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Flight plans or escape plans?

Friday, August 14, 2015

The T&T Film Festival is next month (Sept 15-29) and I’m trying to work out my flight plans: I need to be in Port-of-Spain on September 26, for the meeting of the youth jury I’m pleased to say I’m guiding, and I want to spend her birthday on the 21st in Trinidad with an old flame still burning hot—but, ideally, I’d also like to avoid the coup, which I am told is definitely going to happen in the middle of the month, or perhaps the end of the month, if not the beginning of the month.

It’s difficult, sitting in Barbados in August, to predict exactly when in September a rumoured coup will materialise in Trinidad; especially since neither of last month’s previous rumoured coups (24th and 28th July) actually came off, and almost every calendar date in next month’s rumoured coup—including the general election day—has its own champion. (Some people have worked out their rumoured coup dates by reference to the moon, a la Eid, others by asking their contacts in the so-called protective agencies, yet others by the same method they use for picking Play Whe numbers.)

Regrettably, I cannot corroborate my own rumours against a higher grade or quality of rumour, since I don’t have the inside track every other Trinidadian apparently has: everyone who tells you when next month’s coup will happen claims to know somebody who went to school with Carl Alfonso who told them personally, over pepper squid at Me Asia; or at least knows “a tess who does wash car” in CID HQ and overheard a police telling his wife he can’t come home early because he have to stay in the station to repel jihadists.

Rumours about a new coup have been circulating wildly since—well, since the last rumours of a new coup were circulating wildly, which was just last month, indeed within two Fridays ago—and that particular wild rumour was started by the police themselves.

Okay, to be fair to the police, the rumour wasn’t so much started wildly as repeated wildly by them. Two Fridays, three Tuesdays ago, on 28 July, as anyone not holidaying in Tobago then or now may remember, an internal memo of the TT Police Service Special Branch appeared on Facebook a few moments after it appeared on police station noticeboards. (This action by itself gives a whole new meaning, or at least interpretation, of the word, “Special” in the name “Special Branch” in Trinidad: these guys clearly could go straight from work to the Special Olympics in Los Angeles.) 

The memo went local-viral on social media hours before the police commissioner was forced to go on TV to deny it—or rather, to admit it, but to explain that it was only a rumour they had a duty to investigate, not an investigation they were rumoured to be conducting—but candles were sold out in Massy Stores before he could finish speaking, anyway.

The police officer trusted to find out what went wrong that day, Deputy Police Commissioner Glenn Hackett, was supposed to have reported on the memo leak this week; up to my deadline time he had not confirmed or dis-confirmed, as is his wont, anything.

But, whenever—if ever—he reports, can there really be a positive result to any investigation of this matter? Would we prefer to hear we should not be worried because there was absolutely no ground for the memo in the first place? Which would mean that the police, whether special or common or garden branch, should not have been alerted at all? (And would that lead to the dismissal or “separation” of the ASP who signed the memo?) Or would we be better off discovering that we were all better off as a result of the leak, since it’s substantially true? 

It’s unlikely that, after more than two weeks, the investigation should have the cojones to “report” what we already know: that, somehow, the memo got out, though it shouldn’t have, but nobody can really say just how it happened.

But brace yourself for just that.

In this pappyshow land, nearly everything is a pappyshow; including high level confirmations and dis-confirmations.

The thing about Trinidad is that any number could play at any time—and there seems to be nobody who can do anything to prevent it. In 1990, before the coup, we had all heard rumours that the Muslimeen were bringing in arms and ammunition; and the good imam did in fact lead a coup attempt—but those 1990 weapons turned out to be rusty old guns no self-respecting bandit, far less high-tech jihadist would be caught dead with, today.

We have to remember, too, that, during the 1990 coup, we also heard concrete rumours—only in Trinidad could such an expression be readily accepted—that there were seven battleships in the Gulf of Paria. When I challenged this “fact” from my vantage of Fort George, from which I could see an empty Gulf, my source rang off and rang back minutes later, laughing, to inform me that the reason I could not see the seven battleships in the Gulf was because they were really seven submarines.

In Trinidad, perception often simply dismisses the reality if it is inconvenient to adjust the one to the other, but the plethora of rumour and the complete absence of fact—and of anyone reliable to declare same—makes anyone with any sense hesitate to book travel dates at any time. Perhaps my flight plans should really include flight —ie, “escape”—plans.

BC Pires is booking for the middle—no, the end—no, the middle—no, the start—of the month. You can email your “it could happen today”s to him at [email protected]


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