Tuesday, March 25, 2014

NEWSDAY EDITORIAL: Rallying the troops

Reproduced unedited from NEWSDAY

IT would be fair to say that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar certainly has her work cut out in her task to rally the troops of the ruling United National Congress (UNC) before the 2015 general election. It is a fair comment to say that in the eye of large sections of the general public, the UNC’s stocks are now relatively low, compared to the glory days of 2010 when first elected to office as the main party in the People’s Partnership (PP) coalition.

Just in the past few weeks, the party has suffered as the Government has been hit by allegations of impropriety in the Beetham Wastewater Plant and the First Citizens Bank (FCB) Initial Public Offering (IPO). Now comes the incident involving Minister of the People and Social Development, Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh, whose firing is being urged by none other than Maha Sabha leader, Sat Maharaj.

In addition, the PP last year lost four elections in a row — the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, Local Government election, Chaguanas West by-election and St Joseph by-election.

Yet it is certainly not all doom and gloom. The PP has considerable achievements to boast of, and surely this is what Persad-Bissessar alluded to when she addressed last Saturday’s National Congress of the UNC at Rienzi Complex, Couva.

She basically called on party members to spread the good word about the UNC.

“You have voices, let your voices be heard, let your voices be heard,” she urged UNC members. “If you know and you see and you hear and you do not speak, then you allow those naysayers to overtake you, while you remain peaceful and docile.”

Persad-Bissessar herself began the accounting, as she boasted of raising the minimum wage from $9 to $12.50 per hour, of ending rural neglect and of spreading equal development across TT’s different geographical areas. Regarding this latter, she boasted of projects in areas that traditionally vote for the People’s National Movement (PNM), namely Diego Martin (getting a highway expansion), Point Fortin (getting a new highway) and La Brea (getting new port facilities).

She would also do well to remind people of the many heartfelt benefits brought by the PP Government, such as a $3,000 pension, laptops for primary school-leavers, the Clico and Hindu Credit Union (HCU) bailouts, and the extra week given for maternity leave. With Persad-Bissessar telling supporters, “nothing can stop us now”, while similar sentiments are being expressed by PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley in his re-election bid in the PNM internal elections, it seems as if the country will see two very confident parties — the PP and the PNM — lining up to do battle for 2015.

They will each be judged on the performance of their individual MPs in their constituencies, the activism of themselves as parties (PNM versus the UNC and its allies), the performance of individual Minister (versus their counterparts in Parliament) and the overall performance on a national scale of Government versus Opposition. While Dr Rowley seeks to fend off a challenge by former Arima MP Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, he is also able to use the PNM internal elections as a platform to showcase the PNM and to launch its campaign for the 2015 general election, whether or not he is able to beat Beckles-Robinson.

So an internal election can be a double-edge sword, to strengthen or weaken an incumbent leader in a party. So far the word from the UNC camp is of internal constitutional reform before party elections are to be held. If such a process turns out to be long-winded, the UNC might find itself out of time and having its reform and its internal election curtailed by the rapid approach of the date of the 2015 general election. Alternatively, if the UNC elections are held, Persad-Bissessar might also seek it as a platform to launch the party into 2015.

Her task now is to stay the course of governance, to boost her party organs at ground level and to tell Ministers to conduct themselves with propriety.

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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