A war is on between Government and some elements of the construction sector, and some "soldiers" may fall, Prime Minister Patrick Manning declares.
"But Government is determined to carry this to a finish, because at the end of the day, it is the people who will benefit," Manning told PNMites at a St Joseph meeting last night, after a walkabout in the area. Manning added: "See what is happening in the newspapers and you realise it is a plan to kill Manning–when I say 'kill' I'm not talking about....you know how they like to misunderstand–but we are not prepared to accept the established order, and we are going to fight until we change it. The people deserve value for money. "Those who wish to do right have to face the slings and arrows of those who do wrong, and if you want to achieve anything as someone striving for rectitude, you have to have endurance and determination, and must not allow yourself to be scared. "They're coming at me from every angle, but I fear no man." Manning's tour of the East-West Corridor seat took place as Government continued fielding criticism on various issues stemming from ex-Udecott chairman Calder Hart. Addressing the PNM meeting, Manning said he was not "bad talking" anybody, but he felt citizens needed to know the facts.
He said Government's development drive had run into some construction practices which Government was not prepared to tolerate any longer. He related problems with practices which made Government lose control of its projects, delivery time and other aspects. "We said that doesn't work, and we're not going that way anymore." Manning added. He pointed out, for example, that the price of a roof for the proposed Carnival centre in Port-of-Spain was $45 million less from a Far East company than it was for another company. He added: "So what you see happening today is a battle between Government and largely the construction sector and some elements of this. "It is not all; there are some good people in it. Government is saying we're not prepared to tolerate it anymore. "And it is war, you know, and soldiers may fall along the way." He said it took eight months to build the Prime Minister's residential complex, while it took almost three years to build Belmont Police Station. "We are not accepting that, and we will fight until this is changed!" Manning said the people elected him not to fear anyone, but to conduct T&T's business in the best way, "and I will continue to fight that battle until the people get their just due. "That's what this is all about!"
Manning said it was not true that Government was out of touch with public sentiment on the issues, since PNMites were touring and holding meetings continuously. Manning was greeted warmly by many along the walkabout. However, at the eastern end of Real Street in San Juan, Manning was blocked from a yard by an 81-year-old retired public servant. The elderly man, who declined to give his name, angrily berated Manning and blocked Manning, insisting that Manning refrain from greeting other members of the family. He told the Guardian he had been a loyal PNM supporter up to the last election, but was now in favour of "change." Complaining bitterly about Government, he said he was fed up of the situation in the country and current issues. "I don't want to hear anything from Manning and them," he said, complaining about the Udecott issue. Concern about the Udecott issue was also expressed to Manning by another resident, Rev Courtney Joseph, who told Manning he had just returned from Bermuda and he was embarrassed by the situation. Joseph told Manning: "If the Prime Minister is sincere, he has my support, but I am very concerned about the situation with Udecott, and I feel it should be dealt with. "The PM told me he would deal with it and he told me to 'stay tuned'," Joseph said.
After the walkabout, Manning told reporters that residents' response was much better than he had expected. He said the area had a high Muslim population, and the party felt that the PNM had a lot of support in the area. He was heartened by responses. Manning said local government elections would be later this year. The walkabout took place as Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar held a meeting at Himalaya Club, eight blocks away from Manning's meeting.