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Fresh and not-so-fresh breezes from the south
Few on the parliamentary Government benches were laughing yesterday when PNM Port-of-Spain South MP Marlene McDonald launched an offensive against proposed legislation to precept soldiers in the anti-crime fight. PP MP Anil Roberts, who attempted picong, was stopped dead in his tracks with same from McDonald who threw back words about “Spanish....!” and “Room 201” to him.
Nary a word from Roberts after that—though what sounded like both sides, loudly chorused “Oooooooooohhhhh!” Nor were there more than a few giggles on the Opposition PNM side when Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar mounted a similarly aggressive defensive concerning the legislation. PNM’s Colm Imbert, accused by the PM of “babbling” throughout her presentation, was advised by House Speaker Wade Mark to “take notes.”
But one person who would have been laughing heartily—had he been alive—was late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who would have been overjoyed at the election of fellow Latino, Argentine Pope Francis.
Chavez, who championed the rise of the southern hemispheric bloc, and in whose lifetime south-south relations heightened, missed it. But the election of the Roman Catholic community’s first pope from Latin America has swung the Old World order across the ocean to the New as Catholic heads looked away from traditional pastures—wracked with 21st-century issues—to the Latin quarter’s healthy membership to seek a leader.
The burden of expectation will be high for this pope, whose western hemispheric roots may fuel hopes of a wider, more down-to-earth global perspective for Vatican business, as the Catholic community copes with challenges from dwindling flocks to sexual abuse accusations. In T&T’s own heightening of southern relationships, the national security team examining patrol boat construction options has returned from surveying Colombian shipyards.
The Prime Minister is also expected to take up the baton, promoting tighter south-south relations (Caricom to LA) when she assumes the Caricom chairmanship in July. T&T will host Caricom’s 2014 summit when it is expected the PM will seek strengthened Latin ties in Caricom’s fight against narco-trafficking, the root of regional crime problems.
Another “fresh breeze” from the south arrives Monday with the inauguration of President-elect Anthony TA Carmona, rehearsals for which have been occurring over the last two days at the National Stadium, officials said. On the opposite side of the coin, a less than “fresh” breeze (to PP members) is the heightening of PNM ties with former UNC starboy Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, currently southern-based with his law practice in his post-political incarnation. That appears to become shortlived.
If Rowley said in 2001 that Maharaj had “polevaulted on his principles” in the Piarco airport contract issue, Maharaj, more of a boomerang model, has once again risen to become political hot property via the Roundtable platform.
The relationship has clearly gone beyond that as far as PNM is concerned. Rowley recently said he put a personal legal matter in Maharaj’s hands and during the Tobago House of Assembly election campaign, boasted that if the Prime Minister could link with Jack Warner to “ruin T&T,” he could link up with Hochoy Charles and Maharaj “to run it.”
When Maharaj first emerged, PP members appeared unfazed. That clearly changed after Tuesday’s $300 million-plus legal victory over the Government which Maharaj obtained for Clico policyholders and which heightened his public (and political) stocks.
The growing threat which the PP may see was manifested in MP Roodal Moonilal’s picong Wednesday, targeting division of the RamLee (sic) combo. Moonilal’s points, however, would hold certain weight since Rowley’s credibility (more than Maharaj’s) is at risk by resorting to old faces which could flunk the ried & True test in some quarters and also since Maharaj in his UNC days was a heavy PNM target.
Considering prior PNM and PP experiences, it remains to unfold—not only in the south—how much the population will be prepared to accept further compromise with groupings assembling for power-play purposes rather than representing genuine and effective change.
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