Thursday, August 8, 2013

From the archives: Commentary: Is Lee Sing getting ready to lead the PNM?

File: Louis Lee Sing
What is Louis Lee Sing’s next move?

The mayor of Port of Spain told reporters on Monday he is not interested in seeking a second term and that he wishes that the position were one that was open for election rather than appointment.

Is he saying that his relationship with his political boss, People’s National Movement (PNM) leader Keith Rowley, is so strained that he won’t get the nod for a second term? Or is he saying that he would be willing to challenge the PNM status quo and run in a local election for the post of mayor if that were an option?

Or perhaps he is setting his sights on bigger, more important national politics.

Whatever the truth you can be sure of one thing – Lee Sing is a political junkie who isn’t about to roll over and die. He is no quitter and he has probably had enough of cutting track for ‘goutie to run.

He is an effective communicator, understands how to make media work for him and is a smart strategist. He is a loyal and dedicated member of the PNM and has been so for the more than 30 years that I have known him personally and professionally. And he calls it as he sees it, even if you don’t agree with his points of view or politics.

You might recall that while the mayor’s daughter-in-law joined Manning on his walk to San Fernando Lee Sing called Manning’s "democracy march" foolishness and added that those "who continue to follow Mr. Manning like Karen Tesheira, Mustapha Abdul-Hamid (and) Gary Hunt" should know better and recognise that "the population is tired with that kind of thing.”

Lee Sing made it clear that from where he stood the responsibility for the sad state of the country today rested “in the laps of Patrick Mervyn Augustus Manning.” He said Manning should just go home, open his church and preach the gospel.

And he got himself in political hot waters with Manning’s successor as well when he told Rowley and the party jefes that the recent no-confidence motion in the Prime Minister was not only ill-timed but also afforded the government an opportunity to shore up its support. He went so far as suggesting that PNM members felt that the motion amounted to "collusion" between Rowley and the Prime Minister.

Lee Sing slammed the administration of the party, noting that recent events “suggest to me the leadership of our party has elected to pursue an archaic and less than democratic approach to party governance.”

Rowley was not amused and suggested that the Mayor’s “untimely” intervention was not welcome. “No general likes to know that when you go into battle...the first time the enemy fires his salvo, you turn tail and start firing on your own troops. No general likes that,” Rowley said when asked about Lee Sing's stand.

So with both factions of the PNM gunning for him, where does Louis stand? That’s the most interesting political question today.

He is probably standing at the right place at the right time and could very well be eyeing Rowley’s job. And don’t be surprised if many of the big shots and behind the scenes movers and shakers in the party are thinking the same thing.

It is common knowledge that they are not happy with Rowley. They also know that Manning has run his course and it is time for the MP for San Fernando East to be sent to the political glue factory.

After two years, they know that Rowley is not going to take the PNM back to government; Rowley’s lack lustre performances have been getting worse every time he tries to take on the government.

I wrote in a previous column that Rowley is an angry man. Anger is a dangerous thing; it creates fear and instability and erodes freedom because it causes people to clam up and not speak out. It is a fatal attribute of a weak leader whose selfish tantrums cause damage without solving problems.

Rowley’s dilemma is how to take charge while standing in a political mine field that he helped create.

Sooner, rather than later, the PNM would have to decide if it wants to keep Rowley and remain where it is or move into the 21 century with a leader who is willing to build a truly national party and get back to government.

Perhaps this is the first signal that Louis could be the chosen dedicated PNMite who is willing to embrace change and lobby to take the party forward by breaking the mould that Eric Williams used to fashion the party more than 50 years ago.

The challenge for Louis, if his focus in the PNM leadership, would be to adopt a new style of politics devoid of ethnic loyalties and tribalism.

In other words, he would have to be willing to create his own version of the people’s partnership in which everybody is represented and all can believe that she or he is equal. And that includes the Indians who are already watching with suspicion because the mayor has taken the "Indian" out of "Indian Arrival Day".

Trinidad & Tobago has moved well beyond the hegemonic party style that has always characterized the PNM. Both Williams and Manning preferred to “win alone and lose alone” in preference for collaborative coalition politics.

We have progressed from the time when Williams wrote his People’s Charter, which still looks good on paper but has failed in practice. The PNM is no longer "great" and it can only "prevail" if it does some introspection, admit that it has lost its way and resolve to become a forward looking, national movement of the people, for the people.

That would be a good move because it would create a stronger opposition to keep checks and balances on the government. And for the People’s Partnership, it would also be a warning that there is no room for complacency.

Jai Parasram | Toronto - 25 April 2012

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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