Former T&T ambassador to the United Nations, Rodney Charles is back home to lead the election campaign for the ruling People’s Partnership administration in the run-up to the 2015 general election. Charles is convinced the PP will retain political office because the PNM has stuck to its old policies which failed the party in the 2010 polls. Charles said the PNM does not have the intellectual capacity to convince the electorate to put the party back into power.
Q: Mr Charles, your political allegiance is with the People’s Partnership coalition Government, but why did you give up what in anybody’s estimation was the cushy job of our country’s ambassador to the United Nations to become PRO and campaign manager of the main component of the PP’s administration, the United National Congress (UNC)?
A: (A broad smile at the Rienzi Complex headquarters of the UNC) Well before we get there, let me say that my three-year experience at the UN was exhilarating, fascinating, and one which afforded me the invaluable opportunity to get a major understanding of international affairs.
My tour of duty there, I think, raised the profile of T&T as I visited more than ten countries, I acted for the president of the UN’s General Assembly, and T&T made its voice heard on such serious global topics as climate change, sustainable development, the role of small states, and the UN’s work in Haiti.
And at the UN—even today—I always relied on the guidance of Prime Minister Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar who was, and is, highly respected internationally. To answer the second part of your question, Clevon, at this stage of my life the future of T&T is more important than anything else. I believe that the Prime Minister is the best person to take this country forward at this time. So when Mrs Persad-Bissessar called on me to assist the campaign, I was most willing to comply with her request.
Ok, Mr Charles, let’s not get into general election campaign mode just yet, it is still more than a year to go, right?
True, true, but part of my current assignment with my colleagues in the PP and the UNC, to be brief, is to ensure that she continues in her thrust to help our country live up to its potential and achieve its destiny as the best country in the world in which to live and raise our families. The UN was a very good experience, but it’s time to move on.
Although it is a bit too early, how are preparations coming along for the 2015 polls?
Quite good and at this point, things are advancing much better than the timelines we established. As you know, the party has remained very active in the past four-plus years since we were elected as part of the PP administration. We’ve been in a continuous state of mobilisation, and we’ve engaged a number of party-building exercises to deliver various levels of training and personal development to members and activists.
You make it sound as if you’re ready to roll but…
Yes, the party is always ready, and we’ve grown tremendously since political leader and Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar took charge.
Not wanting to let the cat out of the bag, what will the UNC campaign look like next year?
Our campaign will be very action and achievement focused, rooted in data. We know the distressing extent of damage we found when we took office in 2010, we know the kind of work and commitment it took to clean up that damage and start re-directing our country, and we know the kind of work we put into getting our country on a stronger, more people-centred footing.
I keep hearing that term from the UNC—‘people-centred’, exactly what does the party mean by that, isn’t all of politics ‘people-centred’?
All of politics in democracies in theory is people-centred. But in practice, we have had a different experience at a number of stages in our development. What this means is that we have broken the bad habit of the PNM government of talking people, but not necessarily acting in the peoples’ interest. We talk with the people, listen to the people, and act on their behalf.
Looking at the party’s public position and its stand against Dr Keith Rowley, leader of the Opposition, what are your views on the fitness and readiness of him to assume the mantle of leadership of T&T?
That’s simple, even four years into his tenure as the leader of his party, he has failed to enunciate policies, plans and programmes to take this country forward.
Well it’s one thing to say that, but why exactly do you say that?
Let me give an example. On the Isis matter, Rowley prefers like an ostrich to bury his head in the sand by not stepping up to the plate on an issue of global terrorism. The global community is united in its resolve to confront this issue. He still fails to understand that the fight against terrorism is a responsibility that cannot be ignored.
As a leader of the PNM we await his alternative policies on health, job creation, education and crime. He seems unwilling or unable to articulate alternative policies which will provide voters with a clear choice. We are ready for that policy debate, but the ideas on the PNM side are not forthcoming. Surely a rapid rail project, which will place thousands of taxi drivers on the breadline, is not the best that the PNM can offer us at this time.
I do not want you to anticipate me, but what you’re saying is…
In fact, my apologies, I just want to make this point…After four years as leader of his party, Rowley’s best showing has been to return to a failed and rejected Vision 2020, which he is now re-branding as Vision 2030. The people of our country rejected that vision in 2010 and to now see him having so little imagination that he has no choice but to revert to a failed vision tell us that he is fishing for ideas.
Mr Charles, some of the PNM’s critics are saying that the present leadership of the party does not have the intellectual capacity to regain political office…
But that is precisely why I referred to him rehashing old PNM failed policies. What we’re looking at is Rowley having achieved three dramatic failures with motions of no confidence, and a fabricated e-mail scandal that has ricocheted right back into his lap as his own creation and his own failure.
Speaking about that matter, whatever happened to that scandal?
That is an issue which will in the fullness of time tell us a lot about Rowley and his decision-making processes…READ MORE