August 05, 2001
By Selwyn R. Cudjoe
BASDEO Panday has always been a theatrical figure, his forte being farce, comedy and hyperbole. Lately, he has vaulted into hysteria, megalomania and legal whitemail (after all, his party keeps bringing all of these English lawyers to frighten us.)
To heighten his rhetorical effect, he has inundated his prose with a lot alliterative nonsense. He hopes that sheer repetition, skilful distortion and diabolical imprecation would camouflage his intentions. He twists information to gain political advantage although he knows that a lot of what he says is not true.
Listening to him, one is forced to ask what he is doing and where he intends to take the nation. After all, there is always a method to people's madness. In his hysteria, Panday alerts the attentive listener of his unconscious desires. What he pronounces on others reveals the truth of his essence. The big-lie technique, at which he has become so adept, indicates the deception that lurks deep within his heart. Thus, he seeks to dazzle with words so that the observant would forget the sleaze of his party's corruption and their attempt to use the law to achieve their nefarious purposes. Citizens will not be distracted by such sideshows.
Therefore, when he trumpets that the Uncivilised National Crooks (UNC) received 307,500 votes, the most ever cast for a political party in this country, he is correct. When he blazons that there ought not to be a government by courts or hire purchase, he is witty and wise. The only thing he forgot to tell his audience is that Hitler was elected democratically by more Germans than any of his predecessors. Yet, he turned out to be one of the most monstrous tyrants the world has ever known (Winston Churchill).
After he was elected, he used the courts to invalidate the rights of most of his citizens before he led more than five million Jews to the gas chambers.
Under the circumstances, the public must insist that the law (or the courts) must not be used as a political football nor manipulated by any party to remain in power. To hear Panday's interpretation of the law, one would think that anyone elected should remain in office because it was "the deliberate judgment of eligible and legitimate voters." That is to say, even if "eligible and legitimate voters" elected a four-year old or a certified madman to the Legislature, then the Court should turn its back on stipulations that say representatives ought to be of a certain age and mental frame to carry out their legitimate responsibilities.
According to Panday, there ought to be no restrictions on those who wish to represent us. He acts as though Trinidad and Tobago is the only place in the world where restrictions are placed on persons who represent people in their legislatures. In the United States, a citizen born outside of continental USA cannot stand for the election to the presidency.
Necessarily, such a restriction prejudices the rights of naturalised citizens but then, Congress in its wisdom, decided that the fate of its union was too important to be placed in the hands of someone born outside the USA. S/he must just have no loyalties to the country in which she or he was born.
At the heart of our crisis is the question of whether someone who holds dual citizenship should be allowed to represent constituents and whether this matter should be resolved as expeditiously as possible. His nemesis is intent on using all of his considerable legal skills to deny a speedy resolution to this issue. A master of constitutional law, he intends to use every trick in the book to prolong this exercise so that even if the people were victorious, in the end they are still defeated.
To counteract such legal subterfuge, we must demand that the Gypsy-Chaitan matter be concluded by December 11, 2001. Although the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council should be above coercion, it must be sensitive to the urgency of this matter and the instability that has resulted in other countries when election processes remain undetermined.
Although the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is located geographically in London, as a final court of appeal on a matter arising from Trinidad and Tobago, it sits "as if" it is located in Trinidad and Tobago. Consequently, it must be cognisant of the political, social and economic considerations that drive this matter and the implications of failing to deal with it expeditiously, a point that Bridget Annisette-George has made with extreme clarity.
On Thursday, August 9, when citizens meet in Woodford Square, we will tell the Privy Council it must treat the appeal of Chaitan and Gypsy as an urgent matter. We will tell them they should do nothing to delay further the election petitions that are fixed for October 1, 2001. We must tell them that our country wishes to avoid a constitution crisis at all cost.
Everything must be done so that Chaitan and Gypsy do not participate in the election of our President who, a few months after his election, must select a Chief Justice. Nothing that they or our government do must create an illegal and unconstitutional position.
As we contemplate this historical crossroads in our history, it is important to remember that this is a matter of utmost urgency. Our lives rather than English lives are at stake. Therefore, we must prevail upon the Privy Council to act with prompt dispatch to resolve this issue. We must remember always that people make laws so that we run society in a just and moral way.
Laws never made people, except in totalitarian societies where law is used as a weapon against the legitimate interest of the people. They must always be prepared to intervene to ensure that laws are not manipulated to deny them their rights and freedoms.The German people elected Hitler, a master rhetorician. It did not prevent him from becoming one of the meanest tyrants the world has ever known.
Performance dazzles but action snuffs out our lives. It is always important to know the difference.
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