April 20, 2014

Extending democracy

Satiricus was in awe. “Here it is,” he thought, “the U.S. is trying to teach us about “democracy” thinking we can’t do the job ourselves. But a local champion has risen to the challenge and pushed democracy to such a level, it’s going to take some doing for even the U.S. to catch up.” Satiricus hoped the fellas from the IRI in Guyana were taking notice.

Satiricus was covering the Parliamentary beat. He was bored to tears with the Opposition carrying on about “hacking and chopping”.  It was getting quite fearsome but Satiricus knew the Opposition couldn’t help themselves. They were trying to impress their troops on the ground.

Their troops like to hear about “hacking and chopping”. But suddenly, from the Government benches rose that great crusader for democracy – Kneel-Moutar, brandishing The Times, the very paper Satiricus scribbled for.

You could tell Kneel-Moutar was rising in righteous indignation. His moustache was covered with spit from his sputtering. Seems The Times had confused him with that has-been cricketer Clyde Lord.

Even Satiricus was outraged. Kneel-Moutar was the driving force of not only cricket in Guyana – but of all sports. What the heck had Clyde Lord done outside of his miserable life in cricket?? “Jeez,” Satiricus ejaculated, “How could my editors at Times be so ridiculous? It’s like comparing Bradman to Panessar!”

Recognised by the Speaker of the House, Kneel-Moutar continued his denunciation of the Times for their dastardly, odious comparison. He wouldn’t accept the apology they’d printed!! And this was when Kneel-Moutar stood on the cusp of rising into the company of men like Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson to extend democracy.

The Speaker asked Kneel-Moutar if he wanted “to move a motion against The Times”.  Satiricus knew that’s what MP’s rose to do – unless they were, of course, rising to complain about being associated with child-rapists. But from his smile and arched eyebrows, the Speaker was obviously being sarcastic – assuming that anyone with an iota of knowledge about Parliament knew you couldn’t move a motion against a private entity outside Parliament!

The Opposition benches were guffawing with gusto as they hurled words like “ignorant” and “country-bumpkin” at Kneel-Moutar.

Even his own party members were snickering as those close to him tugged at his shirt (which as usual was out of his pants. This was one great man who insisted on showing he was not only a “son-of-the-soil” but a “son-with-some-soil”) trying to get him to sit down. But Satiricus felt like he was the only person who understood Kneel-Moutar.

The great man wanted to extend democracy to ensure that motions could even be moved against the free press. How else could he ensure that no one would ever confuse him with Clyde Lord? That was an insult even Gandhi wouldn’t take.

A plaster for every sore

Satiricus was pleased. There were some who complained that the Opposition MPs only showed up at Parliament to eat free food and collect their duty-free car allowances. At $1.7 million per sitting to feed just 65 Parliamentarians, and an average of $5 million in duty per car forgone, Satiricus knew you weren’t talking about peanuts.

But yet, Opposition MPs sometimes came up with such brilliant ideas that Satiricus understood right away why it was worth denying thousands of Guyanese a decent standard of living just to take care of them.

Take the KFC MP, Trevon Willums, who rose in indignation to demand why the Government hadn’t formed an Anti-Kidnapping Unit, a whole week after a businessman had been kidnapped and killed. “Why just the other day, that 19-year-old had been kidnapped and ransom demanded,” grimaced Satiricus ruefully to his pal Cappo, who’d dropped by.

“But da na de bai fram Enmore, who bin fake he own kidnapping?” replied Cappo.

“Whatever!” growled Satiricus defiantly. He had looked up the statistics and seen that there was a person kidnapped every other year.

“Now, you might think this number small,” said Satiricus. “But, old buddy, you can’t look at only money when you got things like these going on.”

“But wha de Unit gon do 99.999999 per cent ah de time?” “Deh might get bored and start kidnapping, de self.”

“Haven’t  the GDF, with thousands of soldiers, been sitting around since 1965? That’s 49 years! Nobody complains about them!” huffed Satiricus. “How many people they kidnap?”

“Well, deh use to rent out dey gun…” remembered Cappo ruefully.

But Satiricus’s blood was boiling. “Why should we stop with a Kidnapping Unit?” he fumed. “There were all kinds of atrocities committed every day. There should be Police Units formed to handle every one of them.”

“Take stray dogs. Please! “ grinned Cappo in his best comedian voice. “But seriously, Sato, yuh na think dem should gat wan police unit fuh pick up all dem stray dog running around de place?”

“Damn right!!!” Satiricus agreed so fervently that he slipped into Creolese, “only last week one a dem jump up and bite me bamzee. And wha about wan Police Unit fuh look after all de Police Unit abee gon get?”

“I never thought of that,” said Cappo in Standard English, which he never liked using. “Maybe we should change the name to Guyana Police Units”?”

Naga Man on the run

Satiricus was appalled. He confessed that he was even shocked. Here it was that the Naga Man was being heckled, “handled” and harassed by sugar workers. And not just any sugar workers – we were talking about CANE-CUTTERS!! “You got to only take one look at Naga Man’s face,” said Satiricus to the fellas around the table in the back-street bar, “and know that man is real cane-cutter material”.

His buddy Cappo, who just happened to be a real cane-cutter who had been at the protest in front of Parliament, chuckled. “Sato, old frien,” he said, “abee face get ‘swingey’ because abee does drink rum just like Naga Man. Haaaard!  Every day. But abee drink because abee does wuk haaard. Wha’ excuse Naga Man gat?”

Everybody around the tabled chuckled along with Cappo, and Suresh ventured, “He does drink because he fail in everything he do in life?”

“Hold it! Hold it!!” interrupted Hari. “The man turn into a lawyer!”

“Yuh right,” admitted Cappo. “But he had fuh wait till he a wan old man and he daughter turn lawyer, suh he could cog from she!!”

“And then he turn around and cuss the gyaal son: “Shut yuh so-and-so-mouth!!!” observed Cappo.

“Hey Cappo!! That is just how you does talk to you son!!” teased Suresh. “Real cane-cutter stuff!”

“Budday…If yuh eye nah see, yuh mouth nah must talk. Me does cuss after me fetch five ton cane pan me head in de sun,” retorted Cappo. “De only thing Naga Man fetch is he big belly!”

“Awright! Awright! So let we hear why you-all cuss out Naga Man,” asked Satiricus, ever the newsman.

“Budday, de man think abee schupid. Yuh remember when he and de Rum Jhaat run down to Linden and tell de people na fuh pay dem electric bill raise?” Cappo looked around.

Everyone nodded. “Well dem people na bin vote fuh KFC party. But cane-cutter a bin vote fuh he in Berbice. And now look wha he gie dem – Larwaah!!!”

“Na tek worries, bai,” said his cane-cutter comrade Bungi as he patted Cappo on the back. “Wait till Prezzie call election. Dem bais in Berbice gon gie he bigger larwah!”

Thunderbolt’s gone?

Satiricus wondered how much more could that great leader of the KFC, Rum Jhaat, take. Forget all the jokes about him having six fingers and everyone being unable to take their eyes off that extra finger when they were around him. Satiricus knew the pain that would’ve caused a sensitive fella like Rum Jhaat. Satiricus himself remembered all the teasing he’s suffered because he has a bit of “cock eye”. “Only those who know can feel,” sighed Satiricus.

And here it was when things couldn’t possibly get worse, was news that Suse “Thunderbolt” Sing had quit the party. Talk about rats deserting a sinking ship!!! Oh NoGel! Oh Flower Boy!! Thunderbolt wasn’t your ordinary member. The man knew all there was to know about corruption – he was the KFC’s point man on corruption. And how’d he get to this elevated position? Why…he wrote the book on corruption. Literally.

In fact, Satiricus remembered that’s how Thunderbolt got his name. Suse was working at the Flour Mill and pilfered so much Thunderbolt flour from the company, the Americans eventually cancelled the PL 480 programme through which they were supplying Guyana with wheat to be milled.   Even the FBI they sent over couldn’t get the goods on Thunderbolt. “Now that’s some corruption,” marvelled Satiricus against his better judgement. But you had to give a man his flour bag.

His lawyer and adviser had been Rum Jhaat, head of the People’s Youth Group of which Rum Jhaat was the leader. Thunderbolt and Rum Jhaat went back a long way. And Suse was now gone. Who would advise Rum Jhaat how to get the donations from “foreign” into his pockets? Who would write those long letters in the press, praising Prakesh?  Prakesh was Rum Jhaat “house name” and close people like Thunderbolt called him that.

But Satiricus had a sneaking suspicion (all suspicions about people like Thunderbolt and Rum Jhaat were, by definition, “sneaky”) that Thunderbolt’s eyes were straying. There was his friend the Donkey Cart economist who’d landed the first body blow on Rum Jhaat when he not only quit. That would’ve been bad enough. He joined APANU!!  And to add salt to the wound, the Donkey Cart fella had bolted over with Thunderbolt’s pen pal Ass-Quit. And Satiricus knew then that it was only a matter of time that Thunderbolt would follow.

Satiricus knew when you’ve spent so much time together with a close companion, it was hard to stay apart. Satiricus knew this from hard experience. Didn’t he have to go crawling back to his wife when he’d walked out of the house because he’s hadn’t gotten anything for two years?

He just knew how Thunderbolt felt. But that was no reason for leaving Rum Jhaat in the lurch. “Was there no honour among thieves?” Satiricus asked himself plaintively.

Sullied honour

Satiricus was outraged. Here it was, he’d been sent to cover the goings on in Parliament about the “Budget Debate”. “That’s what it used to be,” sighed Satiricus, “but no more.”

He’d been told by his father that in the old days, there used to be quips thrown about, and wit displayed, by MPs like old man Boysie. Now they were all sourpusses like Boysie’s son Rolphie – just cussing out like fisherwomen.

But Satiricus dutifully turned up in Parliament. It was Friday, after all. And some of the $1.7 million in “refreshments” for the MPs at every sitting did trickle down to the reporters. It paid to have friends in high places.

So Satiricus was listening to the debate droning on, and was almost nodding off – like more than half of the members in the hallowed halls – when he was jerked back to reality.

Bolda Lawbench, from APANU, had been waxing feelingly about the horror experiences by victims of rape and sexual assault when Minister PanicChan heckled, “Ask Mitta Shamma!!!”

Satiricus was stunned. He knew that heckling was done quite spontaneously and people said whatever jumped into their minds. It was like those free-associations games where you completed people’s sentences.

But how the heck did such a thought cross PanicChan’s mind? Why! Mitta Shamma was one of the cleanest living citizens in the fair city of Georgetown!!! A paragon of virtue. Jeez, he’d down his eyes bashfully to the floor if voluptuous women passed by. But, they did have this charge against him for doing all sorts of vile things to several pre-pubescent girls.

“But by golly,” thought Satiricus, “Mitta Shamma, wasn’t convicted, was he?” He’d fainted every time at the trial and it had to be postponed.

Could a man, who was so sensitive that he couldn’t stand the smell of the Georgetown Courts, be so depraved to do the things they were accusing him of? “Naah!” concluded Satiricus.

Guyanese were such copy cats. Just because that talk show host from the BBC had been proven to be molesting underage girls for decades, this was why our law and order honchos wanted to convict local broadcaster Mitta Shamma.

“It was a sad, sad, situashan,” thought Satiricus. So Satiricus wasn’t surprised when young Master Shamma – “where had he been all these years”, wondered Satiricus – jumped up to defend his father’s honour.

Satiricus wasn’t sure whether Young Shamma had jumped up…he’d taken after his father and was height-challenged – but the Speaker recognised him and that meant he was standing. And this was what outraged Satiricus: nobody else from APANU jumped up to support the honour of Mitta Shamma!

“Why!! Just because Mitta Shamma wasn’t sitting in the House where everyone called each other “Honourable” meant he didn’t have honour?” fumed Satiricus. “Mitta Shamma had more honour than everyone in APANU.”

Mitta Shamma was right to pull out his Just Ice Party from APANU.  No more free TV. Just look how fast APANU now jumping up to defend Mitta Shamma now!!! Honour was found.

The Forker

Satiricus was appalled. Here it was, the Joint Opposition Parliamentary Parties (JOPP) had conducted a poll to test the wind.  A poll was better at testing the wind than pissing into it…with polls if it blew back at you, you could deny. Wasn’t so with pissing. Satiricus has firsthand experience with the latter. “It wasn’t pretty,” he thought ruefully.

And JOPP up and blanked GreenBridge as a possible PNCEE…OK…OK…APANU, Presidential candidate. Now Satiricus wasn’t surprised that Baddam Harass over at the MuckrakerKN led the charge to twist the leaking of the poll. Hey! Baddam had been suckled at the feet of the mighty Kabaka himself! Twisted was his middle name. And the poll had left the fellas at CongDress Place with lots of mud on their face.

But Jeez…surely missing the patent sidelining of the feistiest fellow in the fetid force called APANU…or PNCEE for that matter…was a tragedy? But Satiricus, an old hand in the newspaper business, knew that Baddam hadn’t really missed the GreenBridge omission. He just felt he could stir more mischief by twisting the poll results to drive a wedge between those fellas over at Liberty House. Ahhh…what fidelity to the PNC cause, by Harass. Said cause being the destruction of the PPEE, of course.

“But back to GreenBridge,” thought Satiricus, “it really wasn’t fair to the man.” GreenBridge was the economic wizard who’d put Guyana on the world’s economic radar. Before him, Guyana was just another nondescript ex-third world colony, muddling through. And then came Greenbridge. In short order he made Guyana’s economy so decrepit and broken that we were “just above Haiti” in this hemisphere.

Now, Satiricus knew that most folks thought that this was a bad thing. But GreenBridge explained there were at least two things that made being “just above Haiti” a good thing. First there was the matter of national heroes. Haiti’s L’Overture was famous all over. With Guyana being “just above Haiti”, people the world over would know about our Cuffy. That was brilliant, Satiricus thought at the time.

And the second reason was even more brilliant. The developed countries wanted to look good, explained GreenBridge. And when they helped starving-guts country, that made them look good.

So, since Guyana was made into a starving-guts country by GreenBridge and the PNCEE, the developed countries could help Guyana and look good! And this was why GreenBridge had boasted that Guyana was bankrupt when he signed that agreement with the International Mother Forker (IMF).

Life had been unfair when the PNCEE had been voted out and GreenBridge hadn’t gotten the opportunity to oversee Guyana getting shafted by the IMF. And here Satiricus got all choked up. Now, here it was GrainJa and Rum Jhaat were sidelining GreenBridge in the poll. GreenBridge would’ve definitely come out on top. The masses of Guyanese were just dying to allow GreenBridge to bring Guyana to the notice of the IMF once again.

Guyana was ready to be forked over, once again, wasn’t she?

Ruminating

Satiricus enjoyed the letter columns of the Guyanese newspapers. In fact it was his favourite section. He could find out how the average Joe in the street thought. So he was intrigued by one fella who thought that reporters shouldn’t be chewing gum at press conferences by the President. Satiricus was going to say, “Presidential press conferences”, but realised that when put that way, it meant that the press conference itself had to be conducted a certain way – “presidential”.

That is, all prim and stiff and “proper” with nary anyone daring to crack a grin. So the fella who was taken aback by the gum-chewing members of the fourth estate must’ve been thinking about “presidential press conferences”. But what about those Presidents who don’t think that’s the way to conduct themselves.  Easy going presidents like the late, lamented Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Lula of Brazil or our very own Pressie?

These fellas were all “sons of the soil”, who didn’t put on airs and pretend they have a rod stuck up their behinds. They didn’t have to follow those Presidents from up North who, after throwing out their Kings, wanted to be “Royal”. “Hey!” Satiricus thought, “If you want royalty, then get a King! We didn’t have no kings in Guyana.”

Satiricus knew the Americans, for one, insisted on their Presidents acting like Kings. (No Queens there!! Maybe Queen Hillary?) When you combined that hangup with their weakness for British accents – even Cockney ones – you know they just wished they never threw out old King George. Even though he was mad as a hatter.

“But we went another route, didn’t we?” muttered Satiricus to himself. Our founding fathers even threw away the suits and brought in shirt jacs. Nothing “presidential” – as in “stiff” – about the open-necked shirt jacs, was there? So the fella who complained about our chewing gum had to have one of those unreconstructed colonial minds, Satiricus heard about. He obviously didn’t know our Pressie…and why we can get away with calling him “Pressie” and not “Mr President”.

The gum complainer probably wanted a President like those in North Korea…who’re always strutting around in a General’s uniform at mass games – with their portraits made from flash cards held by thousands, moving in unison. And are always addressed as “the Great Leader” or “wise”, unique”, “brilliant” Leader, “Guiding Sun Ray”, “Sun of the Communist Future”, and 98 other names. But anyone who had to force people to bow and scrape before him, thought Satiricus, didn’t earn his respect.

But maybe the stiff-necked, moral-police complainer was wrong about the pressmen chewing gum? He’d confessed he hadn’t actually opened their mouths and checked their wad.

Maybe the journalists, being the contemplative fellas they were, had been merely “ruminating” over Pressie’s remarks?

ADHD

Satiricus knew that Guyanese could be soooo insensitive. Sometimes it could amount to cruelty. Take the case of Rum Jhaat and his band of merry men and women from the KFC sneaking out from Parliament during the Budget speech. There was no need to get on their case the way some in the media did – that they were showing disrespect and all of that. “Truth is,” Satiricus fumed, “the Jhaat always suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – and it’s clear that he’s infected his Parliamentary Posse.”

But Satiricus knew the two fellas from the village of Whim – the Naga Man and the Bush Doctor from Berbice – didn’t need much “infection”. Along with Rum Jhaat, they’d suffered from the problem ever since they were boys catching crabs in the Courida Bushes behind Whim. When covering the last elections in Berbice, Satiricus had been regaled by the story of how the three of them used to be pushing their hands into the crab holes, forget what they were doing, and end up screaming to high heavens as the crabs feasted on their fingers.

“So how you’d expect these fellas to sit for hours and listen to a speech.” Especially one that mentioned numbers every other sentence. The Jhaat had a particularly severe case of ADHD. Whenever he was in company, people found it quite disconcerting for his eyes to be darting all over the place. “Well, that’s what folks with ADHD do!!!” Exclaimed Satiricus to himself, “They can’t focus.”

As a lawyer, this problem had caused the Jhaat a number of embarrassing situations. There was that time when Satiricus had been assigned to cover the courts as a punishment by his editor. One of the most senior female judges had cause to order that Rum Jhaat zip up his fly. Obviously, he’d lost attention after pulling his pants on. Trouble was he’d also forgot to put on his briefs. “And,” Satiricus remembered, “what is a lawyer without his briefs? It wasn’t a pretty sight. Gruesome if the truth be told.”

But Satiricus knew that these ADHD people didn’t just lose attention very quickly – they were also hyperactive. And with the Jhaat and the Naga Man, Satiricus remembered as to what form that activity took, he got cold sweat. How could he forget the riling up of the folks at Linden by the two of them to burn down the town?  Then the Jhaat couldn’t sit still to attend the President’s tripartite talks.

So Satiricus wasn’t surprised when the Essequibo organiser of the KFC – playing the role of a disgruntled rice farmer – was waiting for the ADHD posse when they sidled out of Parliament.

Satiricus breathed a sigh of relief when the Jhaat didn’t push them to burn anything down. People should thank them for holding back…which wasn’t easy for ADHD people.

Soopa Man

Satiricus was upset that they were trying to keep a good man down. “But they’ve always been like that, haven’t they?” he thought to himself. “They”, of course, were the naysayers who just didn’t want to accept that there were people who were just light years ahead of them in almost every type of human endeavour. “And some inhuman ones, come to think of it,” murmured Satiricus.

Satiricus’ ire had been raised at the sniping at the VC of UGGY (Satiricus just loves initials as names) just because the man had taken on a massive $40 million project for the IDB. This was just not irie. So what if he had a full time job to clean up the mess at UGGY? OK, so there might be a sliver of truth in the claim that UGGY was a veritable can of worms. Worms, after all do tend to grow in the droppings of horses, and it had also been claimed that UGGY was like the Augean Stables. The said stables, of course, hadn’t been cleaned for over 100 years.

“Well,” snorted Satiricus, “if Hercules could clean those stables in a single day, why couldn’t the VC of UGGY have done the same with UGGY in the year he’s been here?” After all, the biggest obstacle to the running of UGGY had been that Kiss Soon person, who’d been terminated forthwith. Satiricus’ mind boggled as to how Kiss Soon could get away with not having a single publication after 26 years at UGGY. If he Satiricus didn’t write three pieces every day, his editor was all over him like a cheap suit.

Also here it was in black and white, the VC of UGGY had said he worked 18 hours a day, every day, at UGGY. And if God had created the world in six days, so that he could rest on the seventh – and Satiricus was pretty sure God didn’t do 18-hour days – imagine what a man could do in 18 hours a day, every day, every week and every month?

But the biggest point the critics of the VC of UGGY refused to acknowledge, was that the VC of UGGY could very well be doing the $40 million contract with the IDB, on his own time. After all, he had six hours every day of the year to spare. What was such a contract to a man who could clean up UGGY in a year?

“Jeez, the VC of UGGY could do that with his hands tied behind his back!!” snorted Satiricus. “The man was from the Mother Continent and downed all those herbs. He was Soopa Man.”

Homeward bound

Satiricus was proud he was a “roots man”. And his roots were back in Mother India. And that’s why when everyone was tanking up on alcohol in the Holi festivities, he had prepared his Bhang and imbibed deeply. Bhang was ganja boiled in milk. This was just the way it was still done in the old country. Satiricus was still feeling mellow.

So as he perused the news while lolling in his hammock, he saw that Reaz Tubaan and his group were going to re-enact the Arrival of his forefathers and foremothers and he was mighty pleased. Satiricus liked this Tubaan fella. The chap was always so rootsey. But Satiricus wasn’t so sure about him calling the event a “cruise”. This might give people the wrong idea.  Satiricus knew that Tubaan was going to insist on getting things “real”. He was a “method actor” who lived his role. Like Marlon Brando. He already had Brando’s belly from “Godfather”.

Didn’t he actually close his eyes when he played that blind fella in “Dosti”, who was always breaking into a song? He warned people who would sign up for the experience that they would “relive” experience of the Jahajees (shipmates) crossing “Kala Paani”, the Black Waters. Right off the bat Satiricus knew Tubaan was serious when he saw that the ship-ride was going to be on the Demerara River and not the Atlantic Ocean. No, it wasn’t because the waters of the Demerara were smooth…

Satiricus always wondered why people talked about the “Black Waters” when the Atlantic Ocean wasn’t black. Even the Indian Ocean wasn’t black, for that matter.  So Satiricus knew that when Tubaan would steer that ship up the black waters of the Demerara River, he knows the trip would be even more real than the original – real Kala Pani. Satiricus vowed to sign up immediately.

He had to get a Lunghi. Tubaan had specifically specified that people had to dress just like first Jahajees. Those first arrivals were mostly Hill Coolies – tribal people. They didn’t wear Dhoti like the folks on the plains. The Lunghi was just a simple piece of cloth, wrapped around the waist – like a loincloth. And no “buktas”…the old folks – and the plain folks, for that matter – didn’t know about any buktas. Satiricus briefly wondered about his privates shriveling up in that brisk Demerara air as they sailed upriver. “But what the heck?” he figured. “You had to make sacrifices for the cause, no?”

Then Satiricus remembered the food. If Tubaan was going to be the stickler for details he usually was, Satiricus and all the other Jahajees would have to make do with a thin gruel made from boiling rice with dhall. Not even kitcherie – which would have some onions and what have you.

“But, what the heck?” thought Satiricus. “A roots man got to do what a roots man got to do, no?”