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Needed: A fresh start for the UNC

Published: 
Monday, September 21, 2015
TONY FRASER

It is not inconceivable that the United National Congress could experience a measure of erosion to its tribal base support into the future. 

And this would be especially so, if the present leadership of the party does not come around to the realisation that it has failed. 

That it has not been able to accomplish the unwritten promise in this competitive political environment that it would stay in office to assure the community of being at the top of the political, cultural, social and economic heap. 

Undoubtedly, the strength of the UNC support base in business, the professions, finance and other material elements of the culture will be sustained whichever party is in power. Indeed, it is worth noting that the platform from which the economic ascendancy of Indo-Trinidad was laid during the periods of PNM being in power. 

The fact is that unlike Afro-T&T, Indo-Trinidad took advantage of the opportunities for education and applied their cultural instincts for business in a society that has been free, open and accommodating to honest effort.

That having been said, the reality is that the UNC/People’s Partnership amalgam has lost five elections under the present leadership of Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her associates.

It must strike elements of the UNC support base that the leadership of the party took no real notice and lessons out of the first four defeats and continued to operate on the same outmoded political model, which I described last week as Anansi Politics, designed to fool and seek advantage based on outmoded notions of political mobilisation and reliance on tribal instincts at the poll. 

The electoral map depicted on television on election night showed that the protected areas of UNC support held through the voting; and that has been the historical pattern whatever the state of the politics. However, the numbers of the Elections and Boundaries Commission show that whereas the UNC received 308,581 votes in the 2010 poll, that figure was reduced in 2015 to 290,000 votes approximately, a slippage of nearly 20,000.

Now those are the raw figures and it would take some digging through the numbers to find out if the 20,000 and others slipped away from the UNC core base, or whether they were new comers who became quickly disenchanted over the last five years.

If there is going to be a measure of erosion from the UNC base it is more than likely to come first from the Indo-Trini social middle and business classes. 

They are the ones with business and other interests to serve. If they are comfortable and prosperous with the policies and programmes of Dr Rowley’s government, they may trade those benefits for tribal instincts.

That would likely to be more possible if the present UNC leadership remains stuck in the old mould awaiting tribal instincts to activate the base.

As difficult as it may seem, Persad-Bissessar, Moonilal, Rambachan and others who now hold the sentiments of the tribe, could wake up to the reality that the political and social ideology they have pursued for so long is in need of transformation. 

The reality is that the demographics and sociology of the entire society inclusive of the Indo-Trini population are changing. Soon enough changes are going to come to Rudder’s insightful observation that “how we vote is not how we party.”

What however is needed is for a fresh start to the UNC. This would require a change in the leaders and ultimately a new beginning in political philosophy and ideology as a means of mobilisation, including the end to “smart-man” politics. 

It is quite unlikely that the leadership and supporters of the UNC would take on what this columnist says; they should however critically examine how the party fared in office, how the smart-man campaign imploded on them and they could come to the conclusion that change is at their doorstep. 

As nearly impossible as it may have seemed then, the People’s National Movement under Patrick Manning made the first change; Dr Rowley renewed that change. Dynamism and growth even in political organisation and institutions can happen and are required if parties are to meet the needs of modern society.

Nuff said at this time about UNC politics.

All that has been experienced over the last five years of UNC/coalition meltdown should be lessons for the People’s National Movement. Even more required than economic transformation is quality governance. Indeed, it is quality governance that will manage and transform the economy; that will bring about social change and human development and will nurture into existence a new ethos in the society and polity.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley talked the talk post and prior to being elected to office. “The buck stops with me,” he said after having his ministers sworn. He also promised on a number of occasions to be the prime minister of T&T. Dr Rowley also warned his ministers that they would soon be “ex-ministers” if they were to become embroiled in corrupt practices of whatever nature.

During the campaign, Dr Rowley also emphasised the organisational nature of the PNM as opposed to being a one-man band. As Prime Minister his government must demonstrate its organisational capacity and approach to governance and problem solving.

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