March was an interesting month in the political developments in Trinidad and Tobago. The month started with Carnival and ended with a holiday, Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day. There is a strange intersection between religion and politics, and cultural folklore in Trinidad and Tobago but if the events of the last week could be wrapped up some interesting religious parallels can be drawn, but we will leave that for another time.
What was packaged in the middle is what we will attempt to take a bite into during the political roundup for this month.
We will begin by exploring the leadership race of the PNM internal election. Things are getting hot as fire in this camp. Rowley still has the advantage as the party machine and establishment is firmly behind him, but the strategies and tactics his campaign is using is leaving a bad taste for many. He is firing up his base to do battle in the general election but often what comes out from this fired up base is something just scary and unattractive. The goal of his campaign is to quickly defeat Penny then go in the ring against the People’s Partnership Government.
While the internal election is new and good for the overall party there is a perception that they are not handling things in the most democratic way and Penny is putting up a fight and she has stated publicly that the party is afraid of change. The levelheaded approach to leadership that Penny brings differs to that of Dr. Rowley’s approach, which some says is hinging on bullying. Over the next few weeks we will see more to be able to compare the two choices and who will be the PNM standard bearer against the Peoples Partnership in 2015.
If what transpired in Parliament between Sports Minister Anil Roberts and Dr. Rowley during his private motion calling on the Prime Minister to stop the move towards the construction of the Waste Water Recycling Plant in Beetham is the type of leadership Dr. Rowley brings, he will remain Opposition Leader.
By the end of Sports Minister Anil Roberts presentation Rowley’s entire motion was dismantled because he came to the Parliament acting on feelings and not facts. The PP government used Rowley’s own words and the Hansard from over 13 years ago to walk him right into a trap.
Rowley as a member of the last government, Roberts produced a MOU showing a similar project as PNM government policy in 2008. Furthermore, the Hansard linked Rowley to personal business interest in his role a geologist to a group of businessmen and investors as far back as 2000.
When asked if he had any personal interest, Rowley took the bait and walked right into the trap. Before answering yes to make a case for his constituents, for the people of Beetham, so that they can benefit from jobs and the nation from more access to water, he stated he has no interest. He was given a second opportunity to declare any interest, and he said he has none.
Interestingly, none of his colleagues came to his defense and it highlighted the Opposition leader’s lack of preparation, research and his loss of memory. The Hansard tells no lies, it my contain lies, but it is a record of what was said in Parliament and it is fair game. This is not levelheaded leadership on the part of Dr. Rowley.
Meanwhile, earlier in the week, he called on his supporters to come down and form a circle around the parliament. His supporters were met by supporters of the government who came out to show support for the Prime Minister. Interestingly the PM used the opportunity of the upcoming Spiritual Baptist Liberation day to come out dressed up in gold evoking a powerful image of the rising sun. The Prime Minister also instructed her government to review any statues of Trinidad and Tobago aimed at removing any vestiges of discrimination against the Spiritual Baptist community in Trinidad and Tobago.