Sunday, January 12, 2014

Commentary: He came, he saw, he remained silent

Back to work - Patrick Manning - "all is well." (Newsday photo)
Patrick Manning returned to Parliament on Friday as the MP for San Fernando East for the first time since he suffered a stroke in January 2012. It was mainly for the photo-op since he left early in the afternoon while his political leader, Keith Rowley, was speaking.

He made no contribution to the debate in the House and 'performed' for his supporters and the media. “Enjoy your day...All is well, all is well. Thank you very much. All is well," is all he had to say.

Hugs for Manning
Although the People's National Movement (PNM) insists that all is well between the present and former leaders, insiders say that is not the case. Some of them have suggested that Manning's presence in parliament was not to attend to the business of state but to send a signal to Rowley that he is fit and well again.

Manning has said repeatedly that his days of electoral politics are over but that doesn't mean that his days of political influence are gone. And since he is opposed to people who "bark at every passing car" he might be thinking that it's time to make a change, especially since Rowley would be hard pressed to show his party that he has come up with any meaningful policies as an alterantive government. His most telling pronouncement was that he would dust off the Vision 2020 Manning policy and rename it Vision 2030. 

The former PM has never forgotten or forgiven Rowley for campaigning against him and the party in the 2010 general election which saw the People's Partnership take office and the PNM majority reduced from 26 to 12. 

While Rowley campaigned to win his seat he stated publicly during that campaign that Manning was to blame for the poor showing of the party and called the Manning administration the most corrupt the country had ever known. He had even promised a "court martial" after the election. Instead, Manning was literally chased out of Balisier House and Rowley became the leader after all possible contenders - including Colm Imbert - decided to drop out.

When Manning staged his 'democracy march' to San Fernando Rowley refused to walk with him or support it although some MPs gave him token support; some top party members scoffed at the idea.

Rowley kept his distance during Manning's illness as well. He had the door slammed in his face when he went to visit Manning shortly after Manning fell ill and after Manning returned from the U.S. where he was treated for his stroke, Rowley refused to join the crowd of supporters gathered to welcome home "their leader".

Many PNMites still see Manning as their leader and that has Rowley nervous as the party prepares for its internal election at which it would elect a leader. And for the first time it would be on the basis of one-member, one-vote.

Rowley fought to introduce that measure since he had suffered a loss against Manning in 1996 went the party used a delegate system. But now that challengers are appearing on the political stage it seems Rowley might have dug is own political grave.
Bose Sharma

There is one group called 'To Preserve the Balisier' that is already saying it would nominate someone to run against Rowley. There are two names that are popping up - Penny Beckles and Louis Lee Sing.

Rowley has 'taken care' of both of them for now. He fired Beckles from the senate and the party denied Lee Sing any role in the running of the City of Port of Spain where he was mayor for three years.

He has also tried to taint the leader of the Balisier movement, Bose Sharma, by accusing him of working against the party (sounds familiar?) and accusing him of spreading false propaganda that the party doesn't welcome members of Indian descent. Rowley even suggested that Sharma is working for the UNC.

He was critical of Sharma's 'free speech' which goes against what he himself said when he became PNM leader - that any party member could speak freely without fear of victimisation. Another victim who spoke freely has been Lee Sing. So much for free speech in the PNM.
Beckles has said she is interested in taking on Rowley and so has Lee Sing but so far no one has challenged Rowley. Perhaps that's why Manning is suddenly healthy and well. So the question today is this: what is Manning contemplating?

His return to the legislature may be coincidental but anyone who knows Manning also knows he always has a 'plan'. Like the time he went all the way to Port of Spain to buy a shirt. He revels in photo-ops and loves to keep people guessing about what he is really up to.

He no doubt wants to see Rowley sweat. Rowley knows as well that the MPs who sit on the PNM side are Manning's handpicked people. In fact at least two of them have always defied their leader and sat in the House with their Balisier ties and in 2010 they even refused to work on the local government election campaign.

There is talk that Manning is raising funds to get a challenger to take on Rowley. But the question is WHO.  

Jack Warner's Sunshine newspaper has said it is a long-time Manning friend, Robert Riley. Manning is not a Penny supporter so it is unlikely that she would get support from her former boss who shunned her in 2010. And Lee Sing has been highly critical of Manning and even suggested that Manning should leave the political stage and open a church.

What appears almost certain is that Manning's political days are not really over. Like Basdeo Panday, he cannot let go. And you can bet that Manning has a plan - and it is not something that would amuse Rowley.

Jai Parasram | 11 January 2014

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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