ROWLEY rules; the CJ stays. So might fittingly be headlined a climax to a season of competition and conflict, if indeed only hopefully so far. It’s hard to imagine how Dr Rowley could have remained politically unimpeached if the Courts, at the bidding of high-ranking lawyers, had overruled his decision against dragging Chief Justice Ivor Archie, imaginably wearing handcuffs, into the docks.
T&T had gone through even worse such legal/political trauma before. Prime Minister Patrick Manning had in 2006 invested heavily in bringing chief justice Satnarine Sharma to face four counts of criminal offences. The chief justice, then exalted embodiment of the rule of law, was fingerprinted and allowed bail.
Ensuing episodes entailed the refusal of Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls to testify against CJ Sharma, thereby scuttling his trial. In unrelenting pursuit of the anti-Sharma mission, Mr Manning set up an international tribunal that ultimately cleared the CJ of wrongdoing.
By immediately post-Carnival 2020, the names of the principals in that drama—Sharma, Manning, McNicolls—had all qualified for the prefix, “late”. Animus against successor CJ Archie had, however, remained alive, at least among leading figures of the Law Association. The Rowley ruling, admittedly moved by anti-UNC political sentiment, remained decisive.
In my own diary, a February 28 spot was marked for another courthouse outcome with contemporary political resonance. But the sentencing of Vincent Nelson QC, with its implications for the corruption trials of Anand Ramlogan QC, former attorney general, and Gerald Ramdeen, both UNC-connected, was again postponed.
Post-Carnival dramas, leading all the way to general elections, will, more and more, be having their days. One capable of lingering past Ash Wednesday may comprise questions raised about the multiple roles of Winston “Gypsy” Peters as National Carnival Commission chairman and, in that capacity, anointed PNM Government enabler. But Gypsy, free-spirited and free-moving, as his moniker suggests, has retained capacities as calypso tent entrepreneur, and active performer and contestant in both Monarch and “Extempo” races. Not much has been made of his simultaneous performance of multiple roles.
The man has now been advocating for a separate Tobago Carnival, a proposition that, though endorsed by superstar Machel Montano, has little been subjected to wider weighings of its pros and cons. One immediate consideration is the potential responsibility upgrade envisaged in some expanded federal remit for the position of NCC chairman. Much of this remains, in this election year, to be expounded, explicated and fought over.
At the Calypso Monarch finals, Gypsy voiced recognition of being targeted by critics: “Somebody will tell you something wrong… Somebody always judging, advising…”. People who attended at the venues or viewed on TV 2020 NCC-produced events remain entitled to pass judgment on organisational progress made under Gypsy-era jurisdiction.
Around the Grand Stand, at the Savannah, an identifying product line—“T&T, The Home of Carnival: Calypso, Steelband and Mas”—showed up here and there. That the NCC remains a noted Carnival job creator remains in evidence. Staffers, ample in supply, are especially noticeable at events (including an oversupply of underprepared announcers), such as the Monarch finals, when patronage is worryingly scant.
It took veteran calypsonian Scrunter to give unrestrained voice to the meaning of broad swaths of empty seats, and reduced audience participation: “Grand Stand, all you sing! All you, wake up, nah!” Appearing during the extended intermission, Scrunter, looking his age, performed a believable imitation of the late Kitchener. Then he fearlessly declaimed: “Something totally wrong. In our days, we could fill the Grand Stand and North Stand….TUCO, shame on you!”
It was not enough to keep this patron awake. At 11.28, four hours after jotting my first note, I trudged out of the Grand Stand. It was in the second half of the show, with maybe half of the performers remaining to come on. I would catch Ms Lyons’ winning delivery on the car radio.
Still, I felt bidden back to the Grand Stand on Carnival Tuesday, and to suffer the loudspeaking distractions by the announcers. In 2020, I wondered: is it not possible for some of the needless and often distorted announcements to be screened for the patrons and e-mailed to the judges? One announcer that afternoon irritatingly repeated instructions to a Japanese film team to leave the centre stage. A language barrier obviously defied understanding.
All Stars were coming on, however, but no microphones projected the pan music to the Grand Stand. At 3.25 pm, in place for nearly five hours, I could take no more.
Dr Rowley, who played mas on both Carnival days, preserved his back-to-normal headline story for after Ash Wednesday.
CORRECTION: Memory stumbled in this space last week, when I wrote that “Basil Davis died fighting in the guerrilla resistance”. It was Guy Harewood and Beverly Jones who suffered that fate.
The original article can be found here