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Ousted Trinidad & Tobago Minister ‘Gypsy’ Is Singing a Bitter Tune—Literally

Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar,  speaking at the 7th Americas Competitiveness Forum in Panama. Photo by OEA - OAS, used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, speaking at the 7th Americas Competitiveness Forum in Panama. Photo by OEA – OAS, used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

In the latest split — and there have been a few — in the lead-up to Trinidad and Tobago's September 7 general elections, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced that her minister of community development, Winston ‘Gyspy’ Peters, would not be chosen to contest the seat in the Mayaro constituency of south Trinidad.

In retaliation, ‘Gypsy’ has penned, recorded and released a calypso entitled ‘Kamla’, in which he calls the prime minister a “neemakharam” — a word derived from the Hindi “Namak Harama”. In Trinidad and Tobago, the term has come to be synonymous with an ingrate, especially in a political context.

Peters, who spent much of his public life as a calypsonian and brilliant extempo artist before going into politics, wasn't the first minister to not make the cut for the upcoming polls. Prior to the announcement about Peters, the prime minister revealed that Minister of Transport Stephen Cadiz would not be contesting his seat of Chaguanas East in central Trinidad (the governing party's stronghold).

Cadiz’ reaction, however, was a tad tamer than Peters’. Cadiz put the decision down to a strategic move to win an election, while Peters appeared to take the whole thing quite personally, calling the prime minister an “ungrateful ingrate”. To emphasise his point, he resigned not only from his ministerial post, but also from the government he has been a member of for the past 20 years. Interestingly, his constituents didn't seem too perturbed by the change.

Social media users, by and large, thought it was a case of too little too late, saying that if Peters thought so little of his political leader, he should have spoken up sooner, not just when he had something to lose. In a comments thread on the issue, Vinodatt Lutchman could see both sides of the issue, saying:

I am disappointed in what MP Gypsy has said in his resignation press conference especially as he said that he was asked whether he would have been disappointed if he was not selected at the screening committee stage. He should have expressed his concerns and views then and not now go public. The tone of his resignation is very bitter, smacks of sour grapes and he is obviously very hurt. In spite of reaction the screening committee and party hierarchy have mishandled the decision to use a new candidate without being very sensitive to his 15 years service and involvement as the Mayaro MP and bearing in mind his closeness to former UNC MP, Party Chairman and Minister Warner. His loyalty has not been properly valued and common courtesy has not been extended to him.

Some Facebook users felt that the decision to oust Peters was race-based, while Laura Alleyne had no sympathy for him, saying that he went along with the status quo when he should have been standing up for what was right. Jacqueline Charles agreed:

Ste…..uphs! [Trinbagonian gesture of displeasure] This man stayed for 5yrs see all the corruption he hinting about and it's only because he was rejected …. and now want to come in hindsight to insult de collective intelligence of the nation! Nah Gypsy come better than that! You leave for the wrong reason… #warpedmoral #noethics

Meanwhile, Peters was making nice with two other political parties — disgraced ex-FIFA vice president Jack Warner's Independent Liberal Party and the opposition People's National Movement.

That's as far as the niceties go, however. Remember when we wondered whether the country's electioneering could get any weirder? With the general election less than two weeks away, Peters has used the song ‘Kamla’ as a jumping off point to embark upon an “anti-Kamla campaign”, encouraging voters not to support her and the People's Partnership coalition government at the polls.

In his heyday, one of Peters’ most popular calypsoes was “The Sinking Ship”, which likened Trinidad and Tobago to a “luxury liner” that was being mismanaged by the prime minister at the time, George Chambers, and his People's National Movement. Peters’ clever lyrics, paired with a melody that was almost impossible not to sing along to, solidified his reputation as chantwell of political commentary. With Peters’ latest move, though, some netizens couldn't help but note the irony.

Satirical blog The Late O'Clock News was happy to have the last word on the issue:

Gypsy, disappointed with himself that he remained with the ungrateful leader for five whole years without making a squeek [sic], mounted an anti-Kamla campaign this morning to atone for his guilt. Determined to show the entire world for years to come that Persad-Bissessar is a ‘bad person’, he has petitioned the Oxford Dictionary to change the meaning of the word ‘ingrate’ to be more specific to his experience with the Honourable Prime Minister and for a picture of her to be included next to the new definition.

Gypsy’s proposed definition to the Oxford dictionary […] reads:

ingrate /kam-la/ .n. literary. an ungrateful neemakaram, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, 6th Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, a woman who did not give Winston Gypsy Peters a seat in her next government after he helped her rise to power in 2010 – ORIGIN Trinidadian kemler

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