Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Monday, December 12, 2005  

Dookeran is the person you would send for a Carib with a blue note and not worry about being shortchanged.

[He] would make a great drinking buddy. He would almost certainly elect himself as the designated driver and still chip in for drinks on cue.

But yesterday's forum did little to suggest he has the ruthlessness or strength of character that might be needed to enact the ideological changes in politics which were discussed.

-- Lasana Liburd in a typically sharp and sophisticated story in today's Express, on the political leader (but not, lest we forget, opposition leader) of the UNC, Winston Dookeran, and his presentation at yesterday's political seminar entitled "Ethics, Unity and Politics". (For some reason, the story doesn't seem to be online; read Liburd's more straightforward news item on the seminar here.)

I had half a mind to attend yesterday's seminar, which, according to Liburd, had over 400 attendees and was standing room only, but I moved apartments over the weekend and couldn't make it. Liburd's characterisation of Dookeran and his presentation, however--not to mention his fellow speakers' praise of him--were not surprising.

Dookeran is by all accounts an intelligent, principled, measured and sincere man. He is not prone to rash pronouncements, or petty political point-scoring; he is always calm, rational and civilised in his manner and actions. He is blissfully free of arrogance and self-satisfied smugness, and, despite the public perception of his staidness and lack of personality, can at times show a refreshingly ironic and self-deprecating sense of humour. In short, Winston Dookeran has all the qualities that, as a leader, will ensure failure in Trinidad politics.

His recent tussle with Badeo Panday over the leadership of the party, which ended with the quite absurd result of the UNC essentially becoming a duumvirate, showed this quite blatantly. One would have thought, with the country in the state that it's in, that Dookeran's accession to the leadership would have been the perfect opportunity for the party to galvanise around him, and allow him to articulate a clear and sound policy for dealing with the situation, where the government has so clearly failed, and continues to fail.

Instead, they provided us with divisiveness, infighting and backbiting, and uneasy, shifting alliances. The UNC has never been in more disarray, and the government, ruling perhaps at the greatest time of crisis in our independent history, having shown itself to be totally ineffective and clueless as to how to arrest our continued decline, remains unchallenged, seemingly unshakable, set to continue their misrule and mismanagement, their wrongheadedness and absolute disregard for anyone anyone who might disagree with them. So secure is the PNM that the prime minister can speak at his party's annual conference with his now trademark disgusting arrogance and ignore ministerial scandals, a record murder toll, unsolved bombings, kidnappings and a general descent into mayhem, and talk of the greatness and strength of his party, and laughingly mention calling a general election and flattening the opposition.

In a political culture of one-man rule, of politics of personalities and not ideas, if you don't have the ruthlessness that Liburd speaks of, dog eat your supper. And as long as the culture is what it is (and how do we change it, how, in the ever-important Bestian formulation, how do we save the culture from itself?) men like Winston Dookeran are doomed to be left pitilessly by the wayside.

posted by Jonathan | 8:24 AM 0 comments


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