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PP pounds, PNM pushes, Volney primes up
It was with some surprise—and mirth—observers at the recent House of Representatives 2013 Budget debate noticed PP MP Ramona Ramdial and PNM MP Marlene McDonald had each worn the exact red shantung, scalloped collar, two-piece skirt suit for their respective debate presentations on Monday and Wednesday.
In very (very) different sizes, of course. And without PP’s Roodal Moonilal quipping the PNM was learning to follow PP example. On that note of shared fashion sense however, any similarities during debate between administration and Opposition ended sharply.
Number-crunching and budget vices and virtues apart, debate saw the political climate reflected in various snapshots along the way which began with Finance Minister Larry Howai getting a crash course in public life and ended with him beginning to find his political feet (somewhat).
Apart from Tobago House of Assembly campaign rumblings—from PNM leader Keith Rowley, PP’s Delmon Baker and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar—the common thread throughout contributions from both sides involved the politicking that began in May 2010 and has continued at various degrees according to the ebb and flow of PP and PNM fortunes.
Much like the situation Stateside where Vice President Joe Biden’s aggressive push against Republican contender Paul Ryan on Thursday recouped some of the Obama administration’s stocks, lost recently when Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney put the President severely on the backfoot.
In local budget debate last week, both PP and PNM sides utilised plans past, present and future to plug certain sub-themes: the accusation of “deception and deceit” fired at the PP by PNM and the vow, “never again...!” shot back by PP against the PNM.
Comments outside of the Parliament chamber by National Security Minister Jack Warner—to hold off on the issue of crime statistics—fuelled the latest platform for controversy on his part and yet another flip-flop after his encounter with the Highway Reroute Movement among other issues.
When Warner spoke about the statistics on Tuesday, speculation arose whether this was actually his crime plan since up to that point he hadn’t detailed the plan in the debate as was expected. (He said Thursday the plan has started quietly and wouldn’t be loudly announced as an Operation Zaboca or otherwise.)
Warner’s stance on the statistics issue once again put him on clash-course with police responsibilities and in jeopardy of igniting political interference in that independent sector—with the attendant political danger for his boss’ administration which in its UNC incarnation was vocal on alleged PNM political interference in such areas.
Warner also backtracked on plans to proclaim certain hot spots murder-free: “In retrospect I don’t think that helps....that get me in trouble,” he had the grace to admit Thursday. The “retrospect” model of learning—usually following some misstep—has been a perennial affliction of the 29-month old PP.
But Warner’s particular portfolio, of crucial significance for PP’s stocks, leaves little room for error and even less for a lengthy learning curve. Or continued bad advice. Senior PP officials said the situation had embarrassed the administration.
During debate, PNM MPs took swipes on the Clause 34 issue which the Opposition will be dealing with on October 26 in its motion of censure against the Attorney General. UNC MP Herbert Volney who was fired for the issue, chose to spare his colleagues’ criticism in his budget contribution and Warner for one, did his utmost best for PP’s unity facade sake, to stress Volney wasn’t being ostracised the way Rowley was after being fired.
Volney told this column he intends on shedding more light on the Clause 34 issue in PNM’s upcoming motion of censure: “I’ll put everything in perspective—there’ll be no apology from me,” Volney added ominously. Volney, who decided in the space of the week following his dismissal to go independent, is something of an unknown quantity for PP—particularly in his new seat behind the Opposition—and will be factored in as that.
While COP’s Winston Dookeran and Prakash Ramadhar backed the return of the tax they once wanted axed, Dookeran had a disapproving word for colleague Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine’s Ministry, some of whose investments were never realised, Dookeran complained.
Dookeran also seemed to be pitching as much to his side as to the Opposition’s when he said confidence is a result of ..“ensuring the right values in public management are always maintained and creating a sense of hope that those in charge are going to use their office for the common good.”
While PNM MP Patrick Manning’s seat has been steadfastly held for him in his absence by colleague Paula Gopee-Scoon’s handbag, said purse had to make way for PNM’s Alicia Hospedales and Amery Browne on Wednesday as they surrounded Gopee-Scoon to chat quietly. This followed news on PNM Internet sites that Gopee-Scoon’s Point Fortin constituency unit was at loggerheads with her over her use of the constituency office.
Unit chairman Abdon Mason is among nominees in PNM’s executive October 28 party election, which some PNMites describe as another move to strengthen Rowley’s leadership.
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