Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 15th 2015 Contents A20
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt February 15, 2015
"The old longing I had
thought dead, rose in me like
a flame."---Samuel Selvon
At a time when a briefest of
snowfalls had already melt-
ed giving way to an unend-
ing damp that penetrated multiple
layers of down, wool, cotton and
leather, and given me the
depressing look of a permanently
pregnant woman, I heard a single
pan echo in a tunnel in a tube
Out on the cold street I went
into a coffee shop, cradling my
large white cup swirling with caf-
feine and cream, vaguely aware of
jazz in the background, of men
and women locked into their
world with their electronics.
A single note and I felt I was
part of a collective heartbeat
chippin down the road in St
James to Las Lap. I could smell
the heady lady of the night, see
the hills, paler green with the
heat, feel the boom of speakers. I
saw Tan Tan and Saga Boy and
Peter Minshall s impassioned face
(how he loves us), the feathers,
bikinis, glitter, mud, paint and
clay, the thundering of a thou-
I remember mas camps, all
nighters they pulled, interviewing
Sparrow on a searing day, the
roar of Panorama when any con-
versation felt possible and the
shortest pum pum shorts failed to
A journalist from home mes-
saged me to ask me what I felt
about the sexualisation of Carni-
val. A hundred images came to
me while I treated myself to a
pastry. The girl wining on the
pole like a pissing dog.
The little child, barely aware
that she s making herself into a
sexual object imitating her moth-
er, wining like a grown woman,
vulnerable to paedophilia, to the
act of sex without emotional
maturity. People do intimate
things with body parts but sel-
dom hold hands. Create Carnival
babies, throw some into the
But today was not that day, not
today, when I could still hear that
pan which reminded me of going
to see Despers on the hill, sitting
on the steps cut around a hill and
clear sounds reaching up to a
bright full moon, all of it tugging
at the heart. I don t have it in me
today, to spoil the joy.
I don t want to critique the
mas, the dumbing down, the
commercialisation, the shouting
of instructions to jump and sex
up somebody people say is kaiso,
the whingeing broken words
about rum and girls and grand-
mothers and sex they say is chut-
But I miss Minshall. Minshall s
mas has been our moral compass,
our calalloo mirror for a nation
made up of people uprooted from
old continents, replanted here,
carelessly, brutally, given oil but
no remembrance of what it is to
be tender, to love.
Remember the River trilogy,
with the pure washerwoman, the
greedy Mancrab, the river people
holding up a mile long white
canopy under a white hot sun
and the next day turning on one
another with muddy purple, sul-
lied with pollution (think of the
highway), the creation of Tan Tan
and Saga Boy, the Hallelujah,
Song of the Earth and Tapestry.
His work was prescient.
The sad thing is it was meant
to be a reflection of the 80s and
90s but more relevant than ever
because we are frozen in our
In our grandiosity, our postur-
ing the greatest show on earth,
Carnival the centre of our world.
It s when our industry and timing
and creativity shines, glitters like
a firefly, or butterfly fizzles
against the light and disintegrates.
In this new world we celebrate a
feast of the middle ages. The
medieval Catholic church, cleverly
incorporated into the Catholic
faith "a final binge---carne vale =
farewell to flesh" before the fast-
ing period of lent.
What a binge. As Rudder
famously sang "SOMEBODY let-
ting the cocaine pass," a man
who expected to be paid for the
sale of his cars is killed. The traf-
fic is gridlock, nobody is taking
on noise inflation, women are
blowing two to three months of
salary on fetes, dan dans and
The murderers keep the grim
reaper busy. And people die
before and after fetes on the road.
Sitting drinking coffee, reading in
this ordered old European city,
where things generally work,
intellect is valued, institutions
strong, the law upheld, the serv-
ice brisk and kind, that I lost my
Walking the streets in a haze,
holding on to railings, seeing of
everything, spires, domes, traffic
lights, as I made my way home, I
had a clear vision in my mind s
eye---of the exuberance of
momentum that drives Carnival.
A collective atavistic visceral
force; a leveller, where beggar and
judge chip together. It s sacred
and profane, and its insanity
allows us to be sane on Ash
So let it begin, and let it be, all
the mud and chaos and beauty
and history of it. All the loss and
the din and the nonsense and the
art, and the shedding of the bit-
terness, injustice, dependency,
resentment, the rot on top play-
ing with the treasury, the rot at
the bottom playing with the bul-
lets, and the burgeoning of joy.
And for me, a lonely Londoner,
I think of a moment, carried
along with the crowd, in a band,
in the music, in the J Ouvert
where I was no longer myself but
part of a river.
Let the mas begin. And on Ash
Wednesday, let us, renewed and
sated, reveal our newly slaked
tender skins, finally grow up.
Carnival Monday? While T&T fetes,
St Kitts and Nevis holds an elec-
tion. And it looks like one from Ole
Mas. The historic stone bridge at Old
Road has been daubed in party colours---
it s glary red, for the governing St Kitts
and Nevis Labour Party.
The Privy Council on Thursday---just
four days before the election---threw out
new electoral boundaries which the gov-
ernment rushed through Parliament on
That was seen in St Kitts and Nevis
as a slap in the face for the prime min-
ister, Denzil Douglas---in office since
1995, and the longest-serving head of
government in the Americas.
Element of chaos? Maybe. So how did
we get here?
Pre-match. Douglas lost his majority
of elected members back in 2012, but
the Speaker blocked no confidence
Round one: January 16. New con-
stituency boundaries are agreed by the
boundaries commission, rushed through
Parliament and proclaimed by the gover-
nor-general in just three hours. Parlia-
ment is dissolved. Lawyers for the
opposition Team Unity rush to the courts,
and get a blocking injunction.
Round two: January 27. Court ruling: the
injunction is removed. Douglas calls the
election for February 16---then less than
three weeks away. Says Douglas: "Is only
warriors I want with me."
The election date was well chosen. It s
Washington s birthday---a public holiday
in the US. Citizens who have migrated
north can fly home en masse to vote---a
perfectly legal procedure in this little
Round three: January 29. The Eastern
Caribbean appeal court restores the in-
junction, pending a full hearing.
Round four: February 5. The appeal court
rules. The boundary changes were "hur-
ried through...to gain an unfair political
advantage." But "that is an issue of politi-
cal morality and not constitutional valid-
ity, which is not suitable for judicial
enquiry." Boundary changes---unlike
other proclamations of the governor gen-
eral---do not need to be formally gazetted.
The court says it does not need to con-
sider whether the Opposition s constitu-
tional rights have been violated.
So, boundary changes have a morality
of their own?
Nominations go ahead next day. And
the supervisor of elections is told to
rush out two voters lists, one based on
the new boundaries and (just in case)
one based on the old.
Round five: February 11. The Privy
Council hearing. It s in London, but car-
ried live on radio and TV. Modulated legal
tones replace Jamaican dancehall on the
Next day, the Privy Council rules. It
restores the injunction. So, old bound-
aries it is. Their reasoning? We ll get
Round six: February 16. Yep, that s to-
morrow. The voters either keep Dr Dou-
glas, or throw him out.
Round seven: There s bound to be at least
one elections petition. For these, last stop
is an Eastern Caribbean appeal; there s no
Privy Council. Everyone agrees that con-
stituencies need reworking. The largest
one has more than twice the electorate of
the smallest. The big issue is, whether the
new boundaries unfairly favour the gov-
Back to Monday. We re far from a
knockout. New boundaries or old, Dr
Douglas has staunch support. The econ-
omy is ticking along nicely, boosted by
tourism and the sale of passports to
newly minted "citizens by investment."
Though five murders since the start of
the year does not look good for a coun-
try with just 50,000 people.
There are election observers from the
Organisation of American States and the
Commonwealth, to see fair play. But
there are worries about the voters list.
An opposition candidate says voters who
registered last year are missing.
There are worries about the supervisor
of elections. An affidavit from opposi-
tion lawyer Talibah Byron reports e-
mails where the supervisor uses the
address "email@example.com." With
the Labour Party in government, that s
an odd choice for an impartial official.
There are worries too on the govern-
ment side. The education minister com-
plains that the husband of the Eastern
Caribbean chief justice has family con-
nections who helped found an opposi-
tion party in the 1960s.
That sounds convoluted, even for St
Kitts. And---even if true---that didn t stop
the court from throwing out the famous
injunction on February 6.
He also complains that the president
of the Caribbean Court of Justice has a
brother who is part of the Opposition
legal team. That s odd, because the CCJ
does not handle appeals from St Kitts-
Nevis---as we ve seen, they use the Privy
Council. One of whose virtues is suffi-
cient distance from that sort of slur.
Talking of the Privy Council, it will be
interesting to see their reasoning. To
oversimplify, there were two planks to
the Opposition appeal.
The first was that the government did
not gazette the new boundaries properly.
If that s why they lost, the moral is: do
the same stuff next time---but do it
The second plank was that the rushed
January 16 procedure was designed to
frustrate the Opposition s legal rights. If
that stands up in the Privy Council, it
shakes the Eastern Caribbean appeal
court s view that "political morality"
counts for nothing.
Which would be a game-changer ---
and not just for St Kitts and Nevis.
LET THE MAS BEGIN
PRIVY COUNCIL RULES ON 'POLITICAL MORALITY' IN ST KITTS
Links Archive February 14th 2015 February 16th 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page