As she views the tea leaves, weighs her options and assesses the opposition People’s National Movement (PNM), I cannot help but feel that Kamla Persad-Bissessar is in a good place. She may have her concerns but she must be optimistic about her chances of winning next year’s general elections. It has been a long way from Chaguanas West to being in a neck and neck fight with the trajectory in her favour.
There are many reasons I suggest for that optimism, not the least being every poll todate has placed her ahead of her main contender and even of her own party. She is by all accounts the most popular politician in Trinidad and Tobago today and in a head-to-head contest with her opponent she appears, if we are to believe the polls, headed for victory.
I have heard many discussions on the reasons for her popularity and the answers usually revolve around the fact that despite incessant allegations by the PNM about corruption in the United National Congress (UNC), they have not been able to come with any credible suggestion that she has been involved in any. There are reasons for her general acceptance by voters; she has brought a softer, feminine approach to governance. This is manifested in her participatory, people centred “listen first, contemplate and then act” approach to governance which is miles away from the old autocratic, macho, top down “in your face” leadership style to which we have become accustomed since independence.
She is referred up and down the country as Tanty Kamla. It speaks to a sense of personal connection.
It was a renowned past leader of our country who is reputed to have said when “I talk, no damn dog bark” and when I say “cometh you come and when I say goeth you leave immediately”.
The main reason in my view is the fact she has brought together a team of Ministers reflective of the country’s diversity. There are not insignificant numbers of Afro-Trinis who hold prominent positions in Cabinet. The list is long including Errol McLeod, “Gypsy” Peters, Delmon Baker, Lincoln Douglas, Rupert Griffith, Clifton DeCouteau and Rodger Samuel.
In addition, and despite PNM propaganda to the contrary, all religions and genders co-exist in the Cabinet. The latest estimate is that less than 38 per cent of the Cabinet consists of Hindus; the rest, including Indo-Trinis are reflective of the religious diversity of the country.
The Prime Minister is also in a good place because the PNM has announced many of their candidates early in the game. This affords her many opportunities to review future candidates at leisure, knowing she controls the timing of the elections.
I am sure that research is being done on every detailed aspect of the lives of those named. We await the findings.
She can also seek to pass seminal pieces of legislation such as the procurement bill in addition to cementing work already done on the FIU and other laws dealing with money laundering. She may even be contemplating campaign finance reform. These will lay the basis for her legacy especially in matters of governance. It will be recalled that the Bill on Constitutional Reform will be laid shortly in the Lower House.
The very last reason for my view that she should be cautiously optimistic is the fact she has quietly put out to pasture most of her formerly formidable political enemies. These include Ramesh Maharaj, Basdeo Panday and very lately, Jack Warner. She can now contemplate the enemy without constantly having to watch her back.
With the emailgate scandal due for imminent finalisation, Kamla Persad-Bissessar must be in a good place. She stands head and shoulder above all others in her Cabinet and they are united around her leadership.
The road has not been easy for her. She faced many a humiliation from Panday and others while learning her trade; she won an internal UNC election when leaders of political parties in this neck of the woods possess absolute and unlimited power. She is the first female leader of a major political party and the first female Prime Minister of our country.
Much of the false accusations hurled against her is precisely because she is female. Like Obama, she is subject to many coded criticisms; in Obama’s case based on race and in hers based on gender.
I have watched our Prime Minister closely and I can say without fear of contradiction that she is the boss of her Cabinet and absolutely in charge. Those detractors who talk about a fictitious cabal can take that in their pipe and smoke it.
It exists only in their minds.