Page 9 Us Elections Kidnapping
Low road to tomorrow
By the end of the week, Abu Bakr, the new Minister of National Security, will be sitting in his office on Knox Street using his $61 million of spy gear to transfer money out of your bank account while at the same time listening in to what you’re saying in your bedroom. Outside, his goons will patrol the streets, kidnapping anyone rash enough to put their nose out of doors. Or, alternatively, Ali Baba and his 40 thieves will be trundling wheelbarrows of your hard-earned cash out of the Treasury and into their overseas accounts. Or perhaps Prime Minister Wendell Mottley, his brilliance universally acknowledged, will be picking and choosing his dream team of experts from all parties, and all will be well. Those, in a nutshell, are the prospects we’ve been presented with in the course of the campaign: choose between state terrorism and wholesale plunder. Then there were lesser accusations about tearing down billboards and mutilating crapauds.
That wasn’t all, of course: both parties dutifully spoke about employment and health, education and investment. But the gambits that got most of the attention have been the less edifying ones. The UNC ran a more polished, though not necessarily more plausible ad campaign. (Obviously a lot of work went into the radio ads about the “terror” that is starting, for instance, with the ominous music and the horror-movie voiceover. But they went too far. I might be willing to be convinced that the PNM is incompetent, or behind the times — but evil? Get real.) Weeks ago the UNC faxed the Guardian newsroom a complete list of its national meetings from September 12 to today; the PNM could only give that information a day or two in advance. And we got used to having to scramble to send a reporter to accompany the Prime Minister on a walkabout in Claxton Bay or Tunapuna at a couple of hours’ notice.
On Friday the UNC sent a list of where and when their candidates will be voting tomorrow; to find out about the PNM candidates’ plans, reporters had to call them. But the fact that their machinery runs more smoothly doesn’t mean everything is going according to the UNC’s plan. There’s another marked difference between the campaigns. The long road to tomorrow’s election began on August 28, with the dissolution of Parliament being greeted by a gleeful UNC and a disconsolate PNM. But the PNM had pulled itself together by the time the party launched its campaign in Woodford Square on September 15. And in the last days of the campaign there’s been a complete reversal. Rightly or wrongly, the PNM is convinced it’s going to win. By the time of the women’s platform in St James last weekend you could feel it in the air, strong enough to make your hair stand on end.
At the Tunapuna meeting on Wednesday, only the hangdog Eddie Hart put a slight damper on the jubilant mood of the huge crowd (even the yuppies from Diego Martin West turned out for the occasion). That afternoon, he said, while he was out campaigning, a lady ran behind his truck and told him she was a special voter, but when she went to vote that day, she was told someone using her name had voted already. There were some beautiful people at the EBC office in Tunapuna, said Mr Hart, but also “cantankerous ones, wicked ones.” Still, even he livened up and told the crowd: “As long as we come out, we going to beat them.” The Prime Minister was relaxed, joking in his heavy-handed way about the UNC wanting to pay people next for trying to make babies.
He ended as he’s been ending his speeches for several weeks now, with an aggressive and increasingly upbeat riff. It starts: “We will beat them in the east, we will beat them in the west...” and builds up to: “We will beat them, we will beat them, we will beat them!”, which he embellishes by turning up the volume and waving his fists in a suitably macho way.
Mr Panday, by contrast, has sounded increasingly embattled. Somewhere during the campaign the UNC began to feel like the underdog. On Monday, in San Juan, its leader seemed exhausted as he ploughed confusedly through his party’s anti-crime plan. “There’s a kit, and you see a criminal, and the policeman has a thing like a screen, and he asks you, ‘Did he have a round head or a square head?’” was how he had to convey the concept of an Identikit, having forgotten the word.
As for rallying his troops, the closest Mr Panday has come to “We will beat them” is to urge, “Never surrender.” That’s hardly the statement of a man who believes he’s on the winning side. But whatever happens tomorrow, one good thing has come out of having to have another election. Record numbers of people have regularly left their homes and made their way through dark and lonely streets to attend political meetings until late at night. An election campaign, it seems, is an effective remedy for paranoid fears about being kidnapped