The political silly season officially commenced with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s address to the nation last Sunday and Monday. The PM unofficially rung the election bell. At times I thought I was looking on at a narration of Poltergeist and Poltergeist 2–The Other Side. Other times I thought it was the prelude to some kind of Armageddon movie. For the population, it appeared that Box Office numbers dwindled dramatically after part 1. People were simply not impressed with Sunday/Monday’s presentations.
Social media campaigns as per usual did not waste any time in attacking the PM’s address to the nation. Posts purporting to emanate from former finance minister in the PNM Mariano Browne circulated like wildfire quoting Dr Rowley when he was the Opposition leader. “Anytime a government resorts to blaming the Opposition for its failure to deliver their mandate and their responsibilities to the people, it is a clear sign that they have accepted that they have outlived their usefulness.” (Trinidad Express—April 10, 2013).
To many, Dr Rowley’s presentation, coming almost four years into government, sought to decry public sentiments over his Government’s non-performance and further, to lay any blame at the feet of the Opposition/former Government. One social clip associated Dr Rowley’s presentation with an abstract of a Trevor Sayers video.
On a more serious note, mainstream media houses failed to carry out sufficient fact-checks on the assertions made by Dr Rowley. They settled instead for mere commentaries. Other commentaries suggested that the population had not lost sight of the Rowley-led Government’s blunders with respect to the hiring and firing (and hiring again) of Marlene McDonald, the A&V oil scandal, the severance of thousands of workers, the fact that answers had not been provided over an alleged sexual harassment lawsuit against former sport minister Daryl Smith and last but in no way least, the Galleons Passage. There is a lot for the Government to answer which, the two-part address would not be able to derail.
The Opposition UNC party did not waste time in denouncing the blame cast over their tenure in government. Dr Roodal Moonilal in his usual aggressive style quipped with references to inaccuracies in Dr Rowley’s address. The Opposition Leader, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, held a press conference during the intermission, not waiting to see the second half of the movie. The larger population saw this move by her as one of confidence and strength. She was able to marshal facts in defence of her stewardship over the Partnership government.
Following part two of Dr Rowley’s presentation, Kamla wasted no time in inviting the Prime Minister to a public debate over the country’s economy. Mrs Persad-Bissessar subsequently filed a notice of motion in the Parliament to debate Rowley’s address to the nation and the economy of the country.
If ever people thought that there were shortcomings in Mrs Persad-Bissessar’s leadership, or that the UNC party did not have a direction or even that it was not prepared to face the PNM in a snap election, the actions of the Opposition Leader since last Monday have changed such perceptions.
Clearly, the PNM is up for a serious fight and they know this. Minister of ‘Everything but doing nothing’ said that Mrs Persad-Bissessar’s call for a public debate with Dr Rowley is a bluff. This appeared to be an acceptance that they (the PNM) prefer not to take on such a challenge at this time.
Before I am recorded as supporting a public debate, I first refer to an earlier article I had written, “Chamber of Secrets”. For those who may have thought otherwise, the Opposition Leader has taken up the gauntlet to fight the political cause.
On both sides, questions have immediately arisen over leadership and the front line MPs moving into general election.
Rowley showed that he had the capacity to jettison 90 per cent of the regular faces and it was a master strategy on his part to win the last election. Such a strategy will not work this time. He and the PNM will be on trial over their performance or lack thereof. It is not going to be easy for them amidst high levels of unemployment and a growing perception of corruption.
Then again, there is always the Carnival season to temper the population. Time and again I have said that Carnival should not be funded by the State. It always falls on deaf ears. This must be due to the fact that successive governments see Carnival as the perfect opportunity to woo certain sections of the population, despite the failures of the event itself.
On the opposition benches, a lot more considerations will have to be factored to be able to win the next election. There were apparently talks of ‘opposition unity’ over some ponche de crème during the recent Christmas period. This may prove to be too little too late for the Opposition. What is required is a strong force of stability which Mrs Persad-Bissessar has shown during the past few days. Only time will tell the fate of our country.