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The Crowne Plaza Accord Revisited
In a moment of making brash utterances, Dr Williams sounded off thus, “The alternative to the PNM is at best bacchanal, at worst mayhem.” Whether King Creole, as some dubbed him, was clinically prognosticating or mischievously “putting goat mouth” on the opposition elements is left for conjecture.
The fact of the matter has, in my opinion, always been that the PNM, mathematically speaking—appearances notwithstanding—was A minority political party. The issue as it appears to me was that the combined arithmetical opposition challenge has invariably itself been algebraically challenged.
If I might say so, whenever two to three political entities, in this neck of the woods, are gathered together, there is bacchanal, confusion and kangatang galore in the midst of them, given the expected “crabs in a barrel syndrome.”
When we hear of so-called “accords,” by whatever designation, among disparate even antipathetic political elements, we should be prepared to examine them with a fine-toothed comb before we commend them to Rasta-hairstyled individuals or bald-headed men—no offence meant.
There was a time when it appeared that then PM Patrick Manning and Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday were almost on the brink of agreeing to some “executive presidential” version of a draft constitution which I’m of the view would have been predictably stuck in the national collective craw and could neither have been swallowed not spat out.
I make bold to assert that had PM Manning’s gamble to catch the opposition elements with political pants down, an enhanced PNM parliamentary majority would have seen his desired constitution as an accomplished fact come hell or high water.
Having prepared the political ground with the Opposition Leader, the rallying of the voting troops across the aisle would not, I suspect, have been an insuperable difficulty. The current on-going brouhaha re the so-called “Fyzabad Accord” calls to mind an earlier “Crowne Plaza Accord” which ended in the shambles that could easily have been anticipated. I’m not for the moment suggesting that the “two accords” are analogous to any great extend. But no great harm can be done by revisiting the “Crowne Plaza Accord,” or “Discord,” if you happened to be a stickler for accuracy.
To cut a long story short, after the 18-18 electoral deadlock of an earlier era, then President ANR Robinson called in PM Panday and Opposition Leader Manning and tossed the ball in their court to come up with some hopefully “statesmanlike” solution to the imbroglio.
Patrick Manning stated publicly that the trio (Robinson, Panday and himself) had, collectively, a century or so of parliamentary experience (a composite political Brian Lara cricket analogy you might say) and he, Manning, couldn’t think of a group more equal to the task. So far so good. Crick crack, monkey break he back.
After much negotiation, Manning and Panday emerged from Crowne Plaza to take questions from reporters and inform them and by extension the wider public that the political duo had an amicable “limited agreement” which would thereafter be known as the “Crowne Plaza Accord” and would presumably carry the status of a “solemn gentleman’s agreement.” Some gentleman, some agreement! Who was clever fox and who was silly ox? Time would tell.
Panday all but “hugged and kissed” Manning (Uncle Patrick, as Panday’s daughter now refers to him) as the Bas waved away the members of the press with the seemingly patronising words to Manning, “Come on kid, let’s go home,” or words to that effect. Or should it be defect?
The two “seasoned politician appeared to have reached agreement on the choice of a Speaker of the House and apparently vowed to accept whoever was the President’s choice for Prime Minister. The choice fell on Manning. Someone had apparently fallen on his sword, or certainly on the square part of his anatomy. To add insult to injury, as they say, Robinson had, needlessly if not thoughtlessly, stated that his decision was based on his judgment of “moral and spiritual values.”
It therefore wasn’t long before one fellow was describing the other as “a born-again demon” and was himself being characterised as engaging in “the machinations of the demented mind.” Accustomed as I’ve become to the dubious level of courtesy, civility and decorum exercised among some of our politicians, I simply felt unable to judge as to the veracity of either or both characterisations.
Far be it from me to seem insensitive to the delicate and far-reaching political and social ramifications having regard to the apparent “ethnic polarisation,” particularly in the context of the then awkward relationship and public pitched battles between President Robinson and PM Panday.
Specifically, Robinson had publicly warned against “a creeping dictatorship” within Panday’s political dispensation. Curiously, Robinson stopped short of referring to what Panday himself alluded to as a suspicion of the existence of “rogue elephants and runaway horses,” presumably a euphemism for what subsequently mushroomed into “a galloping kleptocracy.”
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