Sunday, July 14, 2013

Political divisions - Guest commentary by Dr Hamid Ghany

Hamid Ghany
Last week saw the political landscape of this country enter a divisive phase on all sides of the political divide. 

Simultaneous with the split in the UNC by the formation of the Independent Liberal Party (ILP), there was also a split in the labour movement with the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Union boycotting the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) march and a schism in the PNM with Mayor Louis Lee Sing publicly chastising his political leader Dr Keith Rowley.

With so much divisiveness in the air, it might be best to take them one by one for ease of reference. 

The biggest split was the announcement by former national security minister Jack Warner that he was forming his own political party which he called the Independent Liberal Party. This launch took place on Friday night at the Pierre Road Recreation Ground which was filled to capacity. The initial response suggested that Jack Warner was off to an energetic start.

Earlier on the Friday that Warner launched his party, there was division in the ranks of the JTUM when their march against the Government was held in Port-of-Spain. 

The All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Union announced that they supported the march, but that they would not participate because of the presence of the PNM who they blamed for closing down the sugar industry and causing immense hardship to their members.
The PNM had announced the week before that they would join the march. This was a master strategy as it gave them a public march on which they could piggyback. However, in doing so, the JTUM lost the All Trinidad Union which was the price that they paid for embracing the PNM.

As if all of this divisiveness was not enough, along came Mayor Louis Lee Sing to respond vehemently to the public statements of Ancel Roget at the closing rally at the end of the JTUM/PNM march on that famous Friday whereby Roget alleged that there were traitors in the balisier camp who had tried to undermine the march.
This was too much for Lee Sing to bear and he publicly expressed his disappointment with his leader and his party’s silence on the matter. By midweek, Lee Sing was on The Morning Brew on CNC3 publicly chastising his political leader, Dr Keith Rowley.

Lee Sing had asked his deputy, Keron Valentine, to report to him about the circumstances that could have led to Roget talking about traitors in the PNM camp. The report that was made public by Lee Sing revealed that the JTUM request for City Hall to facilitate the march was made by Jennifer Baptiste-Primus, labour relations officer of the PNM.
Roget was alleging that Valentine was not very supportive, while Lee Sing defended his deputy mayor and Lee Sing was also expecting his party to publicly support the deputy mayor as well. The matter remained in limbo up to the time of writing.

Without the presence of the PNM members who wore red in the march, one wonders how many people may actually have marched because red was the dominant colour in the parade. 

All of this now provides the national community with puzzles to resolve. What will the effect of the Jack Warner split in green have for the yellow of the UNC and what would the blue of the OWTU have done without the red of the PNM in the march?
All of these political divisions may become a bit confusing for many in the national electorate who will be required to make some choices in the coming months. The first big battle is the by-election in Chaguanas West on July 29. This will be followed by the local government elections that are due no later than the end of October. We have moved into a hyper-zone of politics.
In making a public call for her supporters to boycott the march, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar took a swipe at the JTUM two Mondays ago about their overt preference for Tubal Uriah Butler over Adrian Cola Rienzi in their recognition of pioneers of the labour movement on Labour Day.
Given the personal friendship and tactical engagement of both Butler and Rienzi in moving the trade union movement forward, it has been noticeable that the OWTU has never really paid as much tribute to their first president general, Rienzi, as they could have. 

Indeed, Butler used to call him “Bonnie Prince” when they worked together and Rienzi was also simultaneously the first president general of the All Trinidad Sugar and Factory Workers Union. While Rienzi may have epitomised the unity between oil and sugar, history has not accorded him that accolade and the union leaders of today have not so recognised him alongside Butler.
Based on the fact that the JTUM found it necessary to respond to the Prime Minister on this, it was clear that she got under their skin. She highlighted the fact that her Government recognised Rienzi with the Order of Trinidad and Tobago last year for independence and that the unions had not recognised Rienzi on Labour Day.

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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