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The airbrushing of Dr Keith Rowley
It is widely believed that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. With this truism in mind one wonders at the logic behind the attempts at rebranding of Dr Keith Rowley. The mere fact that he and the PNM feel it is worth a try, that an airbrushed, remodelled Rowley is a necessary prerequisite to the enhancement of the party, speaks volumes on where the party stands right now.
“Great is the PNM and it shall prevail” is no longer a mantra that even the most rabid PNM diehard could chant with any conviction. You see the PNM assumed a smugness of invincibility under Williams and in so doing it never felt it would have to go under its philosophical hood and change its oil, do an engine wash, an engine tune up. And we all know what happens when routine maintenance of that nature is not undertaken, how a breakdown is a disaster waiting to happen.
The PNM never realised that its invincibility was partly a myth concocted out of a splintered opposition, and that once the opposition united (as in 1958) the foundation blocks at Balisier House proved to be not so earthquake-proof after all.
It is widely felt that had ANR Robinson not mashed up the ACDC coalition of 1971 the PNM would have been history; and that had not Karl rule out an alliance with Panday in 1981, the PNM would have also been a victim then of the ‘one love’ avalanche it went under to in 1986.
The signs were there that once the opposition had gelled the PNM was not invincible at all. But a splintered opposition also seemed an implacable truth; thus the PNM refused to reconfigure itself in the spirit of the advice, if it ain’t broken, why fix it.
But the PNM was broken: if a national party is dependent on one segment of a multi-ethnic population to take it into power, and if the rest of the population that doesn’t vote for it is more than half of that population what you have is technically a minority party forming a minority government. A 28 per cent government in 1971-76 confirms that the PNM had less than a one third support of the population.
When Manning crowed in 1995 that the PNM would go it alone, rejecting the idea of a possible coalition with any other party, he missed the point that the PNM had a minority following in the country’s political equation.
That macho man political posturing has come to now haunt the PNM which is coming to the realisation that if it is to reach out and touch that more than two thirds of the population that doesn’t identify with its balisier ideology, with its enclavesque as opposed to national outreach, it has to become more multi-ethnically friendly.
That is all well and good, but the problem with this current model of the PNM is the image it projects, with its leader being widely seen as the definitive sectarian. Rowley thrived on being the ‘party’s rottweiler’ and in being the leader the party has now assumed the demonising label of being a hostile and recalcitrant minority.
When Williams coined that phrase not only did he get the math wrong but the psychological analysis as well. In this case, a rottweiler by any other name is regarded as hostile. The truckload of bricks that Rowley carries around on his back is that he takes himself too seriously; that he has obviously gloried in being termed a Rottweiler.
This apparent bad john image that the PNM projects is not something that decent, peace loving people would find attractive. In short, the airbrushing that Rowley is subjecting himself to would have to be an across-the-board undertaking if the PNM is to be more than what it is today, ie a hostile and recalcitrant minority!
L Siddhartha Orie
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