If I were an undecided voter I would still be one after last week’s heavily advertised People’s National Movement (PNM) mass national meeting at St Augustine.
Such a gathering should have attracted thousands but the meeting was more like a wake than an event by a party aspiring to form the next government. And that was only one part of the disappointment.
What was even worse was the absence of any policy announcement to convince a fence-sitting voter to take a chance with the PNM.
There was a lot of talk of corruption and the label of “criminals” and “crooks” recklessly being pinned on all members of cabinet without even one shred of evidence to support the wild claims. It was vintage Rowley: no substance but full of sound and fury signifying nothing.
Rowley showed that the PNM remains out of touch and that it lacks vision and a feasible political agenda. He demonstrated that today’s PNM is no different from the one voters cast out in 2010; the policies that failed to attract popular support during the last election are back.
So why would anyone trust Rowley to lead a government when it already has one with a vision to govern for all through consultation, focusing on what’s best for the people regardless of the political consequences.
Yet, Rowley is today following the same failed Manning policies, expecting that by doing the same thing he would get a different result. Any management trainee knows that’s a formula for failure.
When Rowley took over the PNM he promised to do things differently. He created hope following the abysmal failure of Manning that led to the devastating defeat in the general election. But after five years he has nothing new in his quest to consolidate power for himself.
He was uncomfortable with the crown he inherited because those sitting with him in the House of Representatives (HOR) were handpicked by Manning and remained loyal to the former leader. Unlike Kamla Persad-Bissessar who embraced everyone and united her party when she won the leadership, Rowley divided the PNM. It was most glaring in the selection of candidates, which resulted in the rejection of all but two of “Manning’s MPs” – Marlene McDonald and Colm Imbert.
While Rowley would tell us that some of them voluntarily pulled out the reality is that MPs like Paula Gopee Scoon, Joanne Thomas and Patricia McIntosh read the play and bowed out rather than face the humiliation of being dumped.
Rowley also ensured that leading members of his party have been shut out – people like Penny Robinson, Louis Lee Sing, Mariano Browne, and Danny Montano to name a few.
The result is that instead of encouraging open debate and democracy within the PNM, Rowley has silenced all dissent and those chosen to represent the party in the 2015 general election – mostly political rookies – would dance according to Rowley’s music. People with progressive ideas and views that are contrary to Rowley’s have no space inside the Rowley PNM. It’s a throwback to the PNM of yesterday in which a maximum leader made decisions and “not a damn dog bark”.
But Rowley’s control is even tighter than that of Eric Williams. The founding leader of the PNM at least listened to constituents and allowed people whom he described as “millstones” to stand for election although the only purpose they served once elected was to toe the party line and vote in parliament. Rowley is not willing to even take that chance.
His zero tolerance for criticism is seen clearly in his threats to silence Morgan Job, Gladiator, Wendell Eversley and their respective broadcasting organisations as well as social activist Phillip Edward Alexander. That is his right, of course, but his position is inconsistent with his own pronouncements.
In April 2013 Dr. Rowley sated in parliament: “…when you are in public life you… attract allegations…how we respond to these allegations is what is going to determine who we are, what we are, and whether, in fact, the allegations have been properly dealt with.” His reaction to criticism tells us a lot about him.
The Prime Minister and her ministers have been under the media microscope every day since taking office but they have not silenced anyone, especially the media. Rowley;s threats to the media border on paranoia.
Interestingly while he plans to sue journalists to protect his interest he was adamant that the National Gas Company (NGC) should not do the same. In an unapologetic defence of the Express newspaper, Rowley said the NGC has no right to seek an injunction against the paper for publishing what the company said was erroneous and malicious. It’s typical of the PNM: one rule for the PNM and another for everybody else. For the PNM what matters most is the PNM.
The choice is 2015 is very clear – which of the leaders can you trust to take us forward: Keith Rowley or Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Voters hold their destiny in your hands and their choice would determine if we go forward or move backwards.