Demonizing Patrick Manning

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
July 18, 2008

Patrick ManningT&T’s Press is so intent on demonizing Patrick Manning that sometimes it seems incapable of carrying a balanced story about any event that concerns him. Anyone who did not attend PNM’s 42nd Convention could not have hoped to get a balanced account of what transpired there last weekend if they only read accounts of same in the press. But as one poet suggested, none is so blind as he who would not to see.

In the first place, notions of blind loyalty in the party were smashed by the election of Donna Cox as Lady Vice Chairman; Pennelope Beckles as Youth Officer Female; and Dane Wilson as Youth Office Male. None of these candidates was on the Prime Minister’s slate and each won.

Secondly, the retention of the Deputy Political Leaders with the exception of Ken Valley suggests that Mr. Manning realized that he had moved too swiftly and the party did not support him fully on the summary dismissal of former elected members who possessed much experience and expertise. That he listened to his advisers or read the tea leaves suggests that he is not as oblivious of what is happening on the ground as many would have us believe.

Mr. Manning’s address alerted us to four significant challenges that face the party and, by extension, the nation: a recognition that Caribbean integration remains central to the party’s mission; that the region’s security is of central importance; that constitutional changes are necessary to carry forward the decolonization process; and restructuring local government is central to that effort.

Mr. Manning is correct when he says that these Caribbean islands must be integrated economically if we are to move forward. Where possible, we should also seek various forms of political integration. In his address to the recent Caricom meeting Professor Norman Girvan noted: “Forces of globalization, the fact that our small size, the fact of our military weakness, all of these things make it virtually impossible for our small island states to have real sovereignty.”

He recognized that to achieve economic integration, as is obtained in the European Union, each of these islands must give up bits of their sovereignty. That Mr. Manning contemplates such a move–in fact, is ready to spearhead such a move–suggests that he is not as power hungry as so many in the press will have us believe.

Mr. Manning argued that our recent involvement in the security of the Cricket World Cup prepared us to deal better with regional and, by extension, local security. He erred in not demonstrating how such co-operation impacts on crime in our society.

Mr. Manning believes that the country has to re-organize its constitutional arrangements to move forward. I believe the present arrangements have served us well. We simply have to deepen our democracy and demand that each branch of government carries out its responsibilities in more conscientious ways to achieve developed nation status, a central plank of PNM’s vision.

Our “so-called” constitutional problems do not lay so much with the election of the President or the various roles of the President, Prime Minister, or the Chief Justice. They lay in the inability of each branch of government to carry out its function conscientiously. A small society such as ours must find ways to balance the power of its various players and institutions, each seeking to move beyond the narrow confines of his or her political interest.

We cannot simply throw away fifty years of constitutional experience. When crises of any magnitude arise most of us are willing to respect the judgment of the President as was the case when Sir Ellis Clarke selected George Chambers to become president of the union and President Robinson, in his own deliberative manner, talked about the need to uphold spiritual and moral values.

In his address, President Robinson observed that there are areas in which the constitution will always be silent. In those instances, it redounds to the wisdom of the President or the officers who face these challenges to let commonsense and wisdom guide them. We cannot write everything into a constitution. It is a failure of national self-confidence to presume that those who are called upon to interpret constitutional matters will always act in partisan ways.

As we make much ado about Mr. Manning’s foray into constitutional issues it is wise to heed Sir Ellis’s warning that it is “premature” to worry about a proposed constitution that is “Nobody’s baby.” “Any proposal for constitutional reform would involve public consultation.”

In terms of local government reform Mr. Manning’s instincts are in the right place except that people in their villages and towns must determine their destinies. It is a non-starter to insist that the power of decision making stay with the central government and communities implement decisions taken by that body. Local government bodies must be initiators rather than be implementers of other people’s action. Therein lay the path to developed country status.

Many notable things happened at PNM’s convention. It matters how we deconstruct the obvious and interpret the silences in Mr. Manning’s message to party faithful and, by extension, the nation.

5 Responses to “Demonizing Patrick Manning”


  • Wow! Demonizing Patrick Manning? This sounds to me like a gross exaggeration. This could be an attempt to portray Manning as a grassroots revolutionary or someone who is coming under attack like Mugabe. Surely, the local press is not generally balanced in their reporting but there is no need for this exaggeration (to put it mildly).

    The fact that members of PNM voted against some of the choices of the Prime Minister could be as a result of some members taking sides with Rowley and wanting to show the Prime Minister that they are upset with some of his decisions. This does not prove that the party faithful are not blind supporters of the party. PNM supporters, generally speaking, do not support the wider societal calls for transparency and accountability. Of course, there are times when even sycophantic supporters of any political party would show disagreement with their leader.

    The fact that Manning constantly makes decisions that many disagree with, even within his own political party, is proof that he is out of touch even with his supporters. Of course, he is right to then attempt to modify his positions in the face of widespread discontent (nothing wrong there). Being compelled to modify his positions does not mean that he is mindful of people on the ground. It simply means he is being politically expedient.

    Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe said:

    “Mr. Manning is correct when he says that these Caribbean islands must be integrated economically if we are to move forward. Where possible, we should also seek various forms of political integration. In his address to the recent Caricom meeting Professor Norman Girvan noted: “Forces of globalization, the fact that our small size, the fact of our military weakness, all of these things make it virtually impossible for our small island states to have real sovereignty.”

    He recognized that to achieve economic integration, as is obtained in the European Union, each of these islands must give up bits of their sovereignty. That Mr. Manning contemplates such a move–in fact, is ready to spearhead such a move–suggests that he is not as power hungry as so many in the press will have us believe.’

    Patrick Manning being ready to spearhead a move to give up bits of OUR sovereignty to achieve economic integration does not prove that he is not power hungry. One can easily say that if the Caribbean is economically integrated, the head of a Caribbean Union would most likely be the Trinidad and Tobago leader, or at least Trinidad and Tobago would be very influential in such a union and this means that Manning could be trading some of our sovereignty for more power and not less.

    Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe said:

    As we make much ado about Mr. Manning’s foray into constitutional issues it is wise to heed Sir Ellis’s warning that it is “premature” to worry about a proposed constitution that is “Nobody’s baby.” “Any proposal for constitutional reform would involve public consultation.”

    People are quite right to point out the obvious flaws in Manning’s vague proposal for constitutional reform notwithstanding his claim that the plan is not his own. He failed to give the architects of the vague plan and after throwing out bits of it he cannot now expect us to believe he is not considering what he put out — much of which sounds like Manning wanting more power.

    While several commentators show the flaws in what Manning presented, I do not see any attempt to demonize Patrick Manning at all. I think the “demonizing” headline was a ploy to put critics of Manning’s constitution reform plan and those who call on him to operate with transparency on the defensive. The demonizing claim could also be about trying to show Manning that he (Cudjoe) is still loyal to him although he (Cudjoe) may not agree with him. Anyhow you take it the claim of demonization was disingenuous to say the least.

  • Cudjoe himself has written several articles recently either openly or implicitly critizing Manning and his decisions.Is this his attempt to placate the Prime Minister and reconfirm his solidarity with the PNM?

  • Kerry Mulchansingh

    I don’t think anyone is demonizing Mr. Manning or his Government, Prof. this letter in today’s Gaurdian says it all:

    “Open letter to Prime Minister Patrick Manning:

    I cannot say if the current Opposition is the worst ever but that does not matter. It does not and cannot affect my life in any way. It does not control the Treasury so it cannot waste our money. And the total salary its parliamentarians get cannot buy one wheel of the executive jet you intend to waste our money on.

    What I do know is that your Government’s actions (and inaction) affect me every day. And your current Government is by far the worst this country has ever seen, worse even than your last one, and that was scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    Want proof? I offer two pieces of evidence. The murder toll last year was the highest in our history. And with only half the year gone, the toll is twice what it was for the same period last year and more than any other single year in our history.

    For the first time in our history, the British Government is considering requiring visas for Trinis to enter Britain due to the terrible state into which your Government has dragged the country. This only days after the launch of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference to be held in T&T next year. You still think hosting this conference gives you some status?

    Manning, you missed your calling. You should have been a magician. For only you could have your minions believing that the worst ever Opposition was the reason for the country’s problems, even as the worst ever government continues to trample them in the dust. ”

    I agree with the writer. If Prof Cudjoe thinks that it’s demonizing to demand the efficient provision of the basic services to the citizens of T&T, then that’s his perogative. However, an objective voice he’s not.

  • Forgive me folks but from my limited knowledge of the topic, I don’t think it is reasonable to equate CSME with the European Union since the supranational structure of the EU is rooted in community law which governs the community. By contrast, the Treaty of Chaguaramas applies international law. A supranational governing body operating arbitrarily would not in the best interest of the region.

  • What did the PM mean?

    By Dana Seetahal
    Sunday 20th July, 2008

    http://www.guardian.co.tt/dana.html

    I read with interest a statement attributed to the Prime Minister at his party’s annual convention last weekend, which has not been refuted.

    In Monday’s Guardian under the headline, Manning reveals proposals for constitution reform, there is reference to the Barbados fishermen’s case two years ago and a quote from the PM to this effect: “It held great potential for discord. Wisdom and prudence avoided that. But it raised in our minds to put arrangements in place to handle the question of the role and function of the DPP.”

    This was said in the context of revealing proposals for constitution reform, which the PM was at pains to assure were not his or his government’s but were formulated by a round table of academics and politicians.

    If it is true the proposals were not the PNM’s or even the Government’s, why were they revealed at the PNM annual convention?

    Who were they?

    If the PM wanted them to be taken seriously surely he ought to realise that this fact alone would taint the proposals with partisanship? In any case who were the “politicians” alluded to? If they were only from the ruling party then the PM would be naive to suggest that it is not a document of the Government.

    All of that apart though, the more interesting question is what did the PM mean when he said “wisdom and prudence” operated in relation to the issue of the failure to proceed with the prosecution of the Barbadian fishermen?

    For those who came in late, let me remind you of what happened then. It was the time a few years ago when there was an issue as to rights over the fishing waters off Tobago. Two Barbadian fishermen were arrested and charged for criminal offences connected to illegal fishing. Before the matter could get off the ground the police prosecutors in the Tobago Magistrates’ Court offered no evidence and the charges were dismissed.

    Now it is supposedly well known that in T&T under section 90 of the Constitution the DPP has exclusive power to “discontinue” any criminal proceedings. This means, therefore, that a prosecutor cannot take upon himself the personal authority to effectively stop any criminal proceedings by offering “no evidence.”

    In the case of the Barbados fishermen it was made clear by the officeholder, the DPP, that he had given no instructions to offer no evidence.

    One of the police prosecutors was reported as saying he could not “remember” from whom the instructions came—a classic case of police speak in court: “I can’t recall.”

    The matter was raised in Parliament. The Opposition called it a scandal, political interference with the independent office of the DPP. The latter asked the Commissioner of Police, then Mr Trevor Paul, to explain what had occurred.

    An enquiry was launched into what happened. The Minister of Foreign Affairs denied he gave any instructions. There was public debate on the issue. In the end, nothing came of it. The matter was effectively stonewalled. No one ever admitted to giving instructions. The police did not say—at least publicly.

    Now the PM has deemed this conduct to be of “wisdom and prudence,” which raised “in our minds” the need to put other arrangements in place to handle the role and function of the DPP. Implicit in the revealing statement is an admission that a member of government was behind the discontinuance of the prosecutions; that the PM and/or the Government sanctioned the action; that the PM believed this was a wise course of action.

    Frankly, I am amazed to hear a PM condone a deliberate breach of the Constitution. Whatever he feels as to the prudence of any of action it ought to fall within the Constitution.

    Mere proposals

    The current proposals for limited supervision of the office of the DPP by the Attorney General in respect of offences such as terrorism, official secrets and the like remain just that—proposals that will need a three-fourths majority of the House of Representatives if it is to become law, according to section 54 (3) of the Constitution.

    The Government does not have that majority and five Opposition members will never vote with the Government to amend that provision.

    In my view the PM has implicated the Government by his clear words in the Tobago fishermen’s affair. He has virtually admitted to interference with the prosecutions through the police prosecutors.

    How can he now expect support for his proposals for constitution reform which, inter alia, include restricting the independence of the Office of the DPP?

    The PM cannot be serious.

    http://www.guardian.co.tt/dana.html

    Worrying signals from PM

    by Clevon Raphael

    So when he spoke about not wanting to be an executive president, as could be seen in a working paper for a new constitution, I swallowed hard.

    There must be a sting in the tail I thought as I saw him delivering his address. He doesn’t want to be executive president? OK, I said, and continued listening and reading his body language on the telly. Then it came.

    The working paper, he added, had some radical suggestions such as the Government having control over certain aspects of the judiciary, the Director of Public Prosecutions and, stroke of all strokes, permanent secretaries to be recruited from outside the Public Service.

    In other words, another avenue for bringing the party’s cronies and those loyal to the Prime Minister to control the Public Service.

    His excuse for postponing the local government elections was as poor, or even worse, than what the Government gave in the Parliament last week.

    These and other depressing signals from this regime that reek of whittling down our democratic institutions with consequential results down the road are cause for worry.

    http://www.guardian.co.tt/archives/2008-07-16/Clevon-Raphael.html

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