Flattering to Deceive

Diego Martin West PNM candidate Dr Keith Rowley
Diego Martin West PNM candidate Dr Keith Rowley
By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
May 13, 2010

From all accounts Keith Rowley came out as a hero when he announced that he preferred to stay aboard a sinking ship (or certainly a troubled ship) rather than abandon it. He declared, “I am a sailor on the PNM ship and I know what my duty is. And it does not matter what shape the ship is in, don’t give up the ship.” Although he sounded convincing, the question was not whether he was abandoning or staying on ship but what could he propose to return the ship to an even keel and bring it safely back to shore.

Keith did not do justice to those who came out to support him or those who were concerned about how the government conducts its affairs; whether our party is living up to its members’ expectation; whether democracy exists in our party; and whether the leadership of the party is sufficiently accountable to its members?

When Keith announced that he is “a PNM sailor in a PNM ship and I represent the PNM, the party of Eric Williams, Learie Constantine and Kamaluddin Mohammed” he harked back to a legacy that was bequeathed to its members. Fifty four years after its formation any serious party member must ask whether the party is more democratic today; more responsive to the needs of its members; and whether its leaders (and the state) have become just as alien, predatory and dictatorial as the Governor and the colonial state it replaced.

In the 1948 Patrick Solomon, a leading member of the Legislative Council and the first Deputy Leader of the PNM, objected to the unrepresentative nature of the proposed Constitution of 1950 and argued for an elective legislature and an elected Executive Committee. In fact, the continuation of this objective led to the formation of the PNM. On June 5, 1955, Dr. Williams sent a long letter to the Governor to be transmitted to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. It read as follows:

“The PNM states categorically that it is neither communist, Fascist, Poujadist nor Messianic or Jaganist. It is a national Party, deriving its inspiration from the best in democratic theory, seeking to imitate the best in democratic practice, applying to Trinidad and Tobago the intelligence, the democratic party discipline and public morality which in the opinion of the PNM are lacking from the political life of the country.”

We can apply three of these principles to the present PNM and see how well it is faring. First. Recently our Prime Minister defended himself in the Parliament when he was accused of supporting or contributing to a church structure at Guanapo. Our Prime Minster averred, and rightly so, that he has a right to practice his religion as he sees fit and. Dr. Williams was careful to distance the party from any form of messianic leanings although it is true that the party gained tremendous support from the Spiritual Baptists. PNM must remain a non-messianic party.

Second. Dr. Williams acknowledged that our party derives its inspiration from the best in democratic theory and seeks to imitate the best in democratic practice. Can one describe the selection of candidates for political office over the past two years or what transpires at the PNM General Council as being in keeping with best democratic practices? In the early days, democracy flourished in the party and nothing of national interest was too sacred to be discussed.

Third, is it acceptable for the chief executive officer of a State company to award contracts worth 868 million dollars to a company owned by his in-laws yet we do not hold our political leader accountable for such malfeasance on the grounds that this is no time to “throw the captain overboard.” Although the party may have breached its standards with John O’Halloran we sought forgiveness and correctly drew attention to the Airport scandal. On this basis we should have been more vigilant when alleged discrepancies occurred in UDICOTT? Therefore, Keith is right to insist that we recognize this shortcoming and take steps to insure that it does not happen again.

Fourth. Mr Manning erred in his preference of foreigners in so many areas: WASA; the Police service and particularly in the construction sector. When Dr. Williams returned from the Caribbean Commission he made it clear that qualified local men should be preferred always over foreigners. Isn’t it alarming that so many non-nationals hold so many important offices in our land? Keith should have addressed this concern without appearing to be self-serving?

If the PNM wins the next election there will not be any court marshaling for Mr. Manning or anyone else except if the PNM wins by a margin of one or two seats. Once Mr. Manning controls state power and its resources there is no way that Dr. Rowley can court marshal him or get him out of office. The UNC only disposed of Basdeo Panday because he did not control state power as Gordon Brown resigned only when he lost the recent election. Even then he was reluctant to go.

The unfortunate reality is that Dr. Rowley’s ability to control the party can be achieved only if PNM looses the election. The If Manning wins, then Keith’s ability to transform the party is diminished severely. He could be the best backbencher in the world but it would be difficult to change the party and make it more responsive to its members.

I was heartened by Keith’s subsequent remark that we should not deify leaders and that one breaks this tendency by “advancing people of quality and letting those people represent the strength of the party as against representing a messianic devotional outpouring.” This is a good beginning.

Although Keith spoke about the shortcomings of his leader his only salvation lies in his party losing the election or coming close to doing so. Unable to utter this truth for fear of being called a traitor and jeopardizing the party’s chances on May 24, he was left in a delicate position: He could be blamed if the party failed to win the election.

Keith danced around the question this time. Very soon, he will have to offer a more forthright answer to the dilemma that faces the party.

8 thoughts on “Flattering to Deceive”

  1. Clevon Raphael: Ungrateful Rowley
    Former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday sometime ago caused one of his many furors when he declared politics had its own morality. I agreed wholeheartedly and those who disagreed did so simply because of who said it. My belief in Panday’s controversial stance was rudely rekindled while taking in the much anticipated address last Thursday evening by renegade People’s National Movement Diego Martin West candidate in the May 24 general election, Dr Keith Rowley. While there were strong views from those who were satisfied and those who were not with the contents of his speech, his performance to me reeked of ungrateful- ness. It also gave credence to Mr Panday’s assertion about politics and its own brand of morality and, indeed, I was in no way surprised in the overall stand taken by the man who sees himself as one day being the country’s political CEO.

  2. For too long we have blindly supported the PNM and endowed on them the opportunity to rule our country. But year after year they have become more and more corrupted and self serving. The PNM party in government is no longer serving the country but is using the country to serve the party. The entire PNM party has lost the vision and the dedication to serve us and to cover up their incompetence at ruling this nation they are now pulling wool over our eyes. They have been in power for so long that they have become complacent and don’t care anymore about doing what is right for the people and the country. It’s as though they feel they are the only party that can rule our country and it’s their god given right. It’s time we the people teach them a lesson. Let’s remind them that they are there for a single purpose, to serve the country and the people to the best of their ability. Let’s remind them of who hold the power, we can vote you in and also we can vote you out.

  3. Mind you the coalition must take heed. They are enjoying the benefit of the disgust the citizens have for the PNM this time. But let’s not get carried away by this show of solidarity for the coalition, for they just happen to be the better of two evils, because it comes to a point now where anybody can be better than Pat in the voter’s eyes. Hence the population is willing to take a big risk this time and take “cat in bag” and give the coalition a chance. There are also some sour grapes in there, so the coalition must make every effort to not let the contents go rancid.
    If the coalition were to fail early or not deliver on its promises, for help me God the people will not let the coalition parties see light of day come next time around. The people will eat you raw and then spit you out like a rotten grape.

    So this is an earnest plea to the coalition. This support you are enjoying now is short lived, believe me. You will win by a big margin, but none the less, you will be given a short time to pull you act together, and then the people expect you to deliver, and if you don’t you faced dire consequences. The voters will be willing give you a second chance come next election, like they are doing now; you will have to work very hard for that one. If you were to only fail, stray from your promises, break apart or cross the floor, you will be totally written off from the books, called the worst of names, and soon after you can kiss your political life goodbye.

    The voters have no toleration for nincompoops anymore. Pat better have a thick skin, for the humiliation he will face in the polls will be saddening to say the least. All this energy inside us will not dissipate anytime soon and the pressure will be kept on the new government.
    The coalition members must have total unity, so all the energies will flow in one direction. Any in-fighting and bickering will cause disturbance, instability and then the eventual collapse of the coalition government. What a laughing stock of jokers you will become, if that day happens I will hang my head in shame. All members of the coalition parties must understand that compromises will have to be made for the better of the country. You are not there to push forward your personal agenda but fight for the will of the people as one. You alone couldn’t make it into government, but sometimes, by your actions, you alone can break the government.

    I think I may have strayed, but to summarize. A bit of advice to the smaller parties making up the coalition. Remember you struggled for many years for this moment to be in government, so please don’t blow the opportunity, it may never come knocking again. Also, I commend Kamla for uniting the many groups who have shown interest in serving the country and to have their voices heard. Panday could have been enjoying this bliss only if he had practice what he preached. To truly turn this into a blessed event worthy of admiration, the coalition must now show tremendous discipline, transparency and total commitment to good governance. I wish you Gods grace and hope you turn at least some of the people cries into beautiful smiles.

  4. In the words of Suzanne Mills:

    “The power is yours, the people resident in TT to vote for a possibility of a new political day. The British have opted for a coalition. Is London Bridge falling down? Is it going to? Trinidad and Tobago will not crumble if it paints a new political landscape on May 24. It may well though, if it does not”.

  5. There are those much more intelligent than yours truly that would claim that negroes , need to desist from demanding of themselves , what they are ill prepared to require from others. Therefore ,in view of the fact that no political figure is soon going to appear from Jupiter to save our country , and our people are no longer mesmerized by fast talking intellectual Phds,and big wig Lincoln Inn trained lawyers , it is logical to expect that we have to live with the good local folks we have in our country, that are prepared to make the sacrifices to serve our nation , even with their few flaws, yes? Nuff said.

    To this I’ll add Dr. Cudjoe, that your country needs you at this moment to do the right thing like others on the opposite side of the isle were able to do when it comes to political realities as they affect our nation. It is time that someone develops the courage and tell Patrick Manning to take his loving , loyal , unelected wife Hazel, and both should pack their bags ,and ride off into the sunset together to look out for the interest of their grandchildren.
    The man has been feeding like at piglet at the bosom of political , governmental trough ,since the age of 24. He stood by and saw his overworked mentor Dr. Eric Williams die lonely and unloved in office in 81, leaving the party in shambles , for the clueless ,incompetent ,George Chambers to try and hold together, as the opposition was able to garner up the courage to bury differences ,and organize an alliance to get them out of power. Deja vu all over again today some would say? Hopefully , the post election love in the political harem would be different this time around.
    Can you be magnanimous ,and give the UNC party faithful credit , for taking forceful actions, so as to send the entire Panday clan into their political death bed, and in the process, elevate Kamla ,the new aged, all conquering , Indira Gandhi incarnated , political savior- warts and all?
    Would you admonish the PNM party hacks, to do the same ,and rally around the Mason Hall kid , or do you secretly holds the unstated Trini view like NAR Panday once felt back in 86 , that Tobagonians are only good to play second fiddle , and bridesmaid , to bolster the power-grab of others , then undermined , discarded , and nearly left for dead as was nearly done during the Bakr 1990 fiasco to ‘Aw we boy Robbie?’
    Seriously Doctor , what does the Mason Hall kid have to do – outside of bleaching his face, and growing a Marshall Montano Rasta hairstyle – again to prove to you guys that he cares about our Twin Republic ?
    With very few exception most of his constituency members are fairly happy . He challenged the PM, and self opinionated party boss Uncle Manning, on critical issues, when such were extremely unpopular over time , and paid the price . If any member of the Opposition was honest ,they’ll all be kissing his proverbial feet , as they thank him for providing useful political fodder/ ammunitions, for them to rally around together with ,re this corruption affair , and other unsavory practices ,that most only came to appreciate yesterday, as those of us not chained on Mars for the last 47 years are fully aware that many unmentionables across our nation , are considered to have a penchant for engaging in, when opportunities presents itself.
    Of course , if any attacks can be made on him it might be that he is an excellent Limbo dancer, as he has bend over backwards so well in ignoring the people of the island of his birth, to prove his deepest allegiance ,and possession of Trini credentials to Diego Martin , and the other 38 Trinidad electoral enclaves. Kind of remind you of ‘one o dem Black Republicans like Condi Rice, Colin Powel, Clarence Thomas , and RNC Party Chairman Steel , to name a few, yes ? I am sure you can catch the analogy .
    So to end good doctor , it’s a good day in our country , and one cannot help but enjoy seeing our fragile democracy at work , as folks across the Opposition are prepared to bury differences for common good, and our people are on point to make bold political statements re their votes come May 24th.
    Promise me that you would at the earliest opportunity , commend them on their political suaveness , and maturity, will you? Most importantly, use your vast influence to encourage PNMites to follow suite, and do the right thing for a loyalist , nationalist , and passionate brother, in the Mason Hall Kid, aka de Rottweiler . Please check out this letter I wrote to him almost two years ago. It might be instructive.


    Let’s continue to love country over tribe Doctor C. Our graves, crematoriums ,and river banks , where ever such exist , are laden with the bones and ashes of folks who choose to ignore this well known fact. I wish you well. From the ‘global political animal,’ aka ‘de voice of reason.’

  6. 50+ YEARS PNM ACCOMPLISHMENTS – Stop for a minute and look at the accomplishments by the PNM and the Nation since 1956. IF you are 60 and younger then you were educated because of the policies of the PNM.
    Beyond EDUCATION for ALL from Standard One to Ph.D., other accomplishments include:
    1) ROADS — remember the old days with single lane roads?
    2) HIGHER PAY – remember when civil servants used to get only $300 per month?
    3) EMPLOYMENT – remember when most people used to work in the fields for low wages?
    4)DEVELOPMENT — remember how town and San Fernando used to look compared to how it look now?

    QUESTION TIME: Where are the accomplishments from the UNC/COP? They were in government and what do we have to show for it except CORRUPTION in the Airport? They still trying to run away from all their people who in jail or on trial. By the way, Jack still there with lots of questions about FIFA and world cup tickets.

  7. There is obviously a need for ‘a middle way approach,’ and non rush to judgement,when highlighting criminal behaviors and others social ills across our nation, in this politically contentious time of our history , where so much is at stake.
    Unfortunately, we have some of the most despicable, and callous civic activists ,and politically desperate leaders, one might find any where across the globe. These characters , in efforts to achieve certain narrow ends, would promote any and every unsubstantiated allegations ,without a single thought as to their validity , and consequential fall out.
    Rape assaults assertions, unfounded discrimination claims,preposterous genocidal accusations, and even outlandish contentions of terrorism, are often quite common.
    To compound the problem , many would also even un-hesitantly over play their hands , by resorting to denigration of the majority of our hard working law enforcement officials – many of whom are still being forced to operate under some of the most atrocious conditions , coupled with an extremely questionable ,often unethical legal fraternity ,as well as a culturally closed and uncooperative , non supportive public.
    Let’s hope we get it right in the few remaining days before Jimmy Carter is called in, and efforts are not in place as we speak – based on this and other recent situations- to seek some sympathy and excuse for failure to achieve wider national political objectives.
    Love country over tribe folks, and to fellow patriotic , objective , neo-progressive nationals, what can we say but ,continue to keep ‘dem honest!’

  8. Patrick manning has offered the young people Free Education.
    These young people do not realise at the end of the day it is not recognised around the world due to the fact it is not Accredited. No Accreditation …Nil.
    Patrick Manning can fool ‘Old People and Little Children”
    Please Patrick Do not Insult My Interlect.

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