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Frail Manning returns to House
Limping and thinner but looking strong, former prime minister and San Fernando East MP Patrick Manning returned to Parliament yesterday after a two-year extended sick leave. With his wife Hazel at his side, Manning was greeted at the entrance to Parliament, Tower D, Port-of-Spain Waterfront by a small group, comprising mostly of women, wearing red People’s National Movement (PNM) jerseys with his name printed on the front.
Kirk Waithe of Fixin’ T&T and two or three protesters stood nearby with placards calling for an immediate general election. Manning, who suffered a stroke in January 2012, did not speak to members of the media outside Parliament but went straight inside, lifting his left foot and dropping it as he walked with much effort. “Allyuh see about him eh,” a supporter, poking her head inside the door, told police in the lobby.
A round of desk-thumping from the PNM benches greeted him as he entered the chamber minutes before the 1.30 pm session began. Manning made his way to the last seat on the Opposition’s front bench, his old seat, next to an emotional Arouca South MP Alicia Hospedales. There were reports he would occupy a new seat, behind Opposition Whip Marlene McDonald at the top of the bench.
Speaker Wade Mark welcomed Manning back at the start of the proceedings. Leader of Government Business Dr Roodal Moonilal did the same. “I think we all agree it’s showtime,” Moonilal said, in an apparent reference to Rowley’s leadership slogan, “Showtime, Dr Rowley for leader.” Later during the session, Rowley welcomed Manning back, saying that he “had some very significant challenges, which he has fought and is still fighting, and we wish he will continue to improve and get back to normalcy as quickly as possible.”
Rowley said the Opposition was happy to have its full complement to continue in the service of the country. With Manning’s return, the PNM now has 13 MPs, which included St Joseph MP Terrence Deyalsingh, who won the by-election in November.
After a hectic round of questions on controversial issues such as the $6.8 million firetruck fiasco, the multi-million-dollar family day hosted by the Police Service for Laventille residents at the Queen’s Park Savannah, and the award of questionable scholarships, Sports Minister Anil Roberts led off the debate on the Bail Amendment Bill. Roberts told Manning he came back looking strong like West Indies cricketer Kieron Pollard. “I could put you in a game and you could hit a little six. I hope you could take a little licks too.”
He also mentioned the timing of Manning’s return and agreed it was “showtime in the PNM.” Delving into his contribution, Roberts said his mother always taught him to put God first but questioned the priorities of the last administration presided over by Manning. Manning suffered a stroke in January 2012 and went through treatment and rehabilitation in the United States. On Wednesday, via social media, Manning announced his return by saying, “Back to work. See you in Parliament on Friday.”