The Politics of Personal Grievance

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
June 19, 2008
trinidadandtobagonews.com/blog

Dr. Keith RowleyKeith Rowley insists he wishes to clear his name so that his children would know he is an honorable man. The only problem with such a pursuit is this: what happens after he has cleared his name? While his desire is admirable such nobility matters little in politics. I know of no political movement in history that rallied around a party member’s desire to clear his name from infamy. Party members usually rally around causes that crescendo into movements that challenge the foundations of injustice.

Mr. Rowley contends that Mr. Manning acts in an authoritarian manner; undermines the authority of his Cabinet colleagues; and conducts himself in a way that is antithetical to the best interests of the party. He insists that he would have said nothing about what transpired in Cabinet since the PM has a right to hire and fire whom he chooses. He claims he went public because the PM made the matter public.

However, the politics of personal grievance cannot advance the cause of the party. And, if it is true that Mr. Manning is all that Mr. Rowley says he is one can only assume that Mr. Rowley and his colleagues fell down on the job and thus failed to serve their country with the circumspection that is required of them. They should have challenged him while they were in office.

Mr. Rowley contends that Mr. Manning behaved in a dictatorial manner when he chose not to screen Mr. Valley. Can any serious observer look at the systematic dismissal of Eddie Hart, Camile Robinson Regis, Fitzgerald Hines, et. al. and justify Mr. Rowley’s silence when these “undemocratic” actions were taking place? Did Mr. Valley raise his voice when his colleagues were being picked off one by one even as he served as a member of the screening committee? Ken Valley and Rowley sat in utter silence as Camille, Eddie, Hinds and others were denied re-nomination by the party and never raised their voices to demonstrate their disapproval.

One would have thought that a person who had the interest of the party at heart would have raised the alarm the first time one of their honorable colleagues was denied re-nomination. That never happened. One can conclude it is only because Mr. Rowley was fired unceremoniously that he found his voice which raises the question: if he could not speak as a Cabinet member why didn’t he speak as a party member?

If something is going wrong with the PNM—and there is a lot going wrong with the PNM—it behooves all of the affected members (I will call them the dissidents) to come together and offer an alternative to what’s taking place in the party; demonstrate why/how the PNM went wrong; and what must be done to fix it. The politics of personal grievance cannot fix what is wrong within the PNM.

Mr. Manning understands politics better than all of those who have taken their licks and continue to lick their wounds. Politics, in the final analysis, is about gaining power and using it to achieve one’s objectives. Mr. Manning might have achieved his objective but it could be argued that in so doing he undermined the collective responsibility of the cabinet that is at the heart of parliamentary democracy.

The role of the dissidents consists in mobilizing whatever power they can muster within the party and use it to achieve their aims. If their aim is to right the party so that it returns to its democratic moorings then that is what the politics of the day demands. If dissidents’ objective is to get rid of Mr. Manning then they have an obligation to organize themselves and go in search of the votes to unseat him. It is idealistic and perhaps un-political to argue that the party rules are stacked against them and thus it makes little sense to try to achieve their political ends.

If the rules are so structured that it supports the incumbent then serious politicians ought to look for ways to influence party members or mobilize a force within the party to change those rules so they become fairer to those who wish to challenge office holders in the party. No politician gives up power without a fight or because a party member’s name has been sullied. The rules were stacked against Cipriani, Butler and Williams. They found ways to overcome their opponents.

The dissidents must be willing to mobilize their power to achieve a majority voice within the party. Failing this, they should aim to achieve a minority voice that pushes their agenda forward. Without such a voice they will be ignored, sidelined, and become null and void.

While the politics of personal grievance has its virtues it is not the corrective the party requires at this time. It needs a structured alternative that would carry forward the best interest of the party. The politics of personal grievance can lead to a politics of derision that ultimately descends into a politics of irrelevance. Mr. Rowley must guard against such a pitfall.

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6 Responses to “The Politics of Personal Grievance”


  • Mobilizing dissidents is what Gordon Browne did in the British Labour Party. It worked because the pool is bigger- (Pool of politicians, not a swimming hole) Britain has been longer at it that TNT and , more importantly, there are jobs available for ex-politicians in larger democracies. Cross the ruling party, and Crapaud Eat Your Super: true regardless of which party is in power in TnT. In 1987 when the NAR decided to weed out PNM supporters, people lost jobs becuse neither side was sure where they were. That’s the sort of culture we are.

    I would give Rowley the benfit of the doubt because he had crossed swords withthe curren PM previously, and was seen as a complainer. He spoke out on Valley, maybe, because enough was enough. Now he pays.

    The list of people who left over the years, who crossed the party hierarchy would populate a small Caribbean island like Tobago or Grenada.Perhaps,after the false charges about the Tobago Hospital, he finalay had enough, and bsed on the solid majority the party now has in Parliament, decided to speak out.

    Better late? Enough is enough? As I said, Rowley is not my friend, my country is.

  • As I indicated before, this might just be the best thing to happen to Mr Rowley. Unfortunately he is no ANR, with the exception that they both came from the same region of the country. There are many secret demons that this little twin Republic must work out and that is one of them- finding a way to treat Tobagonions and its people with the respect that they deserve. To look at the mediocre level of development that this island has undergone at the hands of these two backward political parties is a travesty. Let our leader continue to laugh, dance, kicks in Parliament over computers and protocol and continually nitpick about inconsequential issues that has no bearings on real development. Let them both continue to feign outrage over the crime situation as they connive to pull the perpetual wools over the eyes of the populace. They should take note however that consciousness is seeping through and real leaders will emerge to ensure that the ‘rejected stone becomes the cornerstone.’ There is only so much that a people can endure.
    By the way, this was a wonderful article Dr. Cudjo. Mr. Rowley should try to enjoy his little moment of infamy as long as he can , and while he is at it try to find a real job soon as his future in politics is limited . Both he and PNM stalwarts/fat cat Ken Valley are finding out what the ‘fat ass brigade’, Hugh Francis, John D, Overand Padmore found out years ago. Pick your fights well, cause “when I speak no …..”
    That pleasant reference to England is not even worth much of a response except to say, that Tony Blair and his successor are the reason that the Iron Lady is looked at so admiringly by historians as she would never allow her country to become a footstool for a failed American Presidency. If only Ms Edwards can indicate anything significant Blair and this buffoon successor has done in all the years of power I would give some credence to what she is trying to say. England is now being considered the 51st state of America, but I guess that’s progress. Why any country or people with serious thoughts of progress still looks at that country as a noble example is beyond me, especially after the carnage and heartaches they have bestowed upon the entire world. Divide and rule has come full circle , just look at the ‘mimic men’ throughout the colonies.

  • To the extent that we stick with the Parliamentary Democracy form of government, the reference to Blair et al, I think, is relevant. We poke our heads out, occasionally, and pretend to be going our own way, but like children not ready to make it on their own, we duck back under mother’skirts frequently.

    Try explaining to others outside of TnT, that our Prime Minister and later president was the brains behind the ICC, and one of the first judges appointed was a Trinbagonian jurist, then explain why, the minute some judgement does not go our way, we appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, thus constantly undermining our own judicial system. Trust in the system, judicial included, is further undermined by the politics of spite and “no wuk for dem”.

    And as for the Iron Lady, her treatment of all of Britain’s poor, shows the same colonial attitudes that her son Mark Thatcher did in trying to start a coup in Central Africa.

    Truth is, we have missed many opportunities to be “Our own man” and woman- of course. Perhaps independence is really not possible in small states. You have to become a protege of someone. Its a mafioso turf and Don system. In such a case, the British example is better in every way except race relations. We are way better off than the Phillipines, Guam and Samoa.

  • To Neal Noray
    The last budget provided a huge sum for Tobago. The dollar figure works out to $175,000 for every man, woman and child in Tobago. The question to ask is what is happening to all this money, and mind you, Tobago also continues to receive funding in a variety of ways in addition to the annual budget allocation. Ask your Tobago House of Assembly to account for the money!

  • As long as justice in T&T is based on political affiliation and social connections, we need the Privy council. Judges are not impartial and as we learned from the CJ case, attorney generals are also political lackeys. We are obviously not mature enough to do without the Privy council.Incidentally, it was Rowley himself who refuted the appointment of Jeremie to his ambassadorial appointment on the grounds that he was “not clean” in the political prosecution of CJ Sharma.

  • So, T-man, if we are not mature enough to handle our own business after forty-six years, exatly when do you think we will be grown up enough to handle our own affairs?

    If your grown child, who claims that he is grown.and wants to do his own thing; keeps coming back
    home after every small problem, and you keep letting him come, refreeeing his squables and running interferene for him, what are the chances that he will be holding his own any time soon?

    Granted that we have some unique issues, peculiar to TnT, I do not buy this argument of an independent country, that gives up its independence when there is a dispute, paarticularly one that can be dilanated along racial lines.

    But, back to the Rowley issue:A manager who never lets his subordinate do anything without double checking with him first, and who stomps on the head of anyone who looks like he might have some leadership qualities of his own is a leader who will et his country plunge into chaos, if the MAker calls him home suddenly.

    Forty-six yers of Independence could collapse because of the absence of a leadership and succession plan, and the tendency to eliminate anyone who is not accutely afflicted with kowtowitis.Are these the traits of strong leadership? Believing that you could do it all yourself, or you have to do it all yourself, could be paranoia, in some cases. I am sure it is not in this case.

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