raffique shah----USE

Eight days from today, Kamla Persad-Bissessar expects to be named Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago after she leads the United National Congress to victory in the general election.

Hers is a legitimate expectation, and she has as good a chance as Dr Keith Rowley, the incumbent officeholder and leader of the People’s National Movement. In fact, she could make history as the only female to win a second term as Prime Minister, to add to her already impressive career as a politician.

Should she succeed, she would hardly have time to settle in the chair before she would be summoned to deal with the ongoing crisis in public health, the Covid-19 pandemic. There are other crises virtually queuing up for attention—the economy in severe stress, enormous debts due for repayment, murders numbering more than votes some candidates garnered in the election, and so on. In fact, such will be the demands on her time, she would not be able to share a celebratory drink with her family and close friends.

With such a hectic agenda awaiting her, she will not have time to answer some urgent questions that citizens would want answers for, which cannot be postponed. Indeed, the masses have nominated me, Citizen Shah, to pose some of these questions to the PM-in-waiting before she assumes office, just so they are clear about what they must do, how they must conduct themselves in situations that will arise.

First and foremost, as the late local comedian John Agitation would have put the question, will all citizens be expected to rise before the sun does on the eastern horizon on Tuesday morning to worship the Almighty Sun-God, and absorb its healing rays that magically exterminate the deadly Covid-19 virus long before contact?

I should explain that during the election campaign, people saw and heard you, PM-in-waiting, repeatedly recite the sun-will-destroy-Covid-19 mantra, so we must assume that it is party, and now government, policy. From the onset of the pandemic, your predecessor Rowley, flanked by eminent medical professionals led by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Roshan Parasram, had us swearing on the wonders of science, and appealed to us to observe the WHO-approved personal hygiene package, introduced social distancing, and so on. Stupidly, we went along with them. The daily dose of statistics that Dr Parasram baffled our brains with, we suspected they might have contained some bogus data.

Now that you have emancipated us from that-black-man, blank-man, whatever, slavery, we are free.

With you at the helm, we expect no more masks, no limits to how many of us can gather, not to add jam, and with rum shops back to 28-hours-a-day operations, thanks to your lobbying for them to do business as usual, we free, free to jam Covid-19 and wine and have a good time, as Prophet David Rudder exhorted us to do in “High Mas”.

Lady, you are a blessing undisguised. Forgive me for straying from the questionnaire the masses mandated me to present to you. But I asked myself how many people would have spotted a nexus between managing this country’s international borders, regulating the inflow of residents and citizens to ensure our medical facilities weren’t overwhelmed, and slavery? None of them, I swear! Like legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, but more like Ali than Muhammad, you are simply The Greatest.

You leave no room for error, the chance that uttering “sunlight will kill Covid-19” might have been a slip of the tongue, a mistake. You have all but copyrighted it, had your party adopt it to the extent that it now forms part of the UNC’s advertising campaign for re-election. It’s an official party mantra. Presumably, all your selected men and all your loyal women in the party, would, if elected to power next week Monday, adopt that arrant nonsense as the party’s policy on Covid-19. Your cavalier approach to the biggest public health threat in 100 years is puzzling, except if it’s interpreted as blindly worshipping Donald Trump, seeking to imitate Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, two of the world’s worst leaders ever, who have taken their countries into the Valley of Death and destruction.

Shucks, you could have chosen instead New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern or Germany’s Angela Merkel, women of immense substance and stature.

If Kamla’s conduct and pronouncements are erratic, to say the least, what about the men who proclaim themselves to be the powers behind the throne? Are veterans like Suruj Rambachan, Tim Gopeesingh, Bhoe Tewarie, Ganga Singh, comfortable with the lady’s sun-rays solution to the deadly virus? Is Kevin Ramnarine happy reciting the mantra?

Or could it be they are all intimidated by Kamla, and she, besotted by prospect of power, is prepared to take them all down the road to destruction? Are we witnessing the making of a megalomaniac who is programmed to self-destruct?


The apparent neglect of the concerns of the yachting industry in this pandemic has emerged as another instance in which a potentially significant contributor to the country’s foreign ­exchange earnings continues to be ignored.

Tourism in Tobago is more a dead horse being beaten (to use an unfortunate metaphor) than a phoenix which will ever rise again. The Scarborough History Walks share the same imaginary, vanished, but not forgotten, space as the Rainforest Zipline.

Despite the fact that Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president to lead a divided nation during the civil war of 1860, he said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside, but if we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

News this week that global carbon dioxide emissions possibly fell about eight per cent last year is but a drop of positivity in what has been a calamitous year for the planet. While greenhouse gas emissions declined infinitesimally, cognisance must be taken of the fact that this was only due to the lockdowns forced by the coronavirus pandemic that resulted in a temporary halt in industrial activity and airline travel.

The pandemic continues to plague the globe, but manufacturing and air travel resumed during the year, perhaps not at pre-coronavirus levels, but enough to make the good news transitory.

In a few days’ time, Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States.

Many governments and individuals around the world will breathe a collective sigh of relief. This will not be because a Democrat has replaced a Republican, but because an individual who represents stability, certainty and rationality is again the head of state of the world’s most influential and economic and militarily powerful nation.

“How you feeling today, Gramma?”

I would ask that question of my paternal grandmother every day.

“The head hurting. The blood pressure and the sugar high,” she would invariably answer. “Squeeze the head for me, beti.”