What Kamla, Rowley have in common

Gary Griffith - Photo by Jeff K. Mayers
Gary Griffith - Photo by Jeff K. Mayers

THEY have both fallen out with Gary Griffith.

In the case of Kamla Persad-Bissessar, this has happened at least twice. The first time was when, under her government, she had cause to fire Mr Griffith as minister of national security in 2015.

The second was this week when, notwithstanding a rapprochement mere months ago, a divergence of views so strong, ostensibly over the role of so-called third parties, emerged.

The UNC leader did not mention the NTA leader by name when she spoke on a political platform on Monday and rejected the notion that her party – along with the PNM – is aligned to “tribal” politics.

But a scathing press release issued by Mr Griffith the following day suggested the hat fit and he was willing to wear it.

“Her divisive remarks and dismissive attitude towards third parties are not only regressive but also reminiscent of past failures,” he bellowed.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar - Photo by Angelo Marcelle

Theirs is an odd, inane bone of contention. The connection between race and politics in this country has been documented by reams and reams of political analysis, some authored by key members of Ms Persad-Bissessar’s own party.

At the same time, nobody has ever disputed the importance of independent voters, particularly in the key marginal seats that determine the winner of each election. Equally, nobody has ever disputed the fact that the first-past-the-post system has meant it has always been harder for a party without grassroots support to win seats in Parliament.

Both figures are, therefore, right and wrong – a seemingly impossible feat made possible only in our local brand of politics.

“Don’t let them fool you,” the Prime Minister, meanwhile, said on Wednesday when questioned by reporters about the impasse. In the same breath, he seemed to add credence to the fallout, saying, “That’s their very nature.”

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley - Photo by Roger Jacob

The nature of the Prime Minister’s own conflict with Mr Griffith was complicated by the latter occupying a constitutional role that demanded independence alongside cordiality. The then commissioner of police was able to deliver the former but not the latter.

Additionally, while he today is a champion for diversity within the electorate, some of his decisions as commissioner raised troubling concerns about unequal treatment.

Mr Griffith’s political options going forward are narrowing. He can go it alone. He can collaborate with other third parties. Or he can eat crow and try to form an alliance with the PNM.

The first option would entrench a sense that he is a lone wolf. The second might split votes or be completely irrelevant. The third would appear unimaginable.

But in politics, never say never.

There is a fourth option. However, it is not one anybody in our public affairs has ever been good at: step away from the podium.


"What Kamla, Rowley have in common"

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