PM does not get it

Newsday Editorial
February 28, 2010 – newsday.co.tt

PM Patrick ManningWe wonder what impression the Caribbean Parliamentary visitors must have had on Friday of Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s display of religious fervour — some would even say religious rage at what he perceives as persecution of himself and of the Full Gospel churches in Trinidad and Tobago?

The Speaker used the word “extraordinary”. We can think of other terms to describe the spectacle of our leader ranting about his faith and moral upbringing as he took 53 minutes of Opposition parliamentary time to detail how much money the State has granted to churches, temples and mosques in the last ten years.

He reeled off a list of religious denominations who have benefitted from State aid under the “ecclesiastical” grant, which not surprisingly is under the PM’s portfolio in deference, no doubt to his superior spiritual values.

It left us with no doubt as to the extent of his religious practices which he now deems have attracted religious persecution.

We should be forgiven for seeing Mr Manning’s statement as an attempt to obfuscate and pull the wool over our eyes with respect to the construction of a multi-million dollar church deep in the Heights of Guanapo, out of sight, but about which Mr Manning clearly knows more than he is saying.

We know he has visited the site once and according to him in broad daylight with full security detail. We know that he knows that two reporters who were brave enough to venture on the holy premises had “a spiritual experience that scared the life out of them”. We know that he knows there was a split among the church members. We know that he knows that a “benefactor” paid what, in our view, amounts to a bribe to get a squatter off the land to facilitate construction of the church. The question however remains: Does Mr Manning know all this from media reports or does he know from first hand informers such as members of the Guanapo church? Is it usual for the Prime Minister to know so much about the goings on at a church construction site?

What the media has reportedly found out is that the church is being constructed by the Shanghai Construction Company using Chinese labour. Given the unsavory revelation about certain construction projects in this country, alarm bells have been ringing loudly.

Mr Manning’s reference to State-aid to the Hindu Temple in the Sea and the elevation of the tallest statue of a Hindu god is not on all fours with what is taking place at the Heights of Guanapo.

The Hindu Temple and statue are public knowledge, always have been. We know who the owners are and their purpose.

Let it be said that the Church of the Lighthouse of the Lord Jesus Christ should be similarly entitled to State-aid but shouldn’t we know the names of the people behind it since State land is involved?

Whether prophet or prophetess, he or she seems to have been abundantly blessed to have the service of the same Chinese contractor who, under the hand of Udecott, built the PM’s new stately house and the equally impressive National Academy of the Performing Arts. So why the righteous indignation of the PM? Does he really believe that he is being persecuted? Does he really believe that the members of the full gospel churches in this country are at risk of being put to the stake or thrown to the lions at the Emperor Valley Zoo? We do not believe that Mr Manning believe this at all. But, the Prime Minister can’t have it both ways. He is not a private citizen. He is a public figure, second only to the President even to the extent that the law was changed last week to enable him to have the Coat-of-Arms on his official car. His life is and must be an open book. He is most assuredly entitled to practise whatever religion he chooses or worship any god he believes in, or seek counsel from whom he chooses. But he cannot escape the fact that as Prime Minister he is always under the microscope of accountability no matter how many religious or moral values he espouses or how many hymns his mother played as he was growing up in San Fernando.

Instead of trying to distract public interest away from the Guanapo church by putting the spotlight on how much money the State has spent on other religious bodies, Mr Manning should have given the public another set of statistics, which judging by his statement on Friday he seems to have at his fingertips .

It would be enlightening to have the name of the owners of the church and the size of its membership that warrants such an edifice in such a remote place. The issue has nothing to do with persecution of him or the full gospel churches.

The same scrutiny would apply if the Catholics, Anglicans or Presbyterians took it upon themselves to construct a large cathedral in the Heights of Guanapo and were able to get the Chinese to build it.. Reports indicate that this is no small church building, that it is larger than the two existing cathedrals in Port-of-Spain. At the very least such construction would spark public notice and comment. The Lighthouse is equally entitled to any number of large buildings they want, but if it is going to be constructed on State lands, the people need to know about it.

So far the questions remain unanswered and although he blew his own trumpet about his spiritual and moral values on Friday, Mr Manning has only succeeded in arousing even more speculation about the whole issue.

In our view the Prime Minister doth protest too much.

http://www.newsday.co.tt/commentary/0,116482.html

***

For he hath sown the wind
When Leader of Opposition Business Jack Warner held up a picture of the mysterious church at Guanapo Heights, a week before, he sat down to let Mr Manning answer questions about it. Mr Manning chose not to, thus sowing the wind. The problem is not Mr Manning’s faith, but his attitude.

PM’s dust in our face
Why couldn’t the Prime Minister simply stand up in the House, say what he knew, confirming or denying allegations stated or implied, and refer the questioner to other likely sources? Avoiding direct answer, Mr Manning instead tried ridicule, characterising Mr Warner as a ‘monkey’.

21 Responses to “PM does not get it”


  • The manner in which this man delivered his statement on Friday did nothing for his image, not that he has a good one anyways). But I would have thaught that in light of all the allegation, the PM would have simply provided the facts. Instead he went into the history of previous regimes that has given lands. He then went on to vomit BS about religious persecution, he is doing this to appeal to the blind loyalist, similar to Panday’s monkey statement. To date we are no more educated on the issues of this church, except that the state is not funding it and its not the PM, but who believes him anyway? I have always said that the easiest thing to do would to simply come clean and provide the facts, once everything is above board, but maybe they simply just can’t do that.

  • What is your problem mramps? I don’t want to believe that you have no faith in our legal, and investigative law enforcement institutions my friend.
    If Mr. Manning is so stupid- as some idiots seem to think – that he would compromise his austere position as Prime Minister,so as to use monies or lands what rightfully belongs to all our beautiful fellow citizens , to push a narrow religious agenda driven, spiritual , power entrenched fiefdom, then he’ll get what’s coming to him, not so?
    Don’t you think he is aware as to what were the results of such callous, questionable, semi dictatorial actions , by his lifelong arch nemesis Mr. Panday?
    Yes indeed, the Opposition leader is forced to remain an impediment to socially progressive Trinbagonian politics , by his grasping on to power , and for one reason only. It would serve as a tenuous shield from full criminal prosecutions – the result of questionable practices, he had allegedly engaged in, while at the political helm.
    I stand corrected.

    • You are right, but I am sure that you would remember when claims of corruption were made during the UNC’s term in office, the dotish blind UNC hacks were doing the same thing that you and the blind PNM hacks are doing today. And yes I think the PM can use monies or land to push his agenda, whatever taht may be, he can do this because of a mandate given by blind loyalty.

    • A week ago Manning denied that he owned the church in Guanapo or that public funds were being used for its construction. He said that the church is being built on State land. His statement raised many ethical and legal questions, and it left many wondering just how this government functions. Moreover, the timing of his response on this issue suggests that his involvement was much greater than he has admitted. If the church is being built on State land, then the public has a right to know what the facts are concerning all aspects of this controversial issue. A woman
      who once lived on the site claimed that men in a black car threatened her and her husband after they refused to vacate the site. The woman was then given $50.000 by the men to relocate.

      If Manning’s statement is true, reasonable Trinbagonians may ask the following questions:

      Where did the 20 million dollars that is being used to construct this church originate?

      Why were local labourers not hired to build the church?

      Who issued the visas for these foreign workers?

      Who paid for the construction of the road that leads to the church?

      If permission was granted by the State, shouldn’t the opposition parties have known about this?

      Why were the Regional Corporation, and Town and Country not informed of the plan to construct this church on public land?

      Why was the woman threatened to vacate the site that she had lived on for so many years?

      Why was she threatened if the action by the State was transparent?

      Why is the Regional Corporation threatening to stop the project?

      Should the police investigate?

      Should the UFF Integrity Commission investigate?

      I know a few born-again Christians and they always tell the truth. They also take the word of God very seriously, and they do not become involved in politics. They also do not ask politicians for favours. They place their faith in God, not man or prime ministers.

      Just like Manning, some individuals just do not get it. Why is Panday being dragged into this serious issue? Comments such as Neal’s could encourage Manning in more slackness and recklessness. Just like all previous and future PNM corrupt practices, this too shall soon pass with no one being held accountable.

  • I certainly agree that he does not get it. Who is financing this church? Wasn’t it better for the PM to stay away instead of giving the land to someone so close to him? What about Rowley how come he seems to forget (selectively I think) what came before him as a member of Parliament. Maybe be Valley would remember, just maybe. In the meantime we keep watching and waiting.

  • http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article_news?id=161601670

    What do you know , good old T& T aka Baby America , is back, and we ain’t playing , if the fine words of our illustrious PM is to be believe! That goes to all you high end criminals from several of the upstart Caribbean nations, who still erroneously believe that our country is soft on crime, even after the huge percentage of funds our responsible government has been spending on law enforcement.
    So Barbados , we are watching you on these fictitious Tobago Flying fish maneuvers. Listen guys ,this is not the Awawak Cement deal you fleece from smart man Chambers . We do not care how many World Bank developmental loans you go out and acquire for explorations on extended continental shelves. There can only be one oil and gas giant in the English speaking Caribbean, and that is sweet T&T. Therefore we advise you to try that stunt on our nut case ,pseudo democratic brother Chavez in Venezuela.
    As for you Guyana , we have been turning a blind eye in sympathy to you guys for too long , because more of you are immigrants here , and are allowed to vote in my country’s election , than would ever be in that mismanaged alleged South American, racially tolerant country under ‘Presidente ,Jagdeo.’ Those days are however gone, first it was your terrorist corrupting our lame brain criminals , then one of your pro government drug dealing assassins , using our country as cover , to hide out while doing their foolishness.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Revmkhxu7dk

    By the way Mr. PM rhetoric alone won’t cut it with these criminals.

    http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/apjinternational/apj-s/2008/2tri08/novakoffeng.htm

    Remember we can never live down Abu Baker and his country hating religious thugs , and because you and your kindred arch nemesis Panday never treated neo – spiritual wolves in sheep clothing characters seriously, by pushing for a Commission of enquiry for 1990 , it has come back to haunt us.
    By the way how are those anti – kidnapping Scotland Yard blokes, and any glitches on that new big wig church your pals are constructing?
    Ah shock , me and my ungrateful self sometimes .Thanks Mr. PM for putting us back on the grand stage with these expensive ships ? I wonder if dem Tobago folks can borrow one when the occasional crowded ,river boats break down on it’s inter island goods transportation forays .
    Ah , but I digress!
    As Beyonce’s husband said in song , “The Roc boys in the house tonight …..”

  • Manning stirring up religious war
    “He has gone off on a tangent — red herrings, distractions — and in a sense he wants to begin a religious war in this country. What he is doing is trying to defend what appears to be the indefensible. He has gone off to create friction among the various religious groups.”

    Kamla to deal with church issue tonight

    Don’t bash other religions
    Secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Satnarayan Maharaj says it is insulting for Prime Minister Patrick Manning to compare old religions like Hinduism and Catholicism to the born-again Christian faith.

    Pena absent: Woman and flock skip Sunday service
    Juliana Pena is a powerful woman of God. She is gifted and has touched the lives of many, including Prime Minister Patrick Manning. Now, however, she must come forward and preach, not just the gospel of Jesus Christ, but what connection she has to a church being constructed by Shanghai Construction Limited in the Heights of Guanapo under a cloud of mystery.

    Belgroves: No role in Guanapo church

    Chinese workers build church on Sunday

  • That entire statement by the Prime Minister is a red herring. He has not addressed the fundamental concerns that people have with the building of that church and his involvement in it. It is indeed a stretch for him to now make it appear that the concerns of the media and other members of the public amount to religious persecution.

    • Nery, the PM is a politician, who “understand” that the blind loyalists would swallow this rubbish, just like Panday’s “do them, before they do you” and “monkey on you back” rethoric. Manning has further devided the people with htis rubbish about religious persecution. Ah wonder if he knows what persecution means.

  • There are many different sides to this issue and one must be careful to know which band wagon to jump on. There is the simple issue of the building of the church on state lands, the using of Chinese labour to construct the buildings, the authority to approve the building, the knowledge (and approval) of the pm and the lack of public accountability and of course the politics of it all. Since it is difficult to know the truth of the former, the latter which is politics can have a very devisive effect if there is unchecked reporting on the matter. It is fair to say that the pm deliberately turned the subject to religious persecution and how did the politicians handle it? Kamla went to the Maha Sabha to criticise Manning’s charge of religious sensibility, this to me is playing into the charge by Manning. Dookeran did exactly the same thing. You talk about opening a can of worms? These politicians could have used another platform in which to deal with these charges but they choose to include “Sat” as an injection into the foray, is this smart politics? Or politicsjust as devisive aas the one they are accusing the pm of giving?

  • Thank you Kian for a very thoughtful and balanced commentary. Here is another classic example why some of these so call intelligent lawyers com politicians should have remained fixated on their first profession of trying to defend low life criminals in their own constituencies from going to jail.
    Way to go uncle Manning ,as a simple low end UWI geologist, you have been underestimated before, and would aging into the future, yet always had the last laugh .
    Perhaps you are a step ahead of these political lightweights vying for power , due to your once humbling experience of serving many years as a Junior Parliamentary Secretary MP, under the leaderships of your mentor- the master historian , political manipulator, the good old Dr. Eric.
    If I had the audacity to run for political office in my country , the only reason I am going to be on the same platform with a polarizing nut like Sat Maharaj, is if you spike my drinks , or if he threatened me and my entire family with immediate death, hell fire, and brimstone , or promised to use his great powers to bring me back on earth in the reincarnated afterlife ,as a Manzanilla Tatoo.

  • As far as I know certain UNC politicans have always tried to play the religious game. I know for a fact that Ramesh was baptized in the Presbyterian church by the once famous Rev. Albert Balbeo.Winston Dookeran also has connections to the Presbyterian church.At one time he was not supported by certain UNC members because he was perceived as a Christian. Kamla also has connections to the Presbyterian church via her husband. Are these politicans Christians or Hindus? Or, are they playing on both sides of the fence for political gain? At least the PM can clearly state his relgious connections and not pose for photops during the Pagwa ceremonies.

  • Kamla: PM losing it
    There is no need to be a prophetess to discover that Prime Minister Patrick Manning was losing something other than Trinidad and Tobago’s next elections, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar charged last night.

    Unanswered questions
    The red herring spread by Prime Minister Patrick Manning in Parliament last Friday was obviously intended to provide him with an excuse to dodge further questioning about the Heights of Guanapo church, claiming continuous “religious persecution.” The Prime Minister has done his cause no good.

    PM waves off reporters
    Prime Minister Patrick Manning waved off reporters at the beginning of a walkabout in the Opposition Princes Town North constituency yesterday.

    Clyde Weatherhead: Don Quixote rides again
    In the now accustomed way of the self-proclaimed father of the nation, the leader of the government could not simply provide information in response to very serious questions raised about this church with which it was alleged he was associated.

    Are state funds being used in the construction of this church? How is a contractor present in Trinidad and Tobago on a government-to-government arrangement involved in a private project? How is construction proceeding on a building for which at least one local government body has confirmed no planning permission exists? How was it possible for a cornerstone to be laid prior to state lands being granted to the religious organisation doing the construction?

  • When it comes to our country , I am happy to say – and is certain that you’ll agree T-Man – that no particular race ,or ethnic group, has an exclusive monopoly as far as religion, foods, music, political affiliations , or other cultural lifestyles.
    As for me and religion , I grew up as a non pork eating, ten commandment, blue eyed Jesus Protestant Christian home, but ditch same once I developed an independent mind of my own in favor of a certain brand of Japanese Buddhism , some two and a half decades ago, when it became clear that the church that I was accustom to ,was more concerned in the doom and gloom ,end world , escapist land of milk and honey heavenly future, and less interested in the plight of sufferings poor and neglected that exist before their very eyes on planet earth.
    When it comes to politics, my philosophical position is simple. My support is up for grabs from any individual that appreciate the need to balance personal political goals , constituents needs, party obligations , with national interest duties, and responsibilities.
    Let me finally add ,that with respect to politics ,there are two basic truisms that exist for most seasoned practitioners of the art. The first is that most are skillful panderers that enjoys playing to the fan base or prospective supporters,as they envisage the returns at the polls would be to their benefit, so to do.
    Secondly, many are gifted liars, or put another way ,tend to be adept at twisting the truth for their own advantage – especially when a reporter, or any member of the 4th estate is huddling near by with a camera, pen or mike.
    I am not too sure about you T-Man, but I was fortunate to grow up with one of the wisest individuals that ever lived, and during her short life ,she never failed to remind me of the following : “The night would run as fast as it wants, but the day would always catch up with it.”
    This hopefully is also applicable to some of our political leaders, and others of economic influence , that are sporadically dispersed throughout our blessed land.
    Sometimes the early seeds of evil sown , and the lifetime of misdeeds perpetuated by many , may not even affect them during their life time , but will return eventually ,to haunt the second and third generations.
    Let’s keep them honest, shall we?
    Warm Regards.

  • THe PM has done his job, and very well indeed, because he has all his party hacks shouting persecution in the same tone as he did in Parliament on Friday. This issue has nothing to do with one’s right to religious beliefs. It has to do with the manner in which this church is being built, the secrecy, the use of a firm brought here under a govnt to govnt arrangement. But thse PNM hacks want to come here and talk rubbish about the right to religion, who the hell say that no one has the right to build a church or to get state land.

  • Whether or not Manning knows what persecution means is besides the point. He, like Kamla or Dooker or Panday understands the power of perception. While there are some facts that cannot be refuted, like the the building of the church, the ownership of the land it is being on etc, one has to be careful to say with irrefutable certainty that Manning is the authority behind the secrecy of empowerment, even though indications point in that direction. But we must be sure of facts before making definitive statements. The opposition to Manning’s perceived involvement takes on a religious ferver which if not managed can fuel the intent of his statement of religious persecution. People are not unintelligent, criticising one religious aspirant on the grounds of another leaves a perception of curry favor.

  • Now if I was a guessing man on who was a useless All Fours , Wappi card player ,as opposed to who had mastered the art of Chess playing from since he was a tiny tot, I would say that mmramps grew up in smoke filled rum shops, where he only knew how to play marks and brain snoozing card games , whereas the extremely astute Kian has been playing Chess -the game of Generals, and world reknown leaders , for most of his life.
    Once more good, intelligent , job Kian, re this response- and I mean it sincerely. It is so unfortunate that our good cousin mramps is unprepared to utilize the grey matter that our kinky head Master ‘who art in heaven,’ gave him.
    Mramps for your information,this debate was never about Christian Church,Hindu Temple , Muslim Mosque , Manning, PNM , and breeches of laws. It is mearely a jig and dance interplay and power grab by certain elements of the Trini power elites. It centers around land , jobs, governmental contracts ,and the yearning for control of the few economic spoils that this country has to offer , and were ignore to many, dispite what our motto , or constitution said. Religion is simply a convenient rouse.
    Tell your leaders to pick their fights better, as they were forced into a convenient trap this time around, and would be left once more in the end ‘holding the short end of the stick.”

    Stay focus on the end game , good friends.

  • Hey listen, I take no pleasure in joining those who makes calims of the involvement of the PM in this project. Just like I took no pleasure in agreeing with those who made claims that the then PM was directly involved with the corruption in the Piarco Airort project. But in the absense of transparency, and accountability I would continue to agree with those who raise questions. I mean the money has to be going somewhere, if we still have no water, bad roads, poor health care, high crime etc.

  • Rest assured mramps , you are not alone in your desire to see good governance , transparency , accountability , and less arrogance on the part of the leadership of this country.
    Perhaps this Church building , underhand land deal ,and questionable Chinese contractual arrangements if true , will be the straw that would finally breaks the Camel’s back.
    We can only hope that the new political spirit that is being fostered within Trinidad and Tobago ,since the political demise of Mr. Panday , is authentic .
    I will tell you mramps , nation building ain’t easy , and our people are tired , and simply cannot handle any more flirtations by well intentioned , but possible non committed ,indiscipline politicians , unprepared to walk the walk towards a reachable goal of much needed ,concrete ,and desirable ,sustainable development.
    Keep the faith.

    • previously you implied that I was more of a supporter of the UNC than you thaught. Just know that I am a supporter of none of these bandits, I would support change, but the munuite that change fails to do what is promised, that ends my support. I would advocate for everyone to not support indefinitely any one person or party. This way we would change the politics, SOme have asked for new blood, that is bull shit, new blond flowing into the same corrupt system would simply allow the new blood to continue with the norm. We must send the message, what I am saying is that once we replace them often enough, they would rethink how they govern, they would work in our interest if they want to be re-elected, presently they know they would be re-elected no matter what they do.

  • I think that most well-intentioned people wish Mrs. Bissessar every success in her new role as Opposition Leader and leader of the UNC. The many discussions that we (the people) engage in are of bread and butter issues that affect us educationally, medically, agriculturally, socially and otherwise. When we get into race, it touches a different sensitivity in us, we then become sensitive to familiarity, class, kith and kin and things like that, which have nothing to do with whether we get water, food, safety or good medical care. Mrs. Bissessar’s inexperience stands out in this argument of Mr Manning’s involvement in the church. Whilst her argument is authentic she must be careful on how she addresses matters of religion, race and ethnicity. Using the platform of someone who most non-indians consider hateful, she appears insensitive and unconcerned about the religious practices of the people affected by the building of the church in question. If she had used a non-racial or non-religious platform, she would have been standing on solid ground. But the die is cast, the new leader just like the old one is using racial and ethnic justification to support her statements. While it may not be exactly the case, all the christian viewing this has to do is look at who is backing her and in whose backyard she went to. This makes her entry into this foray seem childish and naive. She will be well advised when she address matters of substance to do so from a platform and standpoint that would command the attention of all people and not only those who stand to benefit by her remarks.

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