So there he was, riding to the rescue, not on an ass, but in a fancy SUV and wearing an equally fancy suit down to North Street. He rode on the best roads in Antigua that are flanked by miserable hovels in which reside his restive constituents. It was just another day in paradise, and it would only be a matter of time before his loyal constituents would come pouring out of their homes waving red bandanas and red bunting and dancing and shouting words of approbation and adoration. After all, this was the start of the Palm Sunday weekend. These things sometimes happen on weekends such as these in places where there are cult-personality leaders. But it was not to be. Not this time! Whereas the folks back in Biblical times spread and waved palms and shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord,” the people of Point were not waving red flags and spreading red ABLP shirts in the streets, nay, they were shouting, “Away with him! We have no king . . .!”
Actually, all hell broke loose in Point yesterday morning when the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) cut the electrical wires to a home occupied by Booby Alley resident Sharon Roberts and her large family. Roberts is a longtime denizen of the area, having lived there for the past 22 years, and she was extremely irate at the disconnection, especially since her school-aged, differently-abled daughter is also living in the home. The daughter uses a wheelchair and relies on refrigerated medication. Needless to say, Roberts vociferously made her displeasure known to the APUA folks and, in short order, the down-trodden people of the Point were rallying around their fellow citizen.
Of course, the last people you ever want to tick off are Point people. And seems, the good representative for the area has ticked them off ‘real good,’ perhaps for the last time. Was it the many broken promises? The ever-present tone of condescension – the talking down to them? The expansion of the personal empire and holdings on the waterfront? The feeling among many that, once they are moved, they will never be allowed to return because others have big money-making plans for the prime area? The lack of real, in-depth consultation, as is the recurring case in so many of this administration’s projects? The hand-to-mouth existence of many of the residents who rely on crumbs from the tables of the leadership? A fifty-dollar here and there? A school fee paid? A bottle of rum? A ham and turkey? A cell phone? A pair of sneakers? The cynical pre-election APUA electricity bill amnesty? And all with no hope of upward mobility; no real and meaningful effort on the part of officialdom to break the vicious cycle of poverty and dependence. All of the above? We are not sure, but it was clear to those following the stunning development in Point that the frustration of the people had reached critical mass. They were fed up!
And they told the good representative for the area as much – to his face! Good grief! And all he could do was stand in the middle of the iconic North Street (the headquarters of protesters taking a stand sits at #46 on that very street) with his arms folded defensively and a sheepish grin on his visage. On several occasions, he attempted to raise his voice over the irate din, but the assembled throng wanted no part of his ‘sweet-talk’ and ‘sweet-sounding-nothings!’ He resorted to making the 60’s ‘Peace and Love ‘sign with his fingers, but that too failed to impress or quiet the angry mob. It was a Kodak moment for the ages – the “Monarch of all he surveys,” appearing helpless, and begging his erstwhile supporters to calm down and lend him their ears. But they would not.
Au contraire, they raised their voices and clenched fists even more, and cursed him again and again – to his very face! They burned the red ABLP shirts that he’d given them during the last election campaign in the street. They set up barricades and spray-painted “GASTON MUST GO!” on pieces of plywood and a mattress. They blocked traffic and hurled invective at the good MP and told him that they will never vote for him again. He was clearly shaken, so much so that he grabbed a bullhorn and attempted to again appease the riotous gathering, but they were in no mood to be appeased. Apparently they were no longer willing to abide disingenuous platitudes. So when he said dis and dat, they booed! When he explained ying and yang, they chuptzed! When he held up his signs of peace, they returned his entreaties with looks of scorn and derision. And when he expressed his love, they booed even louder, and a few shouted, “Aryou nuh lub nobody!”
Of course, this rejection by the people, who only a year earlier had succumbed to his . . . er, well . . . gimmickry, was a moment of truth, and it immediately conjured up images of once-mighty and seemingly invincible world leaders who had fallen out of favour with their own people. The most recent of such world leaders is Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, who was deposed by people power and his once-loyal military this past Thursday. The same military that had helped al-Bashir seize power from parliament some 30 years ago was now seizing power from him. Rich irony!
Of course, this is not the end of this sad spectacle in the Point with the people openly defying their representative, notwithstanding the massive police presence. Neither is it the end of the good PM, who, in a display of bravado, albeit while surrounded by his security detail, told his boisterous constituents that he was not afraid of them. They booed!
What is clear is that the once-cozy relationship between the people of the Point and their good representative is damaged. And the sight of a personal empire being built in their midst while their lives remain at a standstill will not help it any. Seems the rising tide in the Point is not lifting all the boats, and the people are not amused. Hence their declaration, by way of barricades and boos, that “They have no king!” Stay tuned, folks!