Perhaps it was simply a case that the PNM parliamentarians who disobeyed the decision of the party caucus to abstain from voting in the Manning motion could not completely abandon their former leader, perhaps still psychologically their leader. On their faces a look that they could not just leave their former prime minister to be a laughing stock. In fact, even among those who followed the party line and "abstained," a couple seemed pained by having to embarrass their former political leader in public, in front a mocking government bench and a national political community, large sections of the latter still jeering at a man even as he attempts to prospect for a nugget from his past life of glory. The sentimental stirrings of loyalty came notwithstanding the reality of a Patrick Manning still suffering from that vainglorious sense of being an exalted one guided by an almighty force. The most senior PNM politico still in the fray, Ferdie Ferreira, likened Manning to the great Cassius Clay and other punch-drunk fighters attempting to return for one last blaze of glory.
How Manning must have yearned for his attorney to have been given the opportunity to triumph over a People's Partnership political directorate which had so paraded against him just short of a year ago when he foolishly, or perhaps he would say through divine guidance, called an election which political logic determined his party could never have won. After the vote and barely able to conceal her delight, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar declared that the Opposition had collapsed. In a wonderful moment of political mischief, Persad-Bis-sessar gave a flash of that charming smile to say that while the doomsday prophets have been saying that it is merely a matter of time for her ever-so-often unruly and erratic party to splinter into the dust, here she was witnessing the mighty PNM cracking under strain while her party grows in solidarity. You have to concede her that moment of political bliss, she so often having come under heavy pressure because of the challenge of holding together her "pick-up side."
In the debate before the vote, the righteous Justice Minister had rolled thunder upon Manning, invoking, in his lord and mighty manner, the accepted practice of Parliament having and retaining the power to order its business and not allow for "strangers" to intervene. While it must be easily acknowledged that the principle of parliamentary supremacy rules in our times (a principle that Manning would certainly have upheld in his glory days as emperor), it is one which must be challenged and debated. It must be raised and debated when serious discussion on constitutional reform is engaged. Politicians here, in the region and all around the world have demonstrated why they cannot be trusted with total power. It is clear that given this distrust (observe that disillusionment worldwide-political protests and upheavals) occasioned by the actions of politicians, the need is to update, perhaps even completely transform, 18th and 19th century European political thought and philosophy as they have to do with the need for quality and interactive governance in the 21st century. No longer are populations in many parts of the world prepared to elect politicians and allow them free reign to exercise complete and direct power. But that issue will be extensively engaged when we be-gin discussion on constitutional reform.
On Friday, the former all powerful one, now disgraced governor, walked away from the Parliament, no clash of cymbals and drum rolls to mark his exit; but perhaps he continues to hear the sounding bugle. It is most assuredly a difficult psychological transformation for political leaders to make when they have fallen so hard to the earth from their glory. It took Panday years before he could face the House of Representatives without his scowling silence after an election he did not loose, but nonetheless was forced into giv-ing up governorship when called upon to do so by President Robinson. For years Panday had to struggle with that removal, only to suffer what he must consider the ultimate indignity of losing his political throne in the party he built to his once political underling. How often had he crushed her underfoot, perhaps so much so that it became his undoing. Eventually she mustered the courage to wipe away her tears and rise to the urgings of Brother Bob: "Dry your tears I say. No woman, no cry." But all of this musing and having some serious fun with politicians apart, Manning's little cha- rade, resulting from his refusal to obey the party whip, the splitting of the vote clearly demonstrates the difficulty Keith Rowley, loved by segments of the PNM clan but clearly not universally given the mantle, is having with attempting to reconstruct the party of Dr Williams.
Rowley must know that reconstruction and not a mere coat of paint on the cracked and structurally insecure PNM infrastructure is needed if the party is to ever demonstrate the capability of once again being able to capture national attention and imagination. This of course assumes that the PP would not disintegrate in the manner of the NAR and hand the government back to a PNM, even if it is merely clinging to its old base. The task ahead for Rowley's PNM and Persad-Bissessar's PP is how to build a truly national party out of the parts they hold in this fragmented and unruly society. "There is no need for destructive competition and conflict. All of our interests can be served through co-operation and sacrifice. In the end we will all be winners," the Prime Minister pleaded on the weekend, using the opportunity at a Hanuman Jayanti celebration at the Divali Nagar site in Chaguanas to speak to the wider plural society from her party's Hindu base. Rowley has to reach out to other ethnicities and cultures and make them believe they can achieve a sense of belonging inside the party. And while it was her day for fun at the PNM's expense, Persad-Bissessar must know that the PP has an equally difficult task. The party has to build a solid foundation and organic link among all of the ethnicities and social class groups now weakly strung together.