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Comrade v Comrade

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by Frank E da Silva Fri, Aug 31, 2012

On August 7, 2012, you published a letter, “Letter from Oscar to Ralph – This is what friends are for.” As the heading indicates, the letter was written by Oscar Allen to his friend, the Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves.

I read the letter several times. After reading it, I called a friend of mine in the New Democratic Party, because I felt it was good advice to anyone you considered a friend. I wanted that friend to read the letter as if it were coming from me.{{more}} In addition, I called a number of call-in programs and read two sections and it was only lethargy on my part why a planned comment was not already published.

As it turned out, I am now glad I did not. For in last weekend’s issue of this paper, there was a response by the Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, to Mr Allen’s letter, which I did not expect from the Comrade. It is rather what I have come to expect from “one person” on my side. Anyone needing a reminder may ask Junior Bacchus, Matthew Thomas and Joel Abraham, among others, who dared to be critical publicly. One also got a taste on Monday, August 27, 2012 – critics were, whether in print or broadcast, repeatedly referred to “as foolish” and their utterances as “foolishness”.

Excerpts from Oscar

Mr Allen, after educating us on the long, cordial relationship between Ralph and himself, wrote “This account is enough to establish our connectedness and which has been useful to me. Today, you are ‘Prince’ in our nation and I am ‘citizen’. Your nonsense about citizenship being the highest office in the land [If it were, whither Dave Ames? – My insertion] does not establish the level playing field on which I operate in relation to the prince, nor is it because we are friends, nor because of the rights in the constitution. Our citizenship is a material property which a prince [princess] violates to his/her peril. It was said in Burnham’s kingdom – Guyana – ‘that the mouth is muzzled by the bread (from Burnham) it needs to eat’.”

An interesting point by Mr Allen, since Ralph E. Gonsalves, writing in his book, “History and the Future: A Caribbean Perspective,” January 1994, wrote: “Frequently, the people are manipulated by the Executive through a variety of means. In a poor country with limited material opportunities and a high unemployment rate, the individual’s mouth is easily ‘muzzled by the food it eats to live’. Under the full regalia of a constitution but with insufficient constitutionalism, the rulers build their ‘shining governments of the dammed’.”

Irony?

“Do not be misled by that calculation to multiply the number Elvis Daniels, Bash Thomases and Kenroy Johnsons in your wake. A word to the wise,” Oscar cautioned his friend, Ralph.

In his letter, Mr Allen later pointed out to his friend how his behaviour may have turned once good colleagues “into harsh critics and soft opponents”. He names Caspar London as one of the latter.

Sycophants

Mr Allen was not done. “As you realize, I am not the kind of friend who lavishes you with praise at any and every turn. You have too many such cheerleaders around you. Nearer the mark of what I do was our colleague Dwight, who with great generosity extended to me ‘appreciation for your role [Mr Allen’s] of picking our consciousness in the region….”

The first two lines above struck a chord. It reminded of the Steven F Hayward’s Churchill on Leadership, page 63. “While Churchill could undervalue a good but silent man, he usually picked able men to serve him. There were no empty-headed sycophants assembled for the weekend at Chequers. He hated ‘yes-men’ – he had no use for them. He wanted people who would stand up to him. Churchill…was not averse to selecting people for important posts who had been the subject of severe criticism and opposition… he understood that such often possess not only strong character but an independence of judgment and action…Such people will eventually come to command the respect of their peers.”

I wanted my NDP friend to absorb that. As you listen to radio each day, you hear the “empty-headed sycophants”. Not so long ago, Ralph received their “praise at every turn”. Now it is the other “person”. Just arrived in the field, they opine about his greatness, principle and honour. Curtis Dennie and Israel Bruce are still around. Rasum Shallow is not.

“Am I requesting …some personal favour from you, some – not you – may ask? No, you owe me no favour, only a duty to all of us ‘to produce justice, to embody compassion and deflate your ego before God,” concluded Mr Allen.

Ralph responds

“Dear Oscar, I received your recent letter to me, undated, after you had it published in the newspaper, I write a response, privately, to you out of respect for you; I do not intend it for any public consumption.”

Note that, unlike the other “person,” Ralph does not bawl Oscar out in public.

“I am profoundly disappointed in the contents of your letter. It is littered with factual errors, unfounded assertions and jaundiced opinions,” wrote Ralph without citing any examples.

Ralph then goes on to defend Caspar: “On no less than four occasions…NDP… in the HOA… strongly critiqued and questioned ‘the industrial relations consultancy’ which I had personally organized….Not once did you raise your voice publicly in defence of Caspar and his competence [Maybe Oscar had a different opinion]…. Your silence in this regard is similar to your failure and/or refusal to defend and support the umpteen progressive initiatives by the ULP…you have elevated in a most cock-eyed manner…a backward principle … really you call yourself a ‘progressive democrat. And write such rubbish … Why do you think that you are more ‘progressive, moral, noble’ than anyone else … why do you mask this extra-ordinarily holier-than-thou arrogance in make-belief humility?”

Why did Ralph not want Oscar to go public? A gentleman has told me: “Frank, never say anything political in private if you would be ashamed if it is made public.” Further, I am also told that you can catch more flies with molasses than with vinegar. Someone ought to remind those looking for votes at whose pleasure they will serve.

Dark Days

On August 16, a caller to the NDP New Times program read from an article published in the Financial Times, which spoke to the economic woes of this region. On August 20 another “person”, the leader of that party read from the same article. Said he, “…at least one member of the public quoted the report and did not think it was good and I agree with him … and am going to read it as he read it…”

Obviously the Leader did not know the name of that “member of the public”. On both sides, nastiness and arrogance abound. They are above criticism of any kind, because they are perfect. They listen only to those who “lavish praise on them at every turn”.

“Dark Days for SVG,” predicted the NDP column of August 24. They are so right.

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