The Opposition People’s National Movement will meet today with the Movement of Social Justice (MSJ), trade union officials and other civil society groups to focus on national issues including constitutional reform, policies on labour, energy and revenue management as well as the way forward for the grouping. MSJ leader David Abdulah, who revealed he had suggested the talks via letter to the other participants, said today’s effort was not all about a coalition with the PNM. He said the groups would consider a focused citizens’ agenda in defence of T&T “and to advance our governance.” PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley said at a PNM meeting in Arouca on Wednesday night that he intended to meet with leaders of the different groups, including trade union leaders at 4 pm today. Rowley, who read a letter from OWTU’s president on the move, later acknowledged the PNM has “new friends.” He said he would meet on Sunday with his party’s General Council to discuss a way for the groups to go forward together. PNM general secretary Ashton Ford said yesterday that it was made clear by Dr Rowley and all sides that today’s meeting isn’t about forming a coalition. The party’s deputy leader Marlene McDonald said she first heard about the meeting from the platform on Wednesday. She said she didn’t know where the meeting would be held or who would accompany Rowley from the PNM.
PNM officials said the meeting would be held at “a neutral venue” and Rowley would pick his team to accompany him. Abdulah said in the past two weeks, T&T had seen “a flowering of civic activity in defence of democracy and against the abuse of executive power” sparked by the Clause 34 issue. He said he felt this show of “people power,” including the PNM’s recent march in Port-of-Spain, triggered Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s detailed response and her removal of Justice Minister Herbert Volney. He said he still felt there are still a number of very important issues surrounding the Section 34 affair yet to be addressed. “Civil society needs to therefore continue to insist that all those responsible for the crisis, and the Attorney General in particular, should be held to account,” he said. “Notwithstanding this, it is my view that the crisis precipitated by the selective proclamation of Section 34 has created a tremendous opportunity to advance a longer term improvement in our country’s governance.” Abdulah said Clause 34 was only one of the issues for discussion at today’s meeting. The agenda also includes discussing various policies for T&T from constitutional reform to energy and revenue management and legislation on procurement and land use. “It’s a round table to put all our views on the table and we’ll see where it goes. It’s not a matter of joining a former enemy (PNM) as some see it. It’s a matter that people are concerned about what happened with the Clause 34 proclamation and other matters of governance.
On the perception that former Partnership member MSJ was now seeking alliance with the PNM whom his group had pilloried before and during elections in 2010, Abdulah said: “We in MSJ are not joining or supporting the PNM. It’s matter of people having common concerns. We’re not in any political alliance. It’s a matter of civil society groups and parties coming together on concerns about governance, including future legislation and other common concerns and arrive at a consensus on the way forward. “In this way we would all collectively own the activities going forward thus lending for greater inclusion and participation,” he said. “To date we have had many different initiatives, for example, the September 7 demonstration by the Joint Trade Union Movement; the September 18 demonstration called by the Leader of the Opposition; statements by the T&T Chamber of Industry of Commerce; a coalition of the TTMA, TTTI, Fitun and Fixin TT; the Law Association, the Joint Trade Union Movement and other groups. “I’m also aware of other actions and initiatives such as the 12-hour vigil ‘Enough’ being organised for this coming Saturday. Others may be planning or contemplating other activities. While all these efforts are extremely commendable and not at all mutually exclusive, much more can be achieved if we all sit at the same table and organise a collective response. This is particularly important in the context of the government clearly digging its heels in and mobilising to defend its position.” On Wednesday, UNC MPs and COP MP Anil Roberts featured in a paid political broadcast in which they attacked the PNM. The PP also holds a pre-budget a rally from 2 pm tomorrow at Mid Centre Mall in Chaguanas. An OWTU member, emerging from the Industrial Court yesterday, was asked whether the OWTU was willing to seek alliance with the PNM after a history of run-ins. “We’re not seeking to join PNM...Let’s call it formation of a broad national front because Manning and dem had tried to annihilate us, so is not a matter of joining up with PNM at all,” he said.