The more things change…

By Raffique Shah
April 22, 2012

Raffique ShahTHE imbroglio in the People’s Partnership Government prompted me to examine more closely how and why the People’s National Movement (PNM) has been central to the electoral politics of this country for more than 50 years. This may sound like flawed logic. But I noted that several of the principal players in the People’s Partnership impasse have said that whatever their differences or their failure to settle them, the parties that form the current government must stay together to prevent the PNM from regaining power.

In other words, their main motivation for not falling apart, not tearing into each other, is not what they can do for the country, but the lurking presence of the PNM waiting to pounce on any weakness in the Partnership armour.

I imagine uppermost in their minds must be the manner in which the PNM rebounded in 1991, turning around its 33-3 mauling in 1986 to a 21-15 victory. The PNM would repeat this phoenix-like performance in 2002 following two cardinal errors by Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday. The former had stupidly called early elections in 1995, which ended in a draw with the United National Congress (UNC), but which he lost when Arthur NR Robinson pledged his two National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR)-Tobago seats to Panday.

The latter (some say they are political-Siamese-twins… they even “died” together in 2010) squandered the goodwill he had won by 2000 (51 per cent of votes cast, 19 seats) by calling snap elections in 2001, which, ironically, also ended in a draw (18-18). Robinson, whom Panday had earlier elevated to President to remove him as an obstacle, would exact revenge by calling on Manning and the PNM to form a government. In the 2002 elections, called to break the deadlock, the PNM won 51 per cent of the votes cast and 20 seats.

Without delving further into further details on the emergence of the Congress of the People (COP) in the 2007 elections that gave the PNM a minority win (in terms of votes cast), which paved the way for the formation of the Partnership and the third defeat of the PNM in 2010, I need to note some salient points.

In the run-up to the 1995 elections that gave Panday his first taste of real power, he had wooed and won the public endorsement from Brian Kuei Tung, Steve Ferguson and Ishwar Galbaransingh. Kuei Tung had been the PNM Minister of Trade (as a senator) from 1992 to October 1995—the eve of elections. Although I cannot say for sure, perception was that Ferguson and Galbaransingh had been PNM big wigs until 1995. I was present (as a journalist) at a public meeting at Gasparillo in the heat of the campaign, when, amid a fanfare usually reserved for emperors, and a deafening roar of approval from the large UNC crowd, the trio made a grand entry onto the stage. Panday hailed their “conversion” from the PNM, trumpeting it as a kind of Saul-to-Paul miracle for the UNC.

As if that PNM-UNC symbiosis did not stink to high heavens, shortly thereafter Panday welcomed two elected PNM MPs—Vincent Lasse and Rupert Griffith—who chose to cross the floor, presumably on the promise of high office. Panday may well claim those defections were political masterstrokes.

Therein lies the conundrum that faces the electorate, which, in most instances, is the co-architect of its political woes. If the PNM is all things evil, how do you rationalise cussing frontline PNMites today, and embracing them like brothers tomorrow? I ask for the thousandth time, who is fooling whom?

Let me now fast-forward to the current impasse in the Partnership, and why I think the coalition is travelling the same road its failed predecessors did. I should say there are, without doubt, some very talented persons in the Partnership, some genuine patriots for whom country comes before self. In terms of policy differences between the PNM and the Partnership, there are precious few.

The Partnership’s Medium-Term Plan encompasses some visionary ideas; but then, so did the PNM’s Vision 2020. Implementation is, however, quite another horse.

The Partnership rode to power partly on the promise to address environmental concerns over plants like the PNM’s aluminium smelter, and on diversification of the economy away from oil and gas dependency.

So the smelter went, but Carisal stays. Mark you, the same environmentalists who mounted the Partnership platform in 2010 are not even saying, “Stop Carisal.” They are simply asking for the plant to be relocated to a non-residential area. The Government ignores them—much like the PNM did when there were protests against the smelter and other heavy industries.

The eTecK Tamana Park is scaled back by the Parnership, but we are told that Saudi Arabia’s SABIC is coming with a multi-billion-dollar downstream gas complex that would dwarf everything we have at Point Lisas. Where is the additional gas coming from? What about reckless quarrying that is taking a lasting toll on the nation’s landscape, its water-courses and aquifers? In its desperation to find more oil, the Government is considering mining tar sands, which is the dirtiest and most damaging process in oil recovery.

Other than a few “goodies” that the Partnership Government has doled out—enhanced pensions, improved social security—really, what is the difference between the Partnership and the PNM? Even the spectre of corruption that haunted the PNM during its many years in office now hangs ominously over the Partnership. Allegations of nepotism run wild. And while the Government’s frontline looks more balanced than the PNM’s from an ethnic standpoint, many would say that is deceptive.

So as they grapple with power-sharing issues that have the potential to torpedo the Partnership, the PNM casts a crooked shadow over a coalition that held out hope to so many a mere two years ago. The more things change…

15 Responses to “The more things change…”


  • Linda Edwards, class of 67

    Their motivation should surpriise no one. They said it over and over before the election. I had pointed out then that being “against MAnning” was ot a manifesto;but the people; some enraged, some envious, fell for a catchy tune and the cobbled together party of parties, the Pee-Pee Party was born. The people voted for that. The PNM had a programme, and the PP cannot say that they have done one innovative thing besides constant quarellings, when they are not insulting the populace right and left,. Even while some hold Pujas, others are plotting to rip off the coutry even further, in a constant feather-nesting. But alas, we voted for that, ent?

    The PNM had the guiding light of Eric Williams for many years, an a set of core principles by which they govern. Are there core principles that the PP have? What are they?
    It seems that creating a police state must be one of them. Cheryl Miller, Ian Alleyene, who next? Careful Raf, they may decide that your getting off in 1970 was inappropriate, and arrest for retrial, the way they play cat nd mouse with Abu Bakr

  • Linda Edwards, class of 67

    Years ago, a journalist friend of mine who had worked with both major dailies, when there were only two, called the USA a police state. He had what he saw as cogent reasons for that designation. On the matter of the detention of Ian Alleyne, and the “no bail” recommendation written on his documents, as the Express has alleged, I wonder why all the pundits who pontiicateon this forum, have maintaind a deadly silence
    Is it that the Police State is very much a force in TnT now, and they are all peeping, cowardly from behind their posts?( a modern paraphrase from Julius Carsar)Is it that they fear a knock on their door in the middle of the night?

    This appears to be breaking new ground.

    I think Alleyne was wrong to show the vidoe. There is not a serious thinker in the western hemisphere that would think he should hae, but the way the police is handling it, could give the reader the impression that he committed the rapes. that he is in the same category with the 87 year old who repeatedly molested his granddaughter, or was it great grand? and the taxidriver who molested four young boys, including a five year old.

    We are a comic nation, but this comedy is tragic.

  • There is nothing to pontificate about. So far everyone is following the law except Alleyne.
    It is premature to begin the usual Trini speculation without the full facts.
    “Speaking to reporters outside of the CID head office yesterday afternoon, Alleyne’s attorney Om Lalla said his client was resting well, and was prepared to have his day in the court. “These charges were laid via warrants and after they were read, I applied for bail on his behalf. But I soon learnt the warrants did not permit this. They indicate that he has to be brought before a magistrate as only a magistrate could set bail at this point. So he has to remain in police custody for now,” Lalla said”.

  • OPPOSITION Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday said his role of monitoring the actions of the Government could be impeded by a string of lawsuits heralded by pre-action protocol letters brought against him by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan.

    Rowley said that having to pay his own lawyers privately to defend himself means he faces bankruptcy by a lawsuit since the Office of the Opposition Leader lacks financial resources.

    Another example of Trinis shooting their mouths off. Simply stop making false statements and you will not have this problem, Mr. Rowley.

    • TMan, you just brought me out of circulation by making such a foolish statement about criticisms leveled at the government. It seems to me that while this government was in power any and every thing was OK to be said of the PNM, even exercising “ethnic cleansing” as a policy now they are the ones practicing “ethnic cleansing” among other evils and opponents are expected to be pious and non-observant. Who was the most offensive parliamentarian? Wade Mark of course! Yet, in practice as Speaker of the House one cannot say anything slightly offensive about the government, what double standard! It will do them well to act like grown ups, face their accusers and answer legitimately to matters that concern many, who may not necessarily support their agendas. Doing so might be more helpful to their cause than using lawsuits to cower other parliamentarians into submission.

  • Come on T-Man, you should know better than that. Anything that is said about any Government in power is ‘false.’ Have you ever heard any Government say, ‘that’s true, I am wrong?” Did the AG say he was wrong when he accused or implied that Mr. Manning had removed the piano? Did he apologise to Mr. Manning?
    You have already condemned Mr. Rowley. Has it been proven that Mr. Rowley is making false statements?

    • Rowley has accused Anand Ramlogan of influencing the Ish and Steve extradition case.
      .Rowley accused Ramlogan of trying to obtain people’s private banking information from the Financial Intelligence Unit.
      Rowley claimed that 50 per cent of State’s briefs were going to Anand Ramlogan’s private law firm.
      Rowley accused the AG of using his position, power and authority as Attorney General to give the State’s briefs to his law firm.

      Rowley has already apologized when he discovered his mistake for accusing the AG of making statements regarding the ethnic balance of the staff at one of T&T’s foreign embassies.
      Just yesterday Rowley accused the AG of using government funds to initiate lawsuits against him. This accusation has already been proven false. Ramlogan is using his own funds as a private citizen.
      The reality now in T&T is that the PNM and its supporters are waging a propaganda war against the PM and certain key members of her Cabinet in an attempt to discredit the government. Numerous lies and political spin are being intentionally circulated as the campaign to regain power is underway.
      Rowley realizes that none of these accusations can be proven in court. He is now resorting to self pity, claiming that he will be bankrupted by court costs.
      “A still tongue keeps a wise head.” Dr Rowley should have known that when you accuse a lawyer of using his official state office for misconduct that it would have repercussions given the nature of the accusations.

      • To paraphase what you are saying is that you believe everything Ramlogan is saying and do not believe Rowley.
        Hey! Thats your opinion and one should not be blasted for his opinion.

  • Linda Edwards, class of 67

    There are people,I know a lot of them, who will file false lawsuits, to tie people up, in the hope of shutting them up. There are people who will “sue you” for every penny you have, just to reduce you to penury. I urge Dr. Rowley to keep travelling the moral high road, and leave the teacupgate folks, the Intrgrity Commission folks, and now the AG and co, to eat the bread the devil kneaded. Its easy, in our bachanal culture, to sue someone, because its the obvious distractor from an absence of programs that benefit the people.

    Perhaps Mr. AG should focus his attention on the epidemic of rapes that have again broken out in CENTRAL. Sick people, sick country. Dioes he have a plan for that?

  • http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/TT-to-embrace-CCJ-as-its-final-Court-of-Appeal-148968175.html
    Well done Madame PM. It is more than time to end this last vestige of colonialism , and join the ranks of Guyana / Barbados ,in likewise pushing our country towards full independence.
    Let Rowley ,and his minions ,continue to waste time on inconsequential affairs, while ‘Rome burn,’as it were.
    We will see how much that can endear them, with the electorate come next election.

  • T-Man, from where I stand, it seems as though you have decided which individual you will believe, regardless. Whatever Rowley says about Ramlogan is false. How fair are you? Is your position the same with everything Ramlogan have said about Rowley or the PNM? “This accusation has already proven false. Ramlogan is using his own funds as a private citizen.” How do you know that already – it is because Ramlogan says so?
    My advice to Rowley, change your name to the Mighty Rottweiler and put your comments in calypso.

    • ——————————————————————————–
      Frontsman
      I suggest you take a look at this .

      Rowley’s pathetic martyrdom
      PETER O’CONNOR Sunday, April 29 2012

      No politician in our history, who while not in power, has made himself as unpopular as Keith Rowley has done. We have seen our political leaders, when elected to head government, fall out of favour with the people, and become extremely unpopular while in office. But for a person not in charge, and upon whom the responsibility for failings and perceived failings of the government cannot be laid, to develop the level of unpopularity with which Rowley has cloaked himself is a rare feat indeed.

      But to what end and what purpose did Keith Rowley set out to destroy himself? As he now pathetically accuses the Attorney General of forcing him into bankruptcy, he only adds to the calumny he has brought upon himself. Maybe this behaviour stems from his political isolation. Rowley was hounded out of Cabinet in 2008 when Manning called him a “raging bull” for questioning Calder Hart’s activities. Many thought then that Rowley was upset by Hart’s alleged corrupt activities. But we soon learned, on examining Rowley’s statements, that what was really upsetting him, as Hart’s Line Minister, was that Calder Hart was bypassing him, and speaking directly to Manning. And of course, we can understand Rowley being upset by this, because no manager likes their employee bypassing them and reporting directly to the chairman. But, of course, Hart also had good reason to bypass Rowley. Hart was at the time not only building a hotel into NAPA (remember that, folks, it is still there, empty, unused, unusable and paid for by you!) as well as Manning’s palace, along with an “auditorium”, which just happened somehow to be built on Ms. Pena’s land in Guanapo, miles away from the palace. With such prestige clients, Hart was not going to bother to consult with any “raging bull”.

      As Manning railed against Rowley in Parliament, he was cheered on, via desk thumping and supportive picong, by Colm Imbert, Amery Browne, Marlene McDonald, Donna Cox, Paula Gopie-Scoon, Nileung Hypolite and Fitzgerald Jeffery, who all retained their seats following Manning’s act of folly in 2010. This little group, who so ridiculed Rowley, at their master’s bidding, in parliament through 2008 and 2009, are now forced to call Rowley their Leader. And this clearly rankles them all—Rowley, who is leader with no followers, and the rest as people who will never embrace Rowley as their political leader. Indeed, some of these unguided people still blame Rowley rather than Manning for the collapse of the PNM in the 2010 election.

      So is it any wonder that Keith Rowley, under these conditions, took to barking and yapping, outside the gates, at every shadow within the house of power?

      In his almost daily summons to the media, where he shouts accusations at every cabinet member of the PP Government, Rowley has become a bore to all.

      Mind you, he was encouraged by a surprisingly docile and accommodating media, who reported his every accusation as fact, never asked him to prove or support his allegations with fact or evidence.

      And Rowley now compounds his calumny by claiming that it is the State—the AG’s Office—which is suing him, and driving him bankrupt. But Anand Ramlogan, who is the AG, has stated that he, Anand, has brought these suits in his personal name, not through the Office of the AG. And of course Rowley should have known this, so in his quest for martyrdom, he misled everyone again. And surely the media would have known this too, so why do they publish Rowley’s statements as fact?

      And yes, we have seen that now, as Rowley faces the consequences for his stream of rash and unfounded charges against cabinet members, a stammering rally of pretended support from some of his MP “colleagues”, and contrived support from the far wing of PNM sycophantism. But the truth is, and should any pollster put the question, it would be shown that most of us are simply fed up with Rowley’s ranting, and the PNM must be sorely embarrassed by him.

      The real tragedy of all of us being bombarded by Rowley’s constant unfounded and incorrect claims is that it creates a massive impediment to the business of governance of our country.

      Rowley, and Rowley alone is responsible for his predicament. No one is trying to muzzle him. If he believed he had spoken the truth, he would be challenging Ramlogan to bring the lawsuits. No one should be supporting his quest for his martyrdom. We should all be more responsible than to ever support such nonsense

  • So true Brother kian. ‘Me think,’the morally twisted ,suspect patriot ,frictional character,call T-Man , is still hiding behind the petit coat ,de la likes of lifetime ,neo -colonial, old money , Trini leeches, such as Peter, with his nonsense about, “No politician in our history, who while not in power, has made himself as unpopular as Keith Rowley has done.”
    Yeah Peter , we feel your pain , for by his action , which led to the eventual demise of your Patios ,you and the Westmoorings/ Maraval/ Federation Park, million dollar yacht crew , have to now kiss the big toes of dem Central/ Sando , business- com – political cartel, that ‘rules the roost,’ and that is quite demeaning, yes?
    Would someone remind these bozos , that it was only due to the efforts of Rowley, why the Siparia Queen , and her gleeful PP bunch , was able to usurp power , and take our nation through this nerve wrecking , border line fail state ,pathetic journey, that I affectionately refer to as, ‘De Gully of Social Despair?’ Otra Vez,the Mason Hall kid, was the one that place Hart , and Manning’s head on a symbolic platter, for the members of the fake Alliance, to slice off.
    The real tragedy is that just like ANR Robinson , hatred towards him ,lies more in the fact of where he was conceive , as opposed to his politics, since our fellow nationals in T&T, unfortunately are part of a confused, racial / ethnic culture , that can never tell which way is up.
    As for authentic leadership? Well, … let’s keep hoping,as to when it can become a reality in Rainbow Country.

  • I think ‘leadership’ is foreign word to Trinidadians.

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