By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
May 27, 2010
One would have thought that after Mr. Manning made his gallant pronouncement about “taking responsibilities” for the defeat of the People’s National Movement he would have had the good sense and astute political judgment to remove himself from the leadership of the PNM immediately. Moreover, one would have thought that after he said he would be guided by what is best for the PNM that he would have fired his executive, retreat to his residence at San Fernando, allow the PNM to access its problems so that it could plan for its immediate recuperation.
Alas, this was not to be. The first day after the ballots were counted he started what the futile gesture of trying to hold on to the leadership of the party and to dictate its future. On the second day after his defeat he met with his elected PNM colleagues. After his meeting he affected feigned humility and revealed a Machiavellian maneuver to control the party and ensure he ruled from behind rather than in front.
The first decision he and his cohorts took opened the way for Mr. Manning to hold on to the leadership of the party until July. This is unacceptable. Second, and interlinked with the first, was the decision to name Amery Brown interim political leader until 2012 when internal PNM election would be held and to name Colm Imbert Leader of the Opposition. Such a move would stymie any objective that Keith Rowley be named the leader of the party and perhaps Leader of the Opposition.
The party’s first imperative is to rebuild and put it on an election footing. To do so we must re-locate the party in the future rather than in the failed ideas of the past. In this context, it is good to know that Conrad Enil, Martin Joseph and John Donaldson, all holdovers of the past, have resigned. If they have not yet resigned they must do so now. Mr. Manning must also offer his resignation. A sitting Prime Minister who leads a party into defeat; reduces its majority of 26 seats to a minority of 12; and reduces its total votes by 14,459 over the past election needs to steal away silently into the night and pay penance for such a betrayal of his people.
Whether Mr. Manning resigns or not the PNM must hold a Special Convention to re-elect new officers and strategize our future course of action. If the party does not call a Special Convention within the next month or so progressive elements within the party must call its own General Council to place our agenda on the calendar. The party has too much to do. It cannot wait another second to diagnosis its illness so that its political recuperation can begin.
After the sweet aroma of the People’s Partnership’s victory local election cannot be too far around the corner. One can confidently predict that it would be held within the next four or five months which means that by October 2010 the country will be going to the polls again.
If the PNM is to prevail or make a meaningful challenge to the People’s Partnership it must get its house in order. We must select a new leader within the next two months so that we can prepare for the battle that lies ahead of us.
It also means that we must consolidate our ranks and let them know that a small defeat but a magnificent humiliation along the way is the perfect learning recipe for our future. As my mother would say, fifty four years (of the PNM) is not fifty four days, the time in which it took to put together the People’s Partnership. In other words, the PP has fifty four years to go before it can hope to equal our record of social and political contributions to this nation.
To ensure our continued success we must reengineer our product to reflect present realities. We must also re-calibrate our political philosophy to reflect the time. While it is true that Keith Rowley has identified himself as the voice of integrity in this new era a movement cannot sustain itself on the foundation of integrity alone. It might be a necessary place to begin; it cannot be the sufficient condition of our new thrust into the future.
In an age of globalization and knowledge-based societies we must abandon a philosophy that centralizes power at the top and which, in the process, stifles the initiative and creativity of the majority of our party members. Such a tendency prevents the cream of our party from rising to the top; discourages independent thinking and devalues the work that our members do in their communities.
In this context, collective leadership must replace one-manism. Leaders must never be deified and one must never be afraid to challenge the leadership of the party. Seeking to please the leader must give way to free and frank discussion at all levels of the party. Party leaders must be promoted on the basis of talent rather than their capacity to flatter the leader.
As we contemplate the future of our party we must seek to raise the social and intellectual levels of our people rather than to cater to their animal needs. Rather than always trying to give them more (because we care about them) perhaps we ought to demand more of them and elevate the importance of their giving back to the society and themselves. We need to raise the social and cultural standards of our people and raise their aesthetic sensibilities. Rather than build the largest buildings and creating the largest industrial plants let us emphasize the building of libraries and outdoor parks and savannahs.
We thank Mr. Manning for the contribution he has made to our party and our society. We must also remind him that he committed the unpardonable political sin of throwing away the government for reasons he is yet to explain. Although he has accepted responsibilities for his political transgressions he must do more. He must resign immediately thereby allowing his party to initiate the process of rebuilding and laying the foundation for a greater PNM that is destine to continue to contribute the greater glory of Trinidad and Tobago.