Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 16th 2014 Contents A23
March 16, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
Marlene McDonald s war cry this
week as part of the Keith
Rowley re-election campaign
showed a measure of weakness within
the Rowley team.
The Port-of-Spain South MP stated
that Pennelope "Penny" Beckles-Robin-
son---the woman who wants Rowley s
job---has no track record, has no policy
and has had a "lacklustre" performance
during her tenure in the Senate and
therefore is not fit to lead the People s
National Movement (PNM) in a general
election next year.
But it seems that her comments could
also fit Keith Rowley. But that is a mat-
ter for the PNM membership to decide
on May 18.
The PNM needs to ask itself why
Penny performed poorly in Parliament.
And if it wants to be honest it could
conclude that she was just toeing the
party s line and therefore her perform-
ance was an indictment not only on
herself but her party as well. And that
would include Rowley.
There was never room for compro-
mise. For example, Penny suggested in
2011 that the Opposition would join the
Government to do what s best for the
country on the hanging bill; days later
the PNM rebuffed her and voted against
the bill. She allegedly botched the
Alderman Bill in the Senate because the
PNM could not make up its mind about
what to do, not Penny alone. The reality
was that not a single member of the
Senate Opposition bench expressed any
objection at the final vote on the bill.
The television recording on the Parlia-
ment Channel is crystal clear about
Similarly, when she suggested that she
might have a look at proportional repre-
sentation as outlined in the Govern-
ment s proposal for constitutional
reform, Rowley questioned her loyalty to
the PNM. "Eric Williams said...propor-
tional representation is a dagger aimed
at the heart of the PNM...and that is
fundamental PNM policy," Rowley said
Rowley is very wedded to the past to
the extent that he refuses to even
acknowledge that proportional represen-
tation favoured the PNM in the recent
local government election last October.
The PNM won 36 out of 56 aldermen
under proportional representation, but
Rowley is still opposed to it. The stark
reality with proportional representation
is that if you get votes you earn seats
on a proportionate basis.
By denouncing Penny for just saying
"let s think about it," Rowley demon-
strated that the PNM has little tolerance
for debate or democracy and that the
Williams "not a damn dog bark" men-
tality seems alive and well in the PNM.
That has been Rowley s stamp of
leadership since he undermined his
party with his overt anti-PNM cam-
paign in 2010 and his threat to "court
martial" his leader once the PNM ship
was in "dry dock."
Since then, the PNM has remained as
an ethnically-based political organisation
that has kept the society polarised. That
has helped maintain a kind of cult men-
tality that Penny found offensive.
Rowley s tenure has not been stellar.
In many respects, he has missed the
whole point about the role of the Oppo-
sition, which is to be the chief watchdog
for citizens. Instead he became an
obstructionist who opposes most of
what the Government does.
Rowley s dilemma today is the same
that it has been since he became leader:
how to take charge while standing in a
political minefield that he helped create.
Perhaps what is even worse is that he
believes his own propaganda. Just
recently he said the highway to Point
Fortin would end in Penal when the
truth in the public domain was that
since last year work was already in
progress on the Point Fortin end of the
project. Given the social dynamics of the
society, omitting to say that the work
from the Point Fortin end is well under
way, while only saying that the highway
will end in Penal, would give a particu-
Rowley s only real policy statement to
date has been that he would dust off
Manning s Vision 2020, rename it Vision
2030, and call it a plan.
Rowley is squandering the PNM s best
opportunity ever to have a free and fair
debate on national issues by trying to
shut down its members who have a
point of view that does not conform to
his ideas of politics.
What both Rowley and Penny need to
acknowledge is that T&T s changed
demographics and the socioeconomic
character require a different style of
political thinking. The PNM membership
and the party s tribal support are not
enough to get back in office. It is the
same dilemma that the UNC had faced.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar saw the folly
in the failed single hegemonic party sys-
tem and confronted it.
She had the wisdom to build a coali-
tion of national interests that included a
variety of political opinions that collec-
tively had a common cause of repre-
senting the country instead of one seg-
ment. Unless the PNM embraces such
change it would remain stuck in the
political quicksand of the past. And the
losers would be the people, who are
looking for leadership from the PNM
and so far finding none.
Ispent last Sunday evening at the
Maracas Recreation Ground, where I
went to see the football game between
the La Horquetta Sporting Academy and
Tobago s Goal City. I first learnt about the
La Horquetta Sporting Academy from
reading the sports pages in the Guardian.
This team---almost totally comprising
young men from the La Horquetta area---
has been so good at football that it has
won every competition it has entered.
Members play in the East Zone of the
T&T Football Association, and have won
the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Pres-
ident s Cup, beating all manner of opposi-
tion. They have qualified for the Champi-
ons of Champions Football Tournament, in
which the first three teams will be pro-
moted to the National Super League, the
highest level below the Professional Foot-
I used to play football, and anybody who
has played football or any team sport
knows how difficult it is to win any com-
petition. But to win three competitions
against some of the biggest teams in foot-
ball, with a young team made up of jun-
iors just starting out in the game, takes
great leadership. It also takes discipline
and hard work.
I have given this story about the La
Horquetta Sporting Academy to make one
point. Suppose that after winning all three
competitions, with resounding victories,
against strong opposition like the Joe Pub-
lic Football Club, which is funded by Jack
Warner, suppose that someone in La Hor-
quetta, who never kicked a lime, gets up
one day and decides he wants to be the
coach? What would you say to that per-
That is the choice facing all members of
the PNM today, and that is the choice the
country will face, if the PNM makes the
mistake of voting for anyone but Rowley
on May 18, PNM s election day.
No one is born a leader. Good leaders
learn through trial and error or training, as
they go through whatever career they have
chosen. Rowley has been in leadership
positions before he entered politics. He
was also a deputy political leader of the
PNM at a very young age, and has held
leadership positions in several ministries.
He has been the leader of the PNM since
He has an impressive track record and
he has won three recent, hard fought elec-
tions. Like the La Horquetta Sporting
Academy, he is now in competition to
pose a challenge at the highest level and
some people are now suggesting that you
change him for someone who has never
won anything yet.
Now I have the greatest respect for Pen-
nelope Beckles-Robinson; she was my
contemporary at the University of the
West Indies and she is a very pleasant
woman. That is why everyone only has
nice things to say about her. If the leader-
ship competition were a beauty pageant,
Penny would win Ms Amity hands down.
Now, there was a time when we used to
be proud to win Miss Amity, but Trinida-
dians and Tobagonians are past that stage.
This is not time for curry-duck lime and
table-top beating; this is a time for
removing what has turned out to be the
most corrupt and incompetent government
this country has ever seen.
It is fashionable to talk about the PNM
"bound to win" the next general election
and that the UNC-led PP is so corrupt,
that the country will reject it. But this was
not always so. I support Rowley because
he has, almost single-handedly, forced the
collapse of the People s Partnership
From the time the Cabinet was sworn
in, Rowley took a principled position
against Jack Warner s appointment and he
prosecuted this position day in, day out,
until the Prime Minister was forced to
throw Jack Warner out of the Cabinet.
The country grew so fed up with Jack
and the PP that they were willing to throw
out anyone named Jack and poor Ash-
worth Jack paid the price for it in Tobago.
No one in history has been able to win a
12-nil victory in Tobago, not even ANR
Robinson. But it happened under Rowley.
After that, ladies and gentlemen, it has
been all downhill for the PP.
Has anyone stopped to consider how
important those two Tobago seats are? Are
we willing to consider what the PNM s
electoral fate would be if we lost those two
seats? Do you know what will happen?
I can tell you. We will be contesting 39
seats out of 41. And in the 39 seats, we
may well be without the support of the
thousands of Tobagonians residing in
Trinidad. The last time Trinidad threw out
a Tobago-born leader, it took us almost 30
years before we could win a seat in Toba-
go. Are you really ready to take that
Remember, when you go out on May 18,
2014, you are voting to decide the next
prime minister of T&T.
The choice is not between Rowley and
Beckles-Robinson, but it is a choice
between Rowley and Kamla Persad-Bisses-
sar, since if Rowley loses, you can be
assured that Persad-Bissessar will win.
Rowley has proven that he is the best
person to lead the PNM at this time. It is
up to us to confirm that judgment by let-
ting the world know that we do not intend
to change a winning coach, in mid-stream,
on the eve of our biggest game.
This is an edited version of an address
given at the La Horquetta Regional Com-
plex last Tuesday.
PS: La Horquetta Sporting Academy beat
Goal City 1-0, and won their second game,
against QPCC, 4-1, last Wednesday.
FACING THE PNM
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