Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Commentary: Manning takes an outing but was it just for the show?

Some interesting things happened last week and over the weekend that would likely make Opposition Leader Keith Rowley very uncomfortable. 

First he was unable to nominate a candidate for the presidency because although the PNM caucus in the House of Representatives comprises 12 members, which is the minimum number required to nominate a presidential candidate, he could not get the support of the MP for San Fernando East, former Prime Minister Patrick Manning.

Secondly, in a stupid attempt to score political points and upstage the government, he and his party named CCJ Justice Rolston Nelson as a "consensus" candidate for president without actually discussing it with the judge.

And then on Saturday, accompanied by his spouse, Hazel, and former MP Mustapha Abdul-Hamid Manning made a surprise appearance at the Calypso semis in San Fernando where the former PM received an enthusiastic welcome from the same crowd that pelted Sugar Aloes and De Fosto with wrapped rotis and wet toilet paper.
Patrick Manning at Skinner Park Saturday. Newsday photo
Manning's outing is the one that is likely to give Rowley a big headache because the message is that for the rank and file it seems Manning might still have some political currency even if the party jefes are firmly behind their leader.

Manning appeared healthy, according to media reports, walking without any assistance and stopping to speak with supporters and fans. 

Suppose for the sake of argument, Manning decides to make his next move in seeking revenge for his expulsion as leader of the PNM and decides he wants to humiliate Rowley he could make a play to become Leader of the Opposition.

Impossible you say? Well not really.

You see it would really have nothing to do with all the big shots who run the party or with Rowley. Remember that with the exception of Rowley all the MPs sitting on opposition benches were handpicked by Manning for the 2010 election and they might still be loyal to him.

According to Section 83.(2) of the T&T constitution: "The President shall, if the person concerned is willing to be appointed, appoint as Leader of the Opposition the member of the House of Representatives who, in his judgment, is best able to command the support of the greatest number of members of the House of Representatives who do not support the Government."

Manning can get a majority of them to write to the president and ask for Rowley to be removed as opposition leader and appoint Manning in his place. And the president would have no choice but to do it. There is precedent for it.

Remember when Basdeo Panday was suspended from the House of Representatives it was Kamla Persad-Bissessar who became Opposition Leader although at the time Winston Dookeran was the leader of the United National Congress.

And in 2010 when Kamla was elected leader of her party Panday remained Opposition Leader for a full month before the UNC MPs finally decided to work with the new leader and advised the president. 

Manning's first act of revenge was to stay out of the presidential matter, denying the party an opportunity to nominate a candidate. He could very well move against Rowley and stage a parliamentary coup, the implications of which would be quite serious.

If that happens Manning would be in charge of the party's parliamentary agenda while Rowley would become an impotent leader who would have to take instructions from Manning and his whip. And there's more. Manning would also be able to appoint six senators loyal to him.

Then, with his experience and political savvy, using the amended PNM constitution that allows election of the leader by the full membership, Manning could challenge Rowley for the leadership of the PNM and win, turning the tables on Rowley and finally getting his full revenge.

Nobody is saying any of this is being planned or will happen. In fact Manning has pledged loyalty to his leader in the past and will likely reiterate his devotion.

But politics is about power. And Manning has not yet got over the humiliation he faced at the hands of the Kamla and the PP, aided in part by Rowley who campaigned against Manning in 2010, promising to "court martial" Manning. Once the votes were counted Rowley hounded Manning out of Balisier House, quickly got rid of all challengers and became leader of the PNM.
Manning has not forgiven Rowley for that. And Hazel Manning made that quite clear to Rowley when her husband suffered a stroke last year, slamming the door on Rowley when he went to visit.

Rowley has made so many mistakes since taking over Manning's job as PNM leader that it is possible that the party might be willing to make a change at the top. In the end, it's always a power play with the focus on winnability. If the party thinks that Rowley is a liability it would engineer his departure.

One thing you can say about T&T politics is that there never is a dull day!

Jai Parasram

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai