Monday, June 17, 2013

Guest commentary - Get serious, Rowley

By Ralph Maraj (Reproduced unedited from the TRINIDAD EXPRESS)
THAT meeting between Keith Rowley and Ken Gordon should never have taken place at the latter’s home, with no other Integrity Commission official present and no official minutes taken. 

It presented a picture of coziness between the two which will linger. The Government has pounced with expected glee on this political gift that makes sitting ducks of Rowley and Gordon, now the target of the Attorney General’s devastating aim and accuracy.

Gordon erred in inviting Rowley and Rowley’s error was in accepting the invitation. It is cause of deep dismay that two holders of such high office, two of our best and brightest, failed to discern the impropriety of the meeting; it speaks volumes about the “validating elites’’ of this nation.

And they compound their error by protesting their rectitude, two more public officials who feel they must pose as infallible. To err is human and the public could be forgiving if they accept their mistake. They didn’t murder or commit treason. Remorse could ameliorate the consequences. 

But the more they defend the indefensible, the more opportunity they provide for the Government to beat them in public, making their mistake a gift that keeps on giving political advantage to their political opponents.

Of the two, the more tragic figure is Keith Rowley. He continues to mismanage the e-mail matter, with four missteps thus far. Firstly, he kept the e-mails in his possession for six months without any serious attempt at authentication. Then, without doing homework, he used the high profile route of a no-confidence motion to present raw meat for the consumption of the population, when he could have revealed the e-mails in other ways. 

A lesser PNM official could have exposed them. Why the leader to “buss the mark’’? Now with three motions of no confidence, he has completely squandered critical armoury. 

The third misstep was the very reactive position taken by his lawyer Faris Al Rawi, which Dr Rowley allowed to escalate into confrontation with the police, giving the impression of unwillingness to cooperate, when by contrast, the Government appeared to be the model of cooperativeness with the law. 

But the PNM has recovered somewhat from this, having dropped the talkative, confrontational approach. 

The fourth mistake is the meeting at Gordon’s home. Lately, Dr Rowley seems to accept his error, saying, “put the blame on my shoulder” because Gordon had “no idea what I wanted to raise with him”. 

But surely the latter would have known the “urgent’’ matter would deal with public affairs involving their public offices. Yet he agreed. Worse for Dr Rowley, he hadn’t yet brought the matter to the Integrity Commission. So why did he want to engage the chairman on the issue? Dr Rowley is digging himself into a hole. The best he could do is apologise for the meeting. But that and God’s face you will never see.

It gives me absolutely no pleasure to say it, but this entire e-mail affair fuels valid concerns about Keith Rowley as leader of the People’s National Movement. 

True, he inherited a wreck that needed re-engineering for revitalisation and roadworthiness. Yet, it is a telling reflection of his leadership that after three years of a most incompetent and untrustworthy Government of glaring errors and inadequacies, there can be no rational forecast of a PNM victory if a general election were to be held any time soon.

Though Dr Rowley set about on the correct course of constitutional change in the PNM, the approach was woefully deficient. He failed to engage the entire nation on the way forward for the country’s oldest party. This should not have been a closed party affair, and as I wrote earlier, the PNM should have had the country “buzzing with discussion, from living rooms to rum shops, in malls, offices and taxis, about proposed changes. 

How will you excite the people about the party if you don’t involve them in shaping its future? How will you encourage national ownership of the organisation if you alienate the population from the discussion?” I also warned that “a golden opportunity would have been lost to excite the population, increase interest and membership, encourage new talent, bring back those who left”.

But even after the historic constitutional changes that reduced the power of the maximum leader, the party still failed to capitalise. Again I warned that “constitutional changes alone would not suffice, that the leadership must ensure that the spirit and significance of these changes permeate the entire body of the party. 

All must understand this is cultural, not cosmetic. The PNM must rise from intellectual inertia and expand its consciousness to be the big tent, its goal at inception. 

The leaders must travel throughout the land, and with rousing speeches to party and country, preach the new gospel; summon the party’s spirit; call for the membership to wake up to its responsibilities after decades of sleepwalking. 

No longer should everyone always be choir children, singing from the same hymn sheet, praising God and the captain, even when the ship is sinking. Now all cultish characteristics must go. Now open the gates of Balisier House for many thousands of all creeds and colours, races and roots, longing for the promised land, too long delayed in Trinidad and Tobago”.

Had Dr Rowley led the PNM to that new height, he would not be as hurt by his latest error. And if, in addition to renewing the PNM, he had already given the nation a taste of his vision, particularly for governance and the economy, the confidence he would have engendered in the people would have helped him overcome this serious stumble. But he has again raised concerns over his leadership. 

Worse, time is running out. Dr Rowley must get serious.

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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