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“Jack and Gary and Nicole and Dooks and...”

Saturday, February 28, 2015

ILP’s Jack Warner had significant support in Parliament yesterday. Not just outside the Waterfront Plaza with the small group from the PNM-controlled San Juan regional corporation who toted a prettily-clad female mannequin—labelled “Rats”—and violently yelled abuse at PP MPs entering the building.

(PP’s Winston Peters who stopped to talk with them and was blistered with abuse, bowed and walked away. They, however, greeted PNM’s Terrence Deyalsingh with handshakes.)

Inside, PNM MP Patricia McIntosh sported Kelly green matching Warner’s ILP signature colour and PNM leader Keith Rowley gave vocal support to Warner’s no confidence motion against House Speaker Wade Mark. It was a lovefest from the start when Warner opened with thanking “PNM family” including Rowley for allowing his motion priority on the agenda.

However, Warner’s blows for the Speaker (on alleged Cepep contracts) received reply in same from PP House leader Roodal Moonilal (on alleged contracts in the Warner household also.)

Warner’s no-confidence motion was timely enough to provide him platform as purported champion of right, at a time when renewed spotlight may fall on him in coming weeks. This, as ex-PP members Gary Griffith and Nicole Dyer-Griffith lobby “like-minded independent” people among the politically disaffected towards a renewed Third Force.

Neither one of the power couple have confirmed excluding Warner (or PNM people) from their lobby and Gary has praised Warner’s stock in local government polls which trumped COP’s.

COP’s Operations Centre where Dyer-Griffith dramatically resigned last Sunday, is located in Charlieville—Warner’s Chaguanas West constituency. But that may not be the only reason he figures in their scenario. Griffith has confirmed he continued talking to Warner after becoming Minister replacing Warner. The latter also told T&T Guardian he and Griffith have always talked  and exchanged ideas though he (Warner) didn’t speak a lot to Emmanuel George after he took over Warner’s National Security spot in 2013.

“I feel sorry for him and Nicole; I’ll be talking to both soon,” Warner says, noting he’d said last week coalitions would come at the appropriate time.

The Griffith initiative to lobby a fourth/third Force would be a boon for Warner whose ILP has haemorrhaged in the last two years, from top to bottom. He says he isn’t concerned about leadership of any new/renewed vehicle. How politically attractive Warner will be—particularly to COP and PNMites who’d taken issue with him while he was in Government, remains to unfold. 

Now a political weapon against the PP, Warner has a warmer spot with the PNM hierarchy which supported yesterday’s motion—a situation which could also affect his courting of PP/COP support via the Griffiths.

The President last month approved an Integrity Commission tribunal concerning Warner’s finances. That team is to be sworn in ahead. The Commission recently advertised for criminal and forensic investigators. 

Warner apart, the Couple Griffith has garnered some following, judging from resignations (up to yesterday with Joe Pires) in COP’s Diego Martin units where COP/UNC traditionally lose to PNM.

What overall effect on COP from the Griffiths’ lobby remains to be seen, particularly since Dyer-Griffith has name-dropped former leader Winston Dookeran and his latest book into the mix. The book details his speeches from 2006 when he left UNC and formed COP to last year’s Parliament debate when he voted against the PP’s run-off plan. 

Dookeran yesterday stressed “reconceptualisation” is needed, but said dialogue with all—including COP—was positive. Asked if he’d head a reconceptualised vehicle, he merely chuckled. 

Zen Hassan, deputy chairman of Dookeran’s executive has distanced the team from a meeting Dyer-Griffith allegedly held recently with COP members. Hassan said it was unlikely the constituency would follow the Griffiths. He said the people being mobilised in that area weren’t bona fide COP members.

It also remains to be seen how successful Dyer-Griffith’s lobby will be with disgruntled COP-ers who, however, feel she should have supported ex chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan’s efforts for COP change, rather than line up behind leader Prakash Ramadhar in elections, taking Bachan’s place. COP is also targetting the same people the Griffiths are. COP chairman Jamison Bahadur says he will be calling ex members such as Wendy Lee Yuen and others. Lee Yeun told T&T Guardian this week she’s out of politics.

How COP shapes up remains to unfold in the series of public meetings starting Tuesday in its leader’s constituency. Its challenges arise as COP officials query claims that the UNC wishes to field most seats including COP areas like San Fernando West where a high profile sportsman and a Senate member are tipped to be in the running for candidacy.

It also arises when COP had hoped to benefit from PNM fragmentation in Arima. Supporters of Penny Beckles Robinson were disappointed after a meeting with the PNM chairmanship on Wednesday when they were told the selected candidate (Anthony Garcia) remains, attendees said. PNM’s Arima executive meets next week to work out how they will inform party groups of the situation.


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