By Ras Tyehimba
May 22, 2010
I am convinced that for the good of the country the present Manning-led PNM administration needs to go. To this end, I agree with the points expressed in this article, Election 2010: An Opportunity for Change.
My view is simple – the present Manning-led government is just too arrogant, dishonest and squandering to be rewarded with another term in office. The corruption under the PNM invokes memories of the infamous John O’Halloran, and in my view, surpasses that of the UNC while they were in office. The Manning-led government has presided over mass squandermania while expecting the public to pay for their excesses through such initiatives as the Property Tax Bill.
Manning has not seen fit to explain the UDeCOTT affair, defending Calder Hart on many occasions despite the allegations of corruption, even going so far as to describe the witness who pointed out Hart’s ties to Sunway as being a “jilted lover”.
In a more recent interview, regarding the issue of the Guanapo Church, Manning’s dishonesty was apparent as he tried to give the impression that “PM” on Guanapo church documents (that apparently show his deep involvement to the construction of the church) could mean ‘Project Manager’ and not ‘Prime Minister’. It did not matter to him that a lowly project manager would have no authority to request changes in design plans.
Furthermore, I also disagree with the government using the resources that belong to the people of Trinidad and Tobago to further their partisan political interests. I have noticed a trend to take out full-page ministry ads that are not to inform the public but rather to praise the current government. This is pure dishonesty: disguising political ads as ministry ads, thereby getting political mileage that is sponsored by the public purse. Why is it that our political (mis) leaders feel that they can be so blatantly dishonest and casual with the affairs of our country.
Whatever the shortcomings of the UNC/TOP/COP/NJAC coalition, I think that they are a better alternative than Manning, and will be more receptive to the voices of the people than the present administration. For many years, people rationalized their support for Manning and the PNM in terms of voting for the lesser of two evils.
This argument might have had some credence with the Panday-led UNC, but it can not hold under Kamla. Kamla’s speeches may be a little weak sometimes, and some of the perspectives of the coalition may lack substance. However, I prefer that to the arrogance, scaremongering and high level nastiness of the PNM and their groundless attacks of such national contributors as Makandal Daaga and Verna St. Rose Greaves.
I have heard persons expressing fears about having an Indian Prime Minister, but why subscribe to this type of ethnic scaremongering that has long been a part of PNM election strategy. As much as the majority of PNM support comes from Afro-Trinidadians, Manning and the PNM presently and historically are very anti-African.
The PNM has never shown any genuine interest in addressing African or Indian history, instead being content with putting up a facade of national unity (such as putting African and Indian dancers on the same stage and patting themselves on the back about the good race relations in the country) while exploiting ethnic insecurities when it suits their interests.
The fact that such an important event in Trinidad and Tobago – the 1970 Black Power Uprising – is so outside of the awareness of the nation is an indication of the general contempt of our ‘leaders’ and successive governments concerning our history. More specifically, we have to consider since that event in 1970 the PNM has ruled the country most of the time. The sidelining and repression of this part of our history started with, and has been maintained by the PNM, a party never seriously interested in addressing the issues raised by Makandal Daaga and NJAC and other Black Power groups such as the National Freedom Organisation led by Chan Maharaj.
When NAR and the UNC got into power, things were little different in this regard. However, the point is that the sidelining, repression and dismissal of the lessons and ideas of the 1970 Black Power movement are direct results of the contempt of the PNM for the Black Power movement since the ruling party was being challenged socially and politically.
The tradition of contempt for Africans who see fit to reclaim their culture continues today in Manning’s demonization of Daaga, NJAC (and the wider Black Power movement) along with his distortion of the realities and ideas of the 1970 movement.
So despite the ethnic scaremongering implying that African Trinidadians will be disadvantaged by a UNC government, the reality may very well be better under Kamla since she will be eager to show that she is bridging the racial divide. We may remember that it was only under the UNC that the Spiritual Baptists were able to get land, yet they have been lobbying the PNM government for many years for help in building a school resulting in little attention from our Born-Again Project Manager Manning.
There are no guarantees that the UNC/COP will be better than the PNM, despite how easy that may be. However, that should not stop us from giving different leaders a chance. The PNM has long been at governance, and apart from particular policies that persons can argue as good or bad, there is something very off in the nature of their vision for Trinidad and Tobago.
I don’t think that the vision of the UNC or NAR varies much, but different leaders and arrangements have to be tried alongside people participating more actively in the governance of the country and in the generation and discussion of ideas and principles that guide our progress.
It does not take more intelligence, reasoning, or a UNC/COP party card to recognize the ills and shortcomings of the present administration. I know many strong PNM supporters who are quite aware of and articulate them well, to a certain extent. However, with the ethnic insecurities, scaremongering and unreasoning that heightens around election time, many retreat into the comfort of their party/tribal loyalties on both sides of the political divide.
In this sense, politics often reminds me of religion in that often, no matter what evidence or ‘truth’ is shown, there is that blind dogmatic loyalty that totally defies REASON. Imagine, some parents still easily leave their children in the care of clergy despite their extensive, proven, high level abuse of children. So with some persons, no matter how dishonest and arrogant the Manning-led government is or the level of corrupt dealings, the response is still ‘Great is the PNM’. It is the same way that some UNC supporters still held on to Panday despite his corruption. Both the UNC and the PNM have traditionally exploited the racial insecurities underpinning such dogmatic loyalty as a way of rallying their support base.
The people of Trinidad and Tobago deserve change and better leaders. However, the leaders that we currently have reflect the state of ourselves and how woefully backward we as individuals are, despite the material wealth in the country. Better can never come other than people becoming more informed and holding our leaders accountable for the choices they make. No government must ever be allowed to get away with what the PNM so far has gotten away with.
Voting out the present arrogant and out-of-control government is a good way to start this process. Saying that you don’t like Manning but still voting PNM does not make any sense since a vote for the PNM is a vote for Manning. If Manning wins, not only can he continue in his arrogant, emperor ways, but he will continue to hold the reins of the PNM party.
If, on the other hand, he loses the election, then someone else can have a chance to head the party. The insistence by Keith Rowley that people should vote for the PNM despite the issues with Manning is asinine; there is no reason why people should support all the corruption that Keith Rowley himself has identified as having been perpetrated under PNM’s rule.
In spite of my reservations about the UNC/COP, my view is that the Manning-led government has to go. I prefer to go along with someone who may have the potential to ‘jook’ out my eyes, than with someone who has been continually ‘jooking’ out my eyes.
Our political troubles should not just be looked at in terms of Project Manager Manning (although he is a good poster boy for the trouble) but the wider PNM also is complicit and a part of the problem. To a wider extent, the UNC has also been part of the problem and have been complicit in the misdevelopment of the country, both in government and in opposition.
The point is, yes, Manning has to go, but also we need to rethink our system of government; rethink our shaky democratic system that caters more to the interests of elites than ordinary people. People have to move away from seeing their participation in democracy as voting every five years, instead, moving towards ensuring that all perspectives and views are heard and considered, challenging leaders on various issues and especially holding elected leaders accountable – even to the extent that those who have been found guilty of wrongdoing are prosecuted and jailed. Too many treasury rapists have been allowed to escape the rule of law and consequence.