Stooping to conquer

“I request a meeting with you re compensation for police officers,” the fax demanded. For months, I’d been expressing my disapproval of Ramesar’s tone and language, but the note was so undiplomatic, so lacking in protocol, so personal, so out of place, I could only conclude that the letter, if you could call it such, was from an Indian man writing an Indian woman, summoning her to a parley. His attitude toward Kamla Persad-Bissessar: to give her orders and to make threats (we will down tools, etc). His perception, in general, the police blue view: the Prime Minister is an Indian woman; she can be commanded and directed. Ramesar would never have issued this disrespectful a request to Dr Eric Williams, George Chambers, ANR Robinson, Patrick Manning or Basdeo Panday. Men who had been cowardly silent for years were coming out to make incredible demands because they assumed they could get what they wanted from Kamla, not from Mrs Persad Bissessar, not from the Prime Minister, but from Kamla. At first, I was annoyed to see the Prime Minister give in to police ultimatums. Not even for Carnival, I thought, should she bend. I cannot stand bullies — of any sex. For the sake of Indian women, all women she should have fought the fight, I fumed. Others would follow the police — a precedent of weakness had been set. The PSA was already protesting. The Prime Minister had to demonstrate her mettle.

Then an older, much wiser woman told me that sometimes you have to stoop to conquer. I chewed on this paradox for quite a while. I could not see how the Prime Minister had prevailed. Eventually, I understood what that sage lady was trying to explain to me. The police might have won the round with their striking and their macho man attitude, but they had employed the dirtiest tricks and lyrics, had sullied their reputations, perhaps sold their souls. After they got their money, they would have to answer to the population who now held them in the lowest esteem. The people would rally around the Prime Minister. They did in St Joseph. The audience cheered Warner. This victory would be hollow for the police and it would not establish a standard for future negotiations. No other group or association would be able to throw a tantrum as the police had — the people’s patience was wearing thin and in two weeks, wining season would be over. Lent would bring a soberer mood.

I’m happy to hear Minister Warner come out and call a spade a spade. Ever faithful to the Prime Minister he has risen again to her defence as he did last year when PNM MP Paula-Gopee Scoon tried to stick the label “Indian woman” onto Mrs Persad-Bissessar during the budget debate. Gopee-Scoon’s initial issue had sexist undertones: the PM was embarrassing the country by dancing in Jamaica at a Caricom meeting. The MP’s racist coup de grace: the PM should sing chutney instead of One Love. At the time I penned a piece suggesting Gopee-Scoon had stopped slightly short of sending the Prime Minister to the kitchen at La Fantasie to make roti. I may not be an Indian woman but I am a woman and the cops’ Indian woman attitude has incensed me. The PM has stooped and she has conquered.


"Stooping to conquer"

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