Just as the year was ending, a popular phrase used as often jocularly as insultingly, has become very contentious. Two politicians, who are likely to be with us for a long time, have been squabbling for two weeks over it. Unless resolved early in this New Year, the dispute can lead to the phrase dominating our political outlook. Its use may even be extended from politicians to the Guyanese people.
It will be recalled that Mr Khemraj Ramjattan accused the government of distributing the front lands on the East Bank to developers who were the government’s supporters and allocating the back lands to low income Guyanese. Minister Ali, responsible for Housing, invited Mr Ramjattan to a press conference at which he intended to address the accusations. Minister Ali’s staff, as instructed, reminded Mr. Ramjattan by telephone on the day of the press conference. What exactly transpired over the telephone is in dispute. However, it is admitted by Mr Ramjattan that he told Minister Ali’s staff to tell Minister Ali to ‘hall his ass.’
At this point the Minister might have considered allowing the issue to die a natural death. After all, ministers do not want it to be bandied about in public that ten per cent politicians are telling them to haul their asses. This might encourage one of the large number of persons who attend the Minister’s one-stop shops for housing, who do not get a house lot, to tell the Minister to haul something else.
In Dr Rupert Roopnaraine’s review of Dr Allsopp’s Dictionary of Caribbean Usage – ‘Till it Language Your Tongue-Lexicography and Beyond’ ‒ in his prize-winning The Sky’s Wild Noise published recently, the ‘something else’ word is there, in bold, spelt the Guyanese way, and its meaning explained. The use of the word was not necessary to enhance the already high quality of Dr Roopnaraine’s review. So if you still think vulgarity is lurking in the above paragraph, blame “dutty” (can be found in the Dictionary) Rupert for giving it respectability in common parlance! Minister Ali did not adopt the wise course of ignoring Mr Ramjattan. He berated him and demanded an apology, which is not done unless you have a plan, if the demand is rejected, which indeed occurred. Mr Ramjattan refused to apologize.
The refusal by Mr Ramjattan caused Minister Ali to flounder in the absence of a plan. He rashly demanded the production of a transcript of the telephone conversation from GT&T. It could have been implied from this demand that Minister Ali, a highly regarded Minister close to the President, was aware that telephone calls were being recorded. The CEO himself, Mr R K Sharma, was forced to assure the public that no recording of telephone calls takes place. The ponderous and circumlocutory Dr Luncheon, decked out in his usual brown jacket, lent gravitas to the CEO’s claim, with exceptions.
This matter has now escalated beyond everyone’s expectations and it is time that it is brought to an end. I propose a solution. I recommend that the phrase used in its insulting aspect be abolished and that it be formally accepted as a non-insulting remark in our political lexicon to be used liberally, affectionately and lightheartedly in 2014 and beyond.
A brief exchange in the National Assembly might then go like this:
Hon Member Samuel Hinds: “Mr Speaker, I move that the Bill be read for the first time.”
Hon Member David Granger: “Mr Speaker, I move that the motion be put to a vote by division.”
Hon Speaker: “Hon Member Neendkumar, one name only, better known as Neil Kumar, would you kindly keep the noise down.”
Hon Member Neil Kumar: “Mr Speaker, I apologize. But I became agitated at the demand by the one seat majority Opposition, encouraged by the Hon Member Debbie Backer, who has a history of constantly provoking me, because with one seat they want to trample on executive privilege so that this Bill is not presented. I now tell Mr Granger to hall e’ ass. And I tell the Opposition Members to hall deh ass.”
Hon Member David Granger: “Mr Speaker, we are not the ones who should hall we ass. It is the lawless executive on whose side of the House the Hon Member sits, a tenure which is uncertain, who should hall deh ass.”
Hon Member Samuel Hinds: “Mr Speaker, if we all were to hall we ass nothing will get done. I move that you suspend the Sitting and hall yuh ass to your Chambers while I discuss with Hon Members Neil Kumar, Debbie Backer and the Opposition where we go from here. I should also say that it is my tenure, not the Hon Member with one name only, that should be considered to be uncertain, having regard to the last election results and my failure to attract more votes.”
Hon Speaker: “Hon Members, the Sitting is suspended for ten minutes and I will hall me’ ass for a wash room break and a rest while you confer whether the whole lot of you, except AFC members, should not hall yuh ass.”
I wish a speedy recovery to Debbie Backer and best wishes to all MPs, who have our future in their hands, and Guyanese for the New Year.