Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 12th 2015 Contents A20
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt April 12, 2015
An instant intimacy flares
up between women when
one woman is caring for another.
The transactional nature of the
relationship is suspended. As a
young woman sat across from
me applying nail polish, tending
to my feet as a mother would,
she became the voice of the
people in the market, on the
streets, in traffic, in homes
across the nation. And what a
voice it is. Deeply penetrating,
easily cutting across like a knife
on soft butter, making the politi-
cal personal. She was talking
today about something we have
already forgotten about. There
was pain in her voice.
"You know, I have a friend
who opened up to me when she
could no longer bear it, about
the rape that she suffered from a
man who was supposed to be a
friend of the family. She was 23
at the time of the rape. She is
married now, happily, and her
husband raises a son that is not
his. That was a revelation to me.
That sweet innocent child, only
four, learning nursery rhymes, is
a child of rape. The rapist got
away. She lives with that pain
every day, and is struggling to
overcome it with love."
The beautician stopped mid
polish and we both looked at
one another in a kind of recog-
nition that women have. Women
understand secrets. We under-
stand shame. We understand
that it is power to dehumanise
us. And women collude with it
all the time.
She was telling me that her
friend was just healing when an
ugly utterance by a government
official reopened the wound.
"When the Tobago East
MP Vernella Alleyne-Toppin
went in Parliament and said
Opposition Leader Dr Keith
Rowley was born as a result of
rape and that made him aggres-
sive and arrogant, all her
"Not only that, didn t that
woman realise that when she
said that she was attacking the
children and victims of rape? In
a country with shame, the whole
country would be talking about
it up to now, and that woman
would have to resign. There
would be columns and articles
and features about it. She would
have had to apologise to Rowley,
but more importantly she would
have to apologise to the victims
of all kinds of abuse---verbal,
sexual, emotional---that women
put up with every day in the
walls of their house."
She asked me, "Why, Ira don t
we have any shame, any sense of
responsibility to doing the right
thing? How did that statement
by that MP put food on my
table? How did it pay for my
grandmother s medical bills?
How did it stop road deaths?
How does it help anyone get a
job? How does it take little gun-
toting boys sitting in the heat
whole day on a fence and using
it like a toy at night, to safety, to
school, to hope?"
This young woman is not easy.
I ve been going to her for years.
Five years back a policeman beat
her sister to a pulp. The whole
neighbourhood was cowed by
this policeman. Not her. She
took the policeman to court. His
men harass her every day; block
her driveway, abuse her, and try
to intimidate her but she will not
withdraw the case. She saw my
fear for her life on my face.
"I know," she said, "it s real
easy for anyone to have someone
killed, cleaned up, dealt up in
this country. I know it s as easy
as paying a thousand dollars. But
I am not afraid of them."
She looked up at me so direct-
ly in the face that she made me
confront my fear. Would I stand
up to a policeman for years and
years while being intimidated by
him and his comrades? I didn t
think so. I would think of how
cheap life is. I would fear for my
As if reading my mind she
said, "Someone has to stand up
for what is right, not so? Look,
some years back someone said
something nasty about Obama s
children, something personal.
What happens in a proper coun-
try? Both the republicans and
the democrats stood up against
that person, the nation was in
uproar, until that person apolo-
gised and eventually resigned.
Why did that not happen here?"
I had no answer.
Later that day, in the grocery I
if he was telling me a secret that
was deep in him. In an urgent
voice he said, "The main thing
is, we have been bullied into
silence, by power that has failed
to act on our behalf on the one
hand, and by guns on the other.
What you think will happen if
each one us, every single one of
us show those who rule us that
the power is ours, not theirs.
Each of us has to show we are
It takes one person to stand for
what s right, and another, and a
third, and a group and many
groups and all our tiny villages
and cities. We need to set our
crumpled, askew moral compass
straight. Every time we fail to
speak out we commit a crime of
omission against ourselves, our
family and our country.
In May 2010, voters kicked out
a tired government led by a
fiendishly unpopular prime min-
ister. The long-term opposition
detoxed its brand with a fresh-
faced modernising leader. The
well-liked middle-ground party
became junior partner in a bright,
new coalition government.
Five years on for the rematch,
pre-election polls promise a
photo finish. The prime minister
is no longer fresh and shiny. The
junior partner looks like a
And the opposition leader? The
coalition sees him as his party s
weak point. That s where they are
spear-pointing their attack. But
that strategy may well be backfir-
Any of this sound familiar?
No, it s not Manning, Kamla
and the COP. For the 2010 round,
it was Britain s former prime
minister Gordon Brown; his op-
ponent and successor, Conserva-
tive David Cameron; and the
Liberal Democrat leader, Nick
Clegg. Cameron and Clegg are
now fighting for re-election, with
Labour s Ed Miliband striving to
One big difference with T&T:
we know the election date. Five
years ago, the new coalition part-
ners ditched the Westminster
"back pocket" tradition, and
moved to fixed-term parliaments.
month to go.
Only the ultra-foolish (or infi-
nitely wise) know the result.
Opinion polls cascade from com-
puters, sometimes five a day.
Their results are knife-edge. The
two main parties---Labour and
Conservative---average just 34 per
Just a moment: 34 plus 34? So
that s 68 per cent between them?
Two parties which, back in the
days, used to scoop up 97 per
A good few voters are disillu-
sioned with both---and with the
Lib Dems. David Cameron s jun-
ior partner will be lucky to get
one-quarter of his 2010 score.
The big winners will be Nicola
Sturgeon of the Scottish National
Party (SNP), which wants full in-
dependence for Scotland: and
Nigel Farage s oddly-named UK
Independence Party (UKIP),
which wants to pull Britain out of
If they do well, the end result
could be a big break-up, with a
Little England all alone in a cold
The SNP has since 2011 con-
trolled Scotland s self-rule parlia-
ment in Edinburgh. Last year,
they narrowly lost an independ-
ence referendum. In May, they
could come close to a clean sweep
of Scotland s 59 seats.
David Cameron s Conservatives
are a toxic brand in Scotland; they
have just one seat there. The big
losers from a SNP surge would be
Labour--- but Labour are also the
SNP s most likely allies.
Nicola Sturgeon connects with
the voters--- and not just in Scot-
land. She polls way in front of the
other party leaders, right across
Britain. And Number Two after
Nicola is Leanne Woods, leader of
the smaller Welsh independence
party, Plaid Cymru.
Labour is unlikely to win a ma-
jority on its own--- but might
scrape through if it can make a
deal with the SNP and the Plaid.
But Nicola wants independ-
ence. If she has leverage, she will
use it. At some point down the
road, she will ask for a new refer-
The UK Independence Party
has leverage of a different sort. It
will get more votes than the
SNP--- but they will be spread thin
across a few hundred seats, not
concentrated in 59. UKIP can t
hope to win more than a couple of
But David Cameron s party is
terrified of UKIP. That party s
message attracts elderly, insecure
voters, many of them former
To stem that tide, Cameron has
already paid a huge price. He has
pledged himself to renegotiate
Britain s terms of membership in
Europe, and then hold an "In or
Out" referendum in 2017. That s a
His Lib Dem coalition partners
have been pro-Europe since the
1950s. Keeping both them and
UKIP onside will require deft jug-
gling---though the Lib Dems do
love being juggled, once it doesn t
hurt too much.
European leaders like Ger-
many s Angela Merkel have other
things to deal with, besides David
Cameron s party problems. He
will win few concessions from
Brussels---and may then find it
hard to ditch UKIP and fight for a
"yes" to Europe.
If Britain votes to pull out,
Nicola Sturgeon would fight hard
for a second Scottish referendum:
"Which partner for Scotland?
Little England or Big Europe?"
Independence could look like
the less risky option.
Yep, it looks like a mess. But
who knows, all could come out in
And there are some plus points
in this election, not least in Scot-
Nobody is banging on about re-
ligion; indeed, Ed Miliband and
Nick Clegg both say they don t
believe in God.
Personalities get knocked, but
not over sex gossip. Three of the
six party leaders in last week s
Scottish debate are confidently
gay---the Conservatives Ruth
Davidson, the Greens Patrick
Harvie and UKIP s David Coburn.
The six leaders tussled; but stuck
to policy issues.
And voting is not tribal. Ed
Miliband is Jewish by family ori-
gin. His parents fled the Nazis.
But Jewish voters aren t flocking
to Labour for special deals. A poll
last week by the Jewish Chronicle
showed Cameron leading him 64
per cent to 13 per cent. And for all
UKIP s fuss about Europe and mi-
gration, its leader Nigel Farage has
a German wife.
STAND UP FOR WHAT'S RIGHT
BRITAIN'S ELECTION: BREAK-UP TIME?
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