Prime Minister Patrick Manning has no intention of entering into any debate with Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar before the May 24 general election. Manning made the announcement yesterday, while speaking with members of the media, shortly after he completed a walkabout in Tarodale Heights, which is located in his San Fernando East constituency. He was responding to the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce's launching of the T&T Debates Commission at its Westmoorings office yesterday. The commission issued an invitation to both Manning and Persad-Bissessar to have a debate on leadership issues on May 18–six days before the general election. (See story below)
The Debate Commission's purpose is to strengthen the local democratic process by staging debates on matters of national importance.
According to chamber president Angella Persad, the commission's primary objective is to enable the citizens of T&T to learn directly from the leadership of the parties what are their visions and plans for the country in the years ahead. Manning, however, said he would have nothing to gain by a debate with his opponent. "It is unlikely that I will participate in any such debate, very unlikely," he said. "You all need to check and see what the implications of these debates are. Our political judgment is that we may do it, but not now." He said his party preferred to walk the constituencies and meet the residents. "The PNM, instead of doing these debates, prefers to do as we are doing and walk around as we are walking around now," he said.
"It has nothing to do with the answers you give or any such thing. What do I have to gain by doing a debate with Mrs Persad-Bissessar? Nothing to gain by that." About an hour earlier, around 4.45 pm, Manning, accompanied by party faithful, met with and heard the complaints and concerns of the Tarodale residents. As the loudspeaker blared PNM campaign slogans, Manning started his walk at Sion Drive Extension, and made his way along Yallahs, Spring Hill and Green Hill avenues, Green Hill Extension and Grange Drive. Manning acknowledged that many of the concerns dealt with various housing issues which, he said, were due to fast construction and supervision that were "not of the best." He said the Housing Development Corporation would revisit the area and assess the various problems.