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The power of representation

Friday, July 5, 2013

Jack Warner is an enigma. In any free, democratic and literate country, Mr Warner would be politically dead and buried, without the prospect of resurrection. The avalanche of allegations, rumours and investigations would have destroyed the best of politicians. But here before our very eyes we see Mr Warner being an extremely potent political force with many people openly supporting him. We don’t know if he will win the Chaguanas West seat but, by the level of support he has, this is a political mystery. 


What is the reason for this paradox? Maybe we have to put Jack in a political laboratory and study him! I believe that Jack survives because he has achieved, or created a perception that he provides extraordinary representation. What we are seeing is the expression of decades of people’s frustration with very poor and non-existent representation by members of Parliament. Who among us can claim that we are/were satisfied with the representation from our MP? Who among us have found our MP to be accessible, affable and results-oriented?


Based on media reports and my own interaction with a limited number of people from Chaguanas West, Mr Warner’s shield is representation. On the political platform and in Parliament, Mr Warner is a pitbull, taking on all “enemies” with often outrageous comments. But to his constituents he appears to be sensitive and empathetic. Mr Warner does not fit any of the political or societal stereotypes for the type of success he is having. Why? My hypothesis is that many voters have been so frustrated by poor representation over the years that they are willing to overlook some of the most serious allegations and actions by a politician in the history of our country. This says more about the pappyshow that passes for representation in our system of government than it says about Mr Warner.


However, he has an advantage over every MP who has ever served in this country. He has tremendous resources: he rich fuh so! And he is willing to spend some of his personal riches on his constituents. How he acquired his wealth does not appear to be of concern to his constituents. Robin Hood? Ordinary MPs who come from regular backgrounds and earn a normal salary do not have that option. But he may still fail. He is going against the tide. Numerous politicians in our past got carried away by temporary popularity and deluded themselves into forming political parties, only to fail miserably:
• Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj—Team Unity
• Hulsie Bhaggan —Movement for Unity and Progress
• Karl Hudson Phillips —Organisation for National Reconstruction
• Winston Dookeran —Congress of the People
• ANR Robinson—Democratic Action Congress


All of them, with the exception of Robinson, went the way of “not a damn seat for them.” Robinson carved out a niche in Tobago and was able to use it as a bargaining chip. But his party had no real success. Can Mr Warner rock this boat of history and be the first to defeat a traditional party after breaking away from it? But whatever the outcome of the Jack Warner Show, the single lesson that all current and future MPs should learn is the power of representation. If this lesson is learnt, even if he loses the seat, Jack would have won. And the country has won too.


Gladston Cuffie
St James




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