The racism in toilet paper caper on 'Gypsy' Analysis by Rickey Singh
Guyana Chronicle
February 12, 2002

NEVER in the history of post-independence multi-party democracy have the people of this country ever celebrated their "greatest cultural show" as they are doing this Carnival 2002 amid the deep apprehension over the governance, future stability and progress of Trinidad and Tobago.

When the carnival, with all its enchanting bacchanal is over, the two political leaders with whom the answer largely rests on peace not conflict, on social harmony and political stability -- Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday -- will meet again, for the fifth time, to continue their dialogue on a post-election formula for governance until new general elections.

I doubt if anyone is holding his/her breath for an "Ash Wednesday" breakthrough tomorrow in the now almost two-month-old political impasse since President ANR Robinson chose to appoint Manning as Prime Minister on Christmas Eve.

While the "numbers game" continues, I doubt that, given the prevailing mood in both the PNM and UNC camps, and how much is at stake, if any potential defector could really be unmindful of the peril that awaits any such move -- either way.

Of course, after yesterday's J'ouvert morning dancing in the streets, neither Manning nor Panday was really relevant. After all carnival is bigger than any President, Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, any party. It is that intoxicating power of the people at play, doing what they do best at this time of the year.

Both the balisier (PNM's symbol) and the rising sun (UNC's symbol) simply had to give way to the creative imagination that makes Trinidad and Tobago so famous regionally and internationally for its carnival.

But while waiting on the next round tomorrow -- the fifth -- in the Manning-Panday power game, I want to pay special tribute to the indomitable spirit of the calypsonian Winston 'Gypsy' Peters for staying the course, in the face of all the toilet paper insult he has endured as a member of the team of "Calypso Spektakula 2000" during the competitions that climaxed with Sunday night's Dimanche Gras show at the Queen's Park Savannah.

Weeks before the gross toilet paper reception that greeted him at Skinner Park while the self-declared PNMite calypsonian, "Sugar Aloes", was making merry on stage with his leader, Manning, Gypsy had posed the painful question in a discussion programme on Radio 92.5: "What have I done wrong?"

The simple, truthful answer, of course, as the very talented bard well knows, is that he, a Trinidadian of African descent, had teamed up with the UNC of Trinidadians of primarily East Indian descent, and the PNMites with their own quota of racism couldn't "take that".

It is not that such PNMites are unaware that there are people of all ethnicities in both the UNC and their own party.

Rather, that they seem to find it too difficult, too uncomfortable to appreciate a "black" calypsonian, so popular and talented, being identified with the UNC as a parliamentarian and coming out to do what he probably likes best -- sing and entertain for the carnival.

If it is okay for "Sugar Aloes" to exercise his right to be a PNM down to the bone, prancing around with Manning as the crowd showered balisiers, then why should Gypsy be booed and pelted with toilet paper for being a UNCite? If it is not a manifestation of latent racism, then what is it?

This is the kind of emotional, foolish behaviour by those who should know better that contributes to sustaining the social/political divisions that power-hungry politicians can easily exploit.

In that discussion on "Radio 92.5" on January 8 following the airing of his unity song, "All Ah We Are One", Gypsy, who scored a very convincing second electoral victory for the Ortoire/Mayaro constituency, said:

"I do not believe that my political actions are adverse to anybody. I got into politics because I want to help people". Then came the big question: "What have I done wrong?"

My answer: Nothing, Gypsy. It is just that your PNM detractors are vexed that they lost you to the UNC. They want to give you fatigue. Or, as the Barbadian calypsonian, "Mighty Gabby", would say, they making "mock sport". In so doing they are also exposing themselves.

And what they are showing seems very, very wrong, when objectively analysed. As wrong as their counterparts in the other parties.

It is good neither for a 'balisier' nor 'rising sun' party. Certainly not for Trinidad and Tobago.

Manning and his pal Sugar Aloes may have been carried away with the moment of "Jubilation Time" at Skinner Park on February 2 when Gypsy got his toilet paper reception. But, undaunted, he courageously rendered, amid the taunts, his "Western Rodeo", and survived the competition to make it to the monarch finals on Sunday night at the Queen's Park.

Aloes took the crown, as was widely anticipated, defeating 'Chalkdust' into second place and Denys Plummer, the 2001 monarch, into third place.

But himself a former calypso monarch, Gypsy had made clear his position weeks ago, after receiving an enthusiastic reception on stage when he performed at the annual competition between the Spektakula and Revue tents.

That position was: "I will make it as a musician in another country if Trinidadians don't want any more of Gypsy. But I am here to stay as far as politics is concerned..."

This is the Gypsy who has disclosed attempts by elements associated with the PNM to bribe him into defecting from the UNC, to jump ship.

Gypsy stands tall as a man of courage, an entertainer who can take his licks on and off stage and hold his head high, full of the dignity that others feel they can wipe away with toilet paper.