Mrs. Harper, say something I'm giving up on you
by Paul Sanders
Caribbean Daylight, NY. March 2015
So it's finally over.
I mean the second-guessing, the mulling over names, the brainstorming, the democratic centralising (really?) or whatever. All done. Just in case you nodded off, none of the top dawgs got the nomination for the top prize.
The PPP's press conference the other day announcing the party's prime ministerial candidate looked like a crossover between a softcore hostage drama and a child custody hearing. Simply awkward. Mrs. Elizabeth Harper just sat there - almost stoic, bland, distanced in the shadows of the spotlight - and intermittently forcing an embarrassed smile while President Ramotar and Clement Rohee rambling on about her selection as part of the imaginary Civic component.
The woman did not say a word. Just silence. Who is she? Where did she come from? Is she the dark horse?
For starters, she is the cousin of Forbes Burnham by marriage. Whaaat? That means something. And it should be very, very disturbing news for all diehard "Apaan Jhaat" proponents. How could the PPP do that? Now, how much more difficult is it to propound this "28 years" thing about Burnham and the PNC while Cuz Harper is prime minister candidate?
Easy, bro. Easy. Just do it the way you've always done it at the mandirs and the bottom house meetings. Suppretiously. As a PPP brand it's still workable; it's their wind talkers' power punch.
For Amerindians hoping that Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, an Amerindian herself, to have fitted the bill, this news conference has to come as sheer disappointment and insult. They are totally pissed off, particularly at a time when Amerindians protestors are seeing the nastiness of this regime.
Now that we got that outta the way, let's see. So the PPP's ticket looks like this: a known unknown ( a well known party apparachick of the Stalinist tradition whose academic credentials and track record is virtually unknown) links up with a unknown known ( a virtually unknown person to all of us, but well educated and a brilliant career diplomat, fully loaded, quite savvy and well liked in respectable circles). Wow!
In summation, Mrs. Harper is Mr. Ramotar's running mate this election season. To put it bluntly, the cart is now pulling the jackass. It's about time, ya think? Talk about tacky, man; this is tacky.
From all standpoints, Mrs. Harper seems to be well regarded academically; as Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she has unparalleled experience as a public servant, full of grace and confidence. She is a darling; even the opposition has a sneaking admiration for this lady. Yet however, her underdevelopment is that she never made it as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
So far, so good. Now what is she bringing to the table? Nothing more than that of an immaculate record as a principled individual with high standards of professionalism. She has no constituent, no following, no fan club. And except for a short stint as a picketer in 2012, her political activism is next to zero. Some observers suspect she had begun her political climb. Others believe the poor thing was under duress.
It is no accident that the PPP went shopping for a person of her calibre. The party wanted someone who is without sin. Who else in the party could have capture the imagination of the rulers, whom they think is unblemished, and can sustain the rigors and ridicule of a nation in an election year?
Gail Texeira? Nope. Over qualified to be even slightly perceptive, Ms. Texeira showed us in her tenure as Minister of Home Affairs that it was perfectly legal to be as ditsy as hell. Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, the nice guy who could just run you over and leave you as road kill, and thinks he's beholden to no one? Nuh, this guy doesn't really give a sheet what you think of him. And that's not good public relations in electioneering.
Who else? Anil Nandlall, the jihadist Ksatriya who knows a thing or two about gunfire and massacre? Oh lawd! The imagery of bloodshed and dead bodies is not really the picture of a people living in prosperity. And about that Minister of Tourism, that Irfan Ali guy? Well, he's the subject of bad public suspicion and rancid cynicism; and the PPP knows it. Because everybody is curious about "whey he get all da money fram?"
And not even a punk like Minister of Education, Ms. Priya Manickchand could have passed the smell test. Party insiders think she's too ratchet, too much of a brawler. Who else could have been a contender for the number two spot? Minister of Sports and Culture, Dr. Frank Anthony? A big fat no. Like Noooooo. If the minister can't keep one man, Ruel Johnson, off his back, would he be able to survive the assault of a combined opposition?
A comedian friend suggested recently that Mr. Ramotar could have done better by choosing Ms. Carol Sooba, the controversial Town Clerk. Yeah, the house slave with gall and ball. She is part of many things in one: a bull dog, a prima Donna, something between ex-president Bharrat Jagdeo, Sarah Palin and some other thing under meth.
A tight bundle, indeed, but a full package, nevertheless, that coalesces neatly with the stupidity, callousness and arrogrance of what Guyana is under the PPP. She's the real thing....for the PPP, by the PPP, from the PPP.
To be serious, this doesn't sound like a joke. It sounds more like the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It might just work.
Take it or leave it. Mrs. Harper will join these players on the roadshow to sell the PPP's wonderful words of life: bigger, brighter and better days, days of abundance and bliss, days of contentment, pride and happiness. She will have to rub shoulders with a few others, the likes of Kwame McCoy - a PPP thug and suspected child molester - from the Office of the President whose behavior lately looks more like a dyke with mad cow disease.
It will be interesting to hear Mrs. Harper expound on her conviction and persuade her audience to look back at 23 years of scams, corruption, narco-economy, nepotism, unsolved murders, extreme poverty, maternal and infant deaths, phantom death squad .... the whole laundry list, and tell us that this is all good for the country, and we can call it accomplishments.
Maybe, she can excite us with the message that more of this is yet to come. Whatever her gospel is, Mrs. Harper will have define these issues and redefine herself by doing so. Speak up, Mrs. Harper, express your passion. You either find yourself or lose yourself in this charade.
In a way, the PPP has thrown a monkey wrench unto itself. No one has ever lampooned it more eloquently than Angie Rado, a Stabroek News blogger. She wrote on Mrs. Harper: I look forward to the picture of her stepping onto the campaign stage, with Kwame McCoy on the right and Odinga Lumumba on her left, Clement Rohee ahead of her and Donald Ramotar behind.
Freaky, huh? Now you know why the cart is pulling the jackass.
The essence of that Kodak moment should educate us about the company Mrs. Harper will keep. In close contact. She will breathe them; and they will be all over her like locusts swarming a tree. She will have to re-examine the accolades she has attained by virtue of the finesse, sophistication, integrity and academic qualities she possesses. Or will she mutate? Like Sam Hinds.
When Sam Hinds became prime minister decades ago, many folks felt he was a very decent man; that he would do the right thing. Then he became a part of the monstrosities that have defined the regime. He is a fine example of how not to be a prime minister. Today, you can hardly find anyone who will hold him in high esteem.
So it is a good time to extrapolate. Then the big question is, does Mrs. Harper still maintain a sovereign consciousness? Or is she a case of good girl gone bad? Is that why she remains silent?
Only history will answer to that. But history is not chance. People make history. And so come May 11, Guyanese has to decide whether their collective voice will write history, or if history repeats itself.
But for the moment, given all she is; all the wonderful things that have been attributed to her, the bigger question to Mrs. Harper is: what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?