By Capil Bissoon
It now appears that Keith Rowley will lead the PNM in the 2015 general election, leaving the electorate a choice between him and Kamla Persad-Bissessar, with or without members of the present People’s Partnership.
In 2010, the electorate demonstrated political maturity by dispensing with the failed PNM regime and embracing a coalition of interests.
Before contemplating our voting choices in 2015, we must remember why the PNM was defeated in 2010 and how Keith Rowley was elevated to the post of PNM political leader.
The most important issue facing the electorate in 2015 will be the choice between the two nationals offering to lead the next government.
Keith Rowley is presenting himself as the only saviour for the PNM and that he alone can take the party back to government. To have a PNM led by someone else, he says, would be like snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.
Those falling for Dr Rowley’s propaganda and shouting anti-Partnership chants need to examine the candidates before deciding who is better suited to be Prime Minister.
Patrick Manning fired Keith Rowley because he felt Dr Rowley was not fit to hold office. “Dr Rowley was totally out of line, his attitude uncalled for and unbecoming of a senior cabinet minister,” Mr Manning told Parliament as he described Dr Rowley as a man “full of hate, bitterness, acrimony, animosity, and a person completely out of control when he does not get his way”.
Dr Rowley presented himself as a paragon of virtue and morality when he criticised Mr Manning for looking the other way instead of investigating bid-rigging and other forms of corruption at UDeCOTT. But the records show that Dr Rowley remained silent about the transgressions for nearly five years and found his tongue only when expelled from the Cabinet.
He accused his party of being the worst ever, led a vocal mutiny against Mr Manning and promised a “court martial” once the PNM ship was in dry dock.
But once he got Mr Manning to walk the plank and secured himself in the captain’s stateroom, all was well again and the PNM became sanitised. The reality is that nothing has changed in the four years that Dr Rowley has led the PNM. He has demonstrated that he is unfit to lead since he has not been able to effect the transformation which the PNM desperately needs. His opponent in the party’s upcoming internal election wants to change the PNM into a kinder, gentler party, closer to the one that propelled Kamla Persad-Bissessar into office.
She talks about dispensing with the party’s “cult” image and is even willing to engage in a debate on constitutional reform. So much for PNM transformation under Dr Rowley.
The party of Eric Williams cannot provide us with a Singapore-style vision for the future.
Only last week Danny Montano, former Senate president under the PNM, questioned Dr Rowley’s suitability to lead the country, basing his argument on the inability of the PNM establishment under Dr Rowley’s guidance to even manage an internal election properly. Mr Montano raised the issue of discrimination within the party and wondered how a Rowley administration would treat UNC supporters.
In May 2010, when the PNM was voted out of office, the new Government had to deal with crumbling infrastructure, escalating crime, a crashed economy, high debt, an unresolved CLICO and HCU crisis and an empty treasury. This was after eight years in which the PNM squandered almost $25 billion and failed to deliver sustained economic growth.
How can anyone who cares about the country and its people seriously consider voting for an unchanged, inherently sterile PNM that is bankrupt of new ideas? Yet the PNM pontificates as if they are the country’s saviours, continually bombarding us with propaganda, hoping that by continuous repetition some of the dirt will stick.
Where are their transformative ideas on health, education and crime? Are we to expect more Martin Joseph crime plans?
In his four years in office as PNM leader, Dr Rowley has not produced a single idea to take the country forward.
By contrast Kamla Persad-Bissessar has shown a willingness to listen, and then lead. She is all-embracing and her administration’s development plans are spread across every community. She continues to be the more trusted leader and her actions and decisions demonstrate strong leadership. She maintains that under her leadership there will be no compromise on integrity, no allowance for arrogance, no room for violation of mutual respect and no sacrifice of our values on the altar of political expediency.
She remains resolved to do the right thing; her decisions demonstrate this consistency; no one is exempt from the measure of values-based leadership.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar represents the hopes and aspirations of our people who see her as a compassionate and caring leader who brings the diverse sections of our population together.
Her recent action against two cabinet ministers demonstrates her low tolerance level for arrogance and improper public behaviour. Hear her: “I know there will be arguments put forward by some suggesting that what was condoned in the past should to allow for continuity, but I disagree…Regardless of whether the decisions I take hurt me politically or not, I have the strength and courage and independence of mind to measure every tough decision on the basis of what is right and just.”
Unlike the PNM she called local government elections when they were constitutionally due.
Contrast that with PNM machismo, arrogance, vindictiveness and intolerance. Is Keith Rowley the latest manifestation of a sterile party which boasts that it shall prevail?
* Capil Bissoon is a Trini-Canadian looking on at T&T politics from a distance