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Handling political images
There was no love for PNM MP Colm Imbert from the Government benches during yesterday’s House of Representatives session. The session ahead of Monday’s Valentine Day observances actually started off with a warm, bustling atmosphere on both sides prior to the session:
• PP MPs Colin Partap, Prakash Ramadhar and Rudy Indarsingh backslapping in greeting.
• A cluster of MPs around House leader Roodal Moonilal.
• PNM MP Pat McIntosh and PP MP Errol Mc Leod exchanging cracks.
• MPs Fitzgerald Jeffrey (PNM) and Chandresh Sharma (PP) tossing picong.
However, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was all business when she got down to dealing with Imbert and assumptions he’d aired on Wednesday about a UK navy vessel moving out of the Caribbean.
Mischievous. Misleading. False. Deliberate. Wilful. Irresponsible. Innuendoes. Imbert was pelted with all of the above. For good measure after Persad-Bissessar led the charge, MP Tim Gopeesingh delivered the coup d’grace, seeking to haul Imbert before the Privileges Committee. That Persad-Bissessar herself took on the task of dealing with Imbert’s remarks indicated how much the situation could have affected Government’s standing (and bilateral relations with the UK, which she confirmed).
Government also devoted further time yesterday to clearing the air about claims of PNM approval for police salary increases. Indeed, emerging from the Reshmi Ramnarine firestorm, Government has been more vigilant in how its image is handled. Last week, Persad-Bissessar’s move to take “full responsibility” for the Ramnarine appointment left a loophole where full disclosure was concerned. The absence of details on the genesis of that situation provided fertile ground for “details” to be supplied from other quarters which may ensure the issue remains open-ended until official word from Persad-Bissessar brings proper closure.
PP hopes that silence and time may do so is unlikely to do the job. “Look, it (issue) on the inside page now,” remarked one top-level PP aide on Tuesday. That the Government has felt the sting of the Ramnarine issue was further clearly demonstrated this week when Attorney General Anand Ramlogan attempted to spotlight other issues. Last week in the height of the matter, Ramlogan reiterated his view that perjury charges could be filed against former Udecott head Calder Hart. (And noted the wait for action from the DPP on it.) On Tuesday in the Senate, Ramlogan alluded to the Muslimeen affidavit which alleged a co-operation deal with the PNM.(And called for the Police Commissioner to update this.)
On Wednesday in the House and also in the Senate, Ramlogan brought a figure appointed by the PNM into the picture in what PP officials have deemed the PNM version of the Ramnarine issue: the posting of attorney David West as Financial Intelligence Unit “director designate.” However, Ramlogan’s actions have earned him backhand shots of chiding from the DPP and West. And he’s also opened up the Government to Opposition accusations of a second “Ramnarine” blunder in the appointment of Susan Francois as FIU director. Matters remaining open-ended however may still crop up in next week’s significant death-penalty debate, the largest legislative item for the year to date.
COP licks (but not for Mayers)
COP deputy leader Robert Mayers didn’t get the stick from COP chairman Joseph Toney (or COP MPs) at Wednesday’s COP executive meeting, though the chairman came in for some flack, a party spokesman said. Mayers’ recent criticisms of the Partnership had been expected to be among issues discussed. But COP MP Prakash Ramadhar, who was among those who publicly panned Mayers’ action, is overseas and all other COP MPs were absent from the meeting.
Discussions instead focused on futile calls which executive members had made to the executive’s leadership for a meeting to be held on the Ramnarine issue, officials said. It was eventually agreed that meetings on issues would be called by the chairman once any four executive meetings seek this. However, there was a call from one executive leadership member for the party to speak with one voice, it was confirmed. Mayers, who attended the meeting , asked if that comment was directed at him, it is understood. The COP is still awaiting a second meeting of Partnership chairmen on Partnership issues, the party confirmed.
The first meeting was held in January after Mayers’ stiff criticisms in this column of January 1 regarding the Partnership caused UNC officials to convene the caucus. After that meeting, no date was set for a second since participants were involved in other matters including the 1990 coup probe. PP Senator David Abdulah, chairing the team, is working out an agenda, it was confirmed yesterday.
Rowley changes tunes?
PNM past and present leaders Patrick Manning and Keith Rowley may have beat Valentine’s Day to the punch with their Pleasantville accord last week Thursday (aka: The Hug-Up). But they were still at opposite ends of the row yesterday, though Manning—absent from Wednesday’s sitting—appeared to be in a particularly good mood: Chatting with PP MP Herbert Volney, acknowledging a hail-out from PP MP Rodger Samuel and speaking with his own colleagues. Curiosity about Rowley’s public reconciliation with Manning may be sated (somewhat) by one of his comments during Wednesday’s House.
Chastising AG Ramlogan, the PNM leader said: “The Attorney General might be a member of a party—nothing wrong with that. He might be an aggressive member of the party—nothing wrong with that.
“He might be hateful to another party—something wrong with that... because hate is a bad thing, it will consume you,” Rowley added. Added to that new aspect of imaging is the turn he took after Ramlogan on Wednesday for the AG’s statement in the Senate on the DPP and Hart “perjury charges” issue last week. Rowley’s issue with Ramlogan does not necessarily mean that he has mended fences with Hart, or on the Udecott issue, his team argued yesterday.
Nor does his new relationship with Manning mean he has forgone his position about not defending the “indefensible” in the PNM. But Rowley’s question for Government on Wednesday—regarding the cost of the Uff probe into Udecott and the construction sector during the PNM’s term—may also raise queries on why he wanted to know the cost of a probe that might have done him in. On Manning’s end, the Pleasantville accord may lay to rest queries about whether he harbours any silent intent on a future PNM role. But it can also continue curiosity about his political future since his new positive modus operandi could assist in building his standing. In the same way that Persad- Bissessar declined details of the Ramnarine situation, Manning—until last Saturday—never said why he called the May 2010 election.
However his explanation of wanting to give the population a choice has not gone down well with at least a couple of his former Cabinet members. One ex-frontline minister, who interpreted Manning’s decision as concern over his own declining stocks, said Manning had been “selfish” and had cost thousands of PNMites jobs and other concessions. Another ex-senior minister added, “If he says he warned Cabinet members to be in a state of preparedness for elections, that could mean consultation. He always stated he would call election if he saw an opportunity. He said this at the first Cabinet meeting and he always asked MPs to be ready and have constituencies ready.
“To say he asked a question of MPs before he called a date or asked their opinion is another matter. He called an election out of the bag at convention and we were all stunned.”
Lobby for Montano for PNM chairman
Former Senate President Danny Montano is being eyed for the PNM chairmanship by senior PNMites as Friday’s deadline for nominations for executive posts looms. Montano’s name emerged yesterday.
Montano told TG nobody had contacted him on that question. “I don’t know what I would do if it was put to me. I’m loyal to my party and my leader and I’ve told Dr Rowley that and I’m currently enjoying my life,” Montano added.
PNM officials cite a strong need for the PNM’s new executive—being elected March 20—to have a high-calibre mix of expertise as well as be a team properly reflective of T&T, in order to offset any imbalances and to bolster the PNM’s new leadership. Also yesterday, former Minister Rennie Dumas confirmed he is contesting the post of elections officer.
Penny Beckles, Franklin Khan—chairman; Camille Robinson Regis, Colm Imbert—vice chairman; Donna Cox—lady vice chairman; Faris Al Rawi, Eric Taylor, Romando Rampersad—PRO;
Ashton Ford, Foster Cummings—general secretary; Daniel Dookie—assistant general secretary; Mariano Browne—treasurer; Neil Parsanlal, Marva Bostick—education officer.
Nileung Hypolite, Dane Wilson—youth officer, male; Laurel Lezama—youth officer, female; Abdon Mason, Indar Parasram—field officer; Jennifer Primus- Baptiste—labour relations offi-cer.
Sigler Jack, Irene Hinds—operations officer; Linus Rogers, Rennie Dumas—elections officer; Joyce Bodden—welfare officer.
...No love lost (none found either)
• Who loves ya? Apparently 69,600 fans of PM Persad-Bissessar do. And that’s on only one of her pages.
• PNM leader Rowley’s official fan page has 1,728. The Opposition Leader’s page, 588 and his profile 1,182.
• Those on former PNM leader Manning’s page number 9,965.
• House business or private business? Did PNM MP Pat McIntosh even like it when PP’s Roodal Moonilal, advising her to do her home-work, wondered if “the Magistrate’s Court” had taken up her attention. (Moonilal was in-structed by Jack Warner that “she lost.”)
• A noisy absence of love for PNM Imbert’s contribution in the House on Wednesday forced him to seek the Speaker’s protection nine times.
• House Speaker Wade Mark: “You have my protection,”
• Imbert, after his sixth request, said, “I‘m not sure if your protection is working...”
• PNM’s Rowley, who declared his love for women (at his Diego Martin conference last month), draws a line at others.
• Rowley indicated Wednesday in the House: “It’s a good thing we have restriction on parlia-mentary language, otherwise the descriptions on the Attorney General would have made a mouthful.”
• PNM MP Paula Gopee-Scoon definitely didn’t love Attorney General Anand Ramlogan’s crack in Wednesday’s debate that she owns a million-dollar house.
• ...So on Speaker Mark’s advice, Ramlogan said, “I withdraw the remark that the MP for Point Fortin owns a property that may be worth $1 million.”
• An unloving interlude on Wednesday when PNM’s Rowley and PP’s Moonilal verbally tussled over Rowley’s questions to Minister Stephen Cadiz.
• “...But you asking stupidness!” Moonilal advised Rowley (before Mark advised MPs to use less unlovely language).
• AG Ramlogan, in full flight at Wednesday’s debate, utilised diplomatic legalese to prime his attack to PNM MPs, “My learned colleagues...”
• PP MP Chandresh Sharma, however, didn’t feel the love. He advised Ramlogan, “Don’t say ‘learned’—you spoiling the word!”
• And on the last note: politicians shouldn’t aspire to become more like players than they already are...
• ...Because a public, fed up of intermittent attention, soon starts replying with Destra’s Cool It (Down) when they come calling with more lyrics.
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