Diego Martin West MP Keith Rowley has been recommended as Opposition Leader by the PNM's General Council, after yesterday's resignation of PNM political leader Patrick Manning. Once Rowley gets the requisite seven-plus votes of support from PNM MPs, he would serve as Opposition Leader until June 27, when PNM will hold a special convention to elect a new political leader. Former Prime Minister Manning drove out of Balisier House yesterday after resigning, hounded by a mob of shouting supporters of Rowley who put on a angry display blaming Manning–and the media–for the PNM's election defeat on Monday.
Police, including Guard and Emergency Branch riot officers, were called in after angry supporters of Rowley's from Diego Martin West, Couva South and other areas shouted down the walls at Balisier House where PNM's General Council met to discuss Manning's decision. Unbeknownst to the angry mob, Manning had come to the council meeting armed with his resignation letter which he presented and which PNM chairman Conrad Enill later revealed to the media. When Manning arrived at 4.55 pm, he was given a hostile reception by a small group of supporters wearing "Rowley" jerseys who arrived by maxi-taxi. Similar PNMites arrived throughout the evening, becoming louder in decrying the former prime minister. Rowley was cheered loudly when he arrived.
PNMites came on the scene bearing placards proclaiming: "Manning–Please Go Home," "Step Down," "Do like Brown and Step Down Now," "Please Go Home so we can heal" and "The People have spoken–please listen and leave." Melba Boxhill, one of the most vocal protesters shouted: "Is he have we here! He shoulda resign since Monday... we out of a job! Rowley is the man!" PNMite David Taitt began using a microphone to call for Manning to go. Taitt said: "We are the voice of the ground troops! We have to remove the rubble before we rebuild whoever the rubble is!" Rowley's campaign manager, Jacquie Lazarus, in a long statement, also said Manning should have resigned. Police, called in at 5.30 pm, met with Manning in a private office. The officers later spoke to Taitt.
Shortly after around 5.45 pm, Manning, seated in the back of his silver Prado, was driven out of the compound with the angry mob shouting him out of the driveway. PNM's council meeting continued in Manning's absence. The mob which had filled the Balisier House courtyard later turned their attention to the media present. Also present in the crowd were supporters of PNM MP Colm Imbert who sang hymns and complained to the T&T Guardian about the "uncivilised behaviour" (sic) of the crowd." At 6.50 pm, when the meeting ended, Rowley emerged–to great cheers–to tell the crowd the council had recommended that he be Opposition Leader and he had accepted and would discharge the responsibility to the best of his ability.
At a subsequent news conference, PNM chairman Enill read Manning's May 27 letter to the Council. This stated: "The general election of May 24 did not result in victory for the PNM. As political leader of the party, I accept full responsibility for this result. "I am of the view the party in these circumstances should proceed to elect a new political leader in the shortest possible time and in accordance with the PNM constitution. "To facilitate this process I hereby resign the office of political leader. May I also indicate that if it is the party's wish, I am prepared to stay on as political leader until a political leader is elected at which time it will be my pleasure to gracefully demit office."
Manning, who was elected PNM leader in February 1987 and who served for 23 years, assured he would fully support the new political leader who was chosen and would not operate in any manner to bring the PNM into disrepute. Enill said that since the council accepted Manning's resignation, the situation triggered a vacancy and the PNM now had to move to special convention on June 27 to elect a leader. He said the council recommended to MPs that Rowley be supported as Opposition Leader until the June 27 convention, "at which time the political leader will have control of that process."
Manning pledges support for Rowley
He noted that Parliament will be convened soon and decisions by an Opposition Leader would have to be made, therefore Rowley was recommended. Enill said the recommendation was seconded by the chairman of Manning's San Fernando East constituency. He said Manning had agreed to sign the letter of support for Rowley to be Opposition Leader and PNM MPs would be encouraged to follow this direction. Enill said Manning gave the party the options and also assured that he would not interfere in the process. He said Manning's offer to stay on was not "turned down," but he had merely given the party options since he was unaware of what the council would do.
Enill said Manning's mood yesterday was one of disappointment. He said Manning had made it plain in Monday's address that he would have had to consider his position in politics after the defeat and would have stepped down. Enill admitted the PNM should have done more work for the election and would in future move differently and be more relevant. On the view that he and other officials should also resign, Enill agreed that if this was necessary after the new leader was elected, he would. Manning's resignation is the third occasion the PNM has found itself in these circumstances. The party will today begin issuing notification to PNM units about the special convention and a nomination submission date.