Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Commentary: PNM election would define the party's true character

When Keith Rowley became leader of the People's National Movement (PNM) in 2010 he moved swiftly to protect himself from a possible challenge to his leadership from his former leader, Patrick Manning, by changing the party's constitution to allow a one-member, one-vote system instead of the delegate style that robbed him of the leadership when he challenged Manning in 1996.

Now it seems that could come back to hurt Rowley because he is facing a challenge from a woman who appears to be gaining support from some top people in the party. And she can add members to vote for her by the time registration closes on February 28.

The campaign is barely off the ground and one of the arrows being shot at Rowley is coming from people who believe he has a bias against Indians.

Bose Sharma, who leads a group called "To Preserve the Balisier", has made that point but his boss has shot him down as an agent of the UNC, a suggestion that if you are Indian you must be UNC.  It's as silly as the comment by Fitzgerald Hinds that people are saying Rowley's skin is "too dark" to be prime minister.

Sharma, who says his group is supporting Penny, is basing his argument not on race but on what he considers a major failing in the PNM. His point is that the party does not truly represent or embrace Trinidad and Tobago's diversity and that must change if the party is to move ahead.

"Our efforts are in support of ensuring PNM is well structured to properly represent T&T before it offers itself to the rest of the country to do this," Bose said in a recent newspaper interview. Penny has made a similar comment in a posting on her facebook page.

Noting that the issue is about leadership, Penny wrote: "The conversation must reflect the maturity of our leaders, not their gender or the hue of their skin. We need statesman type leadership, who understands the needs of the society and the challenges of governance."
Some media reports are suggesting that there are "big people" in the PNM who are unhappy with Rowley and one newspaper reported on Sunday that one of its sources has described Rowley as "the next Mugabe". The imagery is that of a racist dictator.

The Sunday Guardian reported that some key people are backing Penny, including former Senate President Danny Montano and Diego Martin Central MP Amery Browne. The paper said they would be a part of a Penny slate with Montano running for chairman and Browne seeking the post of general secretary. Montano has confirmed that he is supporting Penny. But Browne has said he is not on any slate.

The paper also said Jerry Narace, Errol Mahabir and Lenny Saith are in Penny's camp, citing an unnamed source whom it identified only as a former financier. Of the three, only Narace has denied that he is involved; there is no word from Mahabir and Saith, the Guardian said.
File: lenny Saith

Manning pushed aside Mahabir when he reorganised the party following the crushing defeat of 1986 but Saith has been a Manning loyalist. Both of them are from San Fernando and Manning could be working with them to get his revenge against Rowley and secure both San Fernando seats for the PNM in 2015.

What doesn't add up in the equation is that Manning was never a fan of Penny. In 2010 he refused to endorse her nomination for the Arima constituency, offering her instead a diplomatic appointment, which she promptly turned down.

The talk has always been that Manning is the hand in the glove for an anti-Rowley campaign and if his key people are backing Penny it would be no surprise to learn that he has a change of heart with respect to the lady.

Some of the people who Rowley had pushed aside are now feeling empowered and this is what makes the upcoming PNM internal election a lot more interesting than any that the party has held in its 58 year history. 

The PNM has always stood alone, a firm policy that caused it to lose the government in 1995 when Manning refused to consider a coalition with the NAR of A.N.R. Robinson when he found himself in a 17-17 tie with the UNC with Robinson holding the two key Tobago seats. 

The UNC on the other hand has embraced the idea of coalition government and demonstrated in 2010 that it was committed to it, even after it won a clear majority of 21 seats. And in its current review of its constitution it has asked for the idea to be incorporated into the recommendations for the party to adopt.

The PNM remains stuck in its hegemonic mode and the election on May 18 would be a test to see what policies each leadership candidate would adopt to woo its membership to move the party out of the political quicksand in which it has been stuck under the leadership of Rowley.

Jai Parasram - 11 April 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