By Capil Bissoon
It is said the truth will set you free and it often does. In the case of Dr Keith Rowley it might be his political waterloo when the Trinidad and Tobago House of Representatives debates a motion of no confidence in the People’s National Movement (PNM) leader.
The March 23 event promises to be a significant political showdown, both inside and outside Parliament. PNM youth officer Fitzgerald Hinds has called it a “feeble attempt” to embarrass Dr Rowley and has invited 30,000 PNM supporters to be outside Parliament to support Dr Rowley.
There will be nothing feeble about what the governing People’s Partnership intends to do; it will haul the opposition leader into the public spotlight and undress him as a visionless aspirant for the post of prime minister who lacks the basic leadership skills required to govern. The Partnership will expose and document all the political missteps, contradictions and faux-pas by Dr Rowley over the past years.
It will be a focused and incisive examination of Dr Rowley’s suitability to lead and an opportunity for his own MPs to determine if they would support a leader who is clearly not the competent captain of the PNM ship he promised he would be.
For example, Amery Browne would be under great stress to stand up and support Dr Rowley after damning public statements he made about the party and its leadership. Dr Browne, who defies Dr Rowley at every sitting by wearing his trademark balisier tie, would have to balance his credibility with loyalty to party when faced with the option of speaking in the debate.
Dr Browne is on record as saying in many constituencies, “There exists a minuscule internal cabal who call themselves PNM but whose aim is really to own and totally control elected officials…This small clique always view themselves as the real powerbrokers and tend to propagate what they view as the spoils of power: ghost gangs, manipulation of contracts and other rackets that have become a sad part of our local politics…(they) might even be trying to buy their way into the Parliament, and sadly some of them cannot even speak standard English.”
That aside, Dr Rowley’s record is not stellar and the debate will document all of that for the public record and force the issues into the national conversation by raising them in Parliament although there is going to be no constitutional sanction against Dr Rowley.
Mr Hinds — who is not part of the debate — might discover there are fewer than 30,000 supporters who would come to support a leader who has caused an unprecedented divisiveness within the PNM such that it would make Eric Williams turn in his grave, if he had one.
Dr Rowley’s love-hate relationship with Patrick Manning, his anti-democratic rejection of Penny Beckles-Robinson, the open dissent over his choice of Marlene McDonald for PoS South, the “cleansing” of his party of Mr Manning’s supporters, the dissatisfaction over his elitist choices as candidates and his obstructionist attitude to legislative reform are all ghosts that will emerge during the debate to haunt him right through the campaign.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s motion is not frivolous; it is a serious and strategic move to demonstrate that Dr Rowley lacks the political skills to govern a country as diverse as ours. In addition, it will highlight his arbitrary dismissal of important missteps, showing a level of arrogance no voter welcomes.
His and the PNM’s refusal to pay attention to the will of the people — which is in direct contrast to Mrs Persad-Bissessar — combined with his anger, make him a clear political liability.
Some of his indiscretions include:
• His failure to condemn and deal with the facts with regards to Marlene McDonald’s involvement with Calabar Foundation, which received a cheque for $375,000 from her ministry when Calabar didn’t even exist, as well as her involvement when her ministry authorised over $2.7 million to MRTS for construction of two community centres that were never built.
• The “emailgate’’ fiasco seems heading to show that Dr Rowley presented fake emails in Parliament, accusing government officials of a large scale conspiracy to undermine the justice system and harm a journalist.
• His double-speak on the David West issue, admitting he knew about Mr West’s witness statement but had no obligation to disclose same; two weeks later he says it was Al-Rawi alone who knew about Mr West.
These are the tip of the iceberg; the challenge for Dr Rowley would be to try to defend himself against such an avalanche of negatives.
It’s difficult to assess how he would fare in the face of this carefully planned strategy. But, however it goes, this motion will definitely inflict grievous harm and devalue Dr Rowley’s standing, inside his party and among the one million voters who will choose the next government.
I eagerly await the debate on this motion.
Originally published by the Trinidad Express, Republished with permission