Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Personal matters have prevented me from writing for the last two weeks, but life goes on and certainly there is a lot to comment on since my last post. The Opposition Parties have now come together under one banner and have agreed on not only a distribution of seats, but also that Kamla Persad-Bissessar will be the Prime Minister should they win the elections. The election is now less than a month away. Prime Minister Patrick Manning has spent the last few days attacking the coalition as being inherently unstable and predicting that they will fall apart soon after they gain power … if they gain power.

Unfortunately for Mr. Manning, this prediction is one that doesn’t look likely to gain traction with the voters. People are more interested in the recent past and the PNM’s handling of their problems. For example, one of the PNM candidates, Peter Taylor who represents Princes Town South, was roundly booed and jeered in Moruga (a part of his constituency) by people who declared quite openly that they normally voted for the PNM. This time they are saying that they will go for the Coalition. Taylor’s seat which was once considered a “safe” PNM seat is now quite clearly a marginal.

Feeling vilified, Mr. Manning has begun to use negative tactics while on the campaign trail. His latest salvo was to resurrect the infamous Scott Drug Report which the NAR Government of A.N.R. Robinson quite wrongly laid in Parliament way back in 1987. Robinson was terribly wrong to lay that Report in the Parliament because it accused many people of being involved in the heinous drug trade without giving any of them the opportunity to defend themselves from the terrible accusations. No doubt there may have been many people who were in fact dealing in drugs, but equally there were probably an awful lot who weren’t. The terrible thing is that nobody knows who is guilty and who is not. For example, the Report named “a director of Queensway” as being involved. Now, the directors of Queensway at the time were John Rahael, a former PNM Minister of Health, and his brother George. Mr. Manning must have been satisfied that the Report was not true of either of the brothers, and I make no criticism of either his appointment of John Rahael as a Cabinet Minister nor do I make any allegations against either of the brothers. Mr. Manning also appointed Camille Robinson-Regis as a Minister. But her husband was named in the Report as being involved in the drug trade! You get the point?
Mr. Manning has obviously cleared the Rahaels and Robinson-Regis (who later got a big job in WASA) but he doesn’t clear Suruj Rambachan, the deputy political leader of the UNC. And he tries to beat Rambachan with the Report on a public platform. Why? Some twenty-three years later nobody has been charged for any of the alleged crimes that are contained in that Report. That ought to tell us something.
(Maybe this last point isn’t so strong … 13 years after my cousin’s murder nobody has been charged, although everybody knows who did it and who helped to cover it up. But I make it nonetheless.)

Back to my point about the elections:
Negative campaigning obviously comes from both sides in this contest, and one could argue that the UNC and COP have been firing their salvos for two and a half years to prepare the election "battlefield."
Negative campaigning can only carry you so far. At the end of the day the average voter wants to know how are you (the politician) going to make his life better. There is a high degree of “fedupness” with Manning especially and with the PNM in general that may well prevent the PNM from a strong showing at the polls.

The election remains Kamla’s to lose. We are in what you might call the period of a “phony war” right now. This is highlighted by the very slick "Made in America" ads running for the opposition. The real campaign will certainly heat up after the Parties launch their campaigns with the traditional rallies where they present their candidates and present their manifestos. Kamla has been towing a fairly soft, fairly bland line so far. But there will be a lot of “slings and arrows” flung at her and the Coalition in the coming weeks. She is going to have to make sure that her shields and defences are in good order, and there is no doubt that she is prepared to fling back.

If I could advise both sides I would say to them to try and stay positive. We (the people) are not really interested in the bacchanal and ‘mauvais langue’ (as much as we … being Trinis … like to hear them). We really want good governance.
To the PNM, I say justify what you did with all that money that you have had over the last 8 years. Tell us in clear, concise and easily understandable language where you invested it and why. Tell us also how you propose to solve our common problems and why they seem to take so long to solve.
To the Coalition, I say tell us in equally clear, concise and easily understandable language what you think are the problems confronting us now and how you propose to solve them. Tell us what sort of principals you stand for and why you are deserving of the public trust. We know that we are in for a rough ride. We also know some of the problems. But we need you to identify them and tell us how you are prepared to deal with them.

The game is on. Let’s see what happens next!

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