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Guilty verdict for PP
Leave it to the wisecracking Anil Roberts to liven up even the scene of a dismissal announcement. “ If you in politics, don’t get up at all, you mightn’t get your seat again,” PP MP Roberts quipped as he scrambled for a seat in the packed conference room of the Diplomatic Centre on Thursday evening.
Minutes after, Roberts was stone-faced as he listened to his boss demystify how the controversial Section 34 was proclaimed and subsequently fired her Justice Minister Herbert Volney for giving erroneous information to the Cabinet on the issue. The embarassment and political blows the PP has suffered as a result may have been enough to prompt the PM to fire Volney via TV announcement.
Indeed, the PP sustained a double hit to its anti-crime/corruption platform since the situation in question concerned the Justice Ministry which the PP created—a division one might have assumed would bear its name out and not be subject to the ironies of the situation which the Clause 34 issue presented among other things. (Not the least of which was that ten days after the Clause 34 issue broke, Volney, who midstream declared it “a 10 days wonder,” was sacked.)
Under public pressure and with a rumbling Opposition gathering widespread public backing in seeking Presidential intervention to get an explanation, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar’s move saw yet another member of her team going down in political flames.
The list began in May 2011 with the firing of Mary King followed by changes and demotions in the July 2011 reshuffle, a similar reshuffle in June 2012, the August recall of Geneva ambassador Therese Baptiste-Cornelis, the firing of junior National Security Minister Collin Partap recently, and now Volney’s dismissal. At this rate in 28 months, the PP’s backbench where demoted and axed ministers Vernella Alleyne-Toppin and Partap now sit may have to be extended.
The frequency of dismissals at the top level calls into question not only the calibre of the Persad-Bissessar’s team but the judgment of those who selected them and the PP’s future stability. Given the circumstances of his dismissal, whether Volney—who was recruited during Persad-Bissessar’s early leadership of the UNC—will be able to successfully carry out his intention to continue as St Joseph MP, remains to be seen.
The guilty verdict on “error, “misrepresentation” and “material non-discloure of relevant facts” handed down on the former judge by the leader of the supporters he serves, could compromise the image of efficient representative. But even after cutting Volney loose and trying to ensure political survival, the PP is still being looked askance.
If not mortally, it is indeed seriously wounded and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, the Cabinet’s legal adviser may still have some questions to answer to fully redeem himself. Persad-Bissessar clearly recognised the seriousness of the situation from early in the matter. Ramlogan in Parliamentary debate, said the PM had told him she would not allow the Government to be brought down on the issue.
Also in acknowledgement of the situation was the expansive apology she delivered on Thursday to people, Parliament, President, CJ, DPP—and everyone but the kitchen sink—plus recognition that the population had become aware and her solemn pledge that the “historic tolerance for wrongdoing is over.” Following the frequent faux pas by her members, after the latest uber foul-up by the Justice Ministry minister Persad-Bissessar will be held very severely to that promise
While the move on Volney—and in other quarters to return Calder Hart—may pacify some COP members, it’s unlikely to assure others who are ready to exit the Partnership.
Another move to strengthen COP’s hand in the Partnership will be made in COP’s October 28 executive election. Some members hope to put up a “strong” slate which they believe would reinforce (or challenge) Ramadhar’s leadership. COP’s election takes place the same day as the PNM’s executive election and convention. Breaking with tradition PNM will hold the conference at the Queen’s Park Savannah—once used by the One Love NAR for gatherings.
After PNM’s successful march on Tuesday—buoyed by new “friends”—and with open desire for alliance from the DNA at least, PNM’s holding of its convention in a central location identified less with PNM history than national activity, is another move to broaden its base. Not dissimilar to leader Keith Rowley’s use of a rainbow-coloured, plaid shirt rather than his PNM red shirt when he marched on Tuesday alongside former political foes.
Party moblisation of members in recent weeks towards its executive elections would have aided PNM’s arrangements for the march which has been the biggest success of the Rowley leadership once perceived to have been flagging both on internal and external issues.
Though it appeared a page out of the book of former leader Patrick Manning who embarked on a north to south march when he was suspended from Parliament last year, Rowley’s stocks have doubled, on the Clause 34 issue, commensurate with the dip in the PP’s.
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