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Manning walks among supporters
Former prime minister Patrick Manning walked among his supporters on Tuesday night, for the first time since he suffered a mild stroke on January 24. “Can you hear me?” he said to a large crowd at Piarco International Airport before midnight, after returning from Washington DC, where he underwent physiotherapy for almost six months.
While the majority of supporters in the crowd could not hear him, they all took up vantage positions to get a glimpse of him as he walked. Manning had a small cane in his hand but was assisted by his wife, former education minister Hazel Manning who hugged him. “Absolutely energetic and pure jubilation,” was how one supporter described Manning’s return. “It is a miracle,” another supporter shouted repeatedly.
“Welcome back to you, my PM,” another shouted. Manning looked eagerly around to see the show of support for him. He smiled and acknowledged the presence of many in the crowd. He stood up for minutes as he attempted to see faces he had not seen for most of the year.
Private security officials as well as Airports Authority security worked hard to control the crowd of people who were desperately trying to get as close as possible to see the Member of Parliament for San Fernando East. Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and many of the PNM MPs were absent.
Manning was welcomed at the airport by his son, Brian, his sister Petronella Manning-Alleyne, MPs Dr Amery Browne (Diego Martin Central) and Arouca/Maloney Alicia Hospedales, former ministers Dr Emily Dick-Forde, Gary Hunt, Mustapha Abdul-Hamid and former senator Laurel Lezama.
From as early as 6 pm, supporters started arriving at the airport, wearing their PNM T-shirts and displaying the party’s symbol—the balisier flower. They held placards saying “Welcome back, Mr Manning. We love you,” “God loves you, Mr Manning and we love you too” and “Manning is back, thank you, Jesus.”
They started their songs of praise around 8 pm. There was African and tassa drumming. Among the supporters were several children. Some of them sat outside the airport terminal building for hours awaiting his return. Manning’s flight was delayed by more than an hour, as he arrived at 10.50 pm.
Screams of joy replaced the singing as Manning emerged from the VIP room shortly before midnight after meeting his close supporters, who included MPs and former ministers and his relatives. “We love you, God bless you,” supporters shouted. Another female supporter was heard telling the crowd: “All you be careful, don’t throw him down.”
There were more screams as Manning smiled again. “He wants to say something, he wants to say something. Would you all stay quiet please,” one of Manning’s security officers shouted. “Shhhh! Quiet!” he added. The noise did not subside, but Manning then attempted to speak to the crowd: “Everybody, can you hear me?”
His voice was clear, but without a microphone the crowd was unable to hear him. Manning was then escorted to his waiting car to be taken to his home in San Fernando. Earlier, in his meeting with family, former ministers and MPs, Manning said he was happy to be home after having a good flight. That is according to Browne who was in the private meeting with Manning minutes before. Browne told reporters Manning was aware of the supporters awaiting his return and was happy about that.
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