Sunday, December 11, 2005

Stella Says…Join Me For a Political Debate

(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 11 Dec 2005)

When was the last time Guyana had a debate between political entities? Far too long, I suppose, and I won’t be holding my breath for the next one to happen along either since most of Guyana’s politicians like to think they are above the scrutiny of mere proletariats.

Therefore, I have decided to conduct a mock political debate. This of course is fiction; an account of what I envision in my own mind would happen if the current political parties were brought together in one room to deliberate the various political and social issues that currently impact the country.

Since this is my mind, I will act as moderator of this debate. I thought of assigning this role to Freddie, but his objectivity has been tainted, so it did not seem wise. Peeping Tom came to mind as well, but I hear he is going bald and the photographers have been complaining about the glare from the top of his head lately.

Therefore, I am honoured to act as moderator for the first fictional political debate between the leaders of the PPP, the PNC, the AFC and the GTF. I would like to remind each participant that, unlike normal days when you seem to do whatever you please, today every eye in Guyana is watching you, so try to be on your best behaviour.

There have been four tables set up for the debate, one on each of the four walls of the room. There is a balcony filled to capacity with people from all over the country. A noticeable buzz is coming from the balcony as the entire nation waits for their leaders to enter the room.

I announce from my seated position near the entrance of the room, “If the participants from each party would please take their seats at the designated tables, we will start the debate.”

A deep, booming voice then declares in a crescendo, “Everyone stand please as we welcome His Excellency, The President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo to the room.” The nation stands and silence fills the room as President Jagdeo enters with Robert Persaud, MBA on his heels. They walk to the centre of the room and pause slightly as they look up to the crowd and smile.

As they make their way to the far side of the room to their assigned table, they notice there are three chairs, but only two of them. They immediately know who is missing and are warmed by the fact that she is with them in spirit – always. Jagdeo then points to the table in front of him and proudly proclaims to those in the balcony, “Look how much better these tables look now than they did when the PNC was in power.”

Robert Corbin then storms into the room as if he is about to say something, but then he seems to realise that the PNC has nary said a word in protest of the PPP and their many goings-on, so why start now in front of the entire nation? Instead, he stomps over to his table, on the opposite side of the room from Jagdeo, and plops down in his seat with a thud.

Just about then, Khemraj Ramjattan, Raphael Trotman and Sheila Holder enter the room holding their chairs above their heads. Ladies and gentlemen, it seems they have brought their own seats with them. This is highly unusual behaviour; perhaps we should ask the AFC’s “Gang of Three” what this is all about.

Mr. Ramjattan, can you explain this whole situation? Ramjattan replies, “I just want to briefly repeat same for emphasis sake that (a) the expulsion of members from Parliament as a penalty for leaving their parties should be viewed as a possible infringement of members' independence; (b) the cessation of membership of a political party of itself should not lead to the loss of a member's seat.”

Trotman pipes in, “If the PNCR asks for my seat, in fairness to them I will give it to them.” Holder is not so benevolent; “I will hold fast to the position with my fellow AFC colleagues, Khemraj Ramjattan and Raphael Trotman that giving up my seat now would contribute to the concept of the paramountcy of the party.”

At this point I feel the need to explain that the chairs they are holding belong the to people in the balcony and are being provided for the duration of the debate. They look a bit confused, but I politely show them to their table to the right of the PPP and ask them to be seated. Trotman then informs the room that he will relinquish his seat after he and Corbin have had a chat about it. At this point, I am trying to be complicit and just want them to sit down.

The Gang of Three seems a bit jumpy and they eye the occupants of the other two tables suspiciously as they take their seats, never once letting go of the chairs, as if Jagdeo or Corbin were going to pull their seats right from under them as they sat down. Then Trotman changes his mind again and says, “Our eventual withdrawal will be on our terms, on our time…”

Suddenly, boisterous music starts pumping the air and Peter Ramsaroop, MBA comes gliding into the room with sunglasses on, cell phone to his ear and sporting a crisp, black RoopSuit. The room begins to darken slightly and a spotlight zooms down from somewhere above to land right on Ramsaroop in the centre of the room. He flings the sunglasses off and flashes a wide smile of white teeth.

He motions across the crowd with one arm lifted and glibly shouts, “RoopChips for all!” as a dozen men file into the balcony with buckets of bagged RoopChips and begin tossing them to the people. Ramsaroop continues, “The rest of the GTF leaders are working hard on the campaign trail, so I am the designated spokesman tonight. I know how happy you are to see me, how can you not be happy to see me? Don’t I look wonderful in my new RoopSuit?”

Ramsaroop’s security men, all in black suits and sunglasses, file in and usher him to his chair at the GTF table. Joey Jagan has already discreetly found his seat at the last empty table and seemed to be taking in the Ramsaroop Show with everyone else. He curtly nods to the right, Jagdeo acknowledges his politeness then looks wistfully at the empty seat beside him again.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the stage is set, the players are all in place and we are about to embark on what is sure to be the best fictional political debate of the century. Don’t miss the next column when I start asking Guyana’s leaders some very difficult questions about the future of the nation.

[To be continued in Tuesday’s column]

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