By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
June 27, 2010
Recent political events in T&T and Australia have brought to the fore the stark reality that there has to be something magical and/or lucky in number 24—Queen.
On 24 January 2010, United National Congress (UNC) supporters voted Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar as the new political leader of the UNC.
On 24 January 2010, Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar created history by becoming the first female to lead a political party in T&T.
On 24 May 2010, Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar repeated history when she was elected the first female Prime Minister of T&T as leader of the victorious People’s Partnership party which won the general elections.
And on 24 June 2010, Ms. Julia Gillard became the first female Prime Minister of Australia. However, the lesson no. 24 similarities do not stop there.
By way of elucidation, on 24 January 2010, Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar overwhelmingly defeated Basdeo Panday to become leader of the UNC. UNC supporters clamoured for new leadership and a new direction for the party.
The party was seen doomed to opposition status in Parliament, ad infinitum. Indeed, some parliamentary-elected party members supported Basdeo Panday while others supported Kamla Persad-Bissessar. There was friction within the UNC, to say the least.
Since he lost the leadership battle for the UNC on 24 January 2010, Basdeo Panday has refused to participate in either UNC or People’s Partnership policy decisions. Panday literally turned his back on the UNC — the party he founded in 1990 and led up to 24 January 2010.
As leader of the People’s Partnership coalition party, Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar courted and embraced all the multi-faceted factions of the labour movement. They all wanted change in the current genre of governance in T&T and they got their from We the People on 24 May 2010.
In a similar vein, there was friction in the Australian Labour Party (ALP). Kevin Rudd had been Prime Minister since 2007 but in recent times, his leadership style had become a “liability” for the ruling ALP government. In addition, there was a “steep drop in (his) personal support” in the polls a la Prime Minister Patrick Manning of T&T.
Put another way, there was friction within the ALP as to leadership and direction in the wake of upcoming general elections.
Ergo, Ms. Julia Gillard, then Deputy Prime Minister, challenged Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for leadership of the party and by extension, the government.
However, her challenge to party leadership and governance was handled totally different vis-a-vis the same scenario within the ruling PNM party when Dr. Keith Rowley challenged Prime Minister Patrick Manning for leadership of the party.
In the case of the ALP, Ms. Julia Gillard got other “factional” elected ministers of government to vote Prime Minister Kevin Rudd out as leader of the ALP and automatically out as Prime Minister.
The elected ministers within the ALP feared that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s unpopularity would drive them out of office. These mature and astute politicians disagreed with some of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s policy decisions and they both voiced and showed their opposition. The Prime Minister had to go.
In this ALP process, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd neither fired his Deputy, Ms. Julia Gillard, who had the gall to challenge him, nor relegated her to a non-descript back-bench seating position in Parliament. He saw the bigger picture—his popularity had slumped in the polls and the electorate just had enough of him and his leadership/governance of the country.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd exemplified political maturity to the max. There was no “bad blood” between him and his deputy and challenger, Ms. Julia Gillard.
However, the total opposite result or outcome was very apparent and real when Dr. Keith Rowley also had the gall to challenge Prime Minister Patrick Manning for leadership of the ruling PNM.
Indeed, the record is very, very, very clear that there was “bad blood” between these two and it only ballooned and escalated in subsequent years into public and even parliamentary accusations of “wajan behaviour” and “raging bull” tendencies levelled against Dr. Rowley by Prime Minister Patrick Manning. Unlike Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia, Patrick Manning, Prime Minister of T&T, exemplified serious political immaturity in regard to a similar challenge to his party leadership.
The fact of the matter is that as a result of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s political maturity in accepting the democratic decision of ALP members, the party is now poised to retain its ruling government status after the next general elections.
However, in the case of the ruling PNM, the results of the 24 May 2010 general elections (29 People’s Partnership versus 12 PNM) speak volumes as to the level of political immaturity in T&T.
Indeed, this writer is one thousand percent certain that just as there was vocal opposition within the ALP cabinet in regard to decisions made by the Prime Minister, there were some PNM cabinet members who disagreed with some of Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s decisions and public actions, including his overt and sole support for Calder Hart, then Chair of UDCOTT.
However, unlike the mature politicians in the ALP cabinet, the adult PNM cabinet members caved in to Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s mis-calculations, mis-judgements and outright dictatorship for altruistic reasons, among others.
In this specific regard, one former PNM cabinet member had the ridiculous, pathetic audacity to state in public that he went along with Prime Minister Patrick Manning because he was “a team player”—what utter rubbish and “chupidness”. And that’s exactly and precisely the raison d’etre these PNM members are now in opposition as team players. Give me a break, please!
The fact of the matter is that unlike the ousted political leader of the UNC, Basdeo Panday, the ousted Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, not only accepted “the will” of his ministerial party colleagues but also vowed to serve and assist the new government under Prime Minister Julia Gillard in any way he can— political maturity at its core. This is how politicians operate in the first world.
The leadership of the ALP then selected Julia Gillard as its new leader and on 24 June 2010, she was sworn in as Prime Minister of Australia. Like her counterpart in T&T, Julia Gillard created history by becoming the first female Prime Minister of Australia.
Julia Gillard’s elevation to Prime Minister of Australia has revealed the stark similar reality that the membership of the ALP was clamouring for new leadership and new direction a la UNC membership in T&T.
In addition, it must be pointed out that Prime Minister Julia Gillard also courted and embraced all the multi-faceted factions of the labour movement, including the powerful Australian Workers’ Union a la Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s People’s Partnership in T&T.
This writer must hasten to add that the labour movement/union marriage between T&T’s People’s Partnership and the ALP is totally different from the vicious, vindictive and venomous anti-labour posture of the previous PNM government under Prime Minister Patrick Manning.
Indeed, the ALP has had to re-tool and re-make itself in order to remain in government. It had to denounce ego-tripping and “arrogance of power” political modus operandi. It also had to re-focus on We the People politics and policies a la the People’s Partnership in T&T — “to serve the people, to serve the people and to serve the people.”
Hence, it need occasion no great surprise that as a result of the unexpected, humiliating but humbling electoral debacle on 24 May 2010, the PNM now has no other choice but to re-tool, re-make and re-invent itself if it is to have any hope of “going back to government.”
Apparently, gone are the days of personal, albeit dictatorial political leadership, in the PNM. Consequently, in the enforced spirit of We the People politics in T&T, the reality check has set in. Thus, one finds that the new leader of the PNM, Dr. Keith Rowley, has thereby been compelled to publicly declare that his leadership style is to delegate 99.9 percent of his authority.
Translation: Unlike Patrick Manning, Dr. Keith Rowley is neither ego-tripping, power hungry, nor a creeping dictator. Listen people!
As the new and supposedly improved PNM now seeks to face the We the People polls in the 26 July 2010 local government elections, Dr. Keith Rowley needs to keep very close to his political chest the sane, relevant, poignant but apocalyptic admonition of slain African-American Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he surmised as follows:
“Now the judgement of God (and We the People of T&T) is upon us and we (in the PNM) must either learn to live together as brothers (and sisters) or we are all going to perish together as fools (and losers in the next general elections).”
In the final analysis, for the next five years, the People’s Partnership government under T&T’s first female Prime Minister, Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, is “Boss.” And this lady will be proudly wearing and showcasing the political jersey with number 24 — Queen — on behalf of We the People.
Post-mortem: Whereas former Prime Minister Patrick Manning once incorrectly concluded that listening to the dire wishes of We the People was a sign of political leadership weakness; on the contrary, the election of Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar as the first female Prime Minister of T&T and Ms. Julia Gillard as the first female Prime Minister of Australia is the ultimate, overt sign that listening to the dire, basic human needs of We the People not only represents political leadership and transparency to the nth degree but also, and most importantly, popular people’s participatory democracy at its zenith.
“Power to the people” in T&T, at last. We’ve been waiting since 1956. Magnum Est People’s Partnership government. We have all risen!. “Forward Ever, Backward Never.”
Shem Hotep (“I go in Peace”).
Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.