The death of Fidel Castro has revealed the anti-democratic mindset of many leading citizens of T&T and the Caribbean.
Patrick Manning has been parliamentary representative of San Fernando East since 1971. In some ways, it might be fair to state that Manning, former political leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM) and twice prime minister of T&T, is all that the 9.2 square km area knows politically. In the 43 years Manning has been its representative, the constituency has made many strides, said constituency executive PRO Anthony Clarke.
The suburban area has grown considerably and the area has approximately 23,578 electors according to recent statistics from the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC). But, Clarke said, in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Guardian, since the People's Partnership Government took office there has been little done to assist the area, particularly with housing. He claims victimisation and neglect by Central Government.
He said, "You see, the vindictiveness of the Government is a hell of a thing. When Manning was the political leader of the PNM and prime minister of the country, you found that you had fair leadership. Everybody got a piece of the pie—in terms of how he led, and no one constituency was ever neglected. "This time around, you found that this People's Partnership Government...and it is not just San Fernando East, but every so-called PNM stronghold has had serious neglect and it is unprecedented in the history of T&T."
Clarke said many of the constituents who initially applied for housing and other forms of social aid encountered difficulty.
He said, "In terms of quick restoration, you are not finding that in terms of our constituency. You are finding that happening in the other PNM strongholds as well. It is a measure of victimisation that is unprecedented. People who already received housing letters in the past stating that they would be placed shortly, you are seeing people from out of the area being allotted housing in Corinth Hills while others are waiting for years. In and around San Fernando East, people are not being allotted their housing.
“You go and make representation for them at HDC and (Jearlean) John, who is very, very friendly and always willing to help…if it was not for John, I don't know what help we would have gotten." He said John, who is managing director of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC), had tried her best to be fair to all but that her hands were tied politically.
Clarke said, "For any sort of government programme, the constituency still helps all of the constituents with the application of all of those programmes, as well as lobbies for them. We have written many times to Jearlean John. We have solicited the Ministry of the People, in terms of food cards. We have solicited URP programmes and write, and write, and Cepep with the areas that need to be cleaned"
Roads, Clarke said, were not being maintained under the current Government. He said previously, state agencies such as the Water and Sewerage Authority which would work on the pipelines would do so every week, but this was no longer the case.
‘We are paying the price today with bad governance’
According to Clarke, much of the development the constituency had enjoyed was due to Manning. He said the current executive hoped Manning would have what it takes to contest another general election.
"Manning has made very good strides in regaining 100 per cent fitness and there is still lots of time between then and the 2015 election. The present executive of San Fernando East wants Mr Manning to remain as its representative, but this is a choice for Manning, if he thinks that he wants to resign and allow young blood to come up.” But despite Manning's long illness, Clarke said, the constituency continued to function because Manning had a "well-oiled and run constituency."
Asked about a possible replacement for Manning, Clarke said, “Manning on many occasions, in many years gone by, groomed different people. So we have many options when that time comes... We are now in the process of having our annual general meeting...so that particular item will be an agenda item for the new executive of San Fernando East to discuss.
“But I can assure you, Manning has groomed numerous people throughout his constituency, in terms of political savvy, in terms of representation. People who have been in the field and helping people, doing social work. Members of various village councils and so on. So we have a number of people who have learnt how to serve the community and by extension the constituency." Asked how several issues surrounding Manning affected the constituency, Clarke said, they had not, since those issues had had little impact.
"We have to look and see what is the reality. There was a perception all these things were bad because [the PP] ran a very good campaign. We are a people who like to hear commess and mauvelange. “We are paying the price today with this bad administration and bad governance. And I hope we as a people will go out and learn and read for ourselves and you do not go out and choose someone because of race, colour, or having a good campaign.
“You choose who is best suited to run the affairs of T&T with good moral and spiritual values."