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PNM comeback no small feat

Published: 
Monday, September 14, 2015

To have gained 11 seats and increased its share of the popular vote by close to 100,000, after being drubbed in 2010 by a coalition party which had the potential to bury the People’s National Movement, has been a political recovery of great significance.  

To have begun the internal and external transformation of the party inclusive of constitutional change, modernisation of its political machinery and the attraction of a new generation of young people to the party of Dr Eric Williams have been equal to the revival after the 33-3 flogging of 1986.  

To have run a campaign, strategic, innovative, with a steady focus, unfazed by provocation, insidious baiting and without the party’s long-standing campaign manager, Martin Joseph, says something about organisational strength and capability of the PNM.  

And now to the leadership of the PNM by Dr Keith Rowley and his team of generals; no other political leader has had to withstand such a potentially withering, vicious, even criminal attack on his parentage, his manhood, his character, his family life (and carried out in part under the protective wing of the Parliament) and on his courage.

Those around also needed to be resolute in their support of Dr Rowley. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the PNM and its leadership has been the restoration of faith enough in the party by those outside of its traditional support base to have voted the 60-year old party back into office.

Dr Rowley gained strength from the frontal and “brutish” attacks and solidified his place at the top of the political orators of the day—no surprise that Kamla Persad-Bissessar weaseled-out of her commitment to debate.  

The challenge for Prime Minister Rowley, the leadership of the government and ruling party, is to govern in a manner to widen the acceptance spread of the PNM so that it can reach out from its traditional base. We shall return to that discussion.

The rejection of the United National Congress by the electorate, outside of its tribal territory, was hinged around a few very fundamental pathologies of the government—2010-2015. At the top of the list is a fundamentally flawed ideological approach to governance. At the core of that ideology—meaning the fundamental principles which govern its operations, are subterfuge, contrivance, basic dishonesty in approach, in communication and large servings of arrogance. 

Like Brer Anansi, Persad-Bissessar and her courtiers believed they could outsmart all. The widespread practice of nepotism and the desire for total cultural, social and economic power for its tribe at all cost, was another pathology which infected the UNC.

Former prime minister Persad-Bissessar and her cabalists deluded themselves into believing they could outwit the nation, that the Reshmi episode was forgotten, that somehow they had convinced those outside of their tribe that Section 34 was an “oversight,” that her harbouring of Jack Warner, Anand Ramlogan, Anil Roberts could be overcome by the “doggie look ah bone” distributions of the last six months.  

One of the greatest disasters of the UNC in government was its deliberate destruction of the COP in the belief that without that party’s ability to attract those outside of the UNC, the UNC could somehow capture the support of COP-type voters and become the dominant party capable of carrying the national vote.

That act of willful political destruction of the COP crushed the hopes of an electorate desirous of a truly nationally representative political coalition. Playing a significant role in the destruction of the COP was the quiet acquiescence of Winston Dookeran and Prakash Ramadhar’s intention to live in the skin of the UNC while seeking to portray himself outwardly as COP.  

Persad-Bissessar and her cohorts disappointed the political aspirations of the UNC support base to continue in government. Their disasterous five years spread quite an amount of distrust of Indo-Trinidad amongst significant parts of the rest of the population. Large groups of people in the national community now look on Indo-Trinidad as being distrustful, money-grabbing and corrupt because of the alleged kickback deals made by the government with contractors.  

The disaster that was the campaign of the UNC sealed the fate of the party that was cast over the last five years. 

Having to sort out the internal conflict over candidate selection and the general lack of strategic preparation for the polls, the UNC entered the campaign late and under-prepared. The candidate selection committee rushed Wayne Munroe into fighting Tunapuna and Raziah Ahmed to the San Fernando West constituency. Their opponents, Faris Al-Rawi and Esmond Forde had been walking those constituencies for months. The results reflected the scrappiness of the UNC effort.

The cynical No Rowley campaign flopped at every turn and disillusioned many voters, yet Rodney Charles boasted that the PNM did not have the intellectual capacity to win the campaign. The Kamla 2015-focus, as the party hid all others with much to answer for from sight, was another flop. The spectacular failure of Kamlamania second time around resulted from an unmasking of the “Queen” and her yellow colours when required to debate Dr Rowley.

On election night without an explanation for the UNC defeat, Persad-Bissessar sought to appease her supporters with the concoction that the UNC had won the popular vote. Her subsequent attempt to challenge the EBC’s additional voting hour by saying they were in front even before the votes were counted remains as an example of the ideology of dishonest dealings.  

• To be continued. 

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