Manning’s election gambit

By Raffique Shah
April 11, 2010

PM Patrick ManningFIRST, let’s cut the bull over Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s reasons for calling a mid-term general election. The United National Congress (UNC) motion of no-confidence in the PM, which he cited as one reason, was doomed to fail-unless he feared his own members voting against him. There was no cause for concern or unpleasant surprises.

His charge that opposition MPs would have exploited the debate to slander him and others associated with the People’s National Movement (PNM) is also weak. Parliamentarians on both sides of the divide have done that for many years. While many MPs and senators have abused parliamentary privilege in the extreme, the no-confidence motion would, at worst, have seen MPs regurgitating details of the Uff Commission Report, which is in the public domain anyway. There is also talk that Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar had ‘some damning files’ that might have embarrassed the PM, though no one could say in what way.

If Ms Bissessar has ‘files’, she would simply take it on the election road show. Similarly, Mr Manning can mount campaign platforms with his ‘where de money gone?’ line he used in the House, pointing fingers at Dr Rowley. Politicians and parties often get away with slander on the campaign trail because their victims cannot monitor all meetings.

So why is Mr Manning putting his party at risk? The economy, while it’s not growing apace, is performing reasonably well. We are better off than almost all other Caribbean countries, in that we have no need to return to the IMF cap-in-hand. Oil stands at US$80-plus a barrel, with projections that it will rise above $100 by year-end. Natural gas prices are also above the benchmark US$4MMBtu, with forecasts of $5, again by year-end. Manufacturing is sluggish, but that’s a global trend. Consumer spending is down as it is in most countries.

The PNM’s Achilles heels lie in three spots. First, there’s a Cabinet that has ignored the views of the people, even solid PNM supporters, proceeding with projects that have nothing to do with human development. Multi-storey buildings that cost billions of dollars remain unoccupied even as the infirm cannot find bed-space in overcrowded, run-down hospitals, to cite one example. Second, people know that crime has not eased. They no longer report ‘petty’ crimes like personal robberies, burglaries, larceny and minor violence. Unreported crimes no doubt far exceed those that are reported.

And third, corruption is a major issue the party must face up to. Although the dissolution of Parliament pre-empted debate on the Uff Report, there are too many questionable contracts and deals that have impacted on the ‘people’s perception index’. One can expect these charges and scandals to dominate political platforms. They remain the sharpest sword hanging over the PNM’s hold on office.

The Government has faltered, too, in stimulating food production, which the ongoing drought has not helped. While there has been an increase in production of selected crops, too many hectares of land lie idle even as farmers are straining at the bits to get into food production. And the current water crisis has highlighted decades of neglect by successive governments, none more so than the PNM.

So Mr Manning’s balance sheet of performance does not look good. Which begs the question: why call elections against this grim background? Last week I jokingly compared his weekly walkabouts to ‘Mahal’s’ legendary escapades. The PM must know that the one hour he walks in a constituency spanning many miles cannot give him a true reflection of what’s happening across the country.

I dare say I move among the grassroots more than he or any of his ministers. And what I feel, what I hear, are people seething with anger bordering on rage against all politicians. Unlike those who are chauffeured around, I walk the streets and talk with people, I use public transport quite often, and people tend to gravitate to me, maybe because they respect my fierce independence.

Well before the UNC’s internal elections, people I thought were Basdeo Panday diehards were asking me: Mr Shah, why is Mr Panday clinging to leadership of the party? Why does he not leave with his dignity intact? I sensed then that Panday was in deep trouble. He didn’t. He was still roaring, or braying. The landslide on January 24 silenced him like the proverbial lamb.

I feel a similar groundswell of anti-Manning sentiment among most people, many of whom I consider staunch PNMites. Manning must know that. His campaign lieutenants are worried. Even in the face of an opposition yet to organise itself, PNM campaigners are not exactly oozing confidence. So what’s Mr Manning’s real story?

I suspect his election gambit emanated from the darkness of a spiritual world where only the foolish dare enter. I envisage a cavern way up in the heights of Guanapo, the midnight hour, incense burning, a sepulchre for a pulpit. I see one woman-and a man. I hear voices, but I cannot understand some tongues in which they speak.

Spying from a safe distance, I see the man bow before the shadowy figure. ‘Go Ye unto the masses,’ the female voice thunders. ‘Seek salvation from them. I shall smite Thine enemies. And if God wills it and they reject Thee, rest assured Thou hast a place at my side on the pulpit.’ Amen.

8 thoughts on “Manning’s election gambit”

  1. Martin Daly: The mysterious variable
    I must first ask why would Mr Manning think of calling an election so early into a new term in office, particularly at a time when his Government has been damaged by his loud personal support for Calder Hart, to whom he granted absolute power, and for the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT) gravy train?

    Selwyn Ryan: The polls and the Panday phenomenon

    How Manning Govt project came unstuck
    Mothers offered babies for photo-op kissing by the one prime minister we have, whose ears were suddenly available for long-rehearsed plaints about water and roads and His ‘walkabouts’ always led to a ‘cottage’ meeting, held in any place but a cottage, and attended by reporters, and a clapping claque arranged by the People’s National Movement (PNM) central casting.

  2. Nice one Uncle Shah ,as only you can put it. Remind me to elicit an explanation from you as well as any other ,on the question of why so soon after the Iraqi invasion,Muammar Qaddafi packed up his public neo – terrorist , pro Nuclear weapon bandwagon/hat , and after decades of defiance , finally bowed to pressure from the global hegemonic power of big daddy USA ,and her ardent EU supporters again?
    Was it that he feared that GW Bush was about to do to him what he did to Saddam as many seem to claim, or good sense prevailed into acceptance of the fact that ‘if you can’t beat them join them,’ and become a beloved member of the global economic resource laden , peaceful capitalist club again ?
    Now I know that I was wrong to become a two bit short pants , inconsequential Police back in the days, when I had the option of doing otherwise as a naive 19 year old.Look how ‘dey’ treating ‘dem’ boys in Blue with disrespect , while the former Sandhurst or was it Westpoint Lieutenant’s views ,and presence are still relished ,and or accepted by all and sundry.
    By the way , what became of cousin Rex Las . He indirectly introduced me to a Vegan lifestyle , then disappeared off the face of the earth.
    Speaking about the historic pair , and troubled times… but then perhaps I better leave this alone ,for or boys, and gals in green, from lower Chagaramas, are extremely busy ,preparing for our next mammoth Independence Day Parade, and would not be distracted by the current turbulent socio- economic -com -political, situation , unless someone ‘mash their corn,’ in Bagatelle Road, or some similar safe home terrain. What a comical country , and comatose people !
    I stand corrected.
    Keep the peace , and your heads up people!

  3. Neal,

    The “boys in blue” brought infamy to themselves through the corrupt but influential few who have sullied the names of all. I’d rather, any day, to be a mutineer, to put my life on the line for what I believe in, than be a thief or “frame” innocent people or shoot my one-time informants.
    We mutineers have all moved on and up…through sheer brain-power, and brawn we still possess that we take no shit from anyone. Nuff said.

  4. Thanks Raffique I guess tis will put an end to Neil’s verbal masturbation. It is about time, it was getting to a point where one really did not see the point in contributing anymore with the endless bickering and racial connoctations and the real issues affecting the nation as a whole are left to go abegging. I personally would like to thank you for the sacrifice you and your fellow soldiers made in the 70s and the contribution you still continue to make in our society as a whole.
    Peace be unto you.

  5. Why stick only to your display of ingratiating ,butt kissing gestures towards Uncle Shah our proud former mutineer,re the wonderful , hard working loyal , and dedicated , brain over brawn boys in green Lovelace? Give some love to ex police Abu Bakr , for he too placed his life on the line for his beliefs in 1990 , by deciding to “take no shit from anyone,” via his lawless ,attempted coup invasions, yes?
    If most of our police are corrupt , bribe takers , then we have no one to blame but ourselves , as our boys and gals in blue did not migrate from Mars , but were members of this same society with the subculture of corruption is part of the norm.

    To think that six months of training would eradicate crookedness, brutal behaviors , and abusiveness, is nothing short of naive – which I am sure our Editor at large is not.
    By the way is Mr Ramesh Lawrence Marahaj going to regain his Tabaquite seat? Was he not the lifetime pro Human Rights legal savior ,that put into motion the bill to quickly , and conveniently , hang one of his most lucrative criminal clients ,once he became AG?
    It is obvious that no one intends to invade our country anytime soon especially since outside of the former the military Buffon in Venezuela , we are the largest regional exporter of oil and natural gas to big brother America,and crime is out of control in our country in part due to police incompetence or collusions with crooks and bandits. I have a proposal for the next PM if she wish to be a agent of change as claimed.
    Make a bold move like one time Dominican Iron Lady Eugenia Charles, and the politically astute Costa Ricans. I say to eliminate forthwith the entire military and save the country some useful dollars, since their usefulness are questionable at present.
    I would then create an FBI style law enforcement apparatus similar to that which exists in the USA. It would have authority over the regular police whether they like it or not.They can therefore intercede when the local cops are incapable of doing a competent job. The eliminated military personnel would be given the option if qualified ,of becoming most of the early recruits , and given proper training in criminal procedures , rules of evidence and other counter criminal exposures.This haphazard joint patrol , by weed smokers and borderline criminals that our Ministry of National Security seems to sanction over the past few years are exercise in futility , and gets us no way. The notion of seeing again in places like Bagatelle and other selective poor areas, a bunch of rabid , overzealous , half drunks boys in green driving around each time one of their own gets attacked, is too much to bear , and more conducive to failed states , where low life savages rule the roost, not Sweet T&T aka Rainbow Country, agreed?
    Now this was not that bad was it? In one swoop ,I have therefore elevated the discourse,made Vaughn happy , by contributing an idea that is doable ,without “racial connotations,” that can bring huge returns for “our society as a whole.”
    Win /Win, eh?
    As sustainable developmental gurus like to admonish , no security , no development!
    Now let the election games begin!
    Let’s wish them well, shall we?

  6. Raffique, I agree with you, it seems that Manning really made the decision for this election in a dark cavern somewhere in the Heights of Guanapo. There could be no other logical explanation,
    if he is tired of politics he should give the reins of the PNM to
    Keith.However he seems to to be trying to give it to Kamla and a hastily thrown together oil and water political coalition of convenience, that might become quite inconvenient after the election, just as the NAR coalition did. Out of that coalition
    of the ULF and the ONR was born the UNC. What will this coalition
    of today’s ULF,the UNC, and today’s ONR, the COP give birth to.
    At least Manning should have given the new UNC under Kamla, space and time to grow into a national party inclusive of all sectors of the population and firmly committed to the wellbeing of all people before he called an election. In this way at least we would have known that we had a viable choice.
    God Bless T&T.

  7. Just had a chance to read your view. As you have so methodologically shown in your view, I too believe the spiritalist is tired and is seeking to settle in Guanapo. However he’s also depending on his Grenandian constituents to follow through. The maritime agreement recently signed, eventhough not fully leagal, means more to this election than one can imagine. Kamla may be fortunate to win, however what she will inherit, as casts he had put in place will be very difficult for Kamla to undo if given the access to run this country, while the spiritualist casts his spells from the Heights of Guanapo.

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