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ONLY ONE WEEK ago, last Friday, in this space, I wrote this first paragraph: TRINIDADIANS, NEPALESE, BOLIVIANS – anybody in the world – who thinks Brexit isn’t hugely relevant to them is making the mistake of the man weed-whacking, without a face-mask, a patch of grass where people walk their dogs; he’ll be swallowing faecal matter before the job gets done.
Who tell me push fire? Did I know I’d just opened a Pandora’s Box? Which jumbie answered my unintentional call? Which demon possessed me to tempt Providence and the PDP?
On Tuesday, Boris Johnson finally got the general election he wanted but that Brexit news was buried by far more momentous events in Port of Spain, when Watson Duke, leader of a group called the Progressive Democratic Patriots – I don’t know how they resisted the temptation to call themselves the Progressive Democratic Action Congress & Robbie Woulda Love We Patriots –promised to lead Tobago out of the bondage of Trinidad and into full political independence.
Forget Brexit: all you Trini take ‘Bago-rexit in yuh rooker-ker-kung-tung; or, perhaps, in your bene balls.
Newsday reported – and, no, it was not the Onion – that Duke said Tobago was fed up of being mistreated by and tired of begging Trinidad for money. Tobago could generate revenue and feed itself without importing from Trinidad – don’t mind Trinidad itself imports almost everything it sends on to Tobago.
Duke – not to be confused with the calypsonian of the same sobriquet, Kelvin Pope, although his song How Many More Must Die does kind of come to mind – was the same man who, as a protest against the undependable sea and air links between the small island and the slightly less small island, promised to swim from Tobago to Trinidad in August 2017 and actually did manage that stupendous feat by employing the devices of a water-skier’s life vest and a water-skier’s boat: he swam, reportedly (LoopTT), 500 metres before tiring and having to be towed for another unreported number of metres before climbing into the boat and staying there until the boat reached Toco, where Duke swam, one hopes, at least a few more metres. It was a symbolic protest, of course, and it did make sense to have more symbolic than actual protesting swimming.
After he wins the two Tobago seats in the Trinidad & Tobago House of Representatives – or, in his own words, “after those two seats are given to me”, Duke promises to “out-vote” the government in in Parliament and prevent them from passing a single bill “unless they sit, discuss and agree on Tobago independence”.
He did not say, “Tobago’s independence” or “Tobagonian independence” – and why should he? After secession, Tobago will expressly have its own constitution, judicial system, commissioner of police, prime minister, chief justice, treasury and currency, so why shouldn’t it have, impliedly, its own rule of law and rules of grammar? Tobago syntax dissolves along with Trinidad tax and the Trinidad & Tobago constitution.
How, you might ask, could a man who did not have the constitution to swim 30km defeat a 35-year-old Republican constitution? “It’s the will of the people that will triumph over the will of the government,” replies Duke, from his press conference – held, it must be noted, in Port of Spain, not in Scarborough.
No one who loves Tobago (and it’s hard not to, though it’s often easy not to love some Tobagonians) would deny that, for most of the 120 years since Tobago became a ward of Trinidad & Tobago in 1899, Tobago has been neglected, give-or-take an airport, a mile or two of highway and a few Filipinos.
But even Watson Duke himself must see how elementary a connection Tobago has with Trinidad – so much so that Duke’s own declaration of his intention to make a declaration of independence of Tobago is itself an entirely Trinidadian gesture: he does not so much set out a case for Tobago’s independence (or even Tobago independence) as make as eef he could make it so; unless, of course, the declaration of Tobago-independence is merely symbolic, like the 30km swim from Tobago to Toco that was more like three lengths of the (Trinidad) Hilton pool and half-a-Store Bay; it’s no so much self-determination as self-delusion, the Trini trait that makes life on both islands bearable.
But, even if the old Watson “Son of What” Duke could, somehow, spin winning the two Tobago seats into the Republic of Tobago, he fails to consider the real petrodollar question: how could Tobago hope to make it on its own when Trinidad & Tobago, together, cannot make it on their own, together?
BC Pires is a pushing for independence for Kim Kardashian’s bottom, which has a more substantial claim than Tobago to be big enough to make it on its own.