Please tell me – what disqualifies Dr Keith Rowley?
FERDIE FERREIRA Monday, May 21 2012
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PATROLLING THE CITY'S WATERFRONT: A Customs and Excise Interdiction Unit patrol boat maintains security in the waters off the Waterfront Complex in Po...
If Mr George Chambers, Mr Patrick Manning, Mr Basdeo Panday and Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar are qualified to become Prime Ministers of Trinidad and Tobago, please tell me what disqualifies Dr Keith Rowley?
In most countries with democratically elected governments, more so those like ours that operate under the Westminster system, the electorate must at all times be prepared for a change of government — invariably the alternative comes from the party in opposition. Since 1986 we have been making such changes — 1986 NAR, 1991 PNM, 1995 UNC, 2000 UNC, 2001 PNM by default, 2002 PNM, 2007 PNM and 2010 PP. Three of these changes came about courtesy generosity and injudicious political decisions of Patrick Manning 1995 and 2010 and Basdeo Panday 2001.
On every occasion since 1991, we have been served by prime ministers who came to office with little or no experience at the cabinet/ministerial level. In 1991 Manning came to office having assumed the leadership of the PNM almost by default in 1987 after the onslaught by the NAR in1986. Whatever we may say or wish to say about Manning, he like his predecessor, George Chambers 1981-1986, rose to the occasion and lead party and country honourably without any major changes to our Westminster system of democracy.
Enter Basdeo Panday in 1995 with almost 20 years experience as Opposition Leader and a mere three months of ministerial experience. Again Panday, whatever his faults, rose to the occasion as the first Indo- Trinidadian prime minister, and led us honourably while maintaining and preserving our democratic system of government. Out goes Panday in 2002 and a supposedly more matured and experienced Manning returns, leads the PNM back to office in 2007, with elections not due until 2012.
Unfortunately, after almost eight years in office, Manning whatever his reason(s) proceeded once again to ‘lotterise’ his government. He calls early elections in 2010 and the rest of this political disaster is history.
Enter our current Prime Minister, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar — with less than six months as leader of the UNC, a short stint as attorney general, and experience as a former Minister of Education. Most of her parliamentary experience was in Opposition – so much so that most of her party’s parliamentary colleagues did not support her in her challenge for the leadership of the party. To her credit, Mrs Persad-Bissessar accepted the leadership challenge and proceeded to politically destroy the two previously unchallenged political gladiators, creating history by becoming the first woman prime minister in Trinidad and Tobago in a partnership government and with a commanding majority.
It’s against this background we must assess and evaluate the qualifications and experience of the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Keith Rowley as a future prime minister of our country. In my many discussions with friends, political foes, political analysts, party members and several others I am told: “The PNM has a very good chance of returning to power but not with Dr Rowley.” On every occasion I am told this, I asked two questions: If Chambers, Manning, Panday and Mrs Persad-Bissessar were qualified to become prime minister, please tell me what disqualifies Dr Rowley from becoming prime minister?
Most of the time there is no answer. When an answer is forthcoming, it is as follows:- “He is too combative; he comes across as unapproachable; he is too adversarial’ he has no alternative programme; he is only criticising.” Some go so far as to express under confidential cover (a) he is a racist — he doesn’t like Indians and he is too black.
Any attempt to obtain concrete evidence from them on these accusations is invaribaly futile. I often remind them that Tobagonians do not carry the same race baggage that Indo and Afro Trinidadians do, hence, it was very easy for Robinson to give Panday the two seats in 1995 that made him the first Indo-Trinidadian prime minister, and Ashworth Jack to deliver the two seats to Mrs Persad-Bissessar in 2010. All their allegations of Dr Rowley’s combative nature arise out of Patrick Manning’s demonisation of Rowley — similar to Karl Hudson-Phillips’ demonisation at the hands of Eric Williams on the Public Order Act, to politically excuse himself from public criticism of the Act.
Who in the PNM is/or could be an alternative to Rowley I ask?
The answer becomes even more ridiculous, nonsensical, shallow and thoughtless. Some anxiously await the return of Manning, whose health, survival and return to a long healthy family life is less important to these political vultures, than their own selfish political ambitions. They now having been retrenched by the electorate have proclaimed themselves as consultants — to consult whom? They know who they are! When the Manning family has friends like these, they certainly don’t need enemies.
Now in my respectful view Rowley is the most qualified person among our current Parliamentarians — inside and outside the PNM to be an alternative prime minister for the following reasons: Dr Rowley lost his first election in Tobago in1981. He entered the Senate as an opposition member in 1986-1991. He was, as an elected MP made a government minister from 1991-1995 and 2001-2010. He is the only minister in the history of TT who appeared before two Commissions of Inquiry and gave evidence under oath — the UFF and the Landate.
He provided evidence of corruption which brought down two governments 2001 and 2010; and saved the country billions of dollars by putting several ministers before the Bar of Justice. Successfully challenged the questionable activities of his party’s political leader and prime minister. Successfully challenged a questionable Integrity Commission that resulted in the embarrassing resignation of the entire Commission. A skillful debater, excellent platform speaker and defender of integrity in public office.
Please tell me what qualifies the above-mentioned former and current prime minister for office, but disqualifies Dr Rowley? “He who is without sin, let him cast the fist stone.”