Sunday, May 12, 2013

Guest commentary: The silence of the round table - by Dr Hamid Ghany

Round table chiefs - Abdulah, Rowley and Roget
The recent resignations of Jack Warner as a Cabinet minister, UNC party chairman and Member of Parliament for Chaguanas West have created an eerie silence in the ranks of the Round Table. What was launched last year as a highly effective pressure group that seemed to have potential for becoming a new political machine that could successfully challenge the People’s Partnership in future elections has now gone silent.

No one knows when the Round Table ended their tenure, but one can only speculate. This ought to have been a period when the Round Table should have been ascendant with all of the accompanying public meetings and anti-government rhetoric to support a robust campaign of seeking to crush the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led administration.

Instead, the country has been met with separate voices from the MSJ and the PNM on how they plan to engage the impending by-election in Chaguanas West. However, there were some statements made by David Abdulah, political leader of the MSJ, at its public meeting on April 21 at the Preysal High School that might indicate why the Round Table has gone silent.

The Guardian report on April 22 by Shastri Boodan about Abdulah’s address stated: “He said the PNM was also not capable of running T&T, since the party was responsible for the history of mismanagement in the country. ‘The solution cannot be the PNM,’ he said.” 

This perhaps would provide the loudest clue as to why the Round Table has gone silent just when Jack Warner has walked away from all political positions and is seeking to return as a Member of Parliament. One would not have thought that Abdulah would ever have embraced Rowley in the first place if he thought that way about the PNM.

The Round Table really emerged as a single-issue pressure group last year over the Section 34 matter. They held public meetings and public marches over the issue as they sought to build a political movement out of something that they thought was the Achilles heel of the Government.

In fact, their logic had a fundamental fault line in it and they pursued it vigorously nevertheless. Were it not for the courtroom loss in early April by Steve Ferguson on the repeal of Section 34 and the subsequent leak in the Sunday Express two days later of a December 7 letter from former president Richards to Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, the Round Table might have still been in business.

Indeed, the leak of the December 7 letter after Richards had demitted office was the single issue that broke the case wide open and provided the country with worrisome evidence about possible presidential incompetence which explained how the whole Section 34 affair happened in the first place. The president was asking questions in December that he should have been asking in August before he signed the proclamation.

Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Keith Rowley, was being given bad legal and political advice about seeking a writ of mandamus in the High Court to compel the Prime Minister to answer the president in accordance with Section 81 of the Constitution. The president also wrote to him on December 7 last year telling him that he had requested information from the Prime Minister.

The president made a serious political blunder to descend into the political arena in that way. Rowley’s advisers did not quite understand that prime ministerial accountability is secured through Section 75 of the Constitution to Parliament and that Section 81 was the continuation of a protocol for the provision of information to the Crown, and later the president, that had its genesis in the 1961 self-government constitution and was continued in the 1962 independence constitution and was repeated in the 1976 republican constitution. 

With almost all the legs of the Round Table having been sawn off by that one leak in early April, it was Abdulah who would complete the job on April 21 with his uncomplimentary remarks about the PNM which might better explain why he joined the People’s Partnership in 2010 than why he convened the Round Table in 2012.

There is no Round Table anymore. The PNM never quite warmed up to the idea as Dr Rowley did not seem to have the full support of his caucus at Round Table meetings. Perhaps with the demise of the Section 34 matter for the Round Table, who bet the farm on this single issue to take them on a magic carpet to the political kingdom, the MSJ and the PNM now find themselves in a more politically hostile situation than before April 21.

With Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar having to face her own political difficulties to navigate around the Jack Warner resignations and the impending by-election, there is no Round Table to take her on. 

The MSJ has already stated it will not be contesting the by-election in Chaguanas West as it views it as a power struggle inside the UNC, while the PRO of the PNM is predicting victory for the party in Chaguanas West.

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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