Great Is the PNM…

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
August 30, 2019

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIt used to be that you couldn’t beat the PNM when it came to election strategy and election campaigning. We may have to reconsider this truism. This time the PNM might be sleep-walking into an unpleasant election defeat.

The Marlene accident has put a dent into the party’s façade that will be difficult to repair given the party’s hallowed precept, “Morality in public affairs.” Marlene was an accident that was waiting to happen. It makes little sense trying to transfer the responsibility of her indiscretions (or so it seems) to the Manning administration so as to let the present leadership off the political hook.

If the PNM wishes to be successful in 2020, it must solidify its base and reassure the party faithful that Marlene’s incident is/was an aberration rather than a departure from its lofty moral heights that kept the party at the top of country’s political ladder.

“UNC does tief; not the PNM” used to be the common wisdom. The Marlene incident has changed that narrative which is why the country went silent when charges against her were announced. This being the case it seems incongruous that the party should open a new office in the heart of the UNC’s stronghold without doing anything comparable in its stronghold.

If the comments of the “Man in the Street” column are to be believed, it is difficult to understand the strategic importance of opening such an office. They reason: “So because they put an office in the area, they expect to win? Never did, never will.” “If PNM has been winning areas like Laventille, Sea Lots and Betham for over 30 years and [they’re] in such a devastating state with crime and poverty, imagine if they win Central….God help us.” “That [Central] is UNC’s stronghold. It will be very difficult for the PNM to win” (Express, August 21).

PNM strategists may have seen something that the lay people do not see. But if the UNC is so entrenched in Central it is difficult to see what the PNM hopes to achieve by making a big push there when some of its seats in the East-West corridor are not as impregnable as they think.

Under normal circumstances one may want to set siege on Central if the strategy is to force the UNC to deploy more financial and human resources to hold on to their stronghold. The UNC is impregnable in Central. One person in the “Man in the Street” column opined: “No PNM in Central; No UNC in Laventille.” This seems the essence of political wisdom.

PNM should solidify its base as it prepares for the next general election rather than making forays into unconquerable territory, at least in the present political climate. The PNM has been hurt by its neglect of its base even as party members welcome the presences of Donna Cox and Adrian Leonce.

The PNM must open more organizing centers in the North and the South where its supporters are concentrated. Meanwhile, the UNC under the astute guidance of Jearlean John has opened several beachheads in the North East (including El Dorado) to infiltrate the PNM base.

This is a more meaningful strategy given the blunders of the PNM. The possibility of the UNC making inroads into PNM strongholds is more likely than the PNM doing the same in UNC strongholds. PNM strategists should remember that in T&T we don’t vote in a party; we vote them out. And the PM’s careless language (“Public Service a Free-for-all,” Express, August 22) is not likely to help matters much.

The PNM political arm should be coordinating its election strategy with various ministries that come into direct contact with the disaffected masses who are more likely to be PNM supporters. This is crucial since the word is that certain ministries (such as Local Government, Agriculture, Ministry of Works and Transport) are not particularly sympathetic to the plight of citizens at the bottom of the society.

The PNM’s election czar will pour lots of money into various programs (such as the paving of roads, etc.) as the election nears. Such a belated attempt at “fooling the people” (manipulating their minds) is not likely to work since the defection from and alienation with the PNM is deeper than its leaders think.

It is not so much that disaffected PNM members will vote for the UNC as they shall vote with their feet. In other words, they will stay away from the polls which will have the same effect as voting for the UNC. This is why PNM needs to pour more resources into its strongholds, now.

In this context, the attacks on Foster Cummings (I suspect some envelopes have been dropped into certain mailboxes) are not likely to help the party. Whatever his shortcomings he is a solid party man and an asset to the party. His ears are more attuned to the ground than many of his colleagues. This is a major asset to the party.

Eric Williams, founder of the PNM, embraced the Latin aphorism, “Magna est veritas et praevalet,” as the rallying cry of the party. Although this quotation translates into “Great is the truth and it will prevail,” Williams substituted “PNM” for “truth,” which resulted in “Great is the PNM and it will prevail.”

This cry is still used to mobilize members of the party. However, the PNM will prevail only if it respects the faith of those who elevated the party to the heights of political power for 47 of the last 65 years.

That is the truth to which the party should return.

2 thoughts on “Great Is the PNM…”

  1. Yes the PNM is a formidable party. As Eric once said “if ah put a crapaud there they will vote for him”. The mindset of the PNM is such that one can say it is cultish party. When in Opposition all members become the Opposition with a strong sense of determination to get rid of the opposing party. They are one in messaging. Last election it was “Kamla tief”. This catchy one liner form the campaign slogan of the last election. PNM perception became reality in the mind of their mostly illiterate supporters. One would ask the question- the PNM never tief in their 47 years of governance?

    The cultic nature of the PNM is exposed during election season. In 1986 when the PNM was almost obliterated they still received 32% of the votes. The PNM supporters always vote party above nation. They consistently received 45 to 46% of the vote. In 2002 they received 50% of the votes. When they loss in 2010 they received 40% of the votes. They only loose when the floating vote show up and out vote them.

    The PNM as a party thinks long term. They target the marginal seats and build housing. Shifting voters from other constituencies to those areas where needed. We saw this in St. Joseph constituency where the UNC was winning until the M’Dor votes came in. They also sought to destroy prime agriculture lands in St.Augustine in favour of government housing.

    For the PNM supporter Great is the PNM…. not Great is the Lord.

  2. I beg to differ with your assessment of Foster Cummings. In the constituency of Lopinot BonAir West where I am a constituent, he’s certainly not viewed as the picture you have painted. He is to be held SOLELY responsible for any demise of this constituency in 2020, if immediate action is not taken to remedy the wrong done to the over 900 constituents!

    Balisier House sent the Election Officer Mr. Indar Parasram into the constituency to legitimize the party groups and he did an excellent job. Over 900 PNM members came together and formed party groups. Without going into full details, Foster Cummings deemed the 26 party groups “null and void.” A few days later the PNM members were thrown by the wayside. Then came Joan Y. Williams into the constituency, as mandated by Balisier House and reorganized the Executive that was put in place, minus the over 900 PNM members. They then changed the composition of a party group from 25-30 persons to a mere 10 persons, to facilitate wrong doing. Too much disrespect!!!!!!

    PNM lost over 900 constituents and their families because of the attitude and negative action of those who should solidify the base, as you stated. Mr. Indar Parasram was shocked when he came to LBAW to certify the elections of the then party groups. He announced at that meeting, that he had been to most constituencies in Trinidad and had NEVER seen half of the crowd he saw in LBAW!

    Those people are no more, thanks to the PNM powers that be! We certainly know the people who should be held solely responsible for any demise of the constituency in 2020, if the WRONG perpetrated on those constituents is not immediately made RIGHT by the PNM!

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