By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
May 28, 2019
“Whenever you ignore whispers, you do so at your own peril. Sometimes they may be the truth.”
—Eric Williams, PNM’s Founding father
Ok! Minister Colm Imbert, PNM party chairman, did not bouff Education Minister Anthony Garcia. Garcia was asked “a barrage of questions” and Imbert intervened politely, according to Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing, PNM’s public relations officer, “to remind him [Garcia] that the press conference was about party issues” (Express, May 20).
Necessarily, the reporters misrepresented the truth when they wrote: “Imbert arrived and reportedly interrupted the interview and told Garcia if he wanted to speak with reporters he could do so outside.” Camille Hunte, an Express reporter who witnessed this incident, wrote, “The brief exchange left reporters speechless.”
One can draw either of two conclusions: Imbert’s politeness left the reporters “speechless” because they were unaccustomed to his politeness, a rare phenomenon, or they were surprised that such politeness was uttered in such a disrespectful manner towards a colleague.
About two weeks ago, Minister Terry Deyalsingh, acting as the leader of Government Business at the Standing Finance Committee, seems to have mistaken Ancil Antoine, PNM’s member of D’abadie-O’Meara, for a little black boy. Antoine “disobeyed” Deyalsingh’s command to look for MP Daryl Smith who was absent from the room. Deyalsingh had to manners Antoine for not following his orders.
During the discussion that followed, Antoine left his seat to confer with Jennifer Baptiste, Minister of Labor, about constituency business when Deyalsingh demanded of Antoine: “Go and take yo’ seat.” He didn’t add “boy” to his command.
When Antoine demurred, he bouffed (sorry, berated) Antoine in such a loud voice that it attracted the attention of the members of the parliamentary chambers. Antoine responded to Deyalsingh forcefully after the meeting reminding him (Deyalsingh) that such condescending behavior towards fellow MPs who do not possess ministerial portfolios is unacceptable.
Then there was the unfortunate incident between Ministers Clarence Rambharat and Robert Le Hunte where the former is reputed to have bouffed the latter. I would not get into the details of this incident except to suggest that these exchanges highlight a pattern of continuing disrespect to colleagues who are not ministers and who happen to be black and seemingly defenseless.
This pattern of disrespect does not have to do only with color and/or ethnic affiliations. It also has to do with the role that money, the mother’s milk of politics, plays within the present PNM.
The non-white members of the PNM are wealthier than the black members. They are seen as the financiers of the party. Farris Alwari, Attorney General, just received a $23 million contract for three years for rental of his family building. He was not rude or impolite. He recused himself from the deliberations that allowed him to walk away guiltless with his millions.
It is reported that Minister of Works and Transportation Rohan Sinanan is expected to profit handsomely from the Curepe Interchange project. Sinanan, is a senator who no one elected, holds one of the most important ministerial portfolios in government, and stands at the center of political power in the party and government. He is a deputy leader of the PNM.
Then there is the case of NCB Global Finance, whose CEO, Angus Young, is the brother of Stuart Young, National Security Minister. His firm won a “$0.5 billion in transactions, including a $180 million loan to Udcott in November 2018” (Newsday, May 19).
Angus, I understand, is a good performer. However, he claims that “all business done by NCB is above board and can withstand scrutiny…like all other financial services; NCBGF pursues opportunities in line with its business and licenses and expects that, like other business enterprises, it should neither be included nor excluded from opportunities based on factors that are not relevant to the transactions themselves.”
It would be nice if Angus can tell us the distinction between political and economic factors, how one impacts upon the other, and whether his brother, a minister in the Prime Minister’s office to which Udicott was transferred from the Ministry of Housing, played any role in his winning this purely “business enterprise.”
I don’t know if arrogance and/or double speak has anything to do with the events above but their impact seems to have a disenabling effect upon the black members of the party.
The rabble is looking, listening and whispering that PNM continues to betray black people, its main supporters. It is whispered that when a black MP complained about the discourtesy that is being shown to black MPs, another black MP asked: “Could you give $8 million to the PNM to fight the elections?”
This might be the prevailing wisdom of those at the top of the PNM but Eric Williams, in one of his early PNM party school lectures, reminded young, eager party members: “When you ignore whispers you do so at your own peril. They may be the truth.”
Whispers on the ground suggest that the higher echelon of the PNM feel they can wine on and insult its black supporters. At election time, all they have to do is “throw some corn for de fowls and de fowls go nyam it up” (Tobago saying). This behavior will not work in the next local and/or general elections.
PNM’s strength lies in the integrity and undying loyalty of its members not in money bags of the rich and the powerful supporters of the party. It is a distinction the leaders of the party need to keep in mind if they do not want the party to become an elitist enclave.