Keeping PNM’s Commandments

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 17, 2008

PNMA week ago Louis Lee Sing broke two of the most sacred of PNM’s commandments: thou shall not speak evil of the political leader in public; and thou shall not speak evil of the party in public. It’s alright to speak your truth about the political leader and the party behind closed doors; it’s quite another matter to air negative views in public.

Flabbergasted by the increase in crime and presumably without a legitimate party outlet to have his views heard, Lee Sing uttered the forbidden and placed our failing crime policy at the feet of the Prime Minister. In response to Lee Sing, the political leader declared that party members should keep their grievances within the party where all disagreements are amicably resolved.

As it is structured, PNM does not allow for a sufficient debate and discussion about such critical issues. The problem is crime. Martin Joseph is the Minister of Crime. One solution to this problem is an open party debate on the issue but that is not on the agenda. As the General Secretary of the party, Martin Joseph has an obligation to attend to any issue that any member of the party raises and insure that it is brought to the attention of the party via its General Council.

However, there is a paradox. As the General Secretary of the Party, representing the interest of the party, as distinct from the government, he is called upon to speak of his malfeasance as the Minister of Crime as he presents the views of party members who believe his policy (or his government’s policy) on crime is not working.

Martin Joseph’s conflicting roles stymie free discussion on this and other issues. Whether Lee Sing is right or wrong is immaterial. The important question is this: how does the party ensure that the views of Lee Sing and others are being heard and how does one initiate a full-scale discussion of these and other ideas?

Criticizing PNM and its leader may be considered taboo but it is a necessary condition particularly when all political intelligence is congealed around the leader and space for legitimate dissent seems to be narrowing. Party members must feel they play a part in the formation of policy; in the structuring and recalibrating of the party’s objectives; and in having the ability to initiate an on-going dialogue within the party.

Every member of the party can express his views through his constituency representative on the General Council. This presumes an on-going discourse among party groups and their members, their representative to the Central Executive Council and the General Secretary. Yet, this seamless thread does not speak to the desire of activists within the party who wish to speak urgently to the party leadership and other instruments of power within the party.

In any political arrangement, there are those who exercise power and those who are the objects of power which is why advanced constitutions, governmental or party, always insert a provision about the separation of powers. The enforcer of power in the party (the party/the political leader) and the upholder of justice for the ordinary party member (the general secretary) should not be enmeshed in a symbiotic relationship.

Lee Sing, a devoted PNM member, joined the party in 1968. Subsequently, he became a member of the PNM Youth League and education officer of the League. In 1970 he was suspended because of “subversive activities” in the San Juan-Malick area (that is, questioning authority and advancing community projects). Later, he was reinstated into the party by a motion by Dr. Eric Williams. Lee Sing has always been a voice of integrity and courage within the party.

PNM has every right to protect itself from statements and actions that appear to challenge its direction or policies even as it has an obligation to protect each member’s right to express his views. It also has an obligation to insure that its policies are informed by the interests and sentiments of its party members whose views seldom rise to the top of the party. Moreover, the party has an obligation to give a clear, ambiguous sign that the views of the ordinary party member is represented and respected at every level of the party.

There should always be a healthy adversarial relation between the party, represented by the General Secretary, and the Legislative arm of the Party (that is the government branch of the party). Such a relationship is necessary since the legislative arm of the party speaks for the country whereas the party, through its general secretary, always speaks to the interests of its members. Those two tendencies must be balanced if the party member is to continue to have faith in his party and the party must rely on the trust and confidence of its membership.

A party cannot ask its members to keep its commandments if it shows little fidelity to its overall objectives. The Golden Rule applies even at the level of politics: do unto party members as it expects the party members to do unto the party.

5 Responses to “Keeping PNM’s Commandments”


  • Oh Boy…what’s next for T’dad and T’go? I didnt know is all that drama going on. My take on it is the government can start enforcing laws. This land is truly lawless and we sweep over the small matters of the law and leave room for the bigger ones to gives us pressure in the long run. Crime starts small…..when it goes unchecked – it blossoms into terrorism. Also the gov’t cannot solve social issues…you cant stop people from hating each other or from lovin money. People will find and make ways and means to express their desires in one way or the other – whether seen or unseen. Crime is the just the symptom of the main problem – the sinfulness of man. In one way or the other we’ve all been lawbreakers at on epoint or another. Just as much as the law isnt made ot be broken or bent but lawbreakers dserve just rewards for their crimes..when we do evil – he will be tried also in the courts of heaven. In those courst no amount of good works or ‘good intentions’ will save anyone. The wages of sin: breaking God’s law results in death – not just physical death but separation from him and facing his wrath in hell. This is not God’s desire for man but his desire is that all men repent and believe in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins and also bear the fruit of repentance. All these things we see today are signs of the times (Matthew 24-25)Just as it was in the days of Noah so shall it be before Jesus comes. Let us open our eyes..God has appointed a day where he will judge the world in righteousness.

  • I am kind of liberal on the rights of those elected by the people to elucidate their positions or concerns about matters pertaining to the welfare of the people in public, without regard to political or party administrative rules. I realize that as an organization a political party is governed by arrangements of discipline and adherence to internals tenacles. At the same time I view the publics right to info and ideas on crucial issues as preemtory of any such rules and arrangements.

    I have great respect for Patrick Manning. I believe that he possess the personal tools to bring Trinidad and Tobago where it ought to be. At the same time my allegiance to the interests of the rank and file of our nation is far stronger than any allegiance I have or feel for a politician or a political party. If public airing of their genuine concerns about crime by party members is what it will take to bring amelioration to the situation, then so be it. I say to hell with political diplomacy and sensitivites when it comes to the general interest and welfare of the people.

  • The PNM has always functioned as a cohesive unit with the Prime Minister considered to generally be the most powerful individual in both his party and the government. With party discipline,from registered members as well as from his elected and appointed representatives ,the Prime Minister is able to ensure that his views and policies become government policies.It is thus difficult to challenge the Prime Minister’s views.Those who do, pay a price ,as we witnessed when the PM dumped several members of his former cabinet

  • Dr.Cudjoe:
    I shall not venture to challenge you when it comes to things with regard to ” intellectual stuff” where you great education and training and experience allows you to ” slice and dice” ideas and rules and statements etc into little pieces making it easy for some of us less educated in your art to comprehend but when it comes to “CRIME AND CRIMINALS IN TNT” I do believe we are on even ground actually we are not on even ground at all because I know things which you do not know and can not ever know about crime and criminals.
    I am saying it loud and I am saying it clear that RACIALISM
    IN TNT IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF CRIME.
    SOME SAY POVERTY AND DRUG DEALING AND DRUG USE I SAY IF THEY ARE RIGHT THEN RACIALISM STILL IS THE CAUSE OF CRIME BECAUSE IT IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF POVERTY AND ECONOMIC DISENFRANCHISEMENT IN TNT

    Mr.Louis Lee Sing and his problems and Mr. Martin Joseph and his problems begin by their never understanding the root cause of crime and then they cannot explore the possibility that RACIALISM IS THE CAUSE OF CRIME IN TNT because they have a directly well vested interest in not doing so since each of the Members of Parliament which gave the PNM the majority and each of the members of parliament which gave the UNCA their minority role in Government in TNT was elected by manifestly racial voting.

    So it does not behooves any of them to even broach the subject hence I say this: THE CRIME PROBLEM IN TNT IS RACIALISM STUPID!
    KNOCK,KNOCK,WHO IS THERE ? RACIALISM STUPID!

    May I quickly not that “RACIALISM STUPID” IS A FIGURE OF SPEECH AND NOT IN ANYWAY AM I EVER REFERRING TO DR,Cudjoe as Stupid because he is not stupid in my humble opinion.

    As for Mr.Daniels…..it is no surprise that you shall be liberal on the stifling of free speech within the PNM because you are either a PNM hack or angling for a Position within the PNM Government!
    As the fearless TNT Republican I say to the Emperor please,let MR.Loius Lee Sing “sing ” about the woes of TNT because they are real and real TNT Citizens and Legal residents are dying in TNT if not every day but surely every week as causalities of “WAR” on us by vicious criminals.

  • As for Mr.Daniels…..it is no surprise that you shall be liberal on the stifling of free speech within the PNM because you are either a PNM hack or angling for a Position within the PNM Government!
    As the fearless TNT Republican I say to the Emperor please,let MR.Loius Lee Sing “sing ” about the woes of TNT because they are real and real TNT Citizens and Legal residents are dying in TNT if not every day but surely every week as causalities of “WAR” on us by vicious criminals.

    The only thing more pathetic than your insufferable and disjointed ignorant rambling is your inability to understand the language you attempt to communicate in. Transposing a statement that says quote, “I am kind of liberal on the rights of those elected by the people to elucidate their positions or concerns about matters pertaining to the welfare of the people in public”,into an understand that quote, “As for Mr.Daniels…..it is no surprise that you shall be liberal on the stifling of free speech within the PNM because you are either a PNM hack or angling for a Position within the PNM Government! is clearly indicative of the mush that circles around in your head.

    You are right to call yourself fearless after all. Because it requires a great deal of fearlessness and shamelessness to parade such level of ignorance in a public place. It is not racism that will destroy Trinidad and Tobago. It is the kinds of ignorance exhibited by you. A suffocating ignorance more reminiscent of the stone age than the technological age we are in currently. Boy! What a nut.

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