Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 22nd 2015 Contents A18
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt February 22, 2015
My daughter who came to
visit me in London from
university in another part
of the UK was on the phone to
her father. "It s not good for
Mummy to live on her own. She
is dressed in shocking pink sneak-
ers which look very strange with a
lime green winter jacket." While
they were discussing the problem
of me, I was thinking I would
look good in a J Ouvert band. I
saw from Facebook that Carnival
was grinding down our people
into their essential selves, mud,
base, steel, paint, thousands of
bodies, hearts, feet moving to a
Pretty mas had moved from
bikinis into a 50 shades of grey
bondage, lingerie and fishnet
stockings. Sex in our cities.
I didn t tell my daughter, but in
the cold of London, sometimes
the gloom of the sky, people hun-
kering down from the rain, cold
and wind made time seamless. If
I was indoors, writing, I wouldn t
know if it was morning, noon or
night. Sometimes, an uncontrol-
lable urge for caffeine, something
to startle the quiet comes over
me. Then I would pack on track
pants on top of my pyjamas, pack
on two sweaters, and venture out,
breathe in coffee beans served by
briskly efficient servers (who,
intent on their next order, barely
spared me a glance).
I love that about big cities.
There is a freedom, a safety in
being yourself and you don t have
to wait for J Ouvert to feel that.
Just last week, in my creative
writing course we were asked to
leave the warm classroom and
"kidnap a character"---that is walk
on the street, find someone who
looks interesting, follow them for
two hours without getting arrested
for stalking, make notes, return
and write a story about them.
I panicked on the street in
Bloomsbury Square. If I followed
men, they may think my interest
prurient, families with children
Finally, I "kidnapped" a tall
woman dressed in black. A
woman alone on Valentine s Day.
What s she going to do? She
headed for the African art section.
I followed her around the pottery,
shields and masks section. I
wasn t a good stalker. I fibbed.
"I ve lost a contact lens. Could
you please read explanation of the
pottery to me?"
In fluted tones, which revealed a
solid middle class education, she
read. Thinking me blind, alone,
possibly lonely, she was uncom-
Call me Louise she said, as she
guided me from room to room, in
that vast marbled interior, into an
exhibition of eight Egyptian
Mummies, 600 BC; through
Bonaparte and the British; through
continents of discovery, through
the Greeks and the Moguls. She
talked. Her parents were teachers.
It was normal for her to learn
four musical instruments and
three languages, to travel cheaply,
to absorb theatre, and the arts.
She was open, she was kind. She
was the CEO in an advertising
company and did part-time chari-
ty work. She was not a spectacle.
She was in between relationships.
She was looking to the world to
feed her soul.
She wasn t especially sexy but I
suppose she could be if she found
the right man for her. She wasn t
Meanwhile in Trinidad, people
were showing outrage at a teenage
girl wining on our sexy opposition
Let s not baulk at "sexy." Let s
not be hypocritical just because
we ve given up alcohol this
month. The PM too, was tut tut-
ted over her sexy tights. Yes, they
are leaders. Yes, they are sexy. It s
their human right. The real trav-
esty is that the defenders of the
PM and the opposition leader saw
their sexiness as "culture." Now
THAT made me feel shame.
We have a tapestry of history,
writers, calypsonians, mas makers,
artists that is culture. But stock-
ings and back backing is not cul-
ture. It s exhibitionist, but not
culture. It s a human attribute,
like lust, hunger, anger, but not
culture. It s entertaining, but not
human endeavour, not culture.
It s freeing up, but not chal-
lenging intellects and bodies to be
all we can be. On Ash Wednes-
day, during Lent, when we get
thin lipped, dryer than salt
prunes, we are filled with a pruri-
ent self loathing for that very cul-
ture of lingerie and fishnet stock-
ings, of imported soft porn.
Culture at Carnival is closer to
pan, J Ouvert, extempo, calypso,
when we tap into our souls, when
we attempt at a truth, at an aes-
thetic, at an art.
We won t know you know, what
our culture is, not until we ve
read Naipaul and Walcott, and
Williams. We won t know until
our children flock to museums,
and academies of music literacy,
arts, literature and science that
we re yet to build.
We can in the meantime borrow
from every continent. The permu-
tations are different, but the result
is the same. Every continent from
which we ve been plucked creates
culture from education, institu-
tions, history, science, technology,
industry, commerce, architecture,
literature, art, music, sport. Cul-
ture is a value created from excel-
It s Lent, it s time to rip off the
masks, to be honest, if to nobody
else, to ourselves. And in the pri-
vacy of our bedrooms, in old
clothes, we need to stand in front
of the mirror and ask our souls
"what is my culture?"
For a while, it looked like a
close-run thing. On Tues-
day morning, Team Unity
supporters in St Kitts-Nevis
knew from the partial results
that they had won the previous
day s election, and were cele-
brating on the streets of Bas-
But the Supervisor of Elec-
tions, Wingrove George, stopped
the count, for reasons still
With fewer than 40,000 vot-
ers, this small country usually
has a clear result just hours
after the polls close. This time,
the count was painfully slow.
Voters went to bed unsure
whether Denzil Douglas---prime
minister since 1995---had won a
Stopping the count could have
led to trouble. After an incon-
clusive 1993 election, protests by
supporters of Dr Douglas
Labour Party turned violent. An
overnight curfew was imposed.
Forces from the Barbados-based
Regional Security System flew in
to restore order. A minority
People s Action Movement gov-
ernment held on, until labour
won power in fresh elections in
This time, sense prevailed.
First the Labour Party chairman
conceded defeat, then, late on
Tuesday afternoon, Dr Douglas.
They may have been jogged by
from our own Kamla Persad-
Bissessar, St Vincent s Ralph
Gonsalves, Grenada s Keith
Mitchell and slightly later, from
the Caricom chair, Perry
Christie of the Bahamas.
Observers from the Common-
wealth and from the Organisa-
tion of American States were
ready to cry "foul" if there was
glaring and blatant malpractice.
Even after Dr Douglas s conces-
sion, there were further delays.
The governor-general, Sir
Edmund Lawrence, did not get
a written result from the elec-
tions supervisor until late on
Wednesday afternoon. Only then
would he swear in the new
prime minister, Timothy Harris.
Document delivery, it seems,
works slowly in Basseterre.
The election run-up had pro-
duced little confidence. There
was uncertainty about new con-
stituency boundaries, rushed
through Parliament just a month
before the poll, but overturned
by the Privy Council with just
four days to spare. Then came
the revelation-- supported by an
affidavit from the Opposition s
legal team---that Wingrove
George had unwisely used the
e-mail address labourdog@hot-
Unfairly or otherwise, that
made him look just a little par-
tisan. Then came the voters
list. Or perhaps, didn t come. In
St Kitts, it was available to the
Opposition just three days
before the poll, and it showed a
23 per cent increase in the elec-
torate over the five years since
2010. In Nevis, there was no list
until election eve.
But all s well that ends well?
Maybe. Dr Harris now heads a
three-party coalition. He has
plenty ministerial experience.
Before crossing the floor in
2012, he held portfolios in suc-
cessive Douglas Cabinets for
agriculture, lands and housing,
education, labour, social security,
foreign affairs, international
trade, industry and commerce.
But his close ally, former deputy
prime minister Sam Condor,
failed to win back his seat.
Alongside Dr Harris on the gov-
ernment benches are four mem-
bers of PAM, and two from the
Nevis-based Concerned Citizens
Guyana goes to the polls on
May 11. Check the similarities
with St Kitts-Nevis: Long-
standing governments: Guyana s
in office since 1992; St Kitts-
Nevis since 1995. Government
losing its parliamentary majority:
Guyana in 2011; St Kitts-Nevis
Blocked debate on a no-confi-
dence motion: in Guyana, since
mid-2014, in St Kitts-Nevis,
Opposition forces in a coali-
tion: Guyana s Alliance for
Change and A Partnership for
National Unity announced an
alliance last weekend; in St
Kitts-Nevis, we have Team
Unity. Disputed elections:
Guyana s history of trouble runs
back to the 1960s; St Kitts-
Nevis, too, has had its troubles,
not least in 1993.
There s one big difference.
When the controversial elections
supervisor in St Kitts-Nevis was
appointed in May last year, the
Opposition complained it was
By contrast, the Guyana Elec-
tions Commission has a 25-year
history of independence, with
representation from both sides
of the political divide, and a
respected and experienced
chairman in Steve Surujbally.
Despite that, Guyana s recent
history has not been trouble-
free. Last time round, in 2011,
the chief elections officer was
about to declare a narrow victo-
ry for the governing People s
Progressive Party and its allies.
An opposition representative
checked the arithmetic and
found the PPP was one seat
short. That was a lucky catch--
once declared, a faulty result
would have been all but impos-
sible to correct.
In 2011, mistrust ran both
ways. Newly-elected President
Donald Ramotar said he had in
fact won more than 52 per cent
of the poll. He accused opposi-
tion parties of rigging the vote.
observers noted the one-sided
use of state-owned TV, radio
With racial and political ten-
sions again running high,
Guyana has other potential
sources of trouble. One could be
the painfully slow count. In
2011, it took three days to
declare a result. Yes, there are
remote interior settlements. But
Guyana does have aircraft, and
In St Kitts-Nevis, Caricom
prime ministers and internation-
al election observers may have
saved the day. If things get
shaky, they may have to repeat
that act for Guyana.
TIME TO RIP OFF THE MASKS
ST KITTS-NEVIS DONE: GUYANA STILL TO PLAY
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