PNM ‘Till Ah Dead; Maybe!

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
March 19, 2018

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeI sympathize with Camille Robinson-Regis’s concerns about the inability of some commentators “to declare their political hand” before offering their scathing criticism against the PNM or even their reluctance to mention some of PNM’s achievements (see Letter of the Day, Express, March 10).

Full disclosure. I am a member of the PNM but do not consider myself “PNM ’till ah dead.” I have supported the PNM since its inception in 1956; have voted for no other party, although I abstained from voting in 2010.

In 1989 Professor Joel Krieger and I sat with the late Patrick Manning for about ten days and wrote Vision 2020, a signature document of the party. I worked with Keith Rowley when he challenged Manning’s leadership of the party in 1996, and avidly supported his quest to defeat the People’s Partnership in 2015. I wrote the introduction to his book, From Mason Hall to Whitehall, because I believed that he had the potential to be a great prime minister.

Having disclosed my party affiliation, I do not feel compelled to support PNM ’till ah dead, if in my considered judgment, it does not live up to the promises it made to its people in 2015 and if the country continues to be an unsafe place in which to live.

So when Camille Robinson-Regis points out the accomplishments of the government—and we can be proud of some of them—she fails to understand the more substantial point: people feel unsafe and afraid in their communities and that is the biggest negative against the government.

A week ago I listened to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia, outline her accomplishments over the past twelve years. Listening to her and examining her accomplishments, I was convinced anew that Dr. Rowley’s style of leadership leads to a dead end.

I am aware that there are different theories of leadership, many of which are generated by a people’s culture and their social interaction. Max Weber identified four types of leadership: charismatic, transactional, transformative and servant.

Over the years we have grown accustomed to the “the great man theory” of leadership in which there is a pretension that one person (usually, a man) has all the answers to all our problems. We, as followers, only have to follow the leader and all other good things will follow therefrom. Most of all, never question his wisdom nor his leadership.

Dr. Williams presented himself as a combination of the great man in history and a schoolmaster who was always solicitous of his charges. Sometimes he also had to deal harshly with errant students. He blended an authoritarian personality with messianic zeal and rousing oratory that allowed for people’s participation through the various party organs, his “Meet the People” tours, and noninterference in their daily lives.

In 1961 C. L. R. James broke with Dr. Williams’s style of leadership even though he understood his accomplishments. After citing the achievements of Captain Arthur Cipriani and Uriah “Buzz” Butler, he declared: “Dr. Williams introduced party government into politics. But the people who crowded to hear him were not primarily concerned with a form of government. They were ready to form a new and modern society” (Party Politics in the West Indies.)

Dr. Williams arrived at a particular moment in our history, which encouraged a heavy-handed form of leadership that has outlived its usefulness. He was successful because, as Lloyd Best said: “People trusted Williams. They always felt he had the interests of the country at heart” (New York Times, November 5, 1981)

The present PNM government is mired in a form of governance that has outlived its past. The party leadership (and by extension, the government’s leadership) has become ossified. While the great man/schoolmaster type of leadership was adequate during the last fifty years of the 20th century it’s not good enough for the second decade of the 21st century.

A form of transactional leadership that utilizes the talent of all the party and government members might be more appropriate to the present moment. Such an approach sees the leader as one who guides, motivates and inspires his troops; adapts one’s leadership style to the different elements within the party; involves all segments of the party in the governance of the society; encourages creativity and provides intellectual stimulation among the party members; and is not afraid to be vulnerable.

Leaders lead by example. They do not insult women, call on their opponents to come outside Parliament to settle a score, or devalue the contributions of team members.

The most nauseating thing to this party member is the sight of Minister Stuart Young speaking on every conceivable subject as though the government is a two-member team. When I voted for the PNM I didn’t know that in so doing I elected Young as deputy Prime Minister.

A backward party cannot lead a forward people. Like James, I would like to believe that building a safe, modern society where people can realize their personhood without fear still remains the goal of the PNM. The list of accomplishments that Robinson-Regis puts forward may be the necessary conditions for our happiness. They are far from being a sufficient cause to celebrate ourselves.

9 Responses to “PNM ‘Till Ah Dead; Maybe!”


  • Codge Man..So you dont like the present PNM…you surely dont like the opposition… So tell us what you like as pertaining to the present politics in TT…awaiting your Educated answer..as im sure a lot of the readers are. Tks..

  • The founders of this Western type Politics that is presently practiced in Trinidad, told us that Politics have no Friends or Enemies, just common interest. Trinidad’ Politics still in its development stages, is a totally different ball game, you see, Multi-ethic divisional politics, is like a Hydra, a poisonous one at that. With Dr Williams as the exception, all the Prime Ministers and so-called political leaders, have been imperiled by their lack of vision. Dr Cujoe, you didn’t give the reasons for not supporting Mr Manning, and presently you’ve stopped short of calling out Dr Rowley. Over the life of the PNM, lone wolfs, dissatisfied as they may, not wanting to fight within the PARTY for change, tend to have their say outside. Today, we may be seeing what STATE CAPTURE really looks like, with Dr Rowley as the only recognized African leader within the party, a very dangerous developing precedent. The Defacto decision making leader, may be coming to an end, the time is now, for the PNM to incorporate policy making think tanks, as oppose to adhoc decision making. What ever progress is made in this present PNM governing term, run away Crime figures, will be the failing LEECH. The PNM party is in need of progressive new leadership, not the crop presently in the front line, they reflect the backwardness of the Trinidad educational system, which lacks INTERNATIONALISM, the days for being pro Western/American are over, we have no right whatsoever, to be in any body’s back pocket. One more thing, Trinidad can’t afford having the PNM as a National Party, and the UNC a COMMUNAL HINDUVATTA, no one in Trinidad should accept this type of caricature. The first half of PNM’ tenure in office, may not look good on paper, this is not entirely their fault, only the mis-educated will see other wise. The biggest issue facing the PNM is, if to or not to PRIVATIZE the commanding energy sector, Mr Rowley and his cabinet may be under tremendous pressure to let the private sector, together with foreign interest take over the OIL and GAS industry, this could spell doom for T&T if this should happen. Globalization/ Neo-liberalism must be pushed back forcibly by the working people of T&T, the National interest must never be forfeited, this present PNM administration should never be allowed to push through on this one, a National Referendum is needed.

  • Learned Ductah, did you really abstain from voting in 2010? If you did, you probably felt the momentum of the electorate and did not want to end up on the losing team.Very few pnmites are not “pnm till ah dead”, I don’t believe for one moment you are one of them.

  • Selwyn R. Cudjoe, Professor, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts

    Some of you guys (such as Country Boy) are interesting. You won’t know the truth if you see it. Writing to me is not just an exercise. It is, and has always been, an attempt to arrive at the truth which is never really given but something one arrives at as one goes along. In saying that you don’t believe that I am not a “PNM ’till ah dead!” what criteria do you use. It would be intersting to get your answer.

  • Professor,let me say this, I always read your articles, not to find fault or to criticize but being uneducated I like to learn.I often tell my friends we can learn something from even an individual we may consider a fool.(Please I’m in no way saying you are a fool.) My answer is that over the years almost all your articles have been pro-pnm and in defense of the pnm.(Seems as though in your eyes they’ve done no wrong.) On the contrary you’ve gone to great lenghts to criticize Indian led governments(though they’ve only had two terms). Let me say this the Panday administration with oil at $9 a barrel did more for the people of T&T than the Williams tenure. The PP spread more wealth throughout T&T than Mr. Manning’s tenure in office. There was a time Doc, Eric Williams would not do anything for folks south of the caroni. Though every administration or regime world over fills their pockets and those of their friends, the great pnm has had the most scandals and corruption than any other in T&T. Let’s not forget what Cartey declared publicly. Are these facts or fake? I could go on and on…..

  • I believe this Rowley regime will go down as the worst in the history of T&T. As Mr. Manning said Rowley is a r0ttweiller, a wajang, he’s arrogant and characterless. How could he threaten a member of parliament and get away with it. Power without character is devilish.

  • What do you say to an article like this! This government is on autopilot. High murders, robberies, criminal activities blame the police! Bad economy people getting laid off blame Kamla! No Medicine in the hospital blame hospital management.

    Just today equipment at Siparia regional cooperation removed become a CEPEP worker sued in 2015 and was given a judgment of $700,000 in 2017. The ministry of finance refused to pay it saying they should find the money. This after only releasing enough money since July 2017 to pay permanent employees and nothing more to fix anything.

    Short time ago a contractor sued Princess Town regional cooperation and made off with furniture due to non payment. The government has either failed to understand its responsibilities or simply morphed into a dictatorship.

    The sister isle has been a victim of this government with 25 businesses closed or set to close. As my friend who sells stuff on the island said he has not been there several months now!.

    I could go on but those in charge certainly have NO clue as to where this nation is going!

  • Learned Ductah, a man of your high intellectual caliber, expertise and knowledge, please don’t use your column to incite racial tensions in T&T but rather use it to help young folks who don’t want to educate themselves. Trinibagonians for the most part live with each other,love each other and get along just fine. All that separates us is our politics and nothing wrong with that. You can use your influence and expertise to be of great help to young people.Young people need good role models to follow, politicians will never be good role models. Because as Mr. Panday rightly said, “Politics has a morality of it’s own.” That statement is as true as daylight!

  • The present PNM government is mired in a form of governance that has outlived its past.(Cudjoe)

    The statement above is the main message which one should take away from this frank and accurate analysis of the present leadership of the PNM.
    Keith Rowley continues to demonstrate every day that he lacks the qualities and also the qualifications required to lead.
    It must be pointed out however that he is also surrounded by a cast of incompetent characters. It seems that he relies heavily on his Ministers for support and advice which these members of his Cabinet are equally unable to competently provide.
    Rowley is not utilizing the talents of key members of his party, like Mariano Browne who should have been invited into the Cabinet as Minister of Finance.Dr Cudjoe himself could be a valuable resource to the Ministry of Education.
    Rowley does not possess the intellectual abilities required to be the transactional leader suggested by Cudjoe.
    His book FROM MASON TO WHITEHALL is by no means an intellectual or philosophical pursuit.
    The country will continue to spiral downwards in spite of the encouraging words from the new President because it is being led by a man who simply cannot do the job.

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