Just when we thought the elections bacchanal was over, the nation had good reason to think again on Tuesday with the opening of parliament, six days late. The ceremony was scheduled for a 10 a.m. start; the government side arrived several minutes early. Evidently in a particularly gregarious mood, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet waved to the crowd outside the House. Red-shirted individuals jeered while others cheered at the top of their lungs.
Another group occupied chairs in Constitution Park where a large screen had been erected for those who preferred to watch the show outdoors. Before long sidewalk traffic had become hazardous, thanks to over-enthusiastic supporters of both parties. A well-known William Peter Boulevard character, attired in yellow cape, took up his position near the cannon in the House parking lot. From time to time he blew on his plastic yellow horn, obviously having the time of his life. To anyone who stopped to talk to him, he said: “This is the last trumpet call.”
“The letters UWP now stand for Understanding With People,” he added. “They have no right to . . .” He was drowned out by the red noise. A woman volunteered that she showed up outside the House because “This is our government. Even though I’m a Labour supporter I’m here but if things go wrong, like gas prices going up and food prices too, well I’ll be the first to march.”
There was a sudden rush from the sidewalks as a red and white bus entered the parliament compound. It carried the wounded soldiers of the election war that supposedly was “between the SLP and the Chastanets”. As Kenny & Company disembarked, they were mobbed by screaming women in red. Meanwhile the yellow brigade chanted: “Yo Pe!” (They’re scared! – the party’s pre-election mantra.)
One by one Alva Baptiste, Philip J Pierre, Kenny Anthony, Emma Hyppolyte, Ernest Hilaire, Jerome Gideon, the men sporting red ties, made their way to the front entrance. Kenny Anthony, the MP for Vieux Fort South and former prime minister, did not appear particularly happy to be greeted by sweating females. He brushed past reporters and offered not a word, not a word, not a word to the scoop-hungry.
Another rock-star moment occurred upon Guy Joseph’s arrival outside the House, to resounding applause. Few politicians can match the Castries Southeast hero when it comes to playing up to the media.
Soon it was time for elected members to take the Oath of Allegiance to her Majesty the Queen. Already Leonne Theodore-John had been declared House Speaker. The nominated senators on both sides also took the oath. Prime Minister Allen Chastanet then moved a number of motions in his name including the offering of condolences to the people of Trinidad and Tobago upon the passing of former prime minister Patrick Manning. In supporting the motion, opposition leader Philip J Pierre observed that politicians were honoured when they were dead. He seemed to have given his statement much thought.
As the proceedings continued the Speaker called for nominations for a deputy speaker. Silence. A second and a third call from the chair brought no response. Then the prime minister asked for a ten-minute adjournment. Why? Said the new PM, “Madame Speaker there appears to be an impasse and no nominations are forthcoming.” He invited the leader of the opposition for a tête-a-tête outside the chamber.
The crowd outside grew more and more restless. Some heckled while others wondered what the GG’s hat might look like this time around. A well-known Constitution Park know-all informed me that the problem was Sarah Flood- Beaubrun. “De woman tell them no, she eh want deputy, she want more than that. They offer her something but she want it in writing, “ he said. A media colleague suggested there could be truth to the claim. There wasn’t.
When the session resumed the Castries Central MP was nominated and the motion duly seconded. Now the big question is: How long before the Marcus Nicholas situation of 2006 reemerges?
Andy Daniel was appointed Senate President with retired banker Mauricia Thomas-Francis as his deputy. The business inside concluded it was soon time for the governor general to make her entrance and deliver her throne speech. As for her hat, she could have worn it to an official cocktail party without starting a riot.
When she read the part of her prepared speech that revealed her government was moving forward towards the objective of reducing VAT in the short term, with a view to eliminating it all together, cheers broke out all over the parliament compound. As for the new prime minister, on his way out of parliament he told reporters: “There are a lot of things we have to do in a short space of time and we are looking forward to the cooperation of the civil services and civil society in making some of these decisions.”
He’ll need more than a bit of luck in the days ahead, considering the public expectations expressed outside the House on Tuesday.
As I was leaving, my wise Constitution Park friend offered this scoop: “Look out for Arsene James; before year’s end he will replace the Dame at Government House.” We shall see!