The Prime Minister’s appearance before the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Monday was interesting to say the least.
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Forced out by ‘those who couldn’t tempt him’ and PNMites who ‘spat after his car’
He had a corps of devotees among the People’s National Movement Youth League and others who remained steadfastly loyal to him after he lost elections and retired as MP. But late former prime minister Patrick Manning also underwent trials by privileged elements in T&T who couldn’t sway him and his vehicle was spat upon by certain PNMites when he left Balisier House for the last time on May 27, 2010, with hordes of them jeering him, certain members recall.
Tonight, the party he led for 24 of his 44 years of public service will honour him at Balisier House—the spot he left in May, 2010, amid that treatment and never returned to. Addresses will be done by former officials Jerry Narace, Joan Yuille-Williams, Laurel Lee Sing and others.
EX-PNM FINANCE MINISTER KAREN NUNEZ-TESHEIRA:
“In the last five years of Opposition, several of us—myself and others—have been unflinching in his support. I spoke to him every week, went to his birthday party, I’d go visit—he’s more like a father figure to me. We all cared deeply for him and his death has affected me vastly.”
“The reason for my support is not only did he have the confidence to make me Finance Minister—a great privilege and compliment to me—in the heat of the CL Financial firestorm, when I was under attack from everybody—media, all kinds of people—he didn’t take the easy way out and remove me, but left me fully in charge. For that I could never forget Patrick Manning, ever.
“The reason for his (2010) loss was clear. From the minute he started taking a holistic approach to dealing with the crime/drug trade—with a co-ordinated framework of the Financial Intelligence Unit, legislation to regulate the gaming industry, the Revenue Authority, the offshore patrol vessels, Special Anti-Crime Unit—those measures would have yielded results and certain negative quarters realised he was tightening the noose. He became public enemy number one, moreso since neither carrot nor stick worked with him.
“He couldn’t be induced by any social or material nature, or intimidated and when you have that situation with a man who has a sense of destiny, commitment, honesty and integrity...that was a threat clearly. So you saw the campaign against him emerge. Accusations of arrogance and ‘big buildings’—all sorts of criticisms of him and his undertakings...I’m happy to hear Prime Minister Rowley say recently—opening the Education Tower—that the days of government renting buildings are over.
“But what was really upsetting was what happened at Balisier House in May 27 2010 (when he resigned). The bitterness, vitriol and disrespect shown to him—no matter what he did, he didn’t deserve that and it was clearly orchestrated and wasn’t an impromptu situation. I can understand people were hurt, pained and disappointed, but the level to which it degenerated and the acrimony! It was abhorrent, sickening and beyond the pale. He just took it with the best grace in the circumstances and didn’t lash out. It was very painful to witness.
“I knew the decision to continue to support him after meant resigning myself to be sidelined, but I’ve played no part in ill-speaking Mr Manning. One of the impressions I had of the situation was that there was so much anger towards him, ill-speaking him seemed necessary to be accepted. It took less than a week for some to turn against hi , calling me to join forces with them. But there was absolutely no way I could do that—and I paid the price.
EX-PNM MP ALICIA HOSPEDALES
“He embraced me as a daughter and taught me how to be a good MP. When I went through a traumatic experience, he sat me down and gave me advice that set me on the right path. This was an exceptional leader whose policies cross generations. He tried to give the best, especially for the youths, particularly because of his own life as a child and what he probably was unable to have.
“I was at council when the May 2010 incident occurred when he was leaving Balisier House. He shouldn’t have been treated that way. It’s very unfortunate as he gave his life to T&T and the party. I’ve never heard the people involved express remorse. But I take consolation that his last prayer was for all.”
EX-PNM YOUTH OFFICER (FEMALE) LAUREL LEZAMA
“I met him at the 1996 convention when I was 14 amid his leadership contest with Dr Rowley. He told me whichever way it went, to be loyal to PNM ideals. Some members like Foster Cummings supported Dr Rowley, but after Mr Manning didn’t see any divide in the party, and his words then have guided me since. Going through personal issues when my brother was dying, Mr Manning counselled me that death is part of life and not to let it deter me from moving on. I felt it cruel at the time, but my brother passed away and I rallied on.
“He also told me—two things in politics: always be on time and never be guided by emotion. It arose in 2000 when people were spreading nasty rumours about me and I was crying—I was 18. But he had a special relationship with every youth in the party—he made everyone feel welcome, important and always made time for us.
“When he left Balisier House that last day (2010), the bad treatment of him by those misguided people whose actions were contrary ...it wasn’t deserving. It was unfortunate and unnecessary. He always told me after, whatever the leader asked, do it to the best of your ability. Now, I say, be at peace.”
EX-PNM YOUTH OFFICER (MALE) DANE WILSON:
“Patrick Manning wasn’t just my political leader or prime minister, he was my guru, mentor, friend and political father figure. Post-2010, he’d call just to see how things were going to ensure I wasn’t losing faith, as he knew I was going through a difficult period. Between last December and January, he invited me home, gave me a meal and we discussed something matters I’d called him about—he gave me the same advice my own father gave me.
“He loved PNM’s youth units, that’s why he had such a strong following, he gave opportunities to youths nationwide with his programmes. He always wanted to let the youths talk...under him the Youth League was a huge force.
“Our conversations weren’t limited to personal or political issues. I told him my feelings about the way the party was going all the time. People, including PNM people, didn’t understand he had a genuine love for PNM. When I felt like taking a ‘back seat’ or leaving, he said ‘remove that thought from your head.’ He said I should allow the leader to lead and do what they think best in the party’s interest.
“He never said anything adverse to me regarding the leader. He was very focused but not stubborn or vindicative as some feel. If you disagreed with him he’d challenge your view to see if you believed in it.
“He told me last year Dr Rowley is a ‘bright fella’ and he’d figure out what needs to be done and to have faith and confidence in him. After the PP won I told him how I felt about the fall-out with Rowley in 2008. He said it was a policy decision and Rowley had his views and other colleagues had their views on the matter—Mr Manning explained it was nothing personal.
(Wilson commented on Rowley’s statement at the PNM’s 2015 campaign launch in Belmont, where Rowley warned the PP about suspending him from Parliament and to note the last person who put him out of something—the Cabinet in 2008—and warned he “was Les Coteaux”, which elicited criticisms from opponents he’d alluded to obeah).
It wasn’t the best comment, but in the cut and thrust of things politicians say stupid things. But Mr Manning had laughed about it and shook his head and told me ‘let’s move on.’ He taught me not to take things personally.
“But Manning’s May 2010 departure from Balisier House and the PNM was a different issue.
“At that General Council meeting, which I attended, he came with a resignation letter but offered to stay on a few months for the party to find a new leader. When he made the proposal, some council members very loudly said ‘no, no...!’ Dr Rowley said nothing. (Member) Foster Cummings said if we had to discuss the proposal, it was fair for Mr Manning to leave the room. Mr Manning winked at me and immediately got up to leave. But no council member in the room booed him or threw any chair at him there.
“When I looked out the window, however, when he eventually left, I saw a horrifying sight of some PNM people jeering him and spitting after his exiting vehicle and a man with a microphone chasing him and jeering, saying things only an idiot would say...he forgave them.
“Now I note the platitudes from people inside and outside the PNM who’re calling him ‘visionary;’ when they had nothing good to say before. It’s hypocritical, but human when someone dies to say kind things. But they should say nothing, I believe.
“The political leader said before and after the 2015 elections Mr Manning would be honoured at the appropriate time. But it’s unfortunate and sad Mr Manning isn’t going to be there to hear that recognition and appreciation from the PNM—because history will show he was arguably the best prime minister that ever passed through T&T.
“After the 2015 polls constituents went to him first for assistance. He’d tell them gently to go the MP as he no longer was MP. Caribbean leaders, past and present would call him on issues—that spoke to the calibre and character of the man.
“I won’t attend the viewings of his body. I don’t want that to be my last memory of him.”