An unforgiving electorate

By Raffique Shah
August 08, 2022

Raffique ShahContinuing where I ended last Sunday, by the turn of the millennium and the century, the Opposition United National Congress had positioned itself to capitalise on the vulnerabilities of the People’s National Movement, which had been weakened by the mass movement of 1970 (Black Power) that was driven largely by the children and grandchildren of the PNM.

The once-dominant party had also lost its leader, Dr Eric Williams, who died in office in March at age 69. His death, in a crucial general election year, could have provided the party with a fillip to its flagging fortunes, if it was exploited astutely, or serve as the death knell if the new managers failed the test of survival without Dr Williams.

What happened was a near-miracle: it was almost as if Dr Williams died to give new life to the party. The men pulling the strings from behind the curtain—Ellis Clarke, Francis Prevatt, John O’Halloran, and a small clique, defied the populist view that either Kamal Mohammed or Errol Mahabir, both deputy leaders, should be named the new ­leader.

There was also the view, from influential members of the clique, that the party and country weren’t ready for an Indian prime minister.

The third deputy, George Chambers, was seen as clean, though his leadership qualities were questionable. He was up to the challenge, though, even as Karl Hudson-Phillips’ resignation from the PNM and formation of his new party, the ONR, which attracted several frontline PNM activists, seemed set for the kill when the general election was called before the end of the year.

Chanting “not ah damn seat for them” Chambers lead a re-energised PNM to a resounding victory over the ONR and Basdeo Panday’s ULF. The latter two could not find common ground to fight the PNM, each seeing himself as the new prime minister. Chambers led as best he could, but with oil prices dipping and the economy going into recession, his days, and the PNM’s were numbered. Chambers did nothing to stem the “freeness” make-work programmes, corruption and other ills that contradicted his post-Williams war cry, “fete done, back to wuk”.

In fact, the fete continued even when the Treasury was running on empty. Like those who came after him, he did not have the fortitude to call halt to the corruption and wastage that was dragging the country into the IMF pit.

I should note, too, that very critical to the demise of the PNM was the emergence of a “third force”, a liberal-right amalgam that rallied around a leader who promoted such ideology, Karl Hudson-Phillips and the ONR in 1981-1986, and Winston Dookeran’s COP in 2007.

The ULF/UNC never won a general election on its own. However, it was always the domi­nant party in all such combined assaults on the PNM. It was also notorious for “mashing up” such alliances of convenience—a move that has favoured the survival of the PNM, which re-emerged from a 33-3 thrashing by the four-party coalition, the NAR.

The coalitions that temporarily benefited from the PNM’s cyclical demise blew their Lotto-like winnings like many of their real-life counterparts—partying, wasting the nation’s reve­nues and, worst of all, engaging in banditry, depleting the Treasury as if it was either that or leaving the loot for other political bandits to ­benefit.

Thus far in our post-Independence political history, far fewer alleged political bandits aligned with the PNM have been charged by independent bodies, such as the DPP and the police, with fraud and outright corruption.

In fact, as we gear up for the 2025 general election, there are huge question marks over key personnel in the UNC, and leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar having led the party into more ­losses than wins refuses to even consider the word “resign” as escape mechanism that might work for the party.

Beyond that, new players have inserted themselves on the national political landscape. Prime among them is Watson Duke, who seized the Tobago House of Assembly from the PNM with consummate ease. He is now inserting himself into the politics of Trini­dad which he hopes to win and become king of Trinidad and Tobago.

That is easier said than done. But don’t tell Duke that. He is convinced that he is the new “miracle man” and his presence in the gene­ral election in Trinidad is vital to the defeat of the PNM which, admittedly, is standing on soft ground. The coming elections will be the toughest Dr Rowley will face since he became leader of the PNM.

The nation’s economy is in dire straits and he must take drastic measures to keep the ship of State afloat. That he has steered us through the stormy weather of a global pandemic that has negatively impacted almost every country in the world, and has brought us to relative safety, counts for nothing when the purchasing power of people’s pay packets declines by 30 to 40 per cent.

This country’s electorate is unforgiving.

3 thoughts on “An unforgiving electorate”

  1. The PNM will win 2025 because the culture of suffering Trinis have gotten use to will not change. It does not matter who leads the Opposition or what are their plans.

    The supporters of the PNM emerged from slavery and expect to suffer. Everyday people are getting robbed and not bothering to even report it. The psychological grip that the PNM have over their supporters will only get stronger at around election time. They use race, religion and pure hatred against the Opposition. They time the election just before Emancipation Day for maximum tribal effect. It has always worked like a charm.

    The winning formular is simple, control the EBC, stack houses in marginals and beat up on the Opposition. Eric set the stage for PNM victories by fixing the boundaries so much so that he once boasted that if I put a crapaud there with a balisier tie they will vote for it. Give your supporters $10,000 grants, they will vote for you. Buy up all add spots for the election, don’t let the Opposition have any.

    As for TnT the 1% will continue to laugh all the way to the bank.

  2. “Beyond that, new players have inserted themselves on the national political landscape. Prime among them is Watson Duke, who seized the Tobago House of Assembly from the PNM with consummate ease. He is now inserting himself into the politics of Trini­dad which he hopes to win and become king of Trinidad and Tobago.”

    Tobagonians are tired of the PNM. The PNM had a psychological grip over the them. However several things have happened since. Hotels were sitting empty meanwhile Jamaica saw over 500,000 more visitors recently, covid or no covid. In 2018 I stayed in Tobago, the sea and hotel spaces were filled with Calcutta Ship people and their families. I saw maybe 3 white families. The empty hotels and lack of business has seen them suffer immensely, along with the boat problems and lack of leadership in the island.

    Watson belongs to a new generation of leaders. Whilst LeCoto will prove to be a challenge. The possibility of a new emporer emerging in Tobago is real. That must have the PNM locked in endless talk as to what they can do to stop Watson. Can they arrest him and say he had some drugs in his car (the PNM will stop at nothing). Or worst can they get a trumped up rape charge on him. With the 1% being the brain and money in the party they can conjure up any demon to work for them. Watson has to be extra careful along with his team. They all have be “white as snow”.

    Since the trashing the PNM got in the THA elections things are looking brighter for Tobago. Tourism is set to increase, the general welfare of the average man boosted. So one can expect the General Election to emerge as one of the worst trashing the PNM will experience in Tobago.

  3. “The nation’s economy is in dire straits and he must take drastic measures to keep the ship of State afloat….”
    I was surprised at the choice of Minister of Finance, the short man from Diego. He is perhaps the worst Minister of Finance in the history of TnT. Why? He has racked up more debt than any other minister of finance. He is borrowing from China billions of dollars, every time the nation in financial difficulties. The debt in 2021 reached 66.12% of Trinidad and Tobago GDP, a 6.85 percentage point rise from 2020, when it was 59.27% of GDP.
    The debt continues to rise at a staggering rate.

    The economy has been poorly handled from the get go by the Rowley administration. They had a boat from Trinidad to Tobago at a reasonable cost,(super fast Galicia) in true Blackman saga boy style the P.M. “sank the boat”. Got a another boat in with a lot of question marks surrounding the deal. Eventually a far more expensive boat came in to do the run. Meanwhile Tobago economy suffered badly.

    The Point Fortin Highway should have been complete in June 2021. “ However, on Friday, following an arbitration ruling that State-owned National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) must pay over $800 million for wrongful termination of the highway construction contract signed with Brazilian firm Construtora OAS, the Government seized on the Ventour commission as an alternative avenue for challenging amendments to the contract.”June 5th Express.

    I could go on but everything this Rowley administration touches it blights….

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