranchised will gravitate towards any person or group(s) who demonstrate(s) the right leadership qualities and promises to deliver social assistance that would alleviate their pain and suffering.

Conventional wisdom says that campaign promises are worthless. But the democratic process does not really require you to fulfil promises, as Duke and his PDP already know all too well after only almost half a year of holding the reins of power in Scarborough.

Rum and roti politics, they will soon learn from their friends who have been in the Trinbago gayelle for many years, is still an effective way to win friends and influence the masses.

Photo: PDP political leader Watson Duke (centre) poses with supporters in Tobago.
(via PDP)

In fact, maybe they and their friends are already talking. Duke’s entrance into mainstream national politics came with an announcement that he will be distributing bread to the dispossessed in the hills of Laventille. That gimmick bears the headline-seeking stamp of the Sunday morning press conferences.

I think that along with the (five loaves of) bread, we believers are supposed to see Matthew’s and Mark’s two fish. And perhaps we are also supposed to see the bread as manna.

According to a New York Times article: “In public life, say politicians, nothing is more important than timing. An identical action or announcement can have dramatic effects, depending on the moment that they are undertaken.”

Since the PDP victory last year, Duke knows the strength of his hand. He knows that winning the THA election put his party in the driver’s seat. He senses the failure of the Red Party to appease the restless masses in East Port-of-Spain and elsewhere, he senses that the marginal seat in San Juan/Barataria might be ready to turn its back on the Red and the Yellow, he senses that the spirit of 1986 is waiting to be unleashed once more, he senses that the moment is around the corner.

His moment.

Photo: PDP political leader Watson Duke (centre) is popular among the youth.

He knows that there is more than an outside chance. He knows that, come 2025, it is more than possible, it is plausible that the PDP will hold the trumps. But timing is of the essence. There is many a slip between the cup and the lip.

So Duke is already doing what he can safely do now. But don’t expect him to quit talking. He won’t. He can’t.

Expect him, a devout Adventist, to be biding his time. Watching. And waiting. And hoping. And praying.

Send me a sign, Lord, send me a sign… Not my will but thine…

I cannot close without sharing the relevant parts of a revealing exchange with a friend of mine, whose judgement I have long trusted. He was for years a member of the PSA so I asked him to have a look at my verbal portrait of Watson Solomon Duke and give me a candid reaction.

“Well,” he said, “two things to start with. ‘Send in the clowns’ is not about clowns at all. But that’s okay because Duke is not a clown; although he might make you laugh, he is much more dangerous than that!

Photo: PDP political leader and ex-PSA president Watson Duke.

“And not simply because of what this week’s Wired868 writer to the Editor called our attention to.

“Perhaps the place to start,” he continued, “was with the character that Miguel de Cervantes created over four centuries ago, Don Quixote.”

“Don Quixote,” I asked, “the madman who they said tilted at windmills?”

“Precisely! There’s a very good film about him I saw a long time ago, maybe in 1973 too. It’s called Man of La Mancha and its theme song is called ‘The Impossible Dream’.

“So what are you saying?” I inquired. “You’re saying that…”

“Not at all!” he interrupted. “I’m just saying that you really didn’t have to go that far for a signature song.

“You could simply have gone to the calypso tent and chosen a Brother Valentino, ‘Hark, hark, the dogs do bark’.”

Photo: Prime Minister-in-waiting? Former PSA head and THA deputy chief secretary Watson Duke has set his sights high.

Here, he burst into song: “Hark, hark, the dogs do bark/the preachers are coming to town/preachers in rags/and preachers in tags/and some preachers in their velvet gowns…”

At the end of our convo, I was left humming another Valentino number, ‘This place nice’.

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About Salaah Inniss

Salaah Inniss is an ardent writer with an enthusiasm for bringing insightful views on national issues. He graduated from Cipriani College in Environmental Management, and is presently working in the Integrated Facilities Building Service Industry. He is an empathetic supporter of conservation and the protection of the environment.

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