Despite the short-sightedness of those who should be deploying our artistic and cultural output to diversify the economy, my depictions of pan and culture are of accomplishment.
By contrast, commenting weekly on the latest of the unpleasant results of thoroughly deficient governance is a painful exercise.
I would like sometimes to make my column less of a contemporary canvas on which I illustrate the somber realities of a society bereft of inspiring leadership and on its way to self-destruction. Placing more historical events on the canvas of this column accompanied by some analysis might at least add to an understanding of why we are in this situation.
Just when I was thinking about that, I read a two-part interview in the Trinidad Express newspaper with our former prime minister, Basdeo Panday, (Bas as he is sometimes affectionately called) as he approaches age 90.
Shortly after, Farley Augustine (“Farley”), chief secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (the THA), had a damaging outburst of petulance and then another for which several print editorials justifiably criticized him.
Bas had been the leader of a significant political movement, the United Labour Front (ULF). That unity fell apart after internal disputes and split in 1977.
So did the National Alliance for Reconstruction (the NAR), of which he was also a significant part, a decade later in 1988—after having had a landslide victory into Government in December 1986.
Outside of his political machinations, of which those who split from the ULF make accusations and tell bitter tales, Panday is full of easy camaraderie when he is just Bas.
It was a pity that the dominant Port-of-Spain centric elite distracted him and built up an entourage of self-seekers and influence-peddling persons around him when he did become prime minister of a United National Congress (UNC) Government, between 1995 and December 2001.
I witnessed some of the negative inroads that these persons made into the Panday-led Government.
Witnessing those inroads would be a chapter in my biography, if I were to write it, just as there would be a chapter of what I witnessed in Camp Ogden and other locations where handling the attempted coup took place and when even written advice was not taken. Those events have blighted us ever since.
In the recent Panday interview, there was little reference to the formation of Club 88, which became the UNC. Panday and his allies formed Club 88 when they exited the NAR alliance.
The NAR had reached across ethnic alignments and offered itself as a movement and prospective government of “one love”. That offer made it possible to swallow reservations about some of the characters in it.
Sadly, although we suspended disbelief, the temporarily inspirational love internally turned to hate. And, in its broken state, the NAR was the victim of the 1990 attempted coup before the electorate voted it out and killed it off in December 1991.
Having described the break-up of the NAR as “heartbreaking”, it would have been useful if Panday was probed on his understanding of the extent of the damage done to the psyche of the Trinidad and Tobago electorate by this break-up.
Putting aside who was to blame when “one love” fell apart, it returned our party politics to contests between two tribally-based parties under the rule of a maximum leader. These have yielded divisiveness, poor governance, neglect and corruption. No leader of the future, who might win back our trust and confidence, was allowed to emerge.
That is the background against which Farley appeared, contested the Tobago House of Assembly elections and won the office of chief secretary of the THA in December 2021. Sadly he is now destroying the affection with which his youthful appearance on the Tobago political scene was received nationally.
For Farley, many swallowed the presence of Watson Duke on the voting ticket. Farley and Duke split and Farley became the exclusive leader.
Has Farley caught the disease of maximum leadership? Each time a sufficient number of our citizens become desperate for a change we let our disappointing party political history repeat itself—and we get only tawdry exchange and continuation of a rotten status quo.
Will we, even now, continue to like it so?
Feels like a prologue about Farley more than an actual piece about him, but some useful history tidbits…Both sides of the split should have been probed about the NAR breakup…