A mere 13 months ago the world was at his feet. Patrick Manning, bearing the exalted title of Prime Minister, had just hosted the Fifth Summit of the Americas, a conference that huddles leaders of the hemisphere. Manning rubbed shoulders with US President Barack Obama, within months of the latter's presidency. Manning had assigned about $1 billion to stage the conference, in spite of public outrage over the critical and pressing urgency of confronting poverty, crime and other social and economic issues. Indeed, there was a double dose from Manning, having already committed himself to hosting a conference of Commonwealth leaders.�That parley made him chairman of the 54-member group of nations, an honour he held until Monday.
Manning not only weathered the storm over the dubious decision to dole out precious funds to briefly assume the role of international statesman but he also stoutly defended the move. He got resounding support from ministerial cohorts, who insisted that Trinidad and Tobago would reap rich rewards. The hosting of the conferences may have been a critical turning point in Manning's political career but there were also pivotal reasons, not the least being his virtual cuddling of Calder Hart in spite of dark corruption claims. Wild spending–the Tarouba Stadium is not yet completed–left an enlightened and frustrated nation aghast and demoralised. Then, in a step that was bewildering, even by Manning's clumsy standards, he opted to summon a general election at the height of Kamlamania.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, doffing her image as subservient to entrenched Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday, had mustered the will to confront her political guru. Her victory not only animated women but galvanised a nation around a leader who appeared the antithesis to the prevailing maximum leaders. The rest may, indeed, be history. But Manning, who never troubled the intellectual community, would have further sullied his legacy, one in which he touted developed nation status even while 20 per cent of the populace laboured under the poverty level. His ignominious resignation last night as PNM boss brings to an end a political chapter of a man who, virtually by accident, rose to become Prime Minister at age 44. In that respect, he was the most fortunate local politician of his generation. Twenty years later, his hung shoulders and forlorn look portrayed his new reality.